Sunday, September 30, 2012

Viognier - Next Best Thing to Sake

1253.  2010 Red Rooster Viognier (VQA Okanagan Valley)

It had been too long since we'd had a little Raw Dead Fish for dinner.  So, I figured it was time to remedy that troublesome matter - and that was relatively easy.  The accompanying beverage can be something of an issue at our table though.  Boo doesn't ever want anything to do with sake and we didn't have any beer hanging around.

Luckily, there's usually a bottle or two of wine nearby - some of which actually matches up with sushi rather nicely.

I went with Red Rooster's Viognier even though Viognier can be a bit of a hit or miss for me.  I don't think an overly floral or oily version would have served our needs tonight but, if past experience held true, I figured we'd be pretty safe here.  Indeed, Red Rooster's winemaker, Karen Gillis, and her team have a knack for bringing out just enough of the aromatics and rich mouth-feel in her Viogniers and this was no exception.  Sushi rice can be a tough match but the stone fruit and acidity of the wine on the palate held its own with the sweet and sour of the rice - and it worked even better with the fish.

Turns out that we had more fish than expected; so, we might need to pull out the churashi bowls again.  Guess I might need another bottle of the Red Rooster as well.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Aussie Rules Grand Final

The Aussie Rules Grand Final was on tonight and we had a couple of dilemmas on our hands.  Our first conundrum was were we going to root for the Hawthorn Hawks or the Sydney Swans?  Boo barracks for the Brisbane Lions and I'm a West Coast Eagles kind of guy; so we weren't exactly invested in either of the teams battling the final.  Granted our good buddy, Merlot Boy, is an ardent Hawks fan and we've been gifted a fair collection of Hawthorn paraphernalia over the years.  So, decking ourselves out in Hawks gear would be easy enough, but there was a Canadian chap playing a central role for the Swans.  In fact, he's the first Canuck to ever play in the AFL league - and that left us feeling a definite tug for some Swan love.

Our second dilemma was even more stressful.  How could we decide whether to drink beer or wine?  Having been lucky enough to see two league games live earlier this year when we were Down Under, we know only too well that beer is the footy beverage of choice - and it just so happens that today is National Drink Beer Day in North America.  Having a "guest" alcohol appearance on the blog is all fine and dandy but this is one sporting occasion where pulling a nice Aussie wine out of the old rack just makes too much sense.

I suppose the obvious answers to our problems were to 1) start the game with beer and then move into wine and 2) just cheer for whichever team had the better looking players on the field.  Both solutions offered us plenty of options. 

1252.  2001 Rosemount GSM (McLaren Vale/Barossa Valley/Langhorne Creek - Australia)

After an initial visit with a local brewer, we moved on to a big, old Aussie red.  Not only did this Rosemount wine use Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvèdre - three Rhône varietals that thrive in South Australia - but they also sourced grapes from three different regions in the state. The blend was largely G&S - with 7% M - and I'm not exactly sure how it was still hanging around our place a decade later.  Thankfully, the bottle was still drinking nicely.  I'm assuming the fruit had mellowed out but there was still enough dark juice and spice there to live up to a bruising game like Aussie Rules.

As it turned out, neither of our dilemmas proved to be much of a problem.  We were still functioning the next morning after both beer and wine and Boo and I were able to root equally for both the Hawks and the Swans as it was a cracker of a game.  It wasn't clear who was going to win the game until the final whistle.  Unfortunately for Merlot Boy, the Swans hustled to a win and are taking the cup back to Sydney with them.  We'll have to see if Mike Pyke, the Canadian playing in the game, gets to bring the trophy home to Vancouver and Canada for a visit.  I think that'd be a treat to see and a great little promotion for the game up here.

Hopefully Merlot Boy didn't have to drown his sorrows too much.  Making the Grand Final is a helluva season for the Hawks - and at least it wasn't a seven game series where your team loses Game 7 and the city breaks into a riot.  Been there, done that.

