Thursday, August 29, 2013

International Cabernet Day 2013

I know there are "international days" for almost everything nowadays. Talk Like a Pirate Day, International Cowboy Day, International Kiss Day and International Nachos Day are a few that pop up annually on my calendar. Most, however, are hardly worth celebrating. But, you know, as silly as it might seem to have an arbitrary day for international quaffing - after all, every day is a day for celebrating wine around our place - I'm often guilty of tossing my glass into the ring.

With that in mind, I can bite when it comes to International Cabernet Day. We have a decent number of Cabs hanging around in our "cellar" but we don't tend to drink them all that often. As much as Cab is probably Boo's favourite varietal wine, we tend to cook meals that call for white wine or lighter reds.

As a result, we've got a few bottles with a bit of age on them - and I figure that comes in handy at times like International Cabernet Day.

1404.  2006 Burrowing Owl Cabernet Sauvignon (VQA Okanagan Valley)

It would seem that others have written far more interesting tales of this wine than I'm endeavouring to try and match here. The winery's website's notes on the wine talks of how the "fruit was harvested on November 4th, 2006 in 4 inches of snow" and they go on to state that '06 was "one of the best vintages in the Okanagan." I guess that just goes to show how border line ripening Cab Sauv in the Okanagan can be - when grapes are grown in one of the province's hottest vineyards but are still being harvested in November in one of the region's best vintages.

Despite the "late" harvest date, the wine ended up being a well received bottle for Burrowing Owl. It won a Double Gold at the 2009 All Canadian Wine Awards. Indeed, Beppi Crosariol, one of the country's best known wine writers, wondered in a Globe and Mail column "Could Burrowing Owl be Canada's Screaming Eagle?" A paragraph or so later, he stated that "it would not be a big stretch to say Burrowing Owl makes this country's best cabernet" and followed that up with a statement that tasting the 2006 Burrowing Owl Cab Sauv provided "one of those I-can't-believe-it's Canadian moments. If it was not the best Cab in the land produced in 2006, it's close."

Granted, that column was written back in 2009 and, for me, Burrowing Owl's shine has lost a good bit of its lustre in the years since then. The wine held up nicely though, with fruit and structure still in place. The days of my buying a case or two of Burrowing Owl wines annually are behind me now (the reasons for that will have to be the subject of another post) but it's nice to still have a few older bottles around to remind me of those days of yore and the wines that first caught my attention.

Luckily, I don't feel obligated to wait for next year's Cabernet Day to open some more.

Monday, August 26, 2013

A New Picnic Table to Celebrate

My dear old Dad deliver a new picnic table because the old one was in pretty rough shape and we were worried that the benches might just collapse under us. It only made sense that we should break in the new table as quickly as possible; so we invited Mr. D. over to help do so with a little al fresco dinner. With September just around the corner, there may not be a great many more evenings worthy of garden dining.

1402.  2012 Mont Gras - Soleus Sauvignon Blanc (Central Valley - Chile)

With Mr. D. living just down the road from Marquis Wine Cellars, he can always be relied upon to bring an interesting bottle as a contribution to the dinner table. He's also good about checking the blog to see if a proposed bottle has already been added to The List.

Mont Gras is one of the Chilean producers that has a healthy presence in the Vancouver market. They have a number of brands - including Quatro, Mont Gras Reserva and De Gras - in addition to Soleus. I don't think I've run across the Soleus before but it produces three organically grown varietal wines: this Sauv Blanc, a Cab Sauv and a Merlot.

Showing typical, crisp Sauv Blanc notes of citrus, it may well be grown in a "green," organic manner, but it wasn't nearly as "green" on the palate as many of the New Zealand-esque Sauv Blancs available. You'd never mistake it for a reserved Sancerre, but it was a decent middle ground.

1403.  2001 Sandhill Small Lots - Phantom Creek Syrah (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Celebrating the new picnic table seemed to warrant pulling out a bottle from the bottom of our box of wines. Sandhill wines have always been faves of our's and I'm a little surprised that we still had a 2001 hanging around - especially since I think this might be the first Syrah produced under the Small Lots Program (Phantom Creek being a vineyard found on the Black Sage Road between Oliver and Osoyoos). I might be even more surprised that the wine still exhibited as much fruit as it did though.  That's not to say that the palate was laden with fruit though. I'm sure the bottle exhibited a lot more fruit earlier in its tenure.

