Thursday, December 22, 2011

Have Yourself a Very Elzee Christmas

With recent and respective travels behind us, we haven't had the chance to catch up with Elzee lately. An invite to come by for some seasonal treats was a welcome surprise - particularly since her folks were visiting and she managed to find a night when a few other friends (whom we hadn't seen in years) were available as well.

She's yet to decide if it's a welcome side effect or a curse, but Elzee claims that hanging around with Boo and I as much as she does has resulted in her ever-increasing enjoyment of - and collection of - wine. We were more than willing to help her free up a bit of space in her overflowing wine rack. Through the evening, we also learned that she's even acting as a bit of an influence on her recently retired brother. Now that he's got some time on his hands, she's encouraging his attendance at some tastings and his taking of a few wine courses.

1023. 2009 Graceland Cabernet Sauvignon (W.O. Stellenbosch - South Africa)

We started the evening with the 2009 vintage of one of the very first wines that I added to The List. Back at #17, we polished off a bottle of the 2005 Graceland Cab. Hard to believe that we're now a thousand bottles on. Boo and I don't tend to drink much South African wine, but, if I had to suggest a South African wine to a friend looking for a good, consistent bottle from there, I'd immediately think of the Graceland.

A small, family-run winery - and, no, that family is the McNaughton's, not the Presley's - the farmlands, come vineyard, were purchased in 1990. The McNaughton's waited until 1998 to release their first vintage and they've concentrated on producing red wines only from that time.

At $30 a bottle, the wine has a bit of job fighting it out for attention with the mass market wines we tend to find from South Africa on Vancouver shelves. The fullness and refined integration of the wine, however, makes it a good choice for a special occasion like tonight's gathering.

With a bit of wine and endless appies quickly disappearing, some very entertaining stories started flowing from all of Elzee's family. Momma Elzee even announced that, from this point on, she would refer to me as "Roberto" since I was so thoroughly embracing the Italian "Dolce Vita." It wouldn't have hurt my case that I arrived, greeting her and Elzee, with a big "Buona Sera Bella" ("Good Evening Beautiful").

1024. 2008 Inniskillin - Discovery Series Malbec (VQA - Okanagan Valley)

The next bottle being added to The List is another label making sort of a reappearance. We haven't had an Inniskillin Malbec in recent memory but I have added two other wines from their Discovery Series - a Chenin Blanc and a Zinfandel. The Discovery Series features a handful of grape varietals that remain relatively unexplored in the Okanagan Valley. Still being produced more on an experimental basis, the winery is trying to determine how viable the production of those varietals might be.

Malbec is being sighted in the Okanagan on a far more regular basis nowadays, but it is used largely for blending in the Valley's Meritage wines. Straight Malbec varietal wines are still relatively rare - and, even when they are produced, the volume is quite low. Indeed, only 590 cases of this wine were made. Thankfully, we got to try the Inniskillin tonight. It wasn't as big as the Graceland Cab but it still matched up nicely with the various meats and cheeses.

1025. 2007 Therapy - Freud's Ego (VQA - Okanagan Valley)

I wasn't as hyped about the Freud's Ego. It's an entry level Meritage blend of Cab, Sauv, Cab Franc and Merlot but I found it to be rather light, acidic and green (where the bigger Cab grapes didn't fully ripen). I enjoy the marketing genius that is Therapy but this wasn't a favourite when it comes to the wine.

Our Therapy in the glass was followed by a spirited and therapeutic conversation about the joys of Grappa and its influence in the Elzee family history - and I mean spirited in the best of senses. With Momma and Poppa's encouragement, Elzee pulled out the cherries steeped in homemade Grappa and offered up Caffè Corretto - the latter being espresso "corrected" with a shot of Grappa. Knowing that any caffeine after 4 p.m. renders me unable to fall asleep, I had to pass on the Grappa, but I'm going to look into those cherries a little more after that initial taste.

As fun as the evening was, it was a school night for me and Boo actually got called into work as well, so we had to hug up and wish everyone "Buon Natale." There were some definite "resolutions" to do a little more wine-ing in the upcoming year. Great fun!

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