Monday, February 14, 2011

Impromptu Gatherings - More wines to sample!

I have to admit that when I started writing this blog it was just a way to let friends know about some of the wines I am drinking, what I am enjoying and my suggestions on which wines I think are pretty darn great. When I was contacted by a wine distributor (Philippe Dandurand Wines) I was wholely surprised. When she said she would be happy to drop off some wine for me to sample at my front door, it went from surprise to elation to surprise again! Really, someone wants me to try their wine! Wow~!

When it was suggested that I try two French wines, I was intrigued. Would they be old world, would they be too sophisticated for my self educated palate? They arrived, one red and one white. The red was called FUN and was a Beaujolais by Georges Duboeuf ($13.99 at Fort and Foul Bay Liquor Store) and the white was a Dourthe La Grande Cuvee Sauvignon Blanc ($14.99 at Fort and Foul Bay Liquor Store). I have to say, I was skeptical to begin with. Were these really wines they wanted me to try. Were these just gimmick wines aimed at a particular part of the population? Perhaps it was latent reticence that left me waiting a couple of weeks prior to putting these wines into action. A buddy called on Friday at about 5:00 p.m. and said he wanted to go out for a glass of wine and something to eat. Instead, I said, I have a couple of bottles of wine here, why don’t you join me, I’ll cook and we can chat in my kitchen at the bar!

So over he came. We started with the FUN Beaujolais. We were eating prosciutto, a little French Brie and homemade chicken curry with basmati rice. We both took a little snifter of the wine in our glasses and drew in the aromas. It had a good fruit forward nose to it, with some strawberry and a little plum on the end. On first taste the opening comment was, that it does not fight with your palate, it is an easy to drink wine. There were definite flavours of blackberry, currant, but overwhelmingly there was some strawberry. This was not a huge tannic wine, it was a lighter crisper, fruitier wine with a good finish. It was yummy and I have to say, surprisingly so. Would this be a complex wine to have with a heavy piece of lamb or with prime rib, probably not, though it would do just fine. With curry or spicy food, this is an excellent choice. Who said you cannot have red wine with curry? A good choice for those in your circle who might not be huge red wine fans, but want to be a part of the red wine crowd. I had read some of the online reviews and sure enough it matched up very well.

Next it was onto the white, the Dourthe. The initial nose on this wine is citrus with some good grapefruit and lemon combined.  As soon as the wine hits your tongue you can sense the lemon, but not in a puckery bad way. It is almost as if taking in the best part of the rind, no bitterness, just a great lemony scent and flavour. This is a wine you have a sip of, and then feel that compunction to just have to have another sip. It goes down easily and leave a marvelous aftertaste in your mouth. This wine tastes like far more than its sticker price, which usually means a price increase will eventually hit the BC Liquor store, always seems to happen to the good ones. With a good chill on it, the wine is crisp, has little to no aftertaste and just really goes down well.

I will have to check on what my next assignment is from the wine ladies as I am calling them – so far has been nothing but a pleasure. Check these two very different wines out – you will be pleasantly surprised!

Impromptu Gatherings - Debaters Galore!

The best nights are sometimes the ones when you say to your friends, hey do you want to come over for dinner tonight, an hour before you want them over. You are not really sure what you are going to make, what you are going to serve, but it is still fun to entertain, open great wine, chat and let it fall as it may. A couple of weekends ago that was exactly the case. Was after the High School Regional Debate Championships. The organizers had worked hard all day, it was only fitting to say come on over for a good steak and some great wine. So that is exactly how it went! About an hour after it all ended we were nibbling on prosciutto, brie and readying ourselves from some great New York striploins.  We had some reticent red wine drinkers in the crowd, so we started with an 8th Generation Riesling ($19.99 at Matticks Farm VQA Wines) from Okanagan Falls, BC. I have been waiting to try this wine. I had it on good authority from Chris and Beata Tolley at Twisted Tree Vineyard in Osoyoos that this Riesling was fabulous. I tried to get to the winery last Summer, but it seems as far as I thought I had driven, it was yet further. I found a bottle at Mattick's Farm VQA store in Cordova Bay, so I had to get it and put it in the fridge. This was the perfect opportunity to open it. So I did, and it was just as fantastic as it had been portrayed. It had some huge citrus on the nose, with some orange and watermelon on the tongue. The prominent sugars mean that it rolled onto the tongue easily and ran easily down the throat. A beautiful German style riesling, and with wonderful grapes. Definitely one that is worth searching out if you can find one. From there we did move onto some red wines. Before the steaks went on the BBQ we opened the Cotes du Rhones Villages Perrin and Fils Rasteau from France ($21.99 at Fort and Foul Bay). This was another recommendation of my Fort and Foul Bay Wine expert and once again he did not disappoint. This was a typical Cotes du Rhones. It was earthy with flavours of tobacco, a little smokiness and leathery. It had some good fruit on the tongue with currants shining through everything else. A good wine to begin with, though if I had it to do again, I would have served this one with the steaks – I think it would have matched up well.

