Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Better Feel For McLaren Vale

It's quite amazing how your appreciation for a region undergoes a complete overhaul after you've visited it for a first time. Prior to getting started on this post, I took a look at the blogs topic bar and I saw that I've referred to McLaren Vale at least 16 times since I started identifying it as a separate topic, worthy of mention. It's a pretty basic truth to say that I had no real sense of place while drinking any of those bottles before Boo and I enjoyed our quick visit to South of Adelaide district in April.

1183. 2005 Pertaringa Undercover Shiraz (McLaren Vale - Australia)

I must have picked up this bottle - for whatever reason - long before we'd ever set foot in the classic Aussie wine region, but I sure have a better feel for the wine now than I ever would have when I picked it up. Even though we didn't get an opportunity to stop in at the Pertaringa winery during our couple of days in McLaren Vale, there's no taking a sip of wine without having some mental picture of a general feeling for the area now.

The wine was an easy drinking drop and it featured a healthy does of big fruit, in that true Aussie; yet it wasn't over the top in any sense.  Indeed, that was an overall feel of our's for McLaren Vale.  The vineyards have little or no problem ripening the grapes; however, the region experiences a more calming influence of breezes coming off the nearby ocean waters and the resulting wines tend to be not as rich as some of the Barossans that make it to the North American market. Pertaringa, itself, is located in the Eastern foothills of the Vale which tend to be even a bit cooler weather-wise still.

Pertaringa has been around since 1980 and it produces around 10,000 cases annually.  The winery has chosen an assortment of interesting names for its wine - drawing from local stories.  The "Undercover" name comes from the winery's "recognition of McLaren Vale's history of supplying other regions with our finest red grapes."  The fruit was regarded for its contribution to the mid-palate - yet, no one really knew that they were drinking wines that featured McLaren Vale grapes.

No worries about that now - particularly in our home.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Lobstah, Buttah & Chard

Came home to a bit of a surprise dinner tonight. Boo had hit Costco and brought home a couple of lobster tails. Only seemed natural to me to break out the melted butter and the Chardonnay.

1182. 2009 Church & State Chardonnay (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Granted, regular readers will know that I'm not the most enthusiastic Chard drinker out and about. All the same, I'm hardly an ABC ("Anything But Chardonnay") kind of guy. Heck, we even have the stemless Chardonnay glasses on the shelf for when duty calls. I'm just not a huge fan of the big, heavy, overly oaked wines that were everywhere for awhile.

The Church & State bottle doesn't shy away from that New World style but the oak is more restrained. I'd picked this bottle up last year during the BC Wine Appreciation Society's annual bus tour. We made a stop at the gorgeous new Church & State facility on Black Sage Road and our taste of the Chard there obviously impressed me enough to throw some into my basket.

In addition to liking the wine's balance of richness with bright acidity, I like that the back label provides all sorts of information that calls out to wine geeks like me: the grapes came from two of the winery's vineyards (Gravelbourg and Coyote Bowl) and were picked in October 2009; the soils consist of sand and gravel; the wine was aged in French oak, a third of it being new; and only 722 cases were made. I could ask a few more questions but this is more info that I'd normally hope to find without a whack of research.

If recollection serves, I grabbed a number of other Church & State wines that day. No doubt, I'll be adding a few more to The List in the not too distant future - and likely a lot sooner than I'll be coming home to lobster again.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Stargirl's Time to Move On

Not to say I'm old, but when did high school graduation ceremonies become such an extravagant affair? Stargirl, the #1 Niece, is about to leave all the high school hallways and classrooms behind her and take those next, big steps into growing up. This was no quick walk across the high school gym stage - like it was for my generation - though. Not even close; there were caps and gowns and local dignitaries and it was all grandly choreographed with an entry procession across the Simon Fraser University reflecting pond and down the grand stairway to Convocation Mall.

Stargirl's class was a rather large one. So, the most amusing aspect of the ceremony - as we waited for Stargirl's introduction in the M's - was that each of the students prepared a short statement to be read out as the crossed the stage. With 30 words or so to be thankful, pithy, wise, humorous or just weird, the range of insights was both amusing and rather astonishing in the range of approaches that the kids had to encapsulate all those years.

I heard at least three or four quotes from Dr. Seuss's "Oh The Places You'll Go" - which I'll admit rather alarmed me. I'd picked up the classic read for Stargirl, thinking that I'd cottoned on to a brilliant introduction to her life to come. It was starting to seem that everyone thoroughly knew its brilliantly catchy words already. Turns out that no one in our family, including Stargirl, had run across the book before. Saved.

After all the caps had been thrown into the air - again, I'm rather sure I didn't get to do that even at university graduations - we hit Stargirl's restaurant of choice: that old family favourite, Spaghetti Factory.

1181. 2008 Osborne Solaz Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon (Tierra di Castilla - Spain)

OK, so it's not a celebratory Champagne. It was the Spaghetti Factory and Stargirl doesn't even like wine - YET (if her uncle has any influence at all). But, I "needed" a drink even if she didn't and I'd remembered having a simple bottle of Solaz some years back. I recalled it as being cheap and cheerful - much like the Spaghetti Factory.

Indeed, I took a quick look at the blog and saw that a bottle of the 2006 vintage was added to The List at #328. That quick look also reminded me that there's quite the interesting story behind Osborne wines and their trademark bull. I won't go into that story all over again - seeing as how far behind I am in my posts - but I think it's worth a look-see and read of your own. The story is perhaps a little more interesting than the wine but that's so unique - and, again, I remind you that we're at the Spaghetti Factory where wine, in general, is good.

So, Stargirl experiences one of those landmark days in her young life and I drink a entry level wine. Here's to all the big times and better wines that Stargirl will encounter down the road. Oh, The Places She'll Go!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Project Empty Bowl

A Loving Spoonful has been a favourite charity of mine from its inception. A volunteer-driven, non-partisan society, its "mission is to make sure that no one living with AIDS lives with hunger" and it has been providing free, nutritious meals to people with HIV/AIDS, on a weekly basis, for almost twenty years now. One of the society's signature events is Project Empty Bowl.

The evening's genesis sprang from a Montana teacher and his request, in the early 90's, that his ceramics students make enough bowls to serve a luncheon to school staff. The guests all donated $5 for a simple meal of a bowl of soup and a piece of bread. All the funds raised were donated to a local food bank and the guests were asked to keep the bowls as a reminder of all the empty bowls around the world that still needed to be filled. The concept rapidly spread from community to community and A Loving Spoonful has worked with an enthusiastic Potters Guild of British Columbia and the Canadian Craft & Design Museum to host their fundraising event since 1997.

I'm a little shocked that it's taken me this long to actually attend. Luckily there were plenty of auction items to bid after and plenty of wine to assuage that shock and guilt.