But it's still early days as far as determining just how long BC wines are going to age though. Twelve years in, I think we can safely say that this bottle doesn't hurt the region's reputation for producing age-worthy wines.

I'm just going to hope that our picnic table can last as long without needed further replacement.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Fifty Shades of White

A story on the Dîner en Blanc Vancouver website sums up the event as a "posh picnic" where diners "gather at a secret location with the sole purpose of sharing a high-quality meal with good friends at the heart of one of the city's most beautiful locations." Dîner en Blanc made its second appearance in Vancouver and Boo and I were lucky enough to attend. If you're not familiar with the all-white affair, the "must attend" event premiered in Paris 25 years ago and, since then, DEB has become a bit of a worldwide phenomenon. The epicurean delight crossed the Atlantic for the first time in 2009 when it landed in Montreal. It then migrated over the Canada-US border to arrive in New York City two years later. In the short time since then, it has grown to nearly 40 cities across five continents.

I didn't find out about last year's Vancouver début of Dîner en Blanc until just before the actual event and, by then, it was too late to corral an invite. I did, however, get onto the waiting list for the 2013 edition. When, back in July, I still hadn't heard a peep about this year's event, I figured we wouldn't be making an appearance this year either - particularly when I heard that tickets had already gone on sale to previous attendees.

Then, voilà, notice of waitlist tickets popped up in my InBox. The good news was that the Vancouver dinner was increasing in size from 1,200 to 2,500; however, there was also a warning that folks might want to make a run for the tickets right at the noon start time as there weren't many tickets left. While there was mention of high demand, the notice didn't mention that there were around 12,000 eager names on the wait list.

As you might guess from this post, I was lucky enough to get through in time and grab a coveted spot for Boo and I.

Little did I know that we'd also end up popping the cork on one of those "landmark" number wines on The List that night.

1400.  N.V. Charles Meunier Brutus (Cellared in Canada - Quebec)

Had I realized that our initial wine for the evening was going to be #1400 on The List, I might have ordered the more premium sparkling wine. But since I ordered the bottle on the spur of the moment, while being all concerned about the rushed nature of ordering the tickets, I simply picked the easy-going bubbles - especially since I hadn't heard of the wine before.

It turns out that Brutus is a commercial blend of Muscat and Chenin Blanc that is produced and carbonated in Quebec. There's little to know about the back story on the wine as it is a "Cellared in Canada" wine and I couldn't even find out where the grapes were sourced from. I think I could safely bet a pair of tickets to next year's Dîner en Blanc that the grapes weren't grown in Quebec though.

There was a noticeable sweetness to wine that actually complimented the brininess of our introductory course of caviar. And, even if the wine itself didn't rank as a landmark bottle, we were certainly enjoying it on a landmark occasion.

Part of the allure of Dîner en Blanc is that participants aren't told of the location in advance. All tickets have designated meeting points throughout the city attached to them and group leaders then coordinate transport to the secret site. Ironically, Boo and I discovered the previously secret location on our way downtown as the Skytrain passed right by the chosen locale. Unfortunately, we couldn't just get off and arrive on our own as we needed to check in with our team leader and, in what turned out to be perhaps the only real glitch of the evening for us, our group was one of the very last to debark at the "secret" location. As such, we missed out on all the early revelry in watching and mingling as the lucky few arrived and set up their tables.

In an interesting twist, the location - next to Science World and False Creek - was just across the street from where our former neighbour, Red, now lives. Ringing her up, I asked, "Where are you?" and when she replied "just sitting around at home," I asked her if she could see us waving at her. Her "You Buggers" reply confirmed that she was well aware of the event below her. Indeed, she'd already snapped the overhead photo from her balcony - nicely capturing the lay of the land as the sun was starting to set. Local writer, Sandra O'Connell, quoted Tom Robbins and reported that "It was as if a mai tai had been spilled in the sky. Streaks of grenadine, triple sec, maraschino and rum seeped over the horizon, puddled upon the sea." Not that there were any mai tai's being thrown back at DEB though.

