Sunday, October 27, 2013

Something Wicked This Way Comes

With Halloween just around the corner, we found ourselves overwhelmed with offers for the Saturday night before. Unfortunately, we had to say "no" to a couple of invites but we did our best to fit two seasonal treats into our schedule. That's "seasonal treats" as in events as opposed to wines, but we managed to incorporate some wine as well. Duh.

1460.  N.V. Cantine Pellegrino - Zebo Moscato (Sicily IGT - Italy)

When I hear Pelligrino, I think sparkling water. Apparently, however, Cantine Pellegrino was established on the island of Sicily in 1880. It remains a family owned company and is the largest winery in the region with nearly a thousand acres of vineyards.

To make this bottle even more interesting, I wouldn't normally associate Moscato with the Southern reaches of Italy. To me, Moscato generally means Northern climes but Pellegrino is using Muscat of Alessandria fruit from vines that average 20 to 30 years in age. So, they've been growing these grapes for some time now. Indeed, the reference tome, Wine Grapes, says that the grape was already known on Sicily back in the 16th Century under the name Zibibo - no doubt, a fact playing part of the wine's name "Zebo."

It's definitely a light and simple wine with a definite dose of residual sugar. It's also only 6% alcohol in volume. I saw that the winemaking process involves fermentation in thermo-controlled stainless steel tanks where the wine is cooled down to stop the fermentation once the desired alcohol and sweetness levels are attained. With the lower alcohol, we thought we could pull off opening this bottle and still move on for the remainder of the evening.

While we didn't find much sparkle to the wine, it still matched nicely with Aperol when we tried a follow up pour as an Aperol Spritzer. The price works for that option nicely as well.

A Trio of Parade of Lost Souls Participants

After an early dinner, Boo and I headed down The Drive to take in a bit of the Parade of Lost Souls. A signature event in our neighbourhood, this was the first time we'd been able to make it in a couple of years. Admittedly, we weren't overwhelmed with this year's event. There wasn't even an actual parade that we could locate. We just figured that organizers had run into insurance problems or NIMBY complaints and had to condense the event into a single location. Following the evening, I discovered that this was apparently a transitional year for the Parade of Lost Souls. The Public Dreams Society had been at the helm of the community-driven parade for over 20 years; however, the Society is stepping back from its position as a premier provider of public celebration. As a result, this was the first time that the event was under new directorship.

Here's hoping that the new caretakers of the Parade - The Dusty Flowerpot Cabaret - find their footing and are able to re-invigorate the 2014 edition with the excitement of years past.

After touring the Parade grounds, we hustled back to invoke warmer desert climes and make our way to Mickey Rooney's Halloween Party. Rooney is the Queen of Halloween and has hosted many a costume party over the year - simply as an excuse to haul out her vast assortment of haunted decorations. Her theme this year was "black and white." So, we thought our UAE robes were the perfect fit. Only thing was that we hadn't been able to make a Mickey Rooney Halloween Bash for a few years and, in the interim, they've dropped the costume aspect of the evening.

We were the only folks to show up in costume - naturally, turning a few heads and eliciting a whole bunch of queries on a theme of "Are you heading off to another party after this?"

Mickey simply laughed and handed us a couple glasses, saying "You might like these."

Rooney, on the other hand, was all excited at our silliness and announced that she was going back to a costumed party next year.

1461.  2010 Longview - Devil's Elbow Cabernet Sauvignon (Adelaide Hills - Australia)

I guess this is where I admit that I can just as guilty of grabbing a pretty or themed label as the next wine buyer. I thought I'd bring a bottle that'd match up with the haunted nature of the party. The only bottle I could find that fit the occasion was the Devil's Elbow Cab. I hadn't run across Longview before and I was somewhat apprehensive about forking out $30 for what might be a take off on a critter wine label. Luckily, the wine was far more substantive that a simple, commercial fruit bomb.

The winery was established in 1995 and currently produces approximately 20,000 cases annually and I've since found out that Longview was featured in a recent Wine Spectator article on Australian wines. Both this Cab and a Shiraz were submitted to the magazine and both received 90+ points - if you're interested in point chasing. The winery is found in the Adelaide Hills region and apparently has family estate vineyards that enjoy a micro-climate that is slightly warmer than the surrounding area. The additional heat allows Longview to step outside of Adelaide Hills' decidedly cool climate (by Aussie standards anyhow) reputation of producing primarily white wines.

Bigger and fruitier than what I might normally associate with a cool climate Cab, I suppose there shouldn't be too much surprise in that I see that Ben Glaetzer is the consulting winemaker and he's well known for producing big, bold reds. Being a wine drinker that definitely finds myself on the New World, fruit forward side of the fence, it's not often that I find too much fruit on my mid-range Cab's but that might just have been the case here. Glaetzer's fruit did make the wine entirely drinkable as a big cocktail wine though. It might have come across as more subdued with food - but that would only have made it even more palatable. I'd be tempted to buy the wine again despite the price tag.

Having grabbed the bottle for the name and label, I couldn't find any web reference to where Devil's Elbow comes from.  Most of Longview's wines had catchy and differentiating names. I suspect there has to be some story behind all of them. They just weren't easily found.

Maybe by next Halloween, I'll have found out the meaning of the names - as well as what's happening with the organization of the Parade of Lost Souls and whether or not we really need to dress up for Mickey Rooney's party.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

La Spinetta Pin

On a last minute whim, I grabbed two tickets for the Vancouver East Cultural Centre tonight. I just happened to hear on the radio that Canadian Dance Legend, Margie Gillis, was teaming up with collaborator, American actress Elizabeth Parrish, to stage their piece "Bulletins from Immortality...freeing Emily Dickinson." I knew nothing of the show but I do have a most marvellous memory of the one time I saw Margie Gillis dance a short piece years ago. The thought of an entire show was simply too enticing to pass up.

The plan was to grab a quick bit to eat before the show. We were hoping to luck into a table at Via Tevere (since it's only a couple of blocks from the Cultch); so, we brought along a BYO bottle that'd be worthy of a Gillis performance. As usual, Via Tevere was packed and we didn't have enough time for the expected 45 minute wait. Luckily, the wait was only 5 minutes at Marcello's and they allow BYO as well (although I think their $25 corkage fee is rather cheeky considering they have such a limited and pedestrian wine list).

1459.  2006 La Spinetta Pin (Monferrato Rosso DOC - Piedmont - Italy)

La Spinetta has been a favourite of our's ever since Boo and I visited the winery during a second honeymoon and our short stay in Piedmont. This was one of the bottles that Boo and I were able to bring home with us but we promptly hid it in the cellar. Once in a blue moon, I'll see a bottle of La Spinetta in the Vancouver market but they're always priced as high end buys. I certainly wish that we could have brought a six-pack of this home with us because, the one time I saw a bottle for sale locally, it was for easily twice the price we paid for it in Italy.

