Saturday, November 3, 2012


On occasion, I look back and wonder how ten years can have come and gone at our current abode next month.  Ten years?  Already?

As I've mentioned previously in the blog, we were part of a six-pack of neighbours that all moved into the hood at the same time - and we hit it off as everyone hopes you'll hit it off with new neighbours.  That original six dropped down to two when, this summer, we saw a change in the home next door.  Gatu Bela and Danchuk decided to move onwards - and hopefully upwards.  We hadn't heard much from them since the move but we rallied for a little get together as I knew they'd just returned from a vacation in Italy.  There was grand news of La Dolce Vita and of their recent moves - and enquiring minds needed to know.

A little BYO appies, another set of neighbours - Baby Mama & K-Pop (the old Arty400 in his new persona) and a lot of wine and chat.  The night was set.

N.V. Villa Teresa Prosecco Vino Frizzante (Prosecco DOC - Italy)

Naturally, Venice was a part of the Italian itinerary and Gatu Bela's delivery of the Prosecco was no-brainer.  I didn't think to take a picture of our initial toast to the evening because I knew that the Villa Teresa had already been added to The List.  I should have taken a shot all the same because we had a guest liquor as well.  Prosecco and Aperol is a classic Spritz cocktail to pass an evening in Venetian campi or squares.  After looking for the aperitif in Vancouver, without success, for a couple of years, I learned that the provincial liquor board was now carrying the almost neon orange bottle of Aperol.  Since that happy moment, we've been introducing a good number of our friends a different taste of Italy.

Gatu Bela and Danchuk had seen all the stylish Italians sipping away on Spritz, but they never discovered what the drink was.  Looks like they came to the right place.

1276.  2009 Wyndham Estate - Bin 444 Cabernet Sauvignon (SouthEastern Australia)

The old neighbours are vegetarian; so, I figured we could make good use of one of the pumpkins leftover from Halloween.  Little did I know that a squash chill recipe that I have calls for red wine.  The bottle of Wyndham Estate was sitting on the counter as a client had given it to me at work today.  Seemed like an easy choice.  And, once it had been opened, the cooking wine became wine for the cook - and guests.

Receiving and opening up the Wyndham Estate was a bit of a coincidence in that I just posted an older vintage Show Reserve from the winery a couple of weeks back - and it was the first wine I'd added to The List from the big Aussie producer.  None in three and a half years; then, two in two weeks.

This is more of an entry level Cab - an easy drinker that works well for an evening like tonight and really nicely as a cooking wine.

1277.  2010 Catena Zapata - High Mountain Vines Malbec (Mendoza - Argentina)

Having been a caterer for many a year (including Boo's and my commitment ceremony and legal wedding ceremony both), Gatu Bela knows just how well Malbec goes over with a crowd and she brought along one from Catena Zapata - the winery that is often credited with putting Argentine wines on the international wine map.  Being such a large producer, I can find Catena's brands to be a tad confusing at times - especially if you count in all the Argentine labels that wouldn't normally make it to the international market - but the Catena label is reliable and straight forward as the winery's mid-level (of three) international labels.

The wine sees a blend of fruit from four of the winery's vineyards in Mendoza - each with its own idiosyncrasies and fruit profiles due to different altitudes and growing conditions.  At $22 in the Vancouver market, there are definitely cheaper Malbecs on the shelves but the added complexity and smooth integration of fruit, tannin and acidity makes it worth the extra dollars.

1278.  N.V. Bear Flag - Soft White Blend (California)

Danchuk brought along the Bear Flag after being seduced by its extravagant label (the winery website calls it "crazy").  Indeed, how could anyone not notice the label and bottle when you wander by it on the shelf?  Naturally, I neglected to take a close up picture of the bottle, but you can still see it smack dab in the middle of the table if you look at the picture.  It really was there.

Being a non-vintage wine, I think it's safe for you to assume that the winemakers are going for a consistent taste profile that isn't going to change with each passing vintage.  The goal for the wine at hand is rather self-evident with its name - Soft White Blend.  It's a slightly off-dry, easy drinker that's a blend of five varietals: Muscat of Alexandria, Symphony, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and French Colombard.  The producers have a definite market in mind with this style of wine - and I'm not so sure that I'm part of that demographic. I'm actually a fan of interesting white blends like this but I found the Soft White to have an emphasis of sweet over complexity.  I think I'd pay the extra bucks and grab a bottle of Sokol Blosser's Evolution, Red Rooster's Bantam or Stoneboat's Chorus if I were going to go the innovative blend route.

One great aspect of the Bear Flag for me though is that I get to add two of those five grape varietals to my Wine Century Club tally.  Symphony and French Colombard are both new to my list (although I'm pretty sure they've shown up in other blends as minor components previously).

Yee haw.  Great stories and memories of Italy.  Fun with neighbours old and new.  And new additions to The List and the Wine Century Club.  Not bad as far as Friday nights go, I'd say.

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