Friday, September 28, 2012

An AWAS & Tyrrell's Wine Dinner

Some bottles of wine definitely become more of an archived memory than others and not necessarily because they're wildly extravagant or expensive.  One bottle that I have a particular fondness for was a simple Tyrrell's Long Flat Red that I pretty much polished off on my own one night, back in 1996, as I spent the evening writing away at postcards in an Alice Springs restaurant.  As you might imagine, the postcards became more and more interesting as the night progressed and the Long Flat Red disappeared.  If memory serves (and it will be highly suspect), the last card was to Boo - whom I had only just met the month before I left for Australia - consisting of a poem that revolved around words like "Boo," "Roo," "Blue" and "You."

I'm sure you get the picture.  

Well, Tyrrell's no longer makes Long Flat Red.  They sold the Long Flat brand back in 2003 but, like my memories of Oz, the winery carries on and it continues to be a force in Australian winemaking.  One of the twelve family owned wineries that make up Australia's First Families of Wine, a multi-generational group of leading winemakers, Tyrrell's is also the focus of an Australian Wine Appreciation Society dinner tonight.

As much as I love a good drop of Aussie wine - and despite the aforementioned evening with that Long Flat Red - I know very little about Tyrrell's.  There don't appear to be many of their wines available locally.  As such, I was quite looking forward to this AWAS Dinner, particularly since it was being held at the Fish House - one of those well-established Vancouver restaurants that I just never seem to make it to.   Unfortunately for Boo, he got called into work; so, my Dad had to fill in as a last minute replacement.  Lucky for Dad; sad for Boo.

Bruce Tyrrell was our special guest of the evening and, like most of the Aussie winemakers that visit AWAS, he was good for more than a few bracing stories.  One of the best was Bruce's recounting of how Tyrrell's obtained their first Chardonnay vines.  Bruce's father was an admirer of Burgundian Chardonnays but, back in the 60's, there wasn't much Chardonnay to be found in Australia.  The Tyrrell's asked the Penfold's gang, just down the road, if they would give them some cuttings.  After years of refusals, Bruce's dad simply snuck into the Penfold's vineyard one night and liberated some.  Ultimately, Tyrrell's bought the whole vineyard.

The winery's history of stories goes well back as well as it was established in the Hunter Valley, an hour and a half out of Sydney, in 1858.  It was named Australia's Winery of the Year in the 2010 James Halliday Wine Companion - one of the country's foremost wine references - and now has vineyards in McLaren Vale, the Limestone Coast (both in South Australia) and Heathcote (Victoria state) regions as well the original Hunter Valley estate.  Tyrrell's Semillons and Chardonnays are considered to be "pacesetters" and we got to try lovely examples of both.

As enjoyable as the whites were, however, I was far more taken with the four Shiraz wines we tried.  I don't generally add a wine to The List from these winery dinners, but I am tonight.  Since it's my blog, it's my rules and I'm not likely to see another bottle of some of these wines ever again.  It only makes sense to me.

1251. 2006 Tyrrell's - Rufus Stone Heathcote Shiraz (Heathcote - Victoria - Australia)

I don't see Victorian Shiraz nearly as often as I see the varietal grown in other regions; so, the Heathcote seemed to be a good choice to add to The List.  That and the fact that the cooler growing conditions in the region help retain a nice level of acidity to match the typical dark Aussie fruit.
I could have easily picked either of the more robust, higher end Vat 9 or 4 Acres Hunter Shiraz wines that we enjoyed but I happened to take a picture of the Rufus Stone; so, Heathcote it is.  Regardless of the bottle that was chosen, our dinner of sablefish, two-way lamb, duck breast and confit risotto and the Tyrrell's line up was a far cry from my days of Long Flat Red and a 4'n'20 meat pie of old.  Definitely no complaints on my part.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Romeo Meets Romanée

My annual appearances at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival are so ingrained in my DNA nowadays that I have to admit that, when I heard the Playhouse was closing its doors for the last time in March 2012, my concerns for the Wine Festival were as paramount as my sadness for the loss of a pillar of the Vancouver theatre and entertainment scene.   After all, the festival has grown into perhaps Canada's most celebrated wine show.  I was relieved - and a little surprised - to learn that the Wine Festival had become a separate society many years back and that it had simply kept the Playhouse name and continued to serve as a primary fundraiser for the artistic company.  Primary enough that the Wine Festival raised $7.8 million for the Playhouse between 1979 and last year.