La Spinetta is best known for its Barbarescos and Barolos but Pin is a take at a more approachable blend of 65% Nebbiolo and 35% Barbera d'Asti. The Nebbiolo provides a complex depth and structure while the Barbera adds a lighter fruitiness to the wine. The wine might have been a bit big for our pizza - particularly since the winery's tasting notes say that the wine could continue to evolve for 25 years - but we didn't seem to have any problem finishing the bottle off in time to make the performance.

Marcello's squeezes in the tables and we were definitely within ear-shot of our immediate neighbours - two young women. It was virtually impossible not to learn that they had spent the past summer travelling through Italy. We struck up a bit of conversation with them and, ultimately, asked our waiter to pour them a glass of our Pin. I don't know if they really enjoyed and appreciated the wine but they certainly professed their love of the wine and they let it linger to try and enjoy the nose and taste far longer than Boo or I ever could have.

As much as we were enjoying the wine and 'za, our timing was getting tight and we needed to leave for the show. Once there, we lamented the fact that the theatre doesn't allow drinks during the performances. It would have been nice to carry on with a bit more wine. I'm the farthest thing from a dance critic - hell, I barely scratch the surface in knowing my way around wine - but I wanted to enjoy the performance far more than I did. As much as Margie Gillis will forever remain a stellar memory for me, this piece didn't place her on an even higher pedestal. I liked the concept of the interplay between spoken word and dance, but the execution just didn't excite.

I'll just have to find another bottle of La Spinetta to cheer me up.

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Memorial AWAS Peter Lehmann Dinner

I don't usually add bottles to The List when attending various wine dinners or tastings - mostly just because we aren't really in charge of the bottle or how it's being poured - but tonight's AWAS dinner in celebration of Peter Lehmann's life is going to be an exception. Mr. Lehmann passed away earlier in the year and was a long time friend of Vancouver's Australian Wine Appreciation Society. The society partnered up with the winery, with Q4 Restaurant and with International Cellars to put on one of the finest wine dinners I can remember.

The food was great. The memorial stories were both interesting and funny. Oh, and yeah, there were some fairly awesome wines being poured - including two vintages of Wigan Riesling, two Margaret Semillons, an '09 Mentor Cab and two Shiraz bottlings, a 2001 Barossa Eden Valley Shiraz and a 2010 EVS Eden Valley Shiraz.

Luckily for us, not all of the winery and other dignitaries were seated at a head table. We were pleasantly surprised when Matt Lane, Vice-President Peter Lehmann Wines for the Americas, sat down and joined us. Not only is Matt a veritable fount of knowledge on Peter Lehmann wines - and Aussie wines in general - he's a very funny man. There were more than a couple zingers that had us in stitches. He claimed that it's just because his jokes get funnier as an evening progresses and the alcohol kicks in - but I think he can hold his own with the whole speaking in public bit. It's not just about his plying us with wine, although I'm more than willing to laugh with him if he keeps pouring wines like he was tonight.

My favourite of Matt's lines was that "Aussies have a perverted love for Riesling. It's the country's second favourite breakfast drink - after Champagne." After that line, I realized that I might just have more Aussie in me than I ever thought before. I suggest you follow Matt on Twitter @champagnelane

1458.  2009 Peter Lehmann - Ruediger VSV Cabernet Sauvignon (Barossa Valley)

If Matt threw out my favourite line of the night, the Ruediger VSV Cab Sauv was my favourite wine of the night. It was one of the wines paired with foie gras ravioli, veal succo and shaved parma prosciutto and I can't recall having ever seen the Ruediger VSV before. That may well be because - much to my dismay - there isn't a whole lot of it around. "VSV" stands for "Very Special Vineyards" and the Ruediger Cab is a single site wine sourced from the Ruediger family's Barossa vineyard that straddles two distinct growing districts in the Barossa. The Light Pass district is known for its sandy loam soils while the Ebenezer district features red, loamy clay. The Ruediger vineyards are only separated by a single road but the combination of fruit from both sides of that road permits the winery to showcase a greater depth in the profile of this Barossa Cab.

With a healthy dose of black fruit on the nose and palate, there'd be no mistaking this for an austere Old World Cab but I see absolutely no problem with that. This was no fruit bomb, however, and that's probably enough said. I usually think of Shiraz when thinking Barossa. Just as I would probably think Coonawarra or Margaret River when jonesing on Aussie Cab. This is a definite reason to not simply pigeon-hole specific regions to specific grapes though.

I guess when you're a top flight producer - like Peter Lehmann - their premium wines are simply going to be premium, regardless of grape or region.

I was a very happy Bob tonight and was sure to join in heartily with the toast to Mr. Lehmann. As the evening's program nicely captured with a quote from James Halliday, one of Australia's best known wine writers, "Few people become legends in their own lifetime. Peter Lehmann is one."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Muscadine Wine - Florida Redux

Boo made a short visit to Florida for a family gathering that I'd mentioned awhile back in an earlier post that recounted how I'd asked him to try and locate a few Floridian wines if he could. After all, Florida is "The Birthplace of American Wine." Those crafty Spaniards took to making a bit of vino to get them through those long hours away from home long before Californian church goers started making their sacramental zins and cabs.

I was kinda hoping for an orange wine - not the trendy white wine from red skinned grapes that see a bit of time on the skins to add a touch of colour but one of the Floridian wines made from orange juice. Boo said he didn't see any and that he had to spend way more time than he wanted to in order to even find any Florida wines, period. We've been a little scared of opening the reds he picked up but I decided to pop the cork on the second of the whites that he brought back.

1457.  N.V. Lakeridge Southern White (Florida)

I read on a couple of sites that Lakeridge is Florida's largest winery, one of those sites saying that the winery makes more than a million bottles of wine a year. The winery's own website refers to itself as "Florida's largest premium winery." Their understanding of the word "premium" may not be quite the same as say the folks from Napa, Sonoma, Willamette or Walla Walla, but they do follow that statement up immediately with the fact that Lakeridge "remains a pioneer in the development of table and sparkling wines from muscadine and hybrid grapes." That might be enough said.

The winery started up in 1988 and its wines are made primarily from grapes grown on its home property outside Orlando and from a second vineyard further north near Tallahassee and the Pandhandle region. The vineyards are planted with Muscadine and hybrid varieties that are disease resistant and adaptable to Florida's warm, humid climate. You won't find any of the traditionally "noble" grapes down here.

Lakeridge appears to be a popular tourist spot and there are a good number of internet comments that say that the writers enjoyed the wines. The website also states that its various wines have "won more than 700 awards for excellence in winemaking." I can't say whether this particular wine is one of their big winners - but I'd be interested in seeing what the competitions were if this was a champion wine.