Being the naughty boys that we are, I told Red to put on her best white frock and mosey on down to join us for a dance later on. By then, I figured we could find a way to sneak her in past the entry point.

But, first, there was foie gras with Port, duck rillette, truffled salami and prosciutto to be served along with a bottle that might have been a little more fitting of a landmark number.

1401.  2010 Groom Shiraz (Barossa Valley - Australia)

Established in 1997, when 87 acres of bare land was purchased, Groom is a small winery operated by the Marschall and Groom families. They only produce three varietal wines currently: Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and this Shiraz. The home vineyard is in the Kalimna region of the Barossa and they proudly state that they are directly adjacent to Penfold's Kalimna vineyard - a source of the Shiraz going into Penfold's renowned Grange, one of Australia's most sought after wines. Groom draws your attention to another ace that they have up their sleeve as well. Not only are the grapes grown adjacently to an all-star vineyard, but the winery has contracted the services of consulting winemaker, Natasha Mooney, who used to be a work with Barossa Valley Estates and their big gun, E&E Black Pepper Shiraz.

With "connections" to both Grange and Black Pepper Shiraz, there's plenty of reason to hope for a big wine for the big event. I'm a fan of big Aussie Shiraz and this Groom came through for us. There was plenty of dark fruit but that fruit was balanced with body and tannins. It wasn't just a fruit bomb without substance.

With only 900 cases having been made, I'm rather surprised that it was being offered as one of the feature wines being offered at Dîner en Blanc. I should have thought that they'd need a rather hefty supply of each of the wines when there were only six wines in total being offered. I'm jsut glad that we got our bottle.

Each couple is restricted to two bottles of wines. So, the Groom didn't match our crème brûlée as nicely as it did the entrée but it did substantially better with a small cheese course.

Not knowing entirely what to expect for the evening, Boo and I were a little surprised to find that we were likely two of the oldest folks in attendance. Guess most geezers our age don't want the hassle of carrying your own table, chairs and food. Leave that silliness to the 20- and 30-somethings, eh. I think we managed to hold our own - if I do say so myself. I certainly know that we received a number of compliments on our menu.

Besides, it's better to be the oldest guy at the cool event than to be an old fart sitting at home, I say. I think it's fair to say that Dîner en Blanc would have been a landmark event - whether or not we added #1400 to The List - but it was a nice coincidence.

Here's hoping that this old guy gets to add another couple bottles to The List next year as well. I know that speculation has already begun as to the location and the waiting list isn't getting any shorter. Besides, I need another reason to wear the white pants, shoes and belt I picked up. I can't say as they'll make it into regular rotation into my wardrobe otherwise.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

To Market, To Market to Buy a New Red

Despite all the canning and saucing over the weekend, I kept an assortment of fresh tomatoes to cut up and throw on some pasta. Add a healthy dose of olive oil, basil and shrimp and...voilà. I'd usually grab a white for such a concoction but I didn't have anything handy and cold. So, I opted for a bottle that I'd come across at Edible Canada on Granville Island.

I've been looking forward to opening this bottle because it's interesting from a couple of viewpoints. First off, it's a unique blend (at least to me) of Gamay Noir and Syrah and, secondly, it's the creative payoff from a collaboration between Granville Island's Edible Canada and Okanagan Crush Pad.

The last couple of years has seen some notable Vancouver restaurants (and restaurant groups) partnering up with Okanagan wineries to produce custom bottlings for use in those restaurants.  CityFood Magazine has noted joint efforts between the Top Table Group (which includes West and Araxi) with Foxtrot; GLOWBAL Collection (Italian Kitchen and Coast) with Painted Rock, Hawksworth with Orofino and Cactus Club with Haywire.

1399.  2010 Edible Canada Market Red (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Market Red is the first release from Granville Island's Edible Canada after they worked in conjunction with winemaker Michael Bartier and the folks at Okanagan Crush Pad to craft a wine that would match well with the fare being served at Edible Canada's Bistro (just across from the Market). The Bistro chefs have a hankering for heritage pork, BC salmon and wild mushrooms and the 80% Gamay 20% Syrah blend was thought to be particularly suited for those flavour profiles. I think they succeeded nicely.