1180. 2011 Calona Vineyards - Artist Series Pinot Gris (VQA Okanagan Valley)

As you'll note, the bartender was generous to a fault with the size of his pour. I guess he might have been giving his best to loosen any constraints the guests might have had when it came to topping up those auction bids. I stayed with this Pinot Gris through the evening (unless you count the vodka martini - which I won't) and, with glass sizes like this, I didn't need many top ups.

Calona is the oldest continuously operating winery in British Columbia and I have to admit that I don't regularly drink much of their wine. Like my previous non-attendance of the Empty Bowl Project, my seeming avoidance of Calona wines is somewhat surprising - particularly when you consider that Howard Soon is the executive winemaker and their parent company also owns Sandhill and Red Rooster. Howard is a winemaking star in BC and the wines of both Sandhill and Red Rooster fill many posts in this blog and take up numerous spots on The List. I'm not sure why but maybe the lack of Calona wines on The List relates to a lingering reminiscence of the old Calona jug wines that were rampant while I was growing up. I don't know that I'll ever be able to disassociate the Calona brand from Schloss Laderheim - the wine that ensured the Calona's existence until vinifera grapes and a modernized industry arrived in the province and one that, even back then, I never associated with the phrase "fine wine."

The Pinot Gris was clearly no throwback to those 70's and 80's wines though. It was fresh and vibrant with acidity and it worked nicely with the array of nibblies in my bowl. It also helped ensure that I kept upping my bids on various auction items.

As is oft the case at these fundraisers, I ran into more than a handful of friends and acquaintances, including some that I hadn't seen for some time. It was particularly nice to have a chance to chat briefly with Easter Armas - a guiding force behind the host organization. Given the occasion, I'm going to add a brief statement from the society's website as it captures some of the society's beginnings and highlights the loving nature behind one of Vancouver's living angels.

"A Loving Spoonful started in 1989, sprung from nothing more than Easter Armas' determination that no one living with AIDS should live with hunger. She saw an acquaintance of hers, a brilliant lawyer who had lost his job because he was HIV-positive, eating from a dumpster. She was devastated. November 19, 1989, marked the first of many Easter's Sundays, monthly dinners held at McLaren House for people living with HIV/AIDS... Easter's Sundays aimed to diminish the isolation felt by people with AIDS by providing food, community, and comfort. From the determination of one woman and her tireless friends, the Vancouver Meals Society [later to be re-named A Loving Spoonful] was born. It was the first meal program in Canada to provide free meals for people living with HIV/AIDS."

A fun evening, a worthy cause and a great way to add another bottle to The List.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A New Taste of Chile

Just to show you how seriously we take matching our wines to the evening's dinner, I made sure that the picture shows just how magically the wine label matches the colour of the roses and even the tomato and cream based sauce. Now, that's some kind of matching!

Actually, I didn't really know this wine but I'd originally picked it up because I liked the thought of trying a Chilean Syrah. The hope for tonight was that it might exhibit some Old World restraint with a good dose of New World fruit and that, therefore, it'd go well with the spice of the dish and cut through the cream and acidity of the sauce.

1179. 2008 Antu Ninquén Syrah (Colchagua Valley D.O. - Chile)

The BC market doesn't see a lot of Syrah coming in from Chile but I did try some very nice, high end ones at this Spring's Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival. Antu is part of the Montgras group and, as such, was one of the participating wineries this year. They served the 2010 vintage of their Syrah but I'd already spotted and picked up this bottle on the shelves prior to the big show.

The winery's website states that "Ninquén" means "plateau on a mountain" in one of the native dialects and that this is, indeed, the first mountain vineyard in Chile. The website showed a neat picture of the vineyard - it appeared to be set in almost a crater like setting - but I wasn't able to download it to use on the blog.

Although, I've read that the Ninquén project was started in 1997 to give Montgras an opening into the higher end of wines in Chile, it still clocks in at around $25. For that price though, I might be more resigned to stick with some tried and true Aussie Shiraz. I can't, however, deny that the label certainly matched the roses nicely.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wine Blogging Wednesday 78 - Get Yo Viggy On

Goodness. Here it is, time for another wine Blogging Wednesday and I've found myself in a bit of quandary. It's WBW78. It's June. And I'm still trying to finish up all my blog entries from our trip Down Under - a trip that was back in April. Should I carry on - in a sensible sequence - and work my back to present times or do I throw all sense of order to the wind and join in with Frank Morgan, of Drink What You Like blog, and get my viggy on?

For reasons that perhaps defy logic, I'm going with this 78th instalment of Wine Blogging Wednesday.

Based in Virginia - where Viognier has made a thriving home for itself - Frank has proffered the traditional Rhône grape as this month's WBW topic and he's invited everyone to virtually weigh in on its varietal virtues.

Every wine geek has likely heard the story about how - after having been grown in the Northern Rhône for approximately 2000 years - the Viognier varietal was almost extinct by the 1960's. In 1965, there were only eight acres or so of the grape planted in its traditional home and total production levels were down to about 10,000 litres of wine or about 1100 cases. Known as a difficult grape to grow because of unpredictably low yields, the need for long growing seasons and its susceptibility to mildew, Viognier wasn't exactly an "it" grape in a world awash in Chardonnay.

As the wine world of the 1980's started to develop a greater enthusiasm for varietal wines, marginal varietals - like Viognier - began to enjoy a bit of revival. No longer isolated to production in the Rhône, the grape is now being grown worldwide - the village of Condrieu in the northern Rhône may still be home to Viognier's most notable vineyards, but the grape can also be found in North America, South America, South Africa and Australia and it's used to make both straight varietal wines and blended wines. Co-fermenting Viognier with Shiraz or Syrah has even become a common occurrence in wineries from every corner of the globe.

With that worldwide emergence, I decided to open three Viogniers from three distinct regions and see how they compare. The grape has definitely gained a foothold in Okanagan Valley vineyards. Production is hardly on a level of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris or Riesling, but I can easily think of a dozen or more wineries making a varietal wine off the top of my head. Since I'm blogging these three wines out of sequence, I don't rightly know where they are going to end up on The List but they'll get a number eventually.

1176. 2010 Marichel - Raisin d'être Viognier (Naramata Bench - Okanagan Valley)

I'll kick off with the home grown bottle. Richard and Elisabeth Roskell have been throwing their hearts and souls into capturing the taste and terroir of their little corner of the Naramata Bench in BC's Okanagan Valley for just over a decade now. They grow only two grapes - Syrah and Viognier - but they don't look to deliver Viogniers reminiscent of Condrieu or a Syrah styled on the Côte Rôtie. Rather, they practice low impact, sustainable farming and unapologetically make wines that they hope deliver the flavours of the Naramata Bench.

They don't make much of it though. The Roskells have realized that they will likely never even reach a total production of a thousand cases, in any given vintage, with the fruit from their vineyard (and some neighbouring vineyard grapes that they source). They do, however, still produce up to four different Viogniers. Marichel's standard estate label, the non-interventionist, wild yeast inoculated Wild Thing, a Split Rock label in particularly hot vintages (in honour of the summer of '03 when temperatures were so hot and so sustained that a boulder at the entry to the vineyard split from the heat) and tonight's bottle of Raisin d'être (named after the single vineyard where the grapes are grown).