I didn't find the actual make up of the grape varieties used in Southern White but I'll assume it will largely, if not entirely, be made from Muscadine varieties.

Now I don't have a whole lot of tasting experience behind me when it comes to Florida's local wines, certainly not enough to make any definitive judgments, but I think I'm going to continue to think of Floridian wines as a bit of a novelty. At least for the time being.

Lakeridge's website compares their Southern White to a late harvest Riesling. Ahem. I suppose it does retain a lot of residual sugar but I'm a big fan of Rieslings - of all sorts - and I'm afraid I wouldn't grab this bottle in lieu - even with a sticker price that's substantially lower than most late harvest Rieslings.

I will say, however, that the wine was palatable and we did finish off the bottle. I tried to pair it with a curry that had a bit of a bite but not even that could fight off the sweetness. If sweet wine is your gig though, you may find Southern White to your liking. Not that you could ever find a bottle up here in Vancouver. If you do, however, just think of it more as a dessert wine than a casual sipper.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Cliff Creek & a Southern Oregon Sangiovese

Admittedly, I haven't quite gotten around to writing about our entire road trip this Spring. I think we were still stopped for a couple of days in Sonoma - on our way to San Fran - before I had to jump through a bit of a blog-based time warp and put a "few" bottles on hold. I'll still have to get back to posting those "missing" bottles; however, in the meantime, we opened up one of the wines that we picked up while stopped in Southern Oregon on our way back to the Great White North.

I may still have to write about our winery visits from that trip but I suppose we can enjoy the fruits of our travelling efforts.

1456.  2009 Cliff Creek Sangiovese (Southern Oregon)

Knowing very little about Oregon wines in general, I think it's darned safe to say that I know even less about the wineries in Southern Oregon. It's my understanding that winemaking in the region is quite a recent phenomenon - at least from a commercial standpoint - and that the climate is quite a bit different from the better known Willamette Valley and its Pinot Noirs. I happened upon a couple of Southern Oregon producers at the opening night event held at the 2012 Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland last year - however, I don't believe that Cliff Creek was one of the wines I tasted. We "stumbled" upon the winery when our hosts at our Grant's Pass accommodation - the marvellous Weasku Inn - pointed them out as one of their favourite wineries in the region.
Cliff Creek is owned and operated by the Garvin family and, even though their first vines were only planted in 2000, there are already three generations of Garvin's at work at the winery. We had the pleasure of working our way through a full tasting with Roy Garvin. He normally wouldn't have been pouring in the tasting room but the young lady who started out with us had only been with the winery for a week. After stumping her on our first two questions, she went into the back to run our questions by Roy and, rather than simply passing along some answers, he wandered out and proceeded to keep the tasting going for well over an hour.

The winery now has around 70 acres under vine and - despite being in Oregon - there isn't any Pinot Noir to be found in their vineyard. The climate down South receives more heat units and sunlight than anywhere else in the state. Accordingly, it is nicely suited for warm-weather loving varieties such as Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Merlot and Syrah.

Although producing Sangiovese wasn't an original goal for Cliff Creek, a small block of the variety was added in the second round of plantings. The first so many vintages of the Sangiovese were sold to other producers; however, with the '09 vintage, the Garvin's decided to keep the fruit and make their own wine. The Sangiovese is definitely a limited release bottling and was earmarked for release only to the winery's Wine Club members; however, we'd managed to sweet talk Roy long enough that he not only let us try the wine before its public release but he allowed us to buy a bottle.

As a rule, varietal Sangiovese isn't a wine that is perpetually found in my glass. Many of the Chianti's that I've tried in the Vancouver market are a little too acid-driven and light on fruit - or too expensive - for my taste. The Cliff Creek, however, had a little more body and a touch more red fruit on the palate. I think it could definitely stand its ground against its Tuscan brethren.

The fact that it's a bottle I'd normally only run across once in a blue moon makes it even more of a treat.

And, speaking of treats, Cliff Creek also produces a limited release Super Tuscan that we were able to snag a bottle of as well. More news on that one down the road.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Prairie Fairies Fowl Supper v.2013

OK, so I should be totally up front about this post, we're all about the event this time around and not so much about the wine. We downed a bottle and it'll be added to The List but the brutal honesty of it is that I really only grabbed the bottle so that I could fit this year's Fowl Supper into the blog - and even if we weren't popping corks on the best of bottles, it's one of those annual events that we are sure to mark on our calendars as soon as the date is announced.

Now in its 14th edition, the Prairie Fairy Fowl Supper is the signature event for the Fillmore Family Foundation and through those years, the Fowl Supper has grown from a throwback dinner for a small batch of "orphaned" prairie boys to the annual sell out extravaganza for 700 plus prairie fairies and their friends. Seeing as how I've written about the Fowl Supper each year that I've been writing the blog - 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009 - I won't regurgitate an expanded history on the dinner so much. If you do go back through those posts, however, you will note that Boo and I haven't been coming to the event all these years because it's a stellar event for tasting wine. It has, however, raised more than half a million dollars for chosen Vancouver charities.

This year's dinner was titled "Ruby Red - Far From Dead" and was a tip of the proverbial ballcap to the Fillmore Foundation's fictional matriarch, Linda Fillmore, and her "80th" birthday. Linda's definitely looking good for "80" but, being the saucy gal that she is, I'm sure Linda would say that she owes it all to staying busy (read "naughty") and to a regular dram or two.

1455.  N.V. Sonora Ranch Pinot Noir (Bottled in BC)

I don't think tonight's Pinot is going to have any Burgundian or Oregon producers quaking in their boots but, if nothing else, it helped put a bit of kick into our cowboy boots and provide sustenance as our table counted all the coins collected this year. When having to serve 700 hungry folks at a buffet, deciding who gets to eat first can be a bit of an unenviable task. The Fowl Supper has traditionally awarded first dibs at the buffet to the table that turns in the most coins for charity - no bills allowed - and returning pros know that the winning tables hand over more than a couple grand each. It makes for a lot of counting though. Luckily, our crew donated over $1300 and, accordingly, lined up in about 4th position.

Boo, Mr. D. and I finished off our Pinot Noir over turkey dinner and all the trimmings. Sonora Ranch is part of the Artisan Wine Shop family - an off-shoot of Mission Hill. Artisan's wines include well known - and rather enjoyable - brands like Fork in the Road, Prospect Winery and Rigamarole, but it also produces a sh*t-load of commercial wines like tonight's Pinot. By using the term "sh*t-load of commercial wines," I'm not saying that they are undrinkable, just that they're definitely aiming for wine buyers that reach for cheap and cheerful bottles. In fact, despite not knowing anything about the provenance of the grapes used in making the wine - a joy of "Bottled in BC wines is that the grapes or juice could come as bulk wine from anywhere in the world - I think the wine was somewhat more sophisticated than the South African Two Oceans wines that have been the Fillmore Family house wine for a couple of years now.