Of course, most were craving beef in the rare to medium rare category and thus a great deal of red meat appeared. It was combined with some spinach, garlic lemon mushrooms and salad on the side. One of the guests had brought a bottle of Five Star Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon from Walla Walla, Washington. I am the only person who enjoys saying Walla Walla? Walla Walla Walla Walla Walla Walla!! This wine was one that he had picked up in his travels, so not sure if it is available in BC. It is predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon with a little merlot in there for well roundedness. And well rounded it is. It has some great tannins, but not the overpowering Cabernet Suavignon type that can make your mouth pucker when you taste. These ones were balanced and made you feel like you were drinking an excellent wine. The nose has some smoke and perhaps a hint of coffee to it. The initial flavours and cherry like with a little chocolate and espresso on the side. This was an excellent wine. I will have to see if I can find it in BC. Perhaps in Vancouver!

The next wine in the offing was a deep full rich Malbec from Argentine called La Posta ($19.99 at Fort and Foul Bay). I have written about the Bonarda grape version of this wine too, this one is a little fuller. Deep tannins that really speak to you, but a long, ample finish that really has you thinking, this is good! There is some fruit on initial tasting reminiscent of blackberry and cherry. A little oak but really just a savoury tannin that travels like velvet over your tongue.

Since many were still in the mood, we decided to finish the night with something port or late harvest. Somewhere in the annals of my cellar I found a wonderful gift that I had been given. It was a small bottle of De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2003. This was a beautiful finish to the meal offering apricot flavours with some orange marmalade. It is not often that I delve into the Icewine or the late harvest, but this was a terrific end to a great impromptu evening. Some great wines and fabulous friends!

Impromptu Gatherings - Landmark Buddies

Sometimes the best wine nights are the ones that you never planned to have. The ones where good friends invite themselves over, you invite friends over, or just decide you need some company to open some new wine or good wine. It seems to be happening  all the time lately. Is it that I have this intrinsic need to open wine or that my friends have the same need!?

About a year ago, I did a little personal development, or whatever the jargon is for it these days and did some learning through an organization called Landmark Education. I went in skeptical, remained so all the way through and in the end I was blown away. It has been more than a stepping stone, but more like a cliff dive into a different way of living and approaching life. A huge part of the education and technology of the organization are the people you surround yourself with and the support that they give you in creating the things you want for your life. I have been oh so lucky in having quite a number of friends who have been just that support for me. Since it was about a year ago that the transformations began in my life, it was about time to have some of these great supporters over for an evening of some wine, a few nibblies and some great chat. A re-visit of what Landmark is all about, and a re-grounding is always a good thing!

It seemed destined to be a night of carmenere. My wonderful friend at Fort and Foul Bay had come through with another amazing suggestion for a wine, with the Winemaker’s Select Carmenere from Concha Y Toro ($18.99 at Fort and Foul Bay Liquor Store). When he was telling me about it in the store, a couple came up to the display and filled their basket with a dozen bottles proclaiming it was one of the best wines they had sipped lately. I think the comment made was, if I have to take a bottle of wine to someone’s house with me, why would I not take one that is well priced and tastes great!

The four of us sipping that evening, one never drinks, she is always the designated driver, usually vintage orange juice for her, all agreed that this was an excellent and under-priced bottle of wine. It’s nose was full of blackberry, sweet plums and underscored with a little smoke. Upon first taste, the tannic base hits you, lingers and never overcomes you. It just sits in your mouth and tickles your tongue. It is a wine that makes you think, oh wow, this is really yummy. Now, would a first time red wine drinker necessarily think it to be great, probably not. I think the tannins of carmenere, tempranillo and tannat have to grow on you as you drink more wine, but who am I to say – I thought it was quite an amazing wine.

We graduated to another carmenere brought by one of the attendees. So as the conversation wove itself through what was great in our lives and what we were creating next for ourselves, we dove into the Carmen Gran Reserva Carmenere ($19.99 at Fort and Foul Bay Liquor Store). Of course same varietal after another only lends itself to comparison. Both wines had a great tannic base and lots of body. While the W Select just sat alluringly on your tongue teasing you, the Carmen’s finish was a little short. Perhaps if we had done them in opposite order, it might have been different, but still a good value wine and yummy all the same. We were sipping with a little cheese, some tandoori pork tenderloin, crudite with spicy salsa, baguette and prosciutto. Quite a variety of yumminess to go with the wine. Really either was happy on its own, but great with the food as well.

It was a fabulous night of amazing conversations, reinforcing of creations and just plain old catching up. We vowed that we needed to do it far more often, and to keep track of how we could help each other get to where we wanted to go. Always great to share great wine with great people!