As much as I like the Roskells and Marichel wines, in general, the Raisin d'être was our least favourite of the evening. That's not to say that it was a bad wine. Not in the least. When compared to the other two wines, it was just lighter in body and fruit. There was a nice little minerality on the palate but the wine didn't seem to quite capture Viognier's characteristically floral nose. Viognier needs to reach full ripeness in order to fully exhibit its trademark notes and maybe these grapes didn't quite hit that level of ripeness.

1177. 2010 Le Paradou Viognier (Vins de Pays d'Oc - France)

I'm not nearly as familiar with our second producer. Choices for French Viognier are rather limited in our neighbourhood stores, but I did think this exercise called for a wine from the varietal's home turf - even if I didn't go all the way for a top-notch Condrieu. Le Paradou is a secondary label for Château Pesquié, a well known Rhône producer in our market. Le Paradou is the combined effort of the two Chaudière brothers. In 2005, they decided to work outside of the constraints of French appellation rules and make a Vins de Pays wine where they could work with whatever grapes they wanted and try for a more straight forward expression of the fruit.

With vineyards in the Languedoc region, north-east of Montpellier, Le Paradou isn't quite the Rhône but it is situated near-by, where Provence meets the southern Rhône. The vineyards are located more on the higher altitudes of the mountainside than on the valley floor and, as such, the wine has a brighter acidity than might otherwise be expected. Like the Marichel, this is another Viognier that is neither overly big or oily, nor abundant in floral notes on the nose, but it did feature a somewhat more fragrant nose. With that, it got a bit of a nod over the BC wine. Boo was particularly fond of it.

1178. Yalumba Y Series Viognier (South Australia - Australia)

I thought it was particularly fitting to open a Yalumba Viognier as well. The South Australian winery is often credited with single-handedly reviving the fortunes of Viognier. Their interest in the varietal all stemmed from a visit to the Rhône in the 1970's and a suspicion that the grape might do well Down Under. In 1980, Yalumba started with a 3 acres of vines - Australia's first commercial plantings of the varietal. They now have the "largest mature Viognier resource and oldest commercial vines in the Southern Hemisphere" - with access to over 70 acres from a variety of districts.

Current Yalumba winemaker, Louisa Rose, has taken a particular liking to the grape and that small experiment - and the resulting years of trial and error - have led Yalumba to believe they've got a pretty good handle on the varietal. They actually offer four different Viognier wines - the basic Y Series, a more regional Eden Valley label, the flagship Virgilius, and a botrytis affected dessert wine. Winemaker emiritus and natural born story-teller, Jane Ferrari, travels the globe, preaching the Yalumba gospel, and she's told many a tale about Viognier's re-emergence on the wine scene. Indeed, a few years back at the Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival, she kept folks enraptured with her appropriately titled, "Viognier Monologues."

This was our fave of the three - and we did taste them blind. Like the other two, the Yalumba didn't take us to that lanolin-like, oily bodied, florally perfume-laden Viognier that is often poured to the unexpectant - and, for that, I'm eternally grateful - but it definitely had both a bigger nose and more noticeable fruit on the palate. This was the glass that I looked to re-fill immediately and repeatedly.

Enjoying the Yalumba so also highlighted my regret that we didn't capitalize on the opportunity to visit Yalumba when we were recently in the Barossa. Yalumba was no more than four or five kilometres down the road from where we were staying at Wroxton Grange. Indeed, the grapes going into Yalumba's Eden Valley Viognier might well have been grown on a vineyard within spitting distance of some of Wroxton's plantings. Unfortunately, the right timing just didn't present itself. I guess this tasting just gives us even more incentive to make our way back to Australia.

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by the three wines. I'd rather expected at least one of them to be overly florally or downright oily, but they weren't. Thanks to Frank and Drink What You Like for hosting. I'm looking forward to seeing what paths other participants have taken.

With any luck, I might even have caught up with my own postings by the time Wine Blogging Wednesday 79 rolls around. (Editor's Note - not quite so lucky with the catch up by WBW79. It's only taken three months to finally be able to number these wines in sequence. Yikes)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Birthday Boo

It's Boo's birthday. Not that either of us are counting them any more. It's still an excuse to head out for the evening and let someone else do the cooking though. Since he'd dropped by to wish Boo a Happy B-day, Mr. D. joined us on The Drive.

Our new favourite in the hood, Via Tevere, wasn't open and there was a line up out the door at Memphis Blues; so the default was calamari and pizza at Marcello's. His birthday. His choice. And, when given a choice, you know that calamari is a given if it's on a menu.

1175. 2010 Zonin - Primo Amore Sangiovese Merlot (Sicily IGT - Italy)

I wouldn't say that Marcello's is renowned for its wine list. To be fair, I don't know many (if any) pizza joints that are. But how can you go wrong ordering a wine that translates as "First Love" for your man's birthday? We knew that Zonin is a big name, commercial winery and that this was an entry level wine, but its being a Super Tuscan-esque Sangiovese and Merlot blend - especially one from Sicily - intrigued. As such, we weren't expecting it to blow us away, but it was fruity and easy drinking and do we really need to ask more of a pizza wine?

Indeed, any moment that captures a little bit of the allure and romance of Italy is a good time for me. And any day that features calamari is a great day for Boo - whether it's his b-day or not.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Really Big Housewarming

I recently wrote that Skipper had hosted a Grenache/Garnacha edition of Wine Boyz. For the night, he'd invited the other boyz from our curling team last year. It was their first sip at Wine Boyz and it kind of revealed to them our gang's enthusiasm for the grape.

The next day or so, Brady e-mailed me to see if I'd be interested in a 3-Litre bottle of Washington Merlot that he'd been lugging around with him for the last decade or more. He'd received the Jereboam at a charitable fundraiser for Seattle's Chicken Soup Brigade all those years ago and he figured it was time to think about opening it. At first, Brady wondered if anyone might want to buy it from him - not that he knew what it'd be worth.

He didn't get off the hook that easily.

1174. 1997 Hogue Cellars - Hogue Springs Eternal Barrel Select Merlot (Columbia Valley - Washington)

Although this was an irreplaceable bottle that none of us would likely ever come across before, Brady's enquiry started with "1. Any idea if this is any good? 2. Any idea if this is still any good?" and we were left with a big question mark. I told him that the big bottle format would likely help slow down any negative effects of ageing but that the big factor was going to be how he'd been storing it.

His answer wasn't very inspiring. He basically admitted that he had no cellar of any sort and that, since he'd liked the design of the carved glass bottle and label, he'd had it standing upright in his living room through all his moves over the last decade. Summer, winter, no matter, the cork hadn't seen a lot of contact with the wine for many a year. I told him I wouldn't hold my breath for too long if he was expecting a vibrant sip o'wine.