We moved on to beer after our bottle though. 'Nuff said?

One of the hallmarks of the Fowl Supper is that it draws a wider array of folks than just displaced Prairie Fairies - from some real 80 year old aunties to the high school skipping team and hunky opera singer that served up plenty of talent. Even Vancouver's Mayor, Gregor Robertson, showed up this year to suffer a bit of abuse from Linda. Indeed, the Mayor has been a great sport at and supporter of the Fowl Supper for years - even returning after having the manner in which he "appreciably" fills out his jeans announced to the crowd during a previous edition's entertainment. All in the name of good fun, I suppose.

That and the fact that the Foundation's beneficiaries are truly wonderful - and some of our favourite - charities around town. This year's largesse was split between A Loving Spoonful, McLaren Housing Society of BC, Out in Schools and CampOut.

And there you have it. Life may not always be full of 90+ point wines, but there's little doubt that memorable times can be had even if the wine doesn't quite match up to the occasion. Now we just have to try and convince Linda to serve up a few wines worthy of the Fowl Supper's pedigree.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Poplar Grove Viognier

One of the most enjoyable treats on the 2013 BC Wine Appreciation Society's edition of the annual Bus Tour was our visit to Poplar Grove winery. I've written about the Bus Tour already though; so, let's just skip to tonight's bottle - because, if visiting Poplar Grove was a treat in itself, getting a chance to try - and to buy - this wine was an added bonus on top of that treat.

1454.  2012 Poplar Grove Viognier (VQA Okanagan Valley)

While touring and tasting with proprietor, Ian Sutherland, he explained that Poplar Grove (not including the entry level Monster line) makes six core wines. He continued to explain that they like to experiment with small batch wines - wines where they may have access to limited fruit or wines where they incorporate trial production methods that they might have run across while travelling and taking in other wineries around the world.

The 2012 Viognier is a wine that incorporated both concepts. The winery doesn't have a lot of Viognier grapes to work with - only enough to produce 400 cases in 2012. The growing season, that year, delivered fruit with no shortage of structural acidity. As such, the winemaking team decided to borrow a strategy developed by Leeuwin Estates - one of the star producers in Margaret River, Western Australia - for its renowned Artist Series Chardonnay. Leeuwin found that standard batonnage (the practice of stirring the decaying yeast cells in wine as it ages to impart a "creamier" texture and more complex flavour) introduced oxygen into the wine which, in turn, resulted in a reduction of the fruit on the palate. To battle that loss of fruit, Leeuwin started putting its barrels on rollers which allowed a more gentle stirring of the lees - with no introduction of oxygen.

A prime goal of Poplar Grove's in making its whites is to both capture and preserve the "primary fruit flavours." The desire to add some balance to the 2012 vintage's acidity - while preserving the wine's fruit - led to the adoption of the Leeuwin manoeuvre.

The finished wine definitely impressed our BCWAS crowd. Unfortunately, at the time we toured the winery, the Viognier was in such short supply it was supposed to be only available to Wine Club members. I guess this is where Membership (in BCWAS) had its privilege. I managed to score a couple bottles and, tonight, I figured it would match up nicely with some fresh sablefish. It did.

Much to Boo's dismay - and his ever present "No Buy Leash" - I've been chatting to a few other BCWAS members about joining the Poplar Grove Wine Club. If that's what it takes to guarantee further access to more of these small batch wines, I may just need to succumb to the temptation.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Reaching Back in the Red Rooster Syrah Bank

Boo and I would normally have headed up to the Okanagan for this weekend. Red Rooster winery had scheduled its annual Harvest Party for the winery's Adopt-A-Row "parents" - a title that Boo and I have happily claimed for a good many years now. It's a great little weekend. I thoroughly enjoy picking the vintage's grapes (even if we're only "farm boys" for a couple of hours at most) and there never seem to be enough grapes to satiate the gathered pickers.

Unfortunately, we'd already made plans to attend another annual mainstay in our calendar before the winery weekend was announced. 

As we were destined to be naughty, absentee parents this year, I thought we could at least open a bottle of Red Rooster wine in an effort to pay homage to the adopted babies we so callously abandoned.

1453.  2005 Red Rooster Syrah (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Having added probably as many - if not more - Red Rooster wines to The List than any other single winery, I'm going to take advantage of the fact that I've probably written more about Red Rooster than I have of any other winery as well. If you haven't been reading the blog all along and want to take a refresher course in the Red Rooster winery, I'd highly recommend that you just click onto the post I wrote about them in preparing to attend the 2013 Wine Bloggers' Conference this past June. If I say so myself, I think it covers a few bases.

I will say that, before opening the bottle, I wondered a bit about the staying power of the wine. Red Rooster hasn't necessarily been known for the biggest of red wines and eight years can be seen as pushing the envelope on BC reds. Our wineries haven't been making quality wines but two decades and most juries are still out when it comes to making a decision on the ageability of our wines.

Luckily, our bottle still had some life to it. The colour was still a deep purple but the wine was taking on a bit of brackish tone. The nose, however, was beautiful - with a big ripe blackberry note just exploding from the glass.

The taste wasn't quite so fruity or expressive. There was still plenty of acidity - and maybe that overwhelmed the remaining fruit a bit - but the brightness of the acid subsided some the longer the bottle was open and the dark fruit shone through a bit more.

All in all, we were quite happy with the bottle. As the majority of Red Rooster wines are made with purchased fruit, the provenance of the wine is not always apparent. I did find some winery tasting notes that stated that these Syrah grapes were sourced from a single vineyard that only brought in six tons of Syrah - enough to produce a whopping 350 cases.

I'm thinking this might have been one of the last remaining bottles. Too bad. I wouldn't say no to  another pour or two.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

An Argentine Bordeaux

It never helps - especially when you're in a rush and falling behind with your writing - when your best source for information isn't available. An easy winery website would have come in handy with this bottle but, when I logged onto the site, I found it's "under construction." Jeez. Guess that just means that I'm a little more concise with this post - and be thankful that the back label is actually quite descriptive.

1452.  2006 Bodegas Santa Ana Unánime (Uco Valley - Mendoza - Argentina)

One thing I remember - even without the winery website - is that this is one of the bottles I picked up back at the 2010 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival. Argentina and New Zealand were the featured regions that year and we saw a great array of Argentine wines that wouldn't normally be available in our market.

I'm glad to say that we still enjoyed this bottle as much now as I (apparently) did back at the Festival.