Knowing that the festival itself would continue, the question turned to "who will now benefit from all the festival proceeds and fundraising efforts?"

We now know.

The Festival board of directors has chosen another long time stalwart on the Vancouver theatre scene - the Bard on the Beach Theatre Society - as its new beneficiary.  I'm not so sure that Shakespeare wrote much about wine in his works but we'll no doubt see more than a few allusions to Romeo & Romanée, to witches' brews and to  "Plumpy Bacchus with pink eye" in the months to come.

Some of the numbers for the 2012 Festival included the participation of 180 wineries from 15 countries.  Those wineries poured 30,000 bottles of 1700 different wines over 7 days and 64 events.  The Bard, himself, might be sufficiently tasked to pen a sonnet or prose to capture the Festival's essence for those who have never attended.

The 2013 edition of the newly minted Vancouver International Wine Festival takes place from February 25 through March 3.  Lovers of California Chardonnay will be in their element as the West Coast state is the year's theme region and Chardonnay will be the varietal featured in the festival's global focus.

I shall see you anon.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

2012 AIDS Walk

It's 27 years later and I'm still taking in the annual Vancouver AIDS Walk in memory of my little brother & lost friends and for those currently living with HIV/AIDS.  I've lost track of just how much money has been raised by the generousity of my family, friends and colleagues but, together, we raised just shy of $3000 this year.  I think that's the most we've ever raised.  As one of the top individual walkers (in terms of donations), I received a nice thank you card from the Positive Living Society advising me that our efforts will help over 80 HIV+ individuals access the proper medical care that they require for one month.

Boo had to work and was unable to walk with me this year, but Mr. D. was a more-than-willing replacement walker - particularly when the day's weather turned out to be gorgeous after a cloudy start.  It's become a tradition of mine to pop a cork on the Walk and toast my bro and those lost friends.  This year, the Walk proceeded around Lost Lagoon and right past Ronnie's memorial bench.  It seemed like a natural rest stop for Mr. D. and I - especially since the Out In Harmony Choir was performing no more than 100 feet from the bench.

1250.  2010 Banrock Station Shiraz Mataro (Australia)

The Banrock Station may not be the most premium of wines that you'll find on The List but I thought it was appropriate for the Walk as it was one of the wines that we served at my Mom's recent memorial and reception.  The winery, itself, says that they're aiming to produce "flavoursome, easy drinking wines" and that's exactly what it is.

I couldn't find out much about the wine itself but Banrock Station is one of the many brands falling under the Constellation banner.  Banrock Station is obviously a large, commercial producer of value for money wines.  They make a large assortment of wines and they export throughout the world.  Their website stresses the winery's commitment to the environment as much as it talks about its wines.

A small donation is made from the sale of every bottle to conservation projects around the world.  Those contributions have assisted works in 60 countries - including a project to save salmon in Canada's Great Lakes.  Their biggest project relates to the winery's properties themselves.  The majority of Banrock's lands are now part of a wetland restoration where they attempt to produce wines while demonstrating a greater respect for the land and the climate.  Their efforts include the introduction of Mediterranean varietals that grow "more sustainably in the South Australian climate" - particularly in that they are proving to result in greater savings in water and the need for irrigation.  This last point may play a part in the addition of the Mataro to this blend.  I saw no reference to the varietal on the website but Mataro is simply Aussie for Mourvèdre (French) and Monastrell (Spanish). I tend to like a bit of blending when a winery is going for cheap and cheerful.  It just seems to add a bit of depth or complexity to an admittedly simple wine.

The Shiraz Mataro was a fine choice for the Walk.  I like the charitable aspect of the winery's business plan and the wine was an easy one to enjoy without needing a meal to match up with it.  The toughest aspect of the wine was being able to take a sip while walking - without spilling.  It was also grand to have a bit of the bottle left when we grabbed pulled pork buns and beet fries from one of the food trucks that had set up shop at the end of the Walk.

A glorious day.  A great way to add a bottle to The List.  And two chances to make a small contribution to the community and world at large.