There were only 100 cases of the wine made though. So, it's not going to be the easiest of bottles to find outside of the restaurant.

The tasting notes speak of wild raspberry and cracked pepper - and, for me, the lighter body of the Gamay Noir presents itself to being paired with all sorts of dishes, while the bolder fruit of the Syrah gives the Gamay a little more oomph.

While it lasts, the Bistro has been offering Market Red by the glass and by the bottle. To my knowledge, however, Market Red is not available by the glass - together with the Bistro's duck fat fried donuts - from their take-out window. The wine worked nicely enough with our pasta, but, if they could manage to pull off a glass of wine with donuts to go, they'd have elevated "bliss" to a whole new level.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tomatoes - From Start to Finish

I suppose that, since I don't own a vineyard or winery - or even make wine - it's possible that, come the end of summer, I compensate by canning a "vintage" of tomato sauces.

It's generally a full day's worth of peeling, chopping, crushing, saucing and canning; however, this year, the schedule was thrown a bit out of whack when Boo got called into work. My "Tomato Day" morphed into the "Lost (Tomato) Weekend." Starting off with 50 some odd pounds of Similkameen Valley tomatoes, the last lid didn't pop (for Boo) until well after I'd gone to bed on Sunday evening.

We did end up with a good six litres of tomato-vegetable soup - featuring potatoes from our garden - and a couple dozen jars containing two different tomato sauces: one, a garden herb and, the other, a red wine-infused version.

Not all of the wine went into the sauce however. I'm a true believer in the adage, "I always cook with wine and sometimes I even put some of it the food I'm cooking." And if that outlook on the kitchen isn't enough for you, the seemingly endless peeling and chopping was certainly enough to drive this boy to drink.

1398.  2009 Red Rooster Cabernet Merlot (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Normally, I'd keep this baby as close to my glass as possible, but I'd picked up some of the Cab Merlot on both of my last two visits to Red Rooster and the Naramata Bench. Since we had a decent stock in store, I figured I could spare some for the sauce.

And, naturally, still have enough to help me cope with the tasks at hand.

The '09 Cabernet Merlot is a blend of 58% Cab Franc, 37% Merlot and 5% Cab Sauv, with the grapes being sourced from both the South Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys. Full of flavour - dark fruit and sweet spice - I figured it was a worthy match for the sauce. Both as an addition and an accompaniment for the cook.

Since Boo missed the better part of the weekend's activities, he missed out on the wine as well. I guess it's a good thing that he can still get a taste of it when we make use of the first jar of sauce.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Memphis & Priscilla - No One's Leaving Hungry

Ever since Skipper decided that spending a good portion of the winter in Palm Springs was more fun than curling and drinking with us, I don't see an awful lot of the dude. Luckily, we managed a few brews over the summer - but not nearly enough wine. We managed to link up with Skipper and GQ for dinner and drinks - starting with a bit of a cocktail at our place.

1396.  2010 Paolo Conterno Barbera d'Alba Bricco (DOC Barbera d'Alba - Piedmont - Italy)

GQ announced that he enjoyed discovering the Paolo Conterno so much awhile back that he went out and bought a case and declared it his "house wine for the summer." I don't think I've seen this Barbera before but, on the whole, I quite enjoy Barbera's as a "category" of Italian wines.

Paolo Conterno is a multi-generational family run winery. Having been founded in 1886, the Conterno family now in its fourth generation. They don't make a lot of wine - apparently only around 4200 cases annually and that's inclusive of Nebbiolo (both Barolo and Langhe DOC), Barbera and Dolcetto wines. That surprises me a bit that our market would see much of it. Maybe GQ bought up most of it.

The Barbera is single vineyard - "Bricco Sant'Ambrogio" - designated and it was pretty big for a Barbera. It might be worth trying to snag a bottle off of GQ before he finishes them all off.

The idea for dinner was to hit The Drive and settle in wherever it struck our fancy. After a false start or two, we settled on Boo's favourite: Memphis Blues and their Priscilla Platter.

