Thursday, November 21, 2013

No Thorns on this Cactus Club

It's been some time since we've had an opportunity to get together with Bella Jianna and Flyboy B. Their living on Vancouver Island might have had something to do with that. So, when Jianna gave me a call to say that they were going to be in town and wanted to try and fit in a dinner, we jumped at the chance.

There was only one night that worked for everybody and, even at that, Flyboy needed to stay close to the Airport as his ability to join us wasn't guaranteed. As such, we decided to hit the Cactus Club, not far from YVR, to try and make things easy for Flyboy.  It worked.

1470.  2011 Feenie Goes Haywire Red (Okanagan Valley)

Bella Jianna is a huge booster of BC wines; so, we started off with what seemed a natural fit. Feenie Gone Haywire is a joint effort between restaurant and winemaker that takes "house wine" to a whole different level. The wine sees Okanagan Crush Pad (and Haywire Winery) winemaker, Michael Bartier, joining forces with a Cactus Club team that includes Executive Chef (and Vancouver food royalty/personality/Iron Chef) Rob Feenie and the restaurant's award winning service director, Sebastien Le Goff, to fashion a white and red blend to pair with an assortment of restaurant dishes.

The Red is a blend of Merlot, Syrah and Cab Sauv and it's only found at Cactus Club restaurants. I'm assuming that the team has gone for a more medium bodied wine - as opposed to a fuller bodied one - so that it'll pair with more dishes.

We figured, "when at Cactus Club..." and it was enjoyable enough, but I'm not sure I'd stock my cellar with it.

1471.  2011 Road 13 - Seventy-Four K (Okanagan Valley VQA)

Our second bottle was another blend, this time from Road 13 - not too far down the highway from OK Crush Pad. The blend is dominated by Merlot and Syrah (46% and 45% respectively) and is fleshed out with Cab Sauv, Cab Franc and Mourvèdre. Winery notes say that the blend includes some Viognier as well. I'm thinking that the Syrah might be co-fermented with that Viognier to lift the aromatics.

The play for aromatics just might have worked because Bella Jianna found "subtle violets" notes on the nose.

A bit bigger than the Feenie red, it paired up nicely enough with all the meat we'd ordered - enough so that we'd finished the bottle long before we'd finished the conversation. Surprise, surprise. We'd reached a point where we needed to decide on buying another bottle or calling it a night. It wasn't that hard of a decision.

1472.  2007 First Drop - The Big Blind - Nebbiolo Barbera (Adelaide Hills)

None of us had ever heard of this winery or wine before - but I think I can say that it wouldn't be a bad thing if we run across it again. I don't think there's too much chance of mistaking this for a Piedmontese version of a similar blend, but I'm hearing more and more about Italian varieties making some noise in Australia. We're also starting to see a few more wines from Adelaide Hills in the Vancouver market. Maybe this is just the start of a whole new trend - which is fine by me seeing as how this was our favourite wine of the evening.

It's almost a given that, regardless of the time between our visits, we're going to be able to pick up wherever we left off with Bella Jianna and Flyboy B. It must have been a couple years since we last saw them but it was like it had only been a week. The biggest news of the night - even bigger than finding a new Aussie wine to look for - was that our Island buds had moved to the Okanagan. They'd replaced Saanich wine country with Lake Country and Jianna has immersed herself in the wineries in her neighbourhood - like Ex Nihilo, Gray Monk and Intrigue.

The evening went far too quickly for my liking but talks are already ongoing for our first visit to check out the new digs.

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