That just piqued his interest and he decided to bring it along to a small gathering for Kaz's housewarming on the weekend. Kaz, the newest member of our team last year, had just moved into his new apartment and had invited everyone over for a look see. If the wine was still drinkable, that three litres would go a fair way in whetting our whistles.

Things didn't look all that optimistic when the cork broke as we tried to open the bottle but, lo and behold, the wine was totally drinkable. The first sips were tentative to say the least, but we were still greeted with a good shock of dark fruit. I'm sure that the tannins and acidity would have been a lot more prominent when the wine was bottled, but it really did have a nice balance. There was certainly no problem in finishing off that first glass and refilling it a number of times.

Hogue had a reserve line back in the 1997; so, this might have been one of their premium wines at the time - allowing for a little more leeway for lasting those 15 years - but it was still a surprise given Brady's shady storage facilities.

To tell the truth, we'd actually finished off the bottle long before the evening was done. It was a good thing that a many of the guests were drinking beer or cocktails; otherwise, those refills would have been mighty limited.

I don't think there were any limitations on Brady's refills though - after all it was his bottle - but I'm happy to say that the accompanying pic was staged and that he didn't really pass out after finishing that monster. I believe the picture made a few rounds on Facebook where the story of Brady's overindulgence was promoted however.

The night called for a big shout out - like in 3-Litres big - to Brady. It was an exciting bottle to open. And, unfortunately, after getting the whole bottle-opening affair started with his Wine Boyz round, Skipper wasn't even able to make it to the party to try the wine. Nasty Boyz that we are, we didn't save him any. In our defence though, at least we waited until it was clear that he wasn't going to drop by.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Pass Me The Ripasso Per Favore

I remember that I first ran across tonight's wine at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival a few years ago. I saw the label and, at first, mistook it for a Barolo. I quickly learned that the name might be missing an "a," but it certainly wasn't missing anything in taste.

1173. 2005 Masi - Brolo di Campofiorin (Rosso del Veronese IGT - Italy)

I was advised that the name "Brolo" has nothing to do with the Barolo wines of Piedmont. Rather, "Brolo" is apparently an Italian equivalent of the French "clos" or enclosed - walled - vineyard. The winery decided to name the wine thus to differentiate it from their "standard" Campofiorin wine and identify it as a slightly premium version.

The wine is made of mostly Corvina (around 75%) and is supported by Rondinella - two of the traditional grapes used in making Amarone. The production of this wine also sees the use of the ripasso method that Masi helped pioneer where a young and already vinified wine is repassed over the skins of grapes that have been partially dried and used to make Amarone wines. That repassing creates a second fermentation of the wine and adds a more complex flavour and structure to the wine. Indeed, ripasso wines are generally marketed as wines bridging the gap between Valpolicellas and Amarones.

And, as I've written before, I'm always on the lookout for a good ripasso. This is one of them. The fact that it comes in around half the price of an Amarone in our market doesn't hurt either. I think I picked up this bottle for $25 with its introduction to Vancouver, but I see that the current vintage now goes for $30 at government stores. It's big, with lots of dark fruit and some spice and I'd definitely reach for it again for an occasion where $30 isn't out of line.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Must Be Something about CedarCreek & Pinot

There must be something about CedarCreek and Pinot Noir that sits nicely in our household. I took a look back at the wines on The List and this is the sixth CedarCreek Pinot to be added. Boo and I have finished off four vintages of the Platinum label Pinot so far - 2002, '03, '04 and '05 - and this is the second Estate Select vintage to be added to The List, joining a 2007 that we tipped back earlier.

That may be the most Pinot Noir that we've finished off from any one producer - which is somewhat intriguing since the Pinot isn't generally my favourite wine from CedarCreek.

1172. 2005 CedarCreek Estate Select Pinot Noir (VQA Okanagan Valley)

In any event, Pinot and BBQ salmon is a house fave and we happily filled our glasses with the CedarCreek - making Boo even happier because it opens yet another somewhat older bottle.

While talking "age," one thing I quite like about CedarCreek is their posting of a Maturation Chart where they list their vintages and wines and advise on drinkability (assuming you've been properly storing the wine). Naturally, this bottle isn't listed because CedarCreek started the chart when it underwent a re-branding in 2007 and condensed the number of tiers they made and switched the new basic line to Stelvin screwcaps Having been closed with cork and being a tier that is no longer produced, the wine wasn't included on the chart.

Our bottle may have been produced prior to that change but I think we can fairly say that it still had some life in it. I do think, however, that this sip has probably seen stronger days. The wine still matched nicely with the salmon, but the overall flavour diminished as we started drinking the wine on its own.

I have a feeling it won't be the last CedarCreek Pinot to be added to The List however.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

La Dolce Vita on The Drive

Once again, it's time to celebrate all things Italian on The Drive. Commercial Drive and our little East Side neighbourhood closed the street to the 2012 version of Italian Day and an estimated 50,000 folks turned out to revel in La Dolce Vita for the afternoon.

In years past, I remember locals referring to the Commercial Drive community as Little Italy. With the abundance of older gents watching soccer games in the coffee bars, numerous pasta and pizza restaurants, fashionable Italian tailors and all the shops specializing in pastas, salumi and oils, it wasn't all that hard to imagine yourself in a little bit of Italy.

Nowadays, however, the community is a virtual United Nations. In addition to the still-present taste of Rome and Venice, you're as likely to go shopping for El Salvadoran pupusas, Ethiopian injera, sushi or butter chicken. The Drive is still chock-a-clock full of those old Italian coffee bars - and a gaggle of upstarts. Long before Starbucks arrived in Vancouver with its omnipresence, The Drive was alive with Vancouver's coffee culture. If one bar's full, you only have to walk a block for another.

Indeed, activities on The Drive are often food-centric and Italian Day ramps it up another, big notch. Between local restaurants moving into the street, the recent arrival of food trucks and various charities setting up grills for the celebration, a single day would never allow you to sample everything that calls out to you.

Boo, Mr. D. and I took a wander over to The Drive to check out the scene and nosh a little. We didn't catch any opera on the big stage this year but we did watch a messy final of the spaghetti eating contests - no hands, of course - saw gladiators fighting it out in the street and marvelled at just how many Italian soccer jerseys and different Italian t-shirts there are in the city. The fact that we're in the throes of the 2012 Euro Cup might have played into the fashion statement just a tad.

It wasn't the sunniest or warmest of days but at least it didn't pour with rain like it did a couple of years back. All that walking built up our appetites and - despite having already succumbed to the odd nibble here and there - we stopped in at the new Falconetti's butcher shop and picked up a grab bag of sausages to grill at home. By taking them home, we'd not only get to sit while eating but we could wash the sausages down with some wine. Italian, of course.