Bodegas Santa Ana was founded in 1891 and, as such, was one of the first wine producers in South America. It is found in the Uco Valley which is an hour's drive south of Mendoza. While the Uco Valley is considered part of the Mendoza region, it is developing a reputation of its own by playing home ground to some noteworthy wines. As the area's elevation is slightly higher than many of the vineyards from other Mendoza sub-regions, Uco Valley experiences slightly cooler temperatures overall and a wider diurnal swing in daytime to evening temps. This climate, in turn, allows the winemakers to emphasize a little more finesse in their wines should they desire to take that route.

I've mentioned previously in the blog that one of the most surprising facets of Argentine wine that Boo and I learned when we visited Mendoza in 2011 is that there is a lot more than Malbec and Torrontès going on there. We were particularly taken by all the blends that were found everywhere - but weren't necessarily making it out of the country.

This is one of those such wines. A Bordeaux blend - and being Argentine - Malbec features prominently in the blend, but for only 25%. The lion's share of the wine - at 60% - is Cab Sauv, with the balance of the blend being Cab Franc.

It's definitely a New World, fruit forward take on Bordeaux blends but it surely hit a sweet spot with us. I only wish I'd bought a few more bottles of it back when I had the chance because I don't think it's available in town nowadays. This one bottle just didn't last long enough.

Here's to finding another.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Orofino's Sagebrush Merlot

1451.  2006 Orofino - Sagebrush Series Merlot (Similkameen Valley - BC)

Regular readers of this blog will know that I've added more than a couple Orofino wines to The List. John and Virginia have yet to hit their 10th vintage but I've been a fan pretty much since day one. I was lucky enough to try some of their first wines when they were part of a Similkameen tasting hosted by the BC Wine Appreciation Society back when the Okanagan's neighbouring valley was trying to raise its profile as a premium wine producing region.

The Sagebrush Series was a short-lived label for Orofino. I think it might have only been around for one vintage and I've only ever seen a Pinot Noir (added to The List at #1156) in addition to this Merlot.

I think the concept behind the second label was that the Webers were using Sagebrush as a vehicle to incorporate easier drinking wines made from non-estate grapes into their portfolio. Nowadays, Orofino openly uses non-estate grapes under the main Orofino label but those grapes are often vinified and sold as single vineyard wines - with those vineyards prominently incorporated into the labels.

I don't know the vineyard that these grapes were sourced from but the wine was a simpler sip than Orofino's Red Bridge Red Merlot - which is much bigger and more complex and is, incidentally, one of my BC faves. As such, I'm thinking that the Sagebrush was a decent accompaniment for a simple mid-week dinner of borscht, but I'm going to look more forward to my next bottle of Red Bridge Red.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Calamari Plus

A major component of my "little" Wine Odyssey is to discover and experience wines from all around the globe. I definitely feel a tinge of excitement when I run across wines with unusual grape varieties - regardless of where they're from. Tonight's bottle is one of those "out there" bottles for me. I can't say that I know much about Greek wines - particularly the more premium bottlings. Most of my prior quaffing of Greek wines involve one of the ubiquitous, cheap and cheerful litre bottles found at Greek restaurants along with souvlaki and calamari.

I made a special effort, therefore, to head down to Marquis Wine Cellars - one of Vancouver's premium private wine stores (if it doesn't just outright take the crown) - when they featured this is one of their Wines of the Week, particularly since the wine was going to give me another two grapes to add to my Wine Century Club tally (#'s 162 and 163).

1450. Domain Mega Spileo White (Greece)

A blend of Assyrtiko and Lagorthi (the label says 60/40 while the website says 50/50), I wasn't going to get a whole lot of information from the bottle's label. It's completely in Greek and, while I may remember my Greek alphabet from fraternity days, it sure wasn't going to help me out here. It took a bit of time on the net to figure out what was going on with this bottle - particularly since Marquis said that the wine was made from the Lagorid grape. I didn't have any luck finding that one at all.

Lagorid. Lagorthi. It's all Greek to me.

Assyrtiko is one of the best known white wine grapes in Greece and I find it hard to believe that I haven't already added it to my Wine Century Club tally. I've definitely thrown back my share. I guess I just missed adding the variety as I'd assumed it was already there. Assyrtiko may be the third most widely planted white grape in Greece but it is most closely associated with the island of Santoríni.

The Domain Mega Spileo vineyards are located farther north in the mountains of Achaia in the north-west corner of the Peloponnese. More growers are planting Assyrtiko in the north as they're finding that it will keep its acidity and offer a bit more fruit on the palate than the grape tends to on Santoríni.

Lagorthi is relatively rare - it is only grown in a limited number of vineyards and is primarily found in northern Pelopennese and some of the Ionian Islands. The grape is known (as much as it is known) to maintain higher acidity levels than most people associate with white Greek wines. It is also known as Verdeca - a traditional variety grown in Puglia in southern Italy. The grape has a relatively neutral flavour profile with a noticeable minerality. Noting these traits, the folks at New Wines of Greece see it as an intriguing variety that can be found as a premium varietal wine or in some interesting blends - generally with grapes that can add a richness to the palate.

If the average wine drinker wouldn't know what Assyrtiko is, my guess is that the folks growing Lagorthi have got a ways to go before it'll ever be a household grape.

As for the winery, Domain Mega Spileo is found on lands with official references to the monastery vineyard that date from 1550. Viticulture on the lands ceased, however, as the monks gradually left the monastery. The vineyard was revived and replanted in 1999 by the current owners. This bottle is currently the only white wine that the winery makes.

While this wine definitely had more weight to it than I generally associate with white Greek wines, it still lacked the fruit that a BC boy like me is used to with favourite white wines. The minerality did shine through and I was thrilled with the exposure to Lagorthi but I don't think this is going to be a regular match to Boo's never-ending quest for the best calamari ever.

I should think that Boo could talk me into a visit to Greece to do a little research on calamari and Greek wines though. Hint. Hint.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Vista d'Oro Merlot

1449.  2008 Vista D'oro Merlot (BC)

As much as I drink my fair share of British Columbia wines, not many of them come from the region right around Vancouver. There are a few wineries out in the Fraser Valley that are within an hour's drive of Vancouver but I've actually yet to make it out to any of them. I'm not sure whether it's funny, ironic or just ridiculous that we haven't made it out there for a tasting. We make it to the Okanagan and Similkameen every year and we've made it to some of the Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands wineries, but not the ones that are closest to us. Maybe it's just that we tend to prefer red wines in our household and the Fraser Valley just isn't known - yet - as a grape growing paradise for red wine grapes.

Veggies, berries, herbs, you name it, but not so much when it comes to red wine grapes.

That may change as experiments with hybrid grapes and new varieties continue but I think it's fair to say that the Fraser Valley is years behind the Okanagan when it comes to its wine profile.

