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?

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