1170. 2009 Tenuta Maggiore - Amphorae (Oltrope Pavese IGT - Lombardy - Italy)

I grabbed this bottle a while back at Marquis Wine because it featured another varietal that I could add to my Wine Century Club tally but, lucky for us, the folks at Marquis recommend that "this wine would be perfect with an Italian sausage." Italian Day on The Drive. Italian sausage on the plate. Italian wine for sipping. Works for me.

Tenuta Maggiore is found in Lombardy, the Northwestern part of Italy. The pre-eminent grape in the region is Croatina - although the best known DOC (or appellation controlled) wine using the varietal is called Bonarda, not to be confused with the grape of great stature in Argentina. The Amphorae is a Croatina wine that is blended with Barbera and Shiraz - hence its production under the IGT label instead of being a DOC wine. The other two grapes are used mostly to counter the strong tannins that are characteristic of the Croatina grape.

It may not be a varietal that I see very often, but there was no doubt that we could have used more of it at the moment. Not having a second bottle, we moved on to dessert and to Boo's version of that quintessential Italian treat - red velvet cupcakes.

1171. 2010 Poderi dal Nespoli - Bradamante Vino Bianco da Uve Stramature (Emilia-Romagna - Italy)

This was a favourite of mine from this year's Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival. A Passito wine where the grapes are dried and raisinated, the result in this instance is a rich sweet wine. It was a perfect way to end the Grand Tasting room at the Festival and just as enjoyable here at home.

The vineyards and winery are found just inland from the Romagna coast, in a river valley that connects Forli to the Apennine mountains and Tuscany on the other side and Poderi dal Nespoli is seeing its third and fourth generations of the Ravaioli family own and manage the farm.

An added bonus, for me, is that the wine sees a blend of 60% Albana, 30% Chardonnay and 10% Sauvignon Blanc - so I, unintentionally, get to add a second new varietal to the Wine Century Club. The history and genetic history of Albana is largely unknown but it is primarily grown in the Emilia-Romagna region. I don't know if you're likely to find a dry Albana wine, but I think you'd have a difficult time convincing me to give up this Bradamante for any still white.

And thus ended another Italian Day in the neighbourhood. Viva Italia!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Wine Boyz - The Grenache Edition

I always look forward to our little Wine Boyz gatherings - where we round up a gang for the evening and we taste a series of wines on a double blind basis. Whoever plays host that night decides on the "flavour du jour" and everyone brings along a bottle, in a brown paper bag, to fit the theme. While tasting the wines, we neither know what the wine is, nor who brought it. We try the wines both with and without food and are ultimately cajoled into ranking them - top choice through least - before the night is out.

The revealing of who liked or disliked what wines is always a great part of the evening - especially when the overall favourites are revealed. We all just sit there praying that we brought one of the favoured drops.

I'm afraid, however, that this is going to have to be one of those "Colour Me Bad" posts. In the time since the actual tasting and my writing this, I've misplaced all my notes from the evening - including my preferences and the overall rankings. The best I can do now is add the wines to The List and let you know that Boo's and my wines, naturally, were among the favourites.


Skipper assumed the host's mantle and he decided that Grenache and Grenache blends (so long as the "G" figured prominently in the mix) was the chosen path. We'd tried a Grenache tasting years ago and it was one of the most popular evenings that we could remember. Skipper wanted to see if a different set of wines would be as popular with a different "gang of pour." We had some Wine Boyz virgins joining us and there was a fair bit of "what the heck is Grenache anyhow?" before the actual evening. The fact that you find it called Garnacha, almost as often as not, on local shelves wouldn't have helped. I 'm pretty sure they'll have a good chance of remembering what it is now.

There were no restrictions on where the wines could come from tonight - and, after the reveal, I was intrigued by the sources: four Spanish, two French and two Aussies. I truly regret that, for the moment, I can't even say whether there were any preferences by region - personal or overall.

1162. 2007 Conde Valdemar Garnacha (Rioja D.O.C. - Spain)

1163. 2010 Bodegas Artazu - Artazuri Garnacha (Navarra D.O. - Spain)

1164. 2008 Malondro Besllum (Montsant D.O. - Spain)
- 50 Garnacha 50 Cariñena

1165. 2007 Torres Gran Sangre de Toro (Catalunya D.O.C. - Spain)
-60 Garnacha 25 Cariñena 15 Syrah

In retrospect, it's interesting that there were twice as many Spanish wines as there were French or Aussie. Since I'm usually the one picking wine for dinner and outings, a big part of the fun for me is seeing what wines other people choose. It's not too often that I'm familiar with them.

1166. 2007 Domaine Vieux Lazaret - Châteauneuf-du-Pape (AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape - France)
- Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvèdre & Syrah

1167. 2010 Perrin Réserve Côtes du Rhône (AOC Côtes du Rhône - France)

I was glad to see that there was a Châteauneuf-du-Poof, as my sister refers to them when around us, brought to the table. It's just appropriate given the crowd.

1168. 2007 d'Arenberg The Custodian Grenache (McLaren Vale - Australia)

1169. 2010 Rosemount Grenache Shiraz (South Eastern Australia)
- 55 Grenanche 45 Shiraz

I'm kicking myself about the lost notes because Boo and I brought the d'Arenberg as one of our wines. It was one of the wineries that we visited when we visited McLaren Vale a couple months back. I'd love to know how it stacked up against the others - and what we thought of it when tasting it blind.

The fact that there's a picture of me with Elzee and the Conde Valdemar has me wondering if that was the favourite of the evening. That bottle also happens to be on the "end" of the bottle line-up (down below); so, there's always a chance that they'd been lined up in order of favourite to least for the shot. Or, that could have been just too organized and thought out - after polishing off the better part of eight bottles.

In any event, we obviously enjoyed Skipper's hospitality and the wines since the evening carried on for hours. Should I ever find the notes, while cleaning, I can always revise the post and give the rightful winner its due taste in the sun. I'll just have to be more organized when it comes to our next edition. Hopefully, that'll be sooner than later.

Monday, June 11, 2012

More Aussie Goodness

Ben Glaetzer is a name that I've heard quite a bit when it come to Aussie wines and the Barossa in particular. I can't say that I know his wines much though. The ones that I recognize from our market - like Amon Ra and Anapurna - check in at like $70 or $80 a bottle. As much as I'd like to be a regular consumer of wines in that range, I'm not.

But I do recognize the name.

1161. 2007 Heartland - Dolcetto & Lagrein (Langhorne Creek/Limestone Coast - Australia)

I'll readily admit that it was the Glaetzer name on the label that attracted me to this bottled - even though it's a wine bottle by Heartland. Well, the Glaetzer part at least cemented the deal. I was just as enthralled with the Dolcetto/Lagrein blend. Don't think I've even seen or tried that before - at least not set out as a varietal blend on the label.

According to its website, Heartland Wines is a group effort of "leading South Australian identities who are all good friends and share a passion for making great wine." Glaetzer is a logical focal point - his being the winemaker among the varied businessmen, viticulturists and vineyard managers that form the group. The same gang puts out the Stickleback label as well but that's another name I recognize but am not familiar with more than the name.

