Sunday, August 31, 2014

St. Henri Shiraz & Ascending the Iron Throne

It's been many, many years since Boo and I have made our way to the Pacific National Exhibition - Vancouver's throw back back to an old state fair, if you will. But, this year, the PNE brought the Game of Thrones Exhibit to town - and there was no chance that we wouldn't be making our way to take in that baby.

For those that remember, this was like a throw-back to the old Expo86 (and even to a few comparable aspects of the 2010 Olympics) where folks lined up or grabbed tickets hours in advance. There was no Tyrion Lannister Beer & Wine Garden (which isn't that bad of an idea if you ask me) but we did virtually ride to the top of the Ice Wall at Castle Black, see all sorts of costumes and props and take a quick sit in the Iron Throne.

The weather at the fair wasn't the greatest for our day; so, we didn't stroll the fairways for too long outside of our time at the GOT show but, of course, we did get our share of mini-donuts and we took in the BBQ cook-off. As the latter was hardly a BYO event, we grabbed a doggie bag (or in our case, a "big biggie-bag") and made our way home to finish off the Q with a big red worthy of tossing back while ruling from the Iron Throne.

1728.  2005 Penfold's St. Henri Shiraz (South Australia)

Of course, a true king may have quaffed back a bottle of Penfold's Grange but our tenure on the throne was rather short-lived. Accordingly, as mere vassals, we contented ourselves with the St. Henri Shiraz - a mighty fine drop on its own, if you don't mind. A multi-district blend, this Shiraz combines fruit from seven South Australian districts (Barossa, Eden, Clare, McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek, Robe and Bordertown) and is fleshed out further with a bit of Cab Sauv from Coonawarra and Barossa.

According to the winery website, the wine is a bit of a counterpoint to Grange in that it doesn't see any new oak, leaving  it somewhat richer and fruitier - although the website also refers to 2005 as being a "dark horse vintage."

Well, if nothing else, Games of Thrones relies on the dark horse to come through - if only because so many of the lead characters get killed. I have no doubt that the St. Henri's would be a welcome addition to any wedding - red or otherwise.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Cabernet Day, Eh?

So, the last Thursday in August arrived and so did International Cabernet Day.

Not that we ever need an excuse to determine which bottle to open but it seemed appropriate to open a Sonoma Valley Cab to show a little solidarity for the Napa/Sonoma/San Fran region after it experienced that 6.1 earthquake last weekend.

1726.  2005 Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cépages Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma Country - California)

So, edging toward the century mark in Canadian dollars, this isn't your standard weeknight bottle - at least not my standard weeknight bottle.  It's just that we don't have many (if any) entry level Napa or Sonoma Cab's lying around our home. Luckily, that just meant we got to enjoy a bit of a splurge.

The label might call this a Cab Sauv but Cinq Cépages is actually a full Bordeaux blend or Meritage. The "Cinq" in the name is, of course, French for "five" and the wine is a blend of the five varieties that are standardly drawn from to make a Bordeaux-styled red wine. The blend is predominantly Cab Sauv though - with Merlot, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec merely playing supporting roles here.

There's a good reason why Napa and Sonoma Cabs have the reputation that they do. With a bit of age behind it, the bottle was showing a good degree of integration. It still had a nice bouquet, with dark fruit that was clearly present but not over the top, and there was a good balance with a strong backbone of tannin.

The wine wasn't overpowering in the least (as a good percentage of Cabs from the region can be) and it paired deliciously with the chorizo we grilled for dinner. Granted, the Caesar salad didn't exactly embellish the wine's finer points but that just meant we could finish off the salad without wine and keep our glasses full for the balance of the evening - if only it were that easy to keep our glasses full for an evening with only one bottle of wine.

These international wine varietal days are kind of hokey but, hey, if they give me a "reason" to pull the cork on beauties like this, bring 'em on.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Blue Mountain Reserve Pinot Gris

1725.  2008 Blue Mountain Reserve Pinot Gris (Okanagan Valley)

I was a little concerned about the age of this wine - seeing as how it was a 2008 Pinot Gris. I wouldn't normally age any Pinot Gris this long but sometimes a bottle can get hidden away. All we could do now is check it out. The worst thing that could happen is that we have to dump it.

Luckily, no dumping was necessary. The wine had weathered the storm.  It wasn't exactly the brightest of fruit but there was still plenty of lively acidity remaining. It's nice to see that even BC whites can handle a bit of age on them. I think I'll try to stick to drinking the whites in a more au courant fashion however - although there may be some exceptions on select Chardonnays and/or Rieslings.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Raised in Concrete Pinot

1724.  2011 Haywire Canyonview Vineyard Pinot Noir (Okanagan Valley VQA)

"Raised in Concrete" - the new tag line.

I don't know if it was the concrete egg or just a good vintage but the wine was darned tasty.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Spinifex and Fireworks

Photo from 

Normally, that fireworks photo would have been one of our own and I wouldn't have lifted if from Huffington Post, but as you'll see with the post, my bloglife is a little out of skew nowadays - and desperate times call for desperate measures.