That doesn't mean that I am not completely looking forward to finally visiting the Vista D'oro Farm and Winery in Valley though. I remember first being introduced to Vista D'oro's vegetables and preserves when they used to make the trip into Vancouver for the Trout Lake Farmer's Market. Those days appear to be far behind Vista D'oro nowadays but - lucky for us - their preserves are prominent on the shelves of a couple of our favourites foodie shops.

I'll have to wait until I get out to the farmgate market and tasting room to get a more complete story but I believe the winery side of the business is now using estate grown grapes for its wines. I don't think that was the case with this Merlot. Vista D'oro only received its winery licence in 2008 and I believe this wine was made from purchased, Okanagan grapes.

For a first run out of the gate, I think the wine showed well enough to confirm that, regardless of the Fraser Valley location, there's some know how at the farm when it comes to making wine. I'll have to see if we can make that trip to the Valley sooner than later.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Thanksgiving Pie and Birthday Cake

My sis, Vixen, is now fully into the whole Brady Bunch blended family with her man, Big Trucker. Vixen's kiddies still live at home but B.T.'s three chillun's is all grown and moved out. As such, it can be difficult to try and gather the combined clan for family dinners - particularly when the Big Trucker kids traditionally spend Canadian Thanksgiving with their mom. As a result, Vixen thought she'd have everyone over for an early Thanksgiving dinner and combine it with Big Trucker's birthday.

I get to be truly thankful for the fact that she does all the cooking. my job is simply to bring wine for dinner.

1446.  N.V. Rosenblum Cellars - Stark Raving Red (Sonoma - California)

Boo and I arrived to an already opened bottle of this Stark Raving Red. I'm not sure if it was Vixen or one of the girls that picked up the bottle but they clearly succumbed to label's allure and knew nothing about the wine. Neither did I before looking into it a little further. My first thought was that, if this is a Rosenblum wine, what's going on? I've never known much about Rosenblum but I always recall the fact that I was told many years ago that it was one of the "R" wineries in California that make a mean, premium Zinfandel. The Stark Raving Red is a non-vintage, entry level wine that is an unlikely blend of Tannat, Zinfandel, Merlot, Cab Sauv and Petit Sirah. It didn't sound much like a Rosenblum wine.

One website promoting the wine says that it is "made for the man who likes his wines big, bold, jammy and luscious." Reading that, it's pretty easy to conclude that this brand is as much about marketing as it is about wine. While the winery website doesn't talk much about the wine itself, it didn't take much of a Google search to lead me to a video that takes you to a behind the scenes look at a photo shoot as the powers that be work on wine label images. Some wineries promote videos touring the vineyard and facilities. Others, I suppose, take you to fashion shoots worthy of America's Next Top Model.

It was much later that I learned that the Rosenblum family actually sold the winery (and name) to drinks conglomerate, Diageo, back in 2008 and the winery's old take on Zin is being largely usurped by new directions.

The wine wasn't bad but it's hardly the best commercial wine that I've tried either. The $15 price tag in our local market may well help the label stick around for some time to come though.

1447.  2009 Talbott - Logan Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands - Central Coast - California)

Another California red was up next but this was just a tad more upscale - read "just a tad" as a polite "head and shoulders above...." We'd picked it up awhile back during a visit South of the 49th Parallel. But, like the Stark Raving Red, I didn't really know anything about this bottle.  A little searching revealed that Talbott Vineyards has been making Pinots and Chardonnays for three decades now, releasing largely single vineyard wines.

The grapes for the Logan Pinot were all estate grown fruit from the home Sleepy Hollow Vineyard. While the wine is definitely on the lush, fruit-driven side of Pinot Noir, it was a popular pour. It's probably a bit big for turkey but no one seemed to care much about that.

1448.  2010 Robin Ridge Gewürztraminer (Similkameen Valley)

We don't tend to drink a whole lot of Gewürztraminer in our household. Boo doesn't have much time for it and it's not my favourite for a white varietal wine. I tend to appreciate the grape's floral and mouthfeel more when its characteristics show through on a white blend than I do when it's served up as a varietal wine. All the same, we usually have at least a couple nice Okanagan bottles that we've stumbled upon just for occasions like this - you know, ones generally involving turkey.

Not exactly an Okanagan wine, Robin Ridge hails from the neighbouring Similkameen, but it still reflects that BC tree fruit and spice-driven profile. Not the easiest of sells with this crowd but, hey, traditional pairings are traditional pairings.

Another pair of traditional pairings are cake with birthdays and Boo's pecan pie with Thanksgiving. Vixen even managed to coax an extra apple pie out of Boo as well.  Let's just say there was plenty of dessert to go around. There might have been no worries about getting enough dessert but Big Trucker had barely blown out the candles and the forks dove directly into the cake. No need to cut slices with this crowd apparently. Thankfully, folks gave Boo's pies a little more respect than they gave that chocolate cake. If they'd tried pulling that stunt with his toiled over crusts, it might have been the last pies they'd get to taste.


Turkey. Pie. Chocolate Cake. Tasty Pinot. The fact that it's Big Trucker - and not me - getting another year older. I'd say there were a couple decent things to be thankful for - early or not.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Makeshift (Hardly) Dinner Club

As if they hadn't had enough planning on their plates. Fast on the heels of last month's stylin' wedding, Tyrant and Panda Guy stepped up to the mantle - or the kitchen counter to be more specific - to host the next round of the Dinner Club.

I think everyone in the Dinner Club would have been more than agreeable to returning to Salt Spring Island and simply taking in the beauty of the happy couple's home while eating leftovers from the wedding. That wouldn't do for Tyrant, the consummate host, however. Indeed, Tyrant didn't want to subject everyone to another round of long ferry rides; so, he arranged a guest location for Dinner Club at Axel and the English Doc's gracious home back in Vancouver.

2007 Monmousseau Cuvée J.M. Brut (AOC Touraine - Loire - France)

We started off the evening with what turned out to be the only leftover from the wedding - a little bubbly. It would seem that, despite the incredible amount of wine that was downed at the wedding, folks managed to leave just enough of the Monmousseau uncorked to toast the boys' two week anniversary. As a leftover, the evening's bubbles don't make it to The List since the 2007 is already there. I think I can live with that though. Particularly since there'd be more than enough bottles added as the evening progressed.

1437.  2009 Charles Krug Cabernet Sauvignon (Yountville - Napa Valley - California)

From bubbles, we ventured straight into a big gun. I don't generally think of a Cali Cab as a cocktail wine and, interestingly enough, the girls seemed to like the heft of the wine even more than the guys but there were no complaints on any front. Charles Krug is part of the Mondavi wine universe and the '09 vintage was fleshed out with small percentages of Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cab Franc, Syrah and Malbec. Boo and I didn't take in Charles Krug when we passed through Yountville and Napa this Spring. We might need to consider another road trip.

