Sunday, March 11, 2012

Miss Jaq Returns

What a surprise! I got a call from the lovely and talented Miss Jaq saying that she was back from Abu Dhabi and, this time, it's for the foreseeable future. Nice surprise for us. Not so sure what surprises are going to be in store for her. She'd decided that the politics of work in the Emirates was proving to be a bit much and that, after ten years of tax-free living, it might be time to give Vancouver another try. As I say, great for us but this might prove interesting for her.

Over the last decade, we've been lucky to see her a couple of times a year. She's always made it home for a bit of a vay-cay in the summer - after all, if you're given some time off in 50+°C weather, who wouldn't come back for a bit of Vancouver summer? - but that short time doesn't allow for more than a couple of dinners and the annual Miss Jaq Wine Picnic.

The girl obviously had some new stories to tell; so, we invited her over here for dinner as soon as she could make it.

1081. 2005 Majella Sparkling Shiraz (Coonawarra - Australia)

Seeing Miss Jaq is always a celebration; so, a little bubble was an appropriate start. With Boo's and my trip to Oz just around the corner, I thought "Why not pop the cork from a winery that we hope to fit into our travels?" I met Brian and Ros Lynn, two of Majella's principals at the recent Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival and they were among the most pleasant and interesting folk I met through the final weekend of tastings. I loved the Sparkling Shiraz at the Playhouse and I picked up a bottle (since Boo let me off the "No Buy Leash" for the Festival) but it turns out I had an earlier vintage at home and that's where we started.

A bit of an Aussie tradition, this sparkling red is still make in the traditional champenoise method - with bottle fermentation (on the wine's lees - or spent yeast) for close to four years. It is then disgorged and an interesting dosage of vintage Port is added as a bit of a sweetener to the wine. Although not nearly as bubbly as more traditional sparklers, there's a lightness to the big Shiraz that is a wonderful way to a start the evening with appies or to accompany a brunch.

Something tells me I'll be looking for an opportunity to pop a cork on a sparkling shiraz while Down Under.

Despite the new movie, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, neither Mis Jaq nor Boo & I have ventured there. Yemen may be in the same region as the U.A.E., but, quaint movies or not, it's not the safest places to visit. We had to settle for an evening of Eating Salmon on The Drive. Ewen McGregor may not have featured prominently but we did introduce Miss Jaq to an episode of RuPaul's Drag Race afterwards.

1082. 2006 Howling Bluff Pinot Noir (Naramata Bench - Okanagan Valley)

I've been looking forward to opening this bottle of Luke Smith's Pinot for some time now. We've tried Luke's wines at a number of tastings over the years but the only full bottles we've enjoyed have been his Meritage blend, Sin Cera. That's partially because it's generally easier to find the blend in the stores. Indeed, the 2006 vintage was Howling Bluff's first and there were only 120 cases of this Pinot Noir made - and it was next to impossible to find any since it was awarded one of the 2009 Lieutenant-Governor's Award for Excellence in BC Wine.

Luke is quick to tell the story of how he started the winery with a goal of eventually making a world-renowned Bordeaux blend. Having now produced a handful of vintages, he seems agreeably resigned to the fact that Mother Nature appears insistent on pointing him in a completely different direction. Having planted the majority of his Summa Quies vineyard in Bordeaux varietals, Luke is naturally finding that it is his Pinot Noir that is gaining him the most notoriety. Our bottle of the 2006 won him his first L-G's Award, but that was quickly followed up with another in 2011 for the 2009 vintage. To top that off a bit, the 2008 vintage won Wine Access magazine's 2010 Red Wine of the Year award - the first Pinot to ever do so.

Luke has reluctantly reached the conclusion that he needs to wake up and smell the Pinot. That probably won't be that difficult or painful because our wine had a beautiful nose on it - a nose that opened up even more with a second glass, as did the flavour profile. Grafting over or replanting all of his Bordeaux varietals may prove somewhat agonizing, but it's going to result in even more Pinot Noir and different options for Luke - and that can't be a bad thing for the rest of us.

Boo made us a blackberry pie for dessert (perhaps one of his best ever) and I figured the pie called for an accompanying sip of its own.

1083. N.V. Salt Spring Blackberry Port (Gulf Islands - BC)

Surprisingly, I couldn't find out much about the Blackberry Port - other than that it's made from organic blackberries, grown on the Gulf Island, and that it's one of the most popular products that the winery makes. The winery's entire production of wine is limited to about 2000 cases; so, not unlike the Howling Bluff Pinot, I doubt there's much of this to be found. As full of flavour as Boo's blackberry pie, I'm glad we nabbed the bottle that we did.

With Miss Jaq back in Vancouver, we'll hopefully fit in more and more little visits. You just know there'll be some good wines involved. However, with her no longer in Abu Dhabi, I don't know that we'll be heading back to the Emirates any time soon. Guess Boo won't get much opportunity to address his silk carpet jones. That means we'll just have to settle for trips - like Australia - in the mean time. I know. It's tough; but somebody's got to do it.

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