Brisket, pulled pork, chicken, sausage, ribs. There was no chance of anyone leaving hungry. Luckily, there were no vegetarians in our midst! Although I suppose even they could have been happy with the fries, slaw and potato salad.
1397.  2010 Le Paradou Grenache (AOC Cotes du Luberon - France)

We didn't bring any of GQ's "house wine" with us; so, we went with the Grenache, thinking it would likely go with the smorgasbord that was our platter. Memphis Blues' wine list is always small (like four reds and four whites) but it is generally well thought of and reviewers often refer to the amount of thought that goes into choices.

Le Paradou is a young project from the folks behind Château Pesquié - the well-recognized (at least in Vancouver) Rhône producer. The name comes from a "centuries-old farmhouse" belonging to the Chaudière family and the wine hails from the Côtes du Luberon, a region to the south-east of the Rhône.

Unlike so many of the bigger Rhône wines, this Grenache is meant to be consumed to be right away especially since this version of France's "King of the South" is fermented and aged in stainless steel and cement. The resulting freshness lends itself nicely to the different meat flavours and smokiness that was served up by Memphis Blues.

It would have been nice to try the two wines next to each other. As it was, we didn't try the Italian wine with our meal and that makes it hard to tell if one is preferable over the other. I'm thinking not as we had no trouble polishing off either of the bottles.

Thankfully, instead of a third bottle of wine, we opted for another Drive favourite - Dolce Amore and their incredible gelato!

Red wine. Good friends. Memphis Blues. Gelato. Talk about "sweet love" and la dolce vita. Keep it coming. Please.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Miss Jaq Heads to China

Some of Boo's and my greatest adventures have happened either with or because of our dear friend, Miss Jaq.  She spent a decade teaching in Abu Dhabi and the U.A.E. and we travelled there twice to visit her.  Our last appearance in Abu Dhabi and environs was prior to my starting this blog though. Consequently, there are no great travelogues or tales of Arabian nights to be found here.  Miss Jaq does, however, appear in the blog as one of our drinking buddies on a number of occasions - including one of our favourite events, the Annual Miss Jaq Wine Picnic.

Having spent the last year in Vancouver, Miss Jaq was getting restless and, this time around, she's not bound for the Middle East but is heading off to China to work a school in Luoyang - a small town of about 4 or 5 million folks. With her departure imminent, her social schedule was more than booked but, luckily, she managed to fit in one last visit with us.

I figured her newest adventure called for a bit of a celebratory tipple.

1395.  N.V. Champagne Lanson Brut Rosé (Champagne - France)

I can't say that I imbibe big "C" Champagne regularly. Like most folks, true Champagne is reserved for fairly rare occasions in our household. However, I have, over the years, tended to reach for Lanson if faced with making a choice of which Champagne to pick. Lanson Black Label Brut is my "go to" bubbly but I was quite intrigued when I ran across a bottle of their Brut Rosé. The $75 sticker price may give you an idea why we don't have a steady supply of this wine in our cellar, but it was certainly nice to be able to pop this cork during our visit with Miss Jaq.

Lanson saw its origins in 1760 when Maison Delamotte was established as the third Champane House. The winery has seen a number of re-stylings over the years, but it is still a "family-run House." Like many Champagne Houses, Lanson has a storied history and some delightful tales to tell. Notably, Queen Victoria made Lanson an Official Supplier to the Court of England in 1900 - "an honour that the Lanson House has held ever since." Indeed, the bottle's shoulder label proclaims the winery as "Purveyors by Appointment to H.M. Queen Elizabeth II." Lanson has been and continues to be served to many royal families (Spain and Monaco have also named it as an official supplier to the court) and at many heads of state tables. The winery's website and historical timeline includes the fact that the Queen Mother celebrated her 100th birthday with Lanson (and here I thought she was a Gin Gal).

The winery itself celebrated its 250th anniversary with a party at the Château de Versailles. Now that's a shindig that I'd have loved to corral a ticket for.

As for the Brut Rosé, it was first created in 1950 and was one of the first of its kind in Champagne. It is currently the best selling Rosé Champagne in the UK and, with New Year's Eve heading into Y2K and a new millennium, Lanson sold a record 8 million bottles, making 1999 the best year in the winery's long history.