As much as I could have just lounged around in the boys' comfy living room or wandered downstairs to watch the Canucks' game on the giant projection screen, it took no coaxing on Tyrant's part to make our way to the table and settle in for the evening's repast. Tyrant had announced that he was dialling things back a notch and subscribing to a "less is more" mantra this time around. After you take a look at the evening's fare, you'll wonder what might have hit our plates if this was toning things down.

1438.  2010 St. Urbans-Hof Riesling (Mosel - Germany)

1439.  2010 Wild Goose - Stoney Slope Riesling (VQA Okanagan Valley)

A duo of Rieslings were matched to the first course of Roasted Sweet Pumpkin Soup. You'll note that a good portion of the soup was already gone before I took a picture of the wines. Sometimes, the food can be so tasty that I forget my primary aspiration should be to document the wines over all thoughts of enjoying a meal. Silly me.

The pairing of the two Rieslings provided an interesting comparison between a couple of wines that, I think, are pretty representative of classic stylings of Riesling from both Mosel and the Okanagan. As much as I love the bright acidity and citrus of Okanagan Rieslings, I think the more honeyed German wine paired a little bit better with the evening's soup. I'll have to remember this St. Urbans-Hof. Riesling might be my favourite white varietal but I don't know much about German producers. I guess that's just another task to consider moving forward.

1440.  2009 Soter Vineyards - North Valley Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley - Oregon)

1441.  2010 Evesham Wood - Illahe Vineyard Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley - Oregon)

Next up was a duo of Willamette Pinots matched to a Seared Duck Carpaccio with Fennel and Hazelnuts. I'd be willing to order this up every night of the week and pay a pretty penny for it. I guess there's some method behind the madness when it comes to perennially pairing Pinot with duck.

Since attending the Wine Bloggers' Conference in Portland, there's been more Oregon Pinot on my horizon recently than ever before. I wasn't yet familiar with these two, however. I recall having run across the Soter name previously but I wouldn't have been able to tell you anything about them. I don't think I've even heard of Evesham Wood before. I am quite happy to be cognizant of them now though. Both wines were a pleasure to drink but I noted that the Evesham Wood won the "Pinot Round." I see that the Illahe Vineyard is a warmer site in the Willamette and that may lend the wines from that source to exhibit a bit more fruit on the palate - and that's generally not a bad profile for this guy. I have no memory of who brought the wine or where they found it locally but I'm saddened to learn that there wasn't much of it made. The current 2011 vintage was only 250 cases big.

If this was to be my only foreseeable chance to try these Willamette babies, we luckily had a bit of time to sit back and savour the Pinots. Tyrant and Panda Guy gave us a bit of break before the next course and a refill of the Evesham Wood was welcome indeed - as was the opportunity to head back downstairs to the theatre room and discover that the Canucks had managed to pull the game out of the fire. That favourable result was more than a worthy of a toast at the dinner table.

1442.  1998 Château de Beaucastel - Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe (AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe - Rhône - France)

1443.  2010 Grant Burge - The Holy Trinity (Barossa - Australia)

One of the side benefits of having Tyrant as part of the Dinner Club is that he has a healthy cellar - and some of his collection is starting to reach its "best before" date. A decided perk for all of us is that Tyrant often likes to us the Dinner Club as an "excuse" to bring out one of his aged beauties. Tonight's offering was the '98 Beaucastel. Beaucastel is one of the most celebrated red wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and the 1998 vintage is apparently considered to be one of the best of recent decades for the region.

Who wouldn't be up for helping Tyrant out of his predicament of having to drink this wine?

The Châteauneuf-du-Pape was paired up with one of the better known Aussie versions of the classic Rhône blend - Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre or GSM in Australian. The '98 Beaucastel was "heavy" on the Grenache and it contains all thirteen varieties permitted in C-d-P and, being a decade older, it might not be all that comparable to the Burge Holy Trinity but, once again, it was an interesting exercise in tasting similar but contrasting wines. The newer Aussie was the more powerful and fruit forward of two - as might be expected - but the Beaucastel was still surprisingly lively for a '98. The latter was the more elegant of the pairing but the Holy Trinity was a popular pour - and is likely far more accessible nowadays.

Since the Beaucastel incorporated all thirteen grapes that are allowed by AOC regulations, I think this is an appropriate time to add the remaining varieties from this baker's dozen that haven't been added to my Wine Century Club tally. Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Picpoul were already counted in my first 100 but I'm taking the opportunity to increase the total by seven - please welcome Muscardin, Counoise, Clairette, Bourbelenc, Terret Noir, Picardin and Vacarèse. They may be minor components to the final blend but they're in there and I'm not likely to find varietal wines that feature any of these grapes. Certainly not in our BC market - and, if I'm ever going to make it to 200, I'm going to take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself.

Oh, and by the way, the Asian Spiced and Braised Beef Short Ribs wasn't too shabby either.

1444.  2003 M. Chapoutier - Cigala (Vin de Pays d'Oc - France)

We might have been well into our dinner by now but it didn't take long for the last two wines to disappear. Tyrant just happened to have another Syrah blend for trying though. This Syrah/Grenache based blend is from the well known - and well regarded - M. Chapoutier but I'm not sure if the wine is still be produced under this name. I couldn't find any recent or easy references to Cigala online. As a Vin de Pays wine from Southern France, it rather paled to the previous two GSMs. I quite enjoy some of Chapoutier's wines but I don't know that I'd search this one out. It might have shown better had it not followed the line up of fine wines that it did tonight.

1445.  2012 Mission Hill Late Harvest Vidal Reserve (VQA Okanagan Valley)

The final treat for the night was a Baked Yoghurt with Candied Lime and Ginger paired with the Late Harvest Vidal. This was a lucky find from our pre-amble to this Fall's BC Wine Appreciation Society's Bus Tour
collection. While visiting Mission Hill, we were advised that the stellar dessert wine could only be called a Late Harvest wine because the grapes were picked and pressed at only -8.5°C instead of the minimum -9°C required to qualify as an Icewine. The variance of 0.5° in temperature may make little difference in the resulting wine but it leads to a huge difference in price - that extra 0.5° would have more than doubled the price of this bottle. Sad news for the winery's bottom line but it means we can buy twice as much - and I'm all in favour of that.

As the evening closed out, Tyrant and Panda Guy were heartily praised for another stellar repast - and the "negotiations" started to try and figure out a date for the next Dinner Club. The task was to find a date amenable to all before Jeaux and Matinder were scheduled to take off for their annual winter in the Caribbean. Here's hoping that we can work it out. Lady Di and She Who Must Be Obeyed are no slouches on the entertainment front themselves. Do I foresee some Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey on my dinner plate? One can only hope.