Part of what's intriguing about the wine at hand is that it's not only a rather unique blend of grapes but that neither Dolcetto, nor Lagrein are grown much in Australia. Indeed, Lagrein isn't grown much anywhere. Largely limited to production in northern Italy in the Tyrol, I read that there are maybe 15 growers of Lagrein in all of Australia and the acreage dedicated to the varietal is largely experimental.

I do know, however, that Lagrein in a new varietal that I get to add to my tally with the Wine Century Club - a definite tipping point in the decision to buy the bottle.

The Heartland wine is blended with almost an even split of the two varietals - 55% Dolcetto and 45% Lagrein. The label shows that the grapes are sourced from both Langhorne Creek and the Limestone Coast (pretty close to being neighbours anyhow) but most of the fruit - 90% - comes from Langhorne Creek.

Although the blend isn't all that common - or familiar to me - it makes sense. What little I know about Dolcetto is that it's on the lighter end of the red wine spectrum. Lagrein, on the other hand, is known for its high tannins. Lagrein is also known for its high acidity - which plays nicely into the hands of Aussie producers since acidity isn't a characteristic Aussie reds are particularly recognized for.

I quite liked it. I found it at just under $30; so, it's not the cheapest bottle on the rack. But, I wouldn't have any problem with buying another bottle.

Maybe there's something to this Glaetzer name.

Fetzer Mussels in on The List

After saying, just a few posts ago, that we don't drink much California wine at home, here we are opening a second bottle of a California white in the same week. What's going on?

There's no chance that said proclamation has Californian winemakers raising their voices to the heavens - or BC producers quaking in their boots - nor should it. Boo is just pushing me really hard to drink up the wines that we already have - and this one was laying around. It didn't hurt that it should match up with tonight's mussels either.

1160. 2008 Fetzer Vineyards - Valley Oaks Sauvignon Blanc (California)

The Fetzer brand is one that I certainly recognize but I can't say that I'm at all familiar with their wines. This is the first wine of their's that I'm adding to The List - and, to be honest, I don't even think I bought it. I think it's a straggler that was left behind from a party.

Not knowing much more than the name, I asked Mr. Google for a bit of assistance. I'm not surprised that (at least in the early 1990's) it produces over two million cases annually - which I'm sure is far more than the entire BC wine production - but I was surprised by the emphasis their website places on the winery's commitment to sustainability and environmental impact. I was also oblivious to the fact that Fetzer operates the organic producer Bonterra that does so well in our market and that Fetzer, itself, was purchased by Chile's Viña Concha Y Toro in 2011.

Entry level. Easy drinking. 96.6% Sauv Blanc with small percentages of Chardonnay, Semillon and Viognier, it's not going to set any sophisticated palates on fire. But then, at the same time, it's quaffable and affordable - and there's lots of it. So many of the wines I find myself drinking are ones that I'll never find again because there was so little of it made, one site I saw says that Fetzer made 630,000 cases of this wine alone.

What more do you need on a weeknight as the summer starts to kick in?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Toast to the Old Alma Mater

It's Alumni Weekend - sometimes known as the Party on the Point - at the University of British Columbia. I figured I'd take in a couple of events since I rarely head out to UBC nowadays and had yet to see the new Law School. It didn't hurt that there were a couple of wine-centric events being presented as well.

I'll readily admit that I was looking forward the most to the UBC Wine Library Tour. There was nothing like a wine library when I was attending classes. The Lido Deck at Sedgewick, yes, but no wine library. The Library forms an integral part of the Wine Research Centre and was established when Dr. Hennie van Vuuren arrived at UBC in 1999 to help pioneer research into the molecular genetics of yeasts and vines, fermentation and viticulture among other topics. Dr. van Vuuren arrived with a fascination in the ability of some varietals to age gracefully while other wines fall apart quickly. The Wine Library was set up to help study how wines, in general - and BC wines in particular - age and participating wineries send two cases of the wine to be studied. This allows the wines to be tasted annually over the next two decades, the hope being that the Centre will "eventually establish a correlation between viticulture and enology practices in BC and the ability of wines to age well."

Dr. van Vuuren advised us that the Wine Library can store up to 30,000 bottles, but that they currently have about 6,000. In addition to the winery participations in the study, the Centre has, fortuitously, received some donations from the estates of deceased collectors in the city. One such donation included some 103 year old bottles of Château Margaux. There are six bottles left. Not surprisingly, Dr. van Vuuren continually receives offers from wine drinkers offering to volunteer for tasting panels. Nice job if you can get it, I figure.

I suppose when we hear about winemaking techniques continually being improved and modernized and read about how there's so much science that goes into a bottle of wine nowadays, the Wine Research Centre is front and centre with the introduction of those changes.

Unfortunately, there was no tasting involved with the Wine Library tour but it was very intriguing all the same. I had signed up for a "class" in tasting later in the day though. Passing the time between the two events was easy enough in that the university was abuzz with activity.

I missed out on guided tours of the new Law Building and of the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, but I did spend some time in the Beaty Biodiversity Museum. I remember all the media hoopla that accompanied the establishment of the museum in 2010 - particularly the unveiling of the two-storey glass gallery that displays the largest blue whale skeleton on display in Canada - but this was the first time I've come anywhere close to seeing it. The immensity of both the whale and the museum's purpose was inspiring. There's no doubt that UBC is continually upping the ante with what it offers to the educational community.

The tasting event was an introduction to wine tasting; so, I wasn't exactly immersed in new information but it was interesting to see a different approach to tasting - including the testing of our senses of smell and taste while blindfolded. It was also interesting to discover that there's now a 300-level credit course offered in the introduction to wine. Now, there definitely was never any course available like that when I was a student. Had there been, my enthusiasm for wine might have been tweaked a whole lot more - and a whole lot earlier - than it was. Ah, no use lamenting over (un)spilled grapes.

With all the touring and tasting it was definitely time for a drink when I got home.

1159. 2008 Cantina Zaccagnini - il vino "dal tralcetto" (Montepulciano d'Abruzzo DOC - Italy)

One of the bottles we picked up with our Bellingham Costco run last year, I didn't know anything the winery, but the packaging is fetching - and I simply love saying "Montepulciano d'Abruzzo." For someone like me that doesn't speak Italian, mastering this little phrase is like being swathed in a whole layer of romantic swagger. You can't help but sound suave when saying it. Plus, it just sounds delicious.

And, you know, this was perfectly matched to my palate and to our simple Margherita pizza. I often find entry level Italian wines to be too spare for my liking, but the Zaccagnini had some nice body and bright red and dark fruit.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable way to wind down from the day. If we make it back to Costco, I'm going to have to look for another bottle.