Crawdads Like They Should Be

Still being a relatively new convert to Twitter (yes, you can follow me @2001bottles), I'm constantly surprised with the great news and laughs that abound.  I saw a tweet mentioning that a fish monger, not far from our neighbourhood, had a rare shipment of live crawfish arriving.  A quick call into the shop scored us three pounds and a chance to redeem our invite to Mr. D. from a couple of months back when Boo ran across some frozen bugs - that turned out to be truly awful.  I mean REALLY bad.  We owed Mr. D. big time after that night.

These ones, on the other hand, were so fresh, we caught a handful of them trying to escape from the bag they were in prior to their impending engagement with our dinner plate. Indeed, one was found behind our microwave about 10 minutes into dinner when we kept hearing a funny sound coming from the kitchen.  Despite the little guy's valiant efforts, I wouldn't have the slightest idea about keeping a crawfish as a pet; so, he went into the pot all the same.

1248.  2011 Kurtis Wild Ferment Semillon (VQA Okanagan Valley)

The first bottle that we opened was one that I'd been looking forward to trying ever since I'd heard about it.  "Kurtis" is Kurtis Kolt, one of Vancouver's most recognizable wine names.  In 2010, he had been named Sommelier of the Year by the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival (as it was at the time). As of that year, an intriguing prize was also awarded to the recipient.  In conjunction with the Okanagan Crush Pad, the concept of a Wine Campus was conceived and Kurtis was given the opportunity to make 100 cases of his own wine - with all the proceeds going to the BC Hospitality Foundation.

In one of his columns in the local WestEnder paper, Kurtis wrote that "I've had no illusions of giving up the city life in favour of small-town living in the valley, but the idea of having a hand in making just a barrel of something really floats my boat." As one of the promotional releases recounted, he was afforded the opportunity to "take part in the full decision-making process that is involved in creating a wine label, from viticulture, grape selection, and winemaking to the final blending, labelling, marketing and bottling process."

I find it interesting that Kurtis chose to go with Semillon.  It's not a grape that's all that common to the Okanagan.  His choice of going with a wild ferment and use of one of Okanagan Crush Pad's new concrete egg fermenters just made the wine's production all the more interesting to me.

I'll admit that I don't drink all that much Semillon and I'm not all that familiar with its best known characteristics.  As such, I can't say whether the wine is all that true to the varietal or not.  I do know, however, that it's certainly getting nice reviews in the local wine press. As for me, I'm really glad to have found a bottle - given its great background story and limited availability - but it didn't rock my world.  It could just be that it didn't match up with our crawdads and that, maybe, I'd have a completely different opinion in a different setting.  For the moment though, I like the story behind the wine more than the wine itself.

1249.  2007 Château Sainte Colombe (AOC Côtes de Castillon - Bordeaux - France)

The evening's red was a bit of a nod to the new Bordeaux release that's just on the horizon. The Côtes de Castillon district isn't generally seen as a star appellation in the Bordeaux system, but it is seen as region that shows lots of potential and has seen considerable investment in an attempt to compete with its neighbouring districts - Saint-Émilion and Pomerol.  Sainte Colombe is owned the Perse family who also own the higher end Château Pavie in Saint-Émilion - a wine that has been in the centre of stylistic criticisms between Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker, two of the most influential wine critics in the business.  Château Pavie goes for hundreds of dollars each but the Sainte Colombe is far more affordable - try low double digits.

Typical of Right Bank Bordeaux wines, this is a Merlot dominant wine (70% or so) with Cabernet Franc making up most of the remainder.  Unlike the 2009 vintage which is about to be released, 2007 was a cooler year for the region and, accordingly, this wine isn't quite as full or flush with fruit as I tend to like.  That being said, the cajun spicing on the crawfish seemed to draw out some spice in the wine and I went for a refill of the red before I reached for the Semillon.

It doesn't seem like I've given a ringing endorsement to either of the night's wines.  Regardless of that fact, there wasn't a drop left in either bottle by the end of the evening.  And, perhaps more importantly, the crawdads were delicious!  The mortification would have been unbearable if we'd served up to crawfish stinkers in a row to Mr. D.  Big sigh of relief there.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mea Culpa

Yeah I'm still here.