I'm what we'll call "hazardously behind" in my postings. I haven't lost count of the wines we've polished off, we just seem to drink them faster than I'm able to blog about them. So, I'm going to do a little jumping over some wines - while hitting a few memorable wines - with the idea of staying more current AND then catching up with the earlier posts as time permits.

As the day we pull the cork on my 2001st bottle starts seeming a whole lot closer at hand, I'm hoping to keep better tabs on the number of the bottles as we open them. I really had no idea that Boo and I were enjoying a landmark bottle #1700 as we were sipping away.  We might have made more of an event for it had I known.

Luckily, it turned out to be a memorable bottle and a fun evening in any event - although Boo opted to call it a night after the wine.

1700.  2004 Spinifex Esprit (Barossa Valley - Australia)

Spinifex is a relatively new winery to set up shop in the Barossa. It's owners, Peter Schell and Magali Gely, started the winey in 2001. In doing so, however, they decided to pay respect to Magali's French roots. Their website notes that Magali's parents were vignerons in the south-west of France and that Peter has worked six vintages throughout France over the last decade. The pair work primarily with Rhône grapes that have traditionally been successful in both the Mediterranean and in Australia.

Spinifex chooses to make wines that are predominantly blends and Esprit fits right into that scheme. With 36% Grenache, 34% Shiraz, 20% Mataro (Mourvèdre), they've constructed that Barossan take on the Rhône blend - the well known GSM - but they've ramped up the Rhône by adding a 10% touch of Cinsault.

Although it might take me awhile to actually get around to writing the post, Boo and I had a thoroughly enjoyable Châteauneuf-du-Pape last night and, while this Esprit is primarily the same take on grapes involved, it had bigger fruit but was equally tasty.

I figure we're lucky that Marquis Wines has carried a few Spinifex wines over the years because they don't make an awful lot of wine. A Robert Parker reference on this vintage of Esprit said that only 330 cases were made. I don't even think the winery is big enough to have its own cellar door. When Boo and I were in Barossa a couple of years back, we didn't see the winery itself but we did taste a couple of their wines at the Artisans of the Barossa - a cooperative tasting room for a group of "small batch, sub-regional" winemakers. I'm more than happy to grab a bottle or two by whichever method we can run across them.

So, I figure opening #1700 is worthy of the fireworks display at the top of the post on its own; however, the evening was the third night of this year's Celebration of Light fireworks display. Boo decided against fighting the crowds downtown to watch Japan's entry but I ventured down to Mr. D's.

I figure the photo above would have approximated what we'd have seen from his apartment. After all, it is of the evening's show. However, we didn't even stick around to watch the fireworks. Since it was the Saturday night of Vancouver's Pride weekend, Mr. D. proposed a visit to one of the local watering holes and he figured we wouldn't be able to take in both the fireworks and the bar as the line-up to get into Pumpjack would have been down the block by the time the last firework rocket had been launched. We decided to see if we could enjoy some fireworks of an even more intimate nature and just head straight off to the pub. Running into Will and Harry and a few other boys was a great start.

Unfortunately, from the blog's point of view, there wasn't another bottle of wine to be had. Funny, but I hardly think that a leather bar is going to be the best place to find a bottle of wine. But we did see a firework or two - particularly Mr. D. I think I might just leave that photo to your imagination though. No need to post it and detract from the wine at hand.

So, with 1700 bottles down, I've got my work laid out for me to try and get all my posts in order by the time number 2001 rolls around. Best get to it.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

A Pride Picnic

During the first so many years following Boo's move to Vancouver, we used to try and fit in as many picnics as we could. Indeed, I think we'd termed that first summer as the "Summer of A Hundred Picnics." Now, that was more a metaphoric goal than a realistic and attainable one. All the same, we used to fit in far more picnics than we do nowadays. If we've managed to fit in more than two over the course of a summer, we consider the year to be a modest success.

Here it is the end of July and this is the first picnic we've managed to pull off. We just thought it'd be nice to sit Seawall-side and watch the world go by as the West End gears up for Pride weekend.

1699.  2003 Domaine Font de Michelle - Cuvée Etienne Connet (Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC - Rhône - France)

Seeing as how it's a rare-ish occasion and we're kicking into "party-mode" (at least for old folks like us), a bit of a splurge into the Rhône seemed like a good idea - particularly since it's Pride and I always get a kick out the fact that my sis, Vixen, coined the phrase Châteuneuf-du-Poof. Poofs and Pride: has to be a natural fit. Right?

I don't recall how we came about this bottle. Domaine Font de Michelle isn't one that I'm familiar with, nor is it one that I recall as being a regular sight on local shelves. Being an '03, it's been hanging around in our cellar for awhile though. High time it saw the light of day.

Maybe it was the picnic location that helped bring out the tastiness in this bottle but I think I should be on the lookout for another from this producer because this one was a winner. The winery website says that their C-d-P is Grenache-dominant and the wine was a full-bodied hit of rich, dark fruit.

Needless to say, the bottle disappeared far too quickly.  Guess we need to plan more picnics if the end result is that all our wines are going to taste this good.