The wine is a blend of 53% Pinot Noir, 32% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Meunier and, in true Lanson style, it sees no malolactic fermentation and three years of cellar ageing (twice the minimum required). The light salmon colour is produced by the addition of a Coteaux Champenois Bouzy Rouge (made from Pinot Noir) and their website describes the resulting wine as "crisp, fresh and uplifting, with an exceptional purity of fruit."

I'm not so sure I'd would have come up with the same descriptors. We were too busy discussing the inevitable challenges that Miss Jaq was going to run into regarding food and drink. We're pretty sure she's not going to be running across the standard Ginger Beef and House Chow Mein that we order in Vancouver.

We've also determined that she won't be drinking the water. Hopefully, finding wine will be a whole lot easier in Luoyang than it was in Abu Dhabi. With all the wine being made in China nowadays, Miss Jaq will, undoubtably, come to know more about Chinese wine than anyone I know. I'll have to get her to write a few guest blog posts.

Ultimately, we finished off the Lanson far too quickly. There were a number of topics yet to be mined - including whether Boo and I would be able to pay her a visit in China (the Terracotta Warriors are apparently very close to Luoyang) and what the heck she was going to do with all the large-sized condoms Boo gave her as a going away present. She took the empty bottle, though, as a sign that it was time to move onto the next batch of her adoring fans.

We're going to miss her but I promise to have another bottle of Lanson ready to celebrate her return to Vancouver!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Just Like Old Times

So, it's International Rum Day. I don't know who comes up with these special occasion anniversaries. Truth be told, I pay no never mind to most of them. Occasionally, however, there's a booze-y one or a cute-sey one (like International Kiss Day or International Talk Like a Pirate Day) that I just jump on for fun.

Today's international celebration is easy enough to enjoy however. It was a long week at work and who can't use a good mojito now and then? Besides, somebody's got to use all that mint in the garden.

GatuBela, one of our old neighbours ("old" as in she moved away last year, not "old" as in aged) is back in town for the summer and she was in the neighbourhood - housesitting and sweating away at Boot Camp. After a million or so sit-ups and burpees, she definitely needed a little refreshment. I don't know if she smelled the Rum or not, but she made a bee-line to say "hi" and, before the first Mojito was history, we were making an evening of it and having her join us for dinner.

1394.  2009 Gehringer Brothers - Optimum Pinot Gris (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Taking a look back at The List, I'm a little bit surprised to see that this is only the second Gehringer Brothers wine to be added. Gehringer is one of the "old timers" of the Okanagan wine scene. The Gehringer family has been operating in the valley since 1981 when brothers, Helmut and Karl, bought the initial vineyard. Their plan was to get the vineyard up and running with German varietals while Helmut's sons were honing their winemaking skills in Germany and at Andrés - one of the initial commercial wineries that preceded today's estate wineries.

That initial involvement persisted past 1985's first vintage as the two generations are still committed to the winery - just as it seems that a third generation of Gehringer's is about to join the party.

Weather patterns were rather different back in the 80's when the Gehringer's were deciding on the grape varieties to plant in their new vineyard. They replaced the old hybrid grapes, that were being grown previously, with German white varieties as they felt there was a greater chance of the vines surviving the winters. Their Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Auxerrois, Ehrenfelser and Schönberger wines found a ready market. With climate change (or global warming or whatever it is) and being located on the Okangan's warmer Golden Mile, however, the family has planted some newer vineyards with a wider range of grapes - including reds - such that the winery boasts a portfolio of 22 different wines nowadays.

I have to admit that I generally think Germanic whites first if Gehringer Brothers' name is mentioned. I know that they have a very solid reputation in producing stellar icewines as well but I can't say that I'm familiar with those wines at all.

The Optimum label is Gehringer's premium line and they only produce a select number of wines - and only when they feel the vintage has delivered enough premium grapes to warrant a separate bottling. The Pinot Gris is definitely part of the winery's second wave of wines. There was no confusing this bottle with a German white at all. The wine saw light French oaking and was fully dry. Considering there was a touch of bite to Boo's Butter Chicken/Paneer, one of Gehringer's old school wines - with some residual sugar - might have matched up a little better.