Not having been raised Catholic, the whole "confession" concept is a tad foreign to me, but here goes.

I've been a very bad blogger and I haven't been keeping up with my posts.  The last wine I actually wrote about to add to The List was opened back in June - about a week into Summer.  With today being the first day of Fall, I realize that time has flown by somewhat quicker than I might have liked it to.  I guarantee you that our household did not go on a "Merlot Boy No Merlot Diet" (you'll need some old 2010 posts for that one) for the entire Summer.  We continued to polish off our fair share of bottles through the heat.  I just haven't been able to keep up with both life and blogging.  Funny that.

So, a new season calls for a new solution - or at least a temporary, stop-gap measure.

In my desperation to catch up, I've decided that I'll simply add all the wines that we've enjoyed over the last three months to The List.  I'll try to add pictures as well; so that, on occasion, you might even be able to capture a bit of the location and crowd.  But, I won't do my normal blah, blah, blah at this time. Rather, my intent is try to stay current with all the wines to come and then go back and embellish the old posts to give the wines and our drinking buddies all credit they justly deserve.

Realistically, that might take some time.  I wouldn't hold your breath.

But, in the mean time, if a slew of the most recent posts look pretty damn boring, I'm asking for a little forgiveness.

And a bit of that confessional wine.  Please.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

International Grenache Day

1247.  2005 Domaine La Barroche Châteauneuf-du-Pape (AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape - Rhône - France)

An Okanagan Rarity

1246.  2010 Hester Creek Trebbiano (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Picnic with Mud

1245.  2010 Red Rooster Chardonnay (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Little Saloon Sally Rosé

1244. Rustico Farm Cellars - Saloon Sally Dry Cabernet Franc Rosé (Okanagan Valley)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Nichol Vineyard Cab Franc

1243.  2003 Nichol Cabernet Franc (Okanagan Valley)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Brady's Going Away Dinner

Major changes are in store for this year's curling team.  Three of our five members aren't going to be around this year.  Skipper is playing Snowbird in Palm Springs on the weekends - instead playing with us on the ice. The Kimmer is Alberta bound and Brady is turning all français on us and moving to Montréal.  We had just enough time for the old team to get together for one last time before Brady loaded up the car for that long drive East.

1242.  2011 Paul Mas - Single Vineyard Collection Malbec (Pays d'Oc AOC - France)

Seeing as how it was also International Chocolate Day, there had to be a little indulgence on the dessert side of things as well.  We barely touched that bottle of Port though - so, no new number for The List.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

An Explosive End to the Bus Tour

Big knife.  Flying glass and cork.  Overflowing bubbles.  Such fun.  Why'd I ever wait so long to try and sabre a bottle of bubble?

1240.  2006 Mission Hill SLC Merlot (VQA Okanagan Valley)

1241.  2007 Sumac Ridge - Steller's Jay Brut (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Little Breakfast Sustenance with the Grrrlz

With Boo on the Bus this year, I didn't shack up with the Grrrlz for the weekend.  They still invited us over for breakfast though.  I was told that "once an honourary lesbian, always an honourary lesbian."  That's great news because they cook up a mean biscuit.

1239.  2011 Orofino Moscato Frizzante (Similkameen Valley)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

BCWAS Bus - Fri Night

1238.  2007 Quails' Gate Reserve Old Vines Foch (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Home for the next couple of days

Just part of the selection of wines that were available for sampling this first night - before the actual tour begins.  Looks like there won't be any need to worry about having enough to drink this weekend.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Adding A Little Intrigue

1237.  2010 Intrigue Riesling (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Divine Dinner

Times have been such that it's been a bit since we've hooked up with The Divine Miss M and Beamer.  Too long actually.  Thankfully, they managed to catch Boo at a weak moment and he agreed to dinner at their place - knowing that he had to work days and wouldn't arrive until we'd likely finished off a bottle and a bit.

1234.  2010 Moon Curser - Afraid of the Dark (VQA Okanagan Valley)

2002 Burrowing Owl Syrah (VQA Okanagan Valley)

1235.  2008 Laughing Stock Pinot Noir (VQA Okanagan Valley)

1236.  2004 Evans & Tate The Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Margaret River - Australia)