La Crema Chard

I suppose drinking a California Chardy is about as far from a standard drop as it gets in our home. Chardonnay isn't generally my first choice for whites and I don't tend to buy many US wines - except when south of the 49th parallel - since I'm far from thrilled with the way our provincial government tends to force the prices through the roof as soon as anything except American bulk wine crosses the border.

That position of mine may change a bit next year since the 2013 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival has named California as its Theme Region and Chardonnay as the varietal for Global Focus.

In the mean time, we're drinking California Chardonnay tonight.

1158. 2007 La Crema Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast - California)

Given the lack of California Chardonnay in our cellar, I don't know much about La Crema or its wines. A quick look at the website reveals that they only produce Chardonnay and Pinot Noir - the two star varietals from Burgundy. However, they do have vineyards in five different regions in the state and produce both varietals from each region, this bottle featuring fruit from the Sonoma Coast district.

Most references online point to this wine as having good value (when being purchased in the US, no doubt) but I still found it to be a little oaky for my palate. Fairly lush and full, but a bit of a switch from the bright whites that I tend to favour.

No doubt, I'll be paying a little more attention to the whole Cali Chard genre over the next year. Guess we'll see if the number of appearances at our table has increased at all come next summer.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Wine Century Club Anniversary Count

The obvious goal and raison d'être of this blog is to drink our way through 2001 unique bottles of wine, but a integral part of the blog name is "A Wine Odyssey.", in part, defines an "odyssey" as "a long series of wanderings or adventures" and, for me, trying new and different wines that come from far-flung corners of the earth or feature previously unknown varietals is an integral - and exciting - part of the quest.

I've written about and made many a reference to The Wine Century Club during my blog meanderings. The premise of this clever idea is that if keep track of all the varietals that go into the wines you're drinking, you can join the club as soon as you've reached 100 different varietals. I didn't discover the club until long after I'd started this blog, but I get a little kick out of adding a new grape every time I run across one in my glass. Prior to this entry, I'd logged 128 varietals and I'm definitely hoping to hit a double century before I reach my goal of 2001 bottles.

The Club is celebrating its 7th anniversary and, to mark the occasion, today is a collective effort by all interested to taste as many different varietals as possible in one day. A few years back, a similar task was laid out for those in the know and a formidable total of 314 varietals was tallied.

With this post, I'm adding a couple of unique grapes that are certainly new to me - and hopefully to the tally at large.

1157. 2009 Salt Spring Vineyards - Blattner White (Gulf Islands - BC)

I picked up this bottle when visiting Tyrant on Salt Spring Island last summer and I've been keeping it for an occasion just like this. Despite the entirely unromantic name of Blattner White, I really enjoyed this wine. The "Blattner" part of the name is a reference to Valentin Blattner, a Swiss horticulturalist who's passion is to create grapes that are resistant to disease - and, therefore, don't require as many spray applications - but are still capable of yielding wines that can gain viable acceptance in the marketplace. While he's not exactly taking the wine world by storm, his grapes can now be found in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, BC, Ontario and the Maritimes. Like most hybrid grapes, many Blattner varietals are designed to be hardy enough to withstand the colder weather of nothern climes and to ripen earlier than the more common vinifera varietals that most people are familiar with; hence their great fit with Canadian wine regions.

Salt Spring Vineyards - and its winemaker, Paul Troop - are among the foremost propagators of Blattner varietals. They produce both a white and a red wine made from Blattner grapes and this vintage of the white actually won a silver medal - and best overall hybrid wine - at the 2010 Wine Access Canadian Wine Awards. Petite Milo and Epicure are the names of the two grapes being blended in this wine and, as mentioned, we quite enjoyed the wine. I can see why it was awarded the silver medal.

The wine is a full bodied white and is quite fruit forward. In trying to find out more about the wine or the grapes, I see that it has been favourably compared to Alsatian wines, exhibiting characteristics of Riesling and Gewurtztraminer and even a hint of Sauvignon Blanc.

Unless someone else from BC is trying the same wine tonight, I doubt you'll see anyone looking to add either Petite Milo or Epicure to the Wine Century Club's Anniversary Count. I'm quite happy to be doing so and to be adding both varietals to my own tally for the club. This will bring me up to 130.

(PS. I see that this year's final count for The Wine Century Club count was 179 varietals. Far from that earlier record but pretty formidable in its own right.)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

An Orofino Pinot

After our cherry wine from the Similkameen Valley the other night, I figured "why not just stick with the same region?" for tonight.

1156. 2006 Orofino - Sagebrush Series Pinot Noir (Similkameen Valley - BC)

Over the years, the Similkameen has grown into the organic fruit and veggie capital of Canada. Grapes have definitely been following suit over the last decade and a bit, but the Valley still isn't particularly thought of as a region that is well suited to growing Pinot Noir. The summers here are just seen as being too hot to keep the "heartbreak grape" from breaking most vintners' heart.

That doesn't mean that Pinot isn't being grown in the Similkameen; it just isn't usually the first varietal that we see being offered. John and Virginia Weber offer up a small amount of Pinot every year from their estate vineyard; however, they also released this Sagebrush Series Pinot from the 2006 vintage. It was a second line made from non-estate fruit that was seen as a lighter, more easy-drinking version of the estate Pinot Noir. I don't recall having seen the Sagebrush Series offered in subsequent years.

We might have missed out on a bit of the red fruit that was being exhibited early on in its life - as the fruit wasn't as prominent as the reviews had led me to believe - but luckily the wine was under screwcap and I don't think we lost too much of the wine's character to the years gone by. Not my favourite Orofino wine - but then, as a whole, Orofino is one of my favourite BC wineries and I think it'd be tough for every wine to be a favourite.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Winner. Winner. (Butter) Chicken Dinner.

I figured we must have been long overdue for a round of butter chicken - after all, no one should have to go for long without this basic food group. Luckily Boo whipped some up. My task was to match it up with a wine - but only from wines in the cellar - I wasn't allowed to buy anything new.

1155. 2009 Forbidden Fruit - Cherysh Cherry Rosé (Similkameen Valley - BC)

I figured that the fruit and residual sugar of the Cherysh would counter the spice and heat of the butter chicken nicely and I think it did - even though it wasn't nearly as off-dry as I'd expected. Made from organic Stella cherries, this is one of my favourite table fruit wines. IMHO, Forbidden Fruit (along with Elephant Island) stands at forefront of fruit wine making in BC. I find that many dessert wines and fortifieds made from fruit can stand tall with those made from grapes; the still wines, however, aren't necessarily on the same level - yet.

Cherysh consistently fits the bill though. The only "problem" is that it can be hard to find in the shops that I tend to frequent because the BC Liquor Board doesn't carry it and it's not made from grapes, so the VQA shops can't carry it. We pass by the winery every other year or so and we generally manage to pick up a bottle or two at that time.