Not to worry though.  We were fully engaged with GatuBela and her escapades. It's certainly nice to know that, even when she's moved on from the neighbourhood, all it takes is a bit of rum and a bottle of wine and we're all caught up again.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Mea Culpa Redux

Okay, so the timing of my postings may not be quite this bad but I've definitely fallen far enough behind that I need to take some emergency steps. You might have noticed that there are major gaps and approximately 90 bottles "missing" on The List between my most recent posts.

No, I have not gone on the wagon. Nor am I skipping numbers in order to reach my goal of 2001 bottles that much sooner. The "missing bottles" were indeed opened, finished and enjoyed. They're even kinda, sorta, semi-recorded on draft posts. It's just going to take some time to catch up - and I don't seem to be doing a very good job of finding or making that time.

So, I've decided to try and stay up-to-date with our current bottles and catch up with those long empty ones when the opportunity arises.

If I'm 90+ bottles behind at this moment, let's check back in a month and see if things are any better. Here's hoping!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wine Blogging Wednesday 80 - Rebounding With Rosé

I think it's safe to say that the wine world is as prone to trends as any other topic or product with a high public profile. Whether it be skinny jeans or Viognier, molecular cuisine or indigenous Italian grapes, nouveau alternative folk or restrained Aussie Shiraz, you pretty well know that there's going to be something new and exciting right just around the corner.

From all the internet and traditional print buzz about Rosé wines, you could easily conclude that Rosé is the new "it" in the wine world. Maybe that's the reasoning behind this most recent resurrection of Wine Blogging Wednesday. Is there a more topical taste in the wine world than Rosé right now? Maybe we'll find out by the participation levels in WBW80.

A year on the internet can seem like an eternity - and this is the first Wine Blogging Wednesday to be attempted since this time last year - so, maybe a bit of a re-introduction is apropos. WBW was conceived over nine years ago by New York blogger, Lenn Tompson, as a monthly, virtual event. I was rather late to join to game. My first participation was with WBW65, but the concept is simple enough. It's been described as "people interested in wine, the world over, would coalesce each month around a single theme." Anyone intrigued by the month's topic submits their post or e-mail comments to the coordinator - or nowadays, their Twitter, Tumblr or Google+ witticisms (not that I know what the last two are) - which are then coordinated and shared. This round is the the 80th such outing.

This month's host, Tim Elliot from Winecast announced WBW80 with: "Good dry rosé is one of the most versatile wines in summer matching with light to heavy fare. But like some other wines, Rosé (here in America anyway) doesn't get the respect it deserves. So I'd like to see everyone explore beyond their regular summer Rosés and try something new. it might be an obscure varietal or a region you haven't tried before. Or maybe just kicking it old-school and picking up a Rosé from Bandol, Tavel or Provence from a new producer."

It's a topic that I can heartily support - and NOT just because of the whole "gay" affiliation with the colour pink (as I raise I my eyebrows in mild exasperation). We tend to drink a healthy share of Rosé wines at our household as, on the whole, we tend to like reds over whites but find that a Rosé can give you some extra body and profile than a white while still matching up nicely with the summer's lighter fare and warmer temperatures. In fact, I've taken to drinking Rosé throughout the year. Why limit it to summer?

For WBW80, we invited the beautiful and talented Elzee over for a dinner of moules frites - thinking that a little quasi Provençal fare would be a grand accompaniment to a trio of wines. The Rosés I had in the cellar are all Okanagan wines and I wanted to mix things up a bit. Elzee was going to bring a surprise bottle; so, I thought I'd hit a couple of bottle shops (government and private) to see what they had. The thought was to serve a BC, a French and one other region.

Talk about being disappointed. Despite all of the media hype on Rosé, each of the shops had a small assortment of BC wines and precious little else. The government shop had a few commercial, mass market bottles from a couple of regions and one Spanish Rosado (which I'd already added to The List). At least the private shop (Liberty) had a choice of four French wines. I grabbed one of those to go with my bottle of BC at home.

Turned out that Elzee ran into the same problem. Of all things, she managed to choose the same French wine that I did. Rather than just drink two BC wines along with our French bottle, we made a quick run to another small shop not too far away. They had a total of three Rosés in stock. We grabbed the one Washington state bottle they had as it would offer us a bit of a contrast.

