Monday, April 9, 2012

An Easter Bonnet Birthday

Here it is Easter and it's time for the one of the more anticipated events in our family - the annual Easter dinner at my sister's, featuring the now "famous" Easter Bonnet making party and fashion parade.

And, to top it off, since my birthday falls on Easter this year, I figure I deserve an automatic win in the highly competitive quest for top bonnet.

Of course, the event also necessitates hours of effort and "family make nice" - not that it's all that difficult, but a glass or two (or three or four) definitely helps out with all the "want to play this" and "I can't believe you said that."

1098. 2005 Villa Rinaldi - Gran Cuvée Bianca (Verona - Italy)

I thought a little bubble would be a nice way to celebrate the old b-day (and I'm certainly feeling the "old" part) and a birthday seemed like just the occasion to pull out this Villa Rinaldi. One of the very few Italian producers of Méthode Traditionelle sparkling wines, Villa Rinaldi was, for a couple of years, one of my favourite stops at the Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival. Unfortunately, they haven't participated for the last couple of years; so, I think this might be the only bottle that I have hanging around. I know I've been waiting a while to open it.

Popping the cork certainly seemed to help get the creative juices flowing with my birthday cake inspired Easter bonnet. Birthday boy or not, I thought it was a winner.

As for the bubble, the Gran Cuvée Bianca is made from 100% Chardonnay from the Alto Adige valley to the North of Venice and Verona. It is one of ten different sparkling wines that Villa Rinaldi makes - along with an Amarone and Recioto. All of their wines come with a fairly hefty price tag - I think this one clocked in at $55 - but the wines that I've tried are beautifully crafted. As mentioned, unlike most Italian sparklers, Villa Rinaldi uses the Méthode Traditionelle with secondary fermentation in the bottle and, interestingly, the Gran Cuvée also sees some oak during the first fermentation.

Completely dry, with classic brioche notes, I think this bottle can stand its ground with a true Champagne on any day. Luckily, this was our day.

1099. 2009 Ponzi Pinot Gris (Willamette Valley - Oregon)

I can't say that I know much about Oregon wineries. For some reason, they don't participate much in the Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival and I don't think they have much of a presence on local bottle shop shelves - except for maybe some higher end Pinot Noirs. I grabbed this bottle, as part of a Costco run in Washington state, during a jaunt to Seattle - precisely because it was an unknown in my experience but also because I do know that the Willamette is synonymous with many of Oregon's big wines.

I subsequently learned a little bit about Ponzi Vineyards. Having moved, during the late 1960's, to the Willamette Valley, southwest of Portland, the Ponzi family was one of the first to start planting Pinot Noir in the Pacific Northwest. The new winery garnered favourable press and helped establish Oregon as a legitimate wine growing region. The second generation of the family is now fully ensconced in day-to-day operations, including the winemaking itself. The winery has also stayed ahead of the curve by adopting sustainable farming and winemaking practices early on.

With two bottles now under our collective belt, the creativity going into this year's bonnets was abundantly evident. Granted, there was no Easter thong this year, but we did have Boo's leaning tower "masterpiece." Architecturally inventive, his vision was perhaps a little too stimulating - the boy may not be consistently lauded for his fashion sense but, regardless, he was thrilled with his final chapeau. That is, until it fell apart once he actually put it on his head.

Oh well, there was no way his bonnet was going to top mine this year anyhow. We figured we could just give him another glass of wine to keep him happy.

N.V. Père Anselme - La Fiole du Pape (AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape - Rhône - France)

With dinner ready to go, our bonnet workspace needed to be cleared up. After all, we needed a little space for another bottle of wine. This one does fall prey somewhat to the whole danger of over-marketing - with its faux aging and all; however, Père Anselme has been selling La Fiole du Pape in its distinctive bottle for decades. Indeed, the wine's name, "La Fiole," is a reference to its one-of-a-kind bottle and translates as "the Flask."

This Châteauneuf-du-Poof (as my sister Vixen calls it) isn't unique only because of its bottle. It is a négociant wine - where the winery purchases its grapes and wines from a number of different sources - and is a non-vintage wine in that it is blended from multiple vintages. I read on one site that, apparently, La Fiole is the only multi-vintage blend allowed under French law that still qualifies for AOC designation. I suppose a little leniency here or there might be more available when you're the largest selling CdP in the world. Between 30,000 and 40,000 cases of La Fiole can be sold worldwide annually.

Indeed, it turns out that we've even had a bottle previously as the wine was added to The List way back at #382. Guess we'll have to wait a day now before we can hit #1100.

As with most Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines, this is primarily Grenache-based (approximately 90%) with Mourvèdre and Syrah making up the balance. Thing is, I don't know if it was all that great of wine. It came across as a little insipid and lacking. I've enjoyed many a marvellous CdP wines, but this bottle didn't really rank up there with the best. It wasn't bad by any means; it just wasn't a fave, given the fact that it's a $40 bottle.

All the same, the wines and bonnets made for a memorable Easter birthday. After all the wine, I'm quite sure that my bonnet was destined for the Easter Bonnet Hall of Fame. At least in my own mind.

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