Being a 2009 bottle, I wasn't sure that the wine would still be fresh. Can't say that I know the ageing capability of cherry wine. But, thankfully, it still tasted fine and we'll no doubt continue to pick up that bi-annual bottle next time we drive by.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Dinner Club - Caribbean Style

As if our trip Down Under wasn't extravagant enough, here we are, back less than two weeks, and it's time for our next Dinner Club instalment. It would seem that all those pounds I managed to put on while dining on roo and barbee are going to stick around for awhile longer.

This time around, it's Jeaux and Matinder's turn to wow the gang with culinary splenders. Those guys have just returned from a grand vacation of their own - wasting away, again, in Antigua. Needless to say, our intrepid hosts have decided to whisk our palates away to the Caribbean and Yucatan. Now, wine may not be the Caribbean locals' first beverage of choice, but there was still plenty of it being knocked back at our dinner.

Before we popped the corks though, Jeaux whipped up
Chupacabra Martinis for everyone. Named after the infamous "goatsucker" that haunts Mexico and parts of the Caribbean, this little concoction of coconut rum, açai juice (supposedly an aphrodisiac), guava, pineapple and blood orange goes down far too easily. I'd already seen the array of wine to be opened; so, I limited myself to one as I was still hoping to be somewhat functional come the morning.

1148. 2008 Viñas Elias Mora (D.O Toro - Spain)

1149. 2010 Argento Reserva Bonarda (Mendoza - Argentina)

J&M served up a pair of appies: chalupas - tortillas with chicken, salsa and assorted condiments - and hongos rellenos de chorizo (stuffed mushrooms). Whether or not it was deliberate - especially since our hosts know the general bent of this crowd - all the evening's wines were of the red persuasion. So, we picked what we expected would be the two lighter bodied wines from the assortment available and started the wheels of wine a-movin'.

The Viñas Elias Mora was a 100% Tinta de Toro or Tempranillo and the Bonarda was simply that - Bonarda, Argentina's second best known red varietal.

The roughest thing about describing these dinners and wines is that time dictates a truncated version of any recap. I can't recall having tried either of these wineries before but, in consideration of space and time, I'm going to have to leave this at a basic mention.

1150. 2006 Langmeil - Blacksmith Cabernet (Barossa Valley - Australia)

1993 Rosemount Estate - Balmoral Syrah (McLaren Vale - Australia)

Our second course was oxtail posole - the traditional Mexican soup of meat, hominy, chili peppers and vegetables. Given the oxtail, we figured it was time to bring on the bigger guns. Plus, it only made sense to try them while we still had some of our senses working. The Balmoral doesn't get a number for The List because, believe it or not, we've already enjoyed and added a bottle of the '93 vintage back at #314. It's not too surprising that the earlier bottle involved an evening with Tyrant since this bottle came from his cellar as well. It's more interesting, however, that it was served with another bottle of Langmeil - their Fifth Wave Grenache. I don't think that Tyrant and I are that predictable in our wine contributions but it is quite the coincidence.

I think the posole was a favourite course of the evening as were these two wines. Given Jeaux' propensity to serve interesting meats (gator, rabbit and "make-do pigeon") at past dinners, we made her swear that it was really oxtail in the soup. When she started serving up the dish, we tried to get her to admit that it was that Caribbean staple, goat, since that'd go a good distance on the queasy scale for Lady Di and She Who Must Be Obeyed. Never having cooked oxtail myself, it was a great introduction.

And Tyrant can bring out his remaining Balmorals anytime I'm around.

1151. 2008 Sobon Estate - Old Vines Zinfandel (Amador County - California)

1152. 2009 1884 Reservado Malbec (Mendoza - Argentina)

The soup was followed by Pan de Cazón- tortillas with shredded fish, black beans and a tomato salsa. We likely could have gone with a white wine here but the fruit forwardness of the Zin and Malbec allowed everyone to keep eating and sipping without any concerns. My guess is that we would have carried on eating regardless of what was being served. It was all that tasty.

I haven't heard of the Sobon Estate previously, but the 1884 was a familiar brand because Boo and I had actually visited the winery without knowing it when we travelled to Argentina. And, no, it wasn't that we were too far gone to realize where we were. Rather, it was because the 1884 Francis Mallman restaurant is connected to the winery and, by the time we arrived at the restaurant for dinner, everything was dark and deserted on the winery side of the complex and we didn't even know it existed. Finding the wine back in Vancouver is the bigger surprise for me.

1153. 2010 Domaine Paul Autard - Côtes du Rhône (AOC Côtes du Rhône - France)

1154. 2002 Kettle Valley - Rock Oven Red (Okanagan Valley)

We weren't done on the food front yet though. Jeaux and Matinder served up a meat course of achiote & wheat-ale marinated flank steak, together with jicama slaw and nopales salad - a mix of prickly pear cactus, onion & tomato. And, funnily enough, we just happened to have another couple of big reds to go along with the beef.

Once again, the Côtes du Rhône was new to me, but the Rock Oven Red is known quantity - even if it's one that I don't get much opportunity to try. There are times that you might think my middle name is Syrah or Shiraz. So, I didn't have any issues with either of these two wines. The Côtes du Rhône, in fact, was mostly Grenache with only 15% Syrah but I could easily come back as a Rhône Ranger in another lifetime. The Rock Oven Red is a blend of almost equal parts Cab Sauv and Shiraz, a blend that doesn't seem to be made a whole bunch in BC, particularly seeing as this bottle is from 2002. Really, it's quite a surprise to see it served tonight as there can't be many bottles of it still hanging around. There were only 120 cases made of the '02 vintage and I should think most of them have long been tipped back. I don't think there can be any issue with the ability of BC wines to age when made properly - and when stored in Tyrant's boffo cellar.

English Harbour 5 Year Antigua Rum

The dessert course was accompanied by an appearance of a guest alcohol - aged rum. A 5-year old rum is a bit of stretch for a wine blog, but our hosts thought they'd end with a bit of a more authentic note. Jeaux said that she hadn't run across any Antiguan wines during their vacation but there were no complaints at the table. The sipping rum matched the homemade churros with roasted pineapple and strawberry salsa better than any wine that immediately comes to my mind. The rums that I drink are usually hidden away in eggnogs or daiquiris or maybe the odd mojito; so, it was a welcome change to have it poured this way.

Jeaux and Mattinder have raised the bar yet another level for our little gathering - and as if that wasn't enough - they've suggested that the gang all try to make it down to Antigua for a bit of a vacay for one of the next times it's their turn to host the Dinner Club. With Tyrant having already hosted his last dinner on Salt Spring Island, there seems to be a new travel theme on the rise. Whatever will Boo and I be able to pull out of the bag when it's our turn? The closest thing we have to a vacation home is my Mom and Dad's trailer in Washington state. I think it was a table big enough to fit two comfortably. We'll need an awful lot of wine to be able to pull that one off with any success.

We'll worry about that later though. In the mean time, big thanks go out to Jeaux and Matinder for another masterfully delicious evening - and for providing the opportunity to add another seven bottles to The List.