Our lack of choice begs the old chicken and egg question: do these stores not carry Rosé because no one really buys that wine style or does no one tend to buy Rosé because there's so little of it to choose from?

In any event, we had our three bottles and they were very different from each other - and it's interesting in that Boo's, Elzee's and my takes on the wines all changed over the course of the evening.

1391.  2012 Clean Slate - Gamay Rosé (Okanagan Valley)

As a simple sipper, this new entry on the BC wine scene impressed all three of us. Clean Slate has only been around for a couple of vintages and it is a partnership between Ross Hackworth of Nichol Vineyard, Matthew Sherlock from Nichol and previously of Vancouver's wine and restaurant scene and Gitta Pederson of Poplar Grove Cheese fame. She's provided the vineyards and the shared tasting/sales room, while the men look after the wine production.

Clean Slate's total production is only 650 cases and that includes a white and a couple of reds on top of the Rosé. Needless to say, there isn't a whole lot of this Rosé around. I managed to grab a bottle when I stopped in, during the recent Wine Bloggers' Conference, to pick up some of our fave Tiger Blue cheese. The bottle of Clean Slate was a side benefit.

The lightest of the three wines in colour, there was a vibrant acidity that just made you forget the heat of the day. Rosé wines can be made from pretty much any grape the winemaker wants and there are a couple of Gamay-based versions coming out of the Okanagan. The Clean Slate didn't pair quite as memorably with the strong flavours and heat of the mussels but I was still very glad to get a chance to try one of their wines for the first time.

1392.  2011 Château Calissanne (AOC Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence - France)

Rosé is the primary wine of note in Provence and the Château Calissanne is about as classic as Provençal Rosés get. It's a blend of the traditional Grenache, Cinsault and Mourvèdre grapes, with just a touch of Syrah added to round out the wine. We found that it was subtler in its flavour profile than the two North American wines - with most of its soft fruit not appearing until the mid-palate and finish, but the body and acidity was certainly well balanced.

All three of thought that we enjoyed this wine more and more as the evening continued - and all three of us reached for it first when it came to refilling our glass while munching on mussels.

If mussels and Rosé are staples of Provence, I need to get me there!

1393.  2012 Charles & Charles Rosé (Columbia Valley - Washington State)

I had neither seen nor heard of our third wine of the night before but I saw, after the fact, that it was recently picked as a Best Value by Wine Spectator. This Rosé is a collaboration that started in 2008 between Charles Smith of K Vintners and Charles Bieler who started producing Rosé at family-owned Château Routas in Provence until they sold the estate in 2005. The Bieler family then invested in Bieler Père et Fils, a winery also in Couteaux d'Aix-en-Provence. Finally, Charles B. approached Charles S. to consider taking a stab at producing a quality Rosé in the US as the former saw a definite opportunity to fill a perceived void in the American market.

They started with a batch of Syrah grapes that Smith didn't think were ripe enough or big enough for his trademark K Syrah and they now produce 20,000 cases.

Interestingly enough, the Washington Rosé uses the same classic grapes used in Provençal wines - and as in the Calissanne - but the percentages are turned on their head. Instead of playing a small part - as it did in the French wine - here the Syrah takes a dominant position at 81%. The balance of the blend is Mourvèdre (16%), Cinsault (2%) and Grenache (1%). It seemed that, of the three, this was the wine with the most noticeable fruit. It wasn't, however, necessarily overwhelming, or even alluring, with its fruitiness on an initial taste. The C&C grew on us once it was paired with food though. Indeed, it particularly seemed to come alive after it had warmed up a bit and was paired with the tomato and bocconcini salad we started out with.

In the end, all three wines had their moments - which, I suppose, is just how you'd like an evening's selection to go. Despite all three being quite different from the others in their takes on Rosé, I think it's a joy to see that North American wineries are beginning to pay as much attention to making Rosé as the French and Provençal wineries have for a very long time.

I'm also quite enthralled with the return of Wine Blogging Wednesday. Tim and the WBW powers that be deserve kudos for taking another stab. Hopefully, the concept will strike a chord with plenty of other wine loving bloggers out there and we can make a more regular go of the event. Here's to having WBW81 next month as opposed to next year. See you then.