Turkey or not, I always look forward to the array of wines that the gang manage to dredge up for these little affairs. With wine lists like we had tonight, who needs food?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Pizza and Penelope

We found ourselves heading down the street tonight to watch Penelope - the play "re-telling" the efforts of courtship from the final four suitors of Queen Penelope's hand while her King, Odysseus, is off fighting in the Trojan War and trying to make his way back to her.  The play is kicking off the Vancouver East Cultural Centre's 40th anniversary season and I figured it was time that Boo and I made the short walk to take in a show. Considering how close we live to the Cultch, it's a shame that we don't patronize it more often.

Since Via Tevere is right on the way, we took a chance that we might be able to get in - even though that can be next to impossible without an interminable wait on a Friday night. As suspected, there were no tables available but, luckily, we were able to grab a couple of seats at the bar.

1436.  2011 Barone Ricasoli - Brolio (DOCG Chianti Classico - Tuscany - Italy)

Via Tevere has a decidedly limited wine list; so, I generally like to bring a BYO bottle (despite their relatively onerous $25 corkage fee). We weren't sure that we'd get in tonight though and, accordingly, we decided to simply choose a bottle off the restaurant list rather than tote one around with us all night should we not be able to get in. (I'm sure that would have been a great explanation at the theatre as to why we had a bottle of wine with us. "Truly, ma'am, we're not trying to sneak a bottle into the performance with us.")

I wasn't familiar with the Ricasoli bottle that we picked but the winery website says that Ricasoli is the oldest winery in Italy, the fourth longest-lived family business in the world and the second longest-lived in the wine sector.

With the Ricasoli name having been linked to wine since 1141, I think they just might have had a bit of time to master the art of winemaking. Indeed, the site claims that "Chianti was born" in 1872 when "after more than thirty years of research and experiments, Baron Bettino Ricasoli wrote down the formula in a famous letter addressed to Professor Cesare Studiati at the University of Pisa: '...I verified the results of the early experiments, that is, that the wine receives most of its aroma from the Sangioveto (which is my particular aim) as well as a certain vigour in taste; the Canjuolo gives it a sweetness which tempers the harshness of the former without taking away any of its aroma, though it has an aroma all of its own; the Malvasia, which could probably be omitted for wines for laying down, tends to dilute the wine made from the first two grapes, but increases the taste and makes the wine lighter and more readily suitable for daily consumption..." Chianti production rules have since been modified as Malvasia is no longer used but Sangiovese remains the primary grape - with other red grapes only permitted to be added to the wine to a maximum of 20%.

Although labeled as a Chianti Classico, this could almost be seen as a Super Tuscan in that the wine consists of 80% Sangiovese with 15% Merlot and 5% Cab Sauv.

We thought the Sangiovese certainly showed through on the palate. I'm not necessarily the biggest fan of Chianti as a wine at cocktail parties and this one didn't wow either Boo or I. We both agreed, however, that the wine was far tastier once our pizza arrived. (Mind you I'm pretty sure that Via Tevere's pizza can't help but make everything taste better.) No doubt the wine would have been more enjoyable if we'd had a little action on the nose as well. For me, it's unfortunate that the restaurant has opted to serve their wines in tumblers rather than wine glasses. Tumblers may be a long-standing tradition in Italian trattorias but I tend to think that might be based on those trattorias serving a humble village wine rather than the more modern - and expensive - wines being produced nowadays.

Tumbler or not, we finished our 'za and our Chianti and moved on the The Cultch. Penelope is largely centred around men behaving badly - in between each of the four suitors having an opportunity to woo the Queen - but I have to say that the scene of the alpha male suitor performing the five greatest love stories of all time was enormously entertaining. Who knew "re-enactments" of Napoleon & Josephine, Rhett & Scarlett, Romeo & Juliet and JFK & Jacquie could be so sidesplittingly funny? You say, "but that's only five great romances?" The fifth was going to be our protagonist and Penelope. Smart guy.

Pizza. Chianti. Cultch. Laughs. I definitely need more nights like this.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Mid-Week Soup 'n' Red

1435.  2008 Le Vieux Pin Petit Rouge (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Once dinner was determined to be French Onion soup, a lighter French-styled red seemed a perfect fit. That the Petit Rouge was in an easily accessible spot made things even easier. Funny that we're having a Le Vieux Pin wine so soon after we knocked back the Merlot during the Aussie Rules Grand Final. Only a couple of weeks have passed and we don't normally drink two bottles from the same winery in such close proximity.

The Petit Rouge is quite a different wine from the bigger Merlot however. If memory serves, the elephant's share of Petit Rogue and Petit White wines were sold to Rob Feenie and the Cactus Club restaurant chain to be used largely as a house wine. The idea was also to make an entry level wine for LVP from the fruit of their younger vines.

The Petit Rouge hasn't been made for too many vintages and I think the '08 might even be the first one produced. So far, the composition of the blend has varied from year to year. This inaugural 2008 wine consisted of mostly Merlot and Cab Sauv with a smaller amount of Pinot Noir added to both lighten the alcohol level and soften the palate - welcome results for matching it up with the dishes on Cactus Club's menu.

I don't know if Cactus Club serves up an onion soup but, if not, they might consider doing so because the pairing worked nicely for us. Indeed, I think we enjoyed the wine more with our food than on its own. Not too surprising, I suppose, when the wine's being made specifically with a restaurant in mind.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


1434.  2012 La Frenz Alexandria (Naramata Bench - Okanagan Valley)

With Boo actively trying to enforce his "No Buy Leash" on my wine purchasing tendencies, it's been some time since I've bought La Frenz by the case - even when it's by the mixed case. As such, I haven't been able to pick up a bottle of the winery's Alexandria for some years. Although the Muscat of Alexandria grape isn't highly planted in BC, the fair bit of it that is grown generally is used in making the popular Okanagan white blends.

La Frenz makes one of the few straight varietal wines that I'm aware of and it has become somewhat of a cult favourite. If you don't order a case of La Frenz wines, you pretty much have to visit the winery - shortly after the wine is released - because there isn't a lot of it made and it inevitably sells out long before the Fall arrives.

Part of its popularity is that the wine consistently serves up a whack of fruit on both the nose and the palate and it leaves some residual sugar that matches nicely with the spicy ethnic foods that are plentiful in Vancouver. La Frenz owner and winemaker, Jeff Martin, only enters his wines in a couple of competitions and he usually only enters the tougher ones where the medals might be seen as actually meaning something. This 2012 vintage pulled in Gold at both the 2013 All Canadian Wine Championships and the 2013 Northwest Wine Summit. Not a bad haul for a grape that very few drinkers would recognize.

As such, I was rather shocked when I saw a bottle for sale on Salt Spring Island the other week. "No Buy Leash" or not, I grabbed it and offered up a big "thank you" to the shop.