Wednesday, December 28, 2011

And so That was Christmas

It's the 28th today and life is getting back to some degree of normalcy after the juggernaut that was Christmas. For us the whirlwind began blowing on the 22nd when "The Grands" arrived from Kelowna and concluded this morning when wife headed back to work. I have been off since the 23rd, we go dark for the 24th-26th, and will decide later today if I will go back tonight or delay my return by a day.

There is much that I love about Christmas but almost each positive seems to have a countering negative; I actually like to do the Christmas shopping but I hate wrapping presents for example. Overall though the chance to spend time with family and friends is a rare opportunity, we can't dodge it as easily during the holiday season so the visits actually take place.

We have a traditional Turkey dinner on the 24th, a throwback to the days when I worked on Christmas day, which is to me much less stressful than having to cook a big meal in between opening gifts and long distance phone calls. The bird this year was a 15 pound free range and it was excellent,wife stuffs the bird with a bread/sausage/mushroom/onion/celery/sage combo and I use a traditional 350 degree roasting oven , basting every half hour and it turned out perfect in 3 1/2 hours. Sides were stuffing, mashed spuds with cream cheese and sour cream, green beans and brussel sprouts sauteed with bread crumbs and romano cheese, dessert was Christmas baked goods and the wines were Joie Farms PTG 2009 for red and Gehringer Brothers Classic Auxerrois 2009 for white. Coffee with Bailey's for wife and 15 year old Glenfarclas for Granddad and I post meal.

Christmas Day we opened our stockings and had croissant before the Grands arrived at 10:30ish for the full scale gifting. All lovely, not over the top but lovely, gifts all around then a quick cleanup before our Christmas day open house, featuring copious Mimosas, smoked salmon, rich cheeses and charcuterie along with more of those Christmas baked goods. As an added wrinkle this year we headed over to the R's house for a prime rib feast and much more good company.

Boxing Day should be recovery and was, with leftovers for dinner and then on the 27th our niece arrived from Winnipeg, in town for a conference, so one more night of revelry ensued before hopefully everything gets back to normal today. I feel like I need a week of nothing but sleep, steamed veggies and water, but New Years Eve is just around the corner before, hopefully, life returns to more normal patterns in the New Year.

In closing I hope the Holidays were happy for all and that the Mayans were wrong about 2012.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Christmas Case - Part two

Part two of the Christmas case made for some really hard choices, there are probably easily 20-30 wines that I could have chosen to make up the seven bottles of red table wine,in fact when I looked at the wines that got left behind I immediately saw the need for another post.

When trimming the list down to the seven finalists I took into account varietal correctness, the ability to enhance food and tried to avoid duplicating styles and varietals as much as possible. I was not really surprised in the end that I had no wines from France, Italy or the United States as these regions rarely provide good value in the sub $20 range here in BC. So enough rationalization, on to the wines.

Beso de Vino - Seleccion 2009, Spain. I wrote about this wine in October and have gone back to it a couple of times since then with pizza, ribs and a braise. The wine is a blend of Syrah and Garnacha and is nice with food but soft enough to drink on its' own as well. I think it's a steal at $12.99 and it has good distribution.

Colonia Las Liebres, Bonarda, Argentina is a great little wine for any occasion, the hares on the label are racing as fast as this wine is with it's plump fruit flavours and earthy bouquet of chicory and fresh raspberries. Bonarda is the second most planted red grape in Argentina but is mostly used in blending to add colour and fruit but this stand alone varietal bottling is a great value at $12.99 with reasonable, though not great, distribution.

Jacob's Creek Reserve Shiraz, Barossa, Australia is an incredible value from one of Australia's most consistent producers . This is a deep red classic Australian shiraz, with plum and fruitcake on the nose and spice and pepper in the palate. This wine used to retail in the $20 range and was reasonable value then but at $14.99 it's an absolute steal, it's in reasonably wide distribution so seek it out and buy it.

Jean Bousquet Malbec, Organic, Argentina is a beautiful example of Malbec, Argentina's signature red varietal and one of the hot button wines of the past two years. You can get decent Malbec in the $10-13 range but for the holidays step up and buy this wine with lots of spicebox, coffee and black fruits in the nose and a warm full mouth filling flavour mix of plums, cherry and white pepper, plus it's 100% Organic. This wine has good distribution and retails for $15.99 .

The People's Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand is another wine I recently posted about, I just tried it last month and it's already in regular use in the house. This wine is amazing value for Central Otago Pinot Noir. The nose has a nice sweet aroma of cherries, licorice and a bit of pepper and the taste is bright and clean, with more cherry, a bit of chocolate and coffee and little of the candied strawberry that tends to define inexpensive Pinot Noir. The mouth feel is creamy and the finish long and most importantly obviously, unequivocally, Pinot Noir. It's on sale for $15.99 with good distribution .

Bodegas Montecillo Rioja Crianza, Spain is a perfect example of classic entry level Rioja, made with Spain's greatest varietal Tempranillo. The nose is full of malted chocolate and cherries along with the classic chalky cut hay aroma typical of tempranillo, In the mouth it has notes of sour cherry with leather, tobacco and slightly rough edged tannins. This is old world Rioja without the fruit bomb but with rich flavours, nice tannins and a long rich finish. Maybe not for everyone but I really like it and at $16.99 it's a fair value.

Graham Beck The Game Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, South Africa is simply a great bottle of Cab. I used to drink more Cabernet Sauvignon than any other red varietal but of late was often disappointed with the dumbing down of this majestic grape, but not with this bottle. This Cabernet features all the dark berry, cedar, spicy notes the wine should possess and it's not shy in the mouth either with full bodied tannins and gobs of black fruit, plums and spice with a huge finish. I reviewed it in January of last year when it was on sale and at $19.99 it's still great value with reasonable supply though maybe not on the shelf at your corner boozer. If you are one of the Prime Rib for Christmas Dinner crowd this is the wine for you.

So that's it, the Christmas case is complete and under budget. The total cost of the thirteen bottles, with deposit, is $194.13 which leaves about six bucks left to search out a 650ml of Dead Frog's Christmas Beeracle, but be quick the 2010 production sold out in less than three weeks.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Does anyone answer "Yes" to this question?

It's the Holiday season which means increased police presence on the streets in the form of the police roadblocks to check for impaired drivers.

As I have to cross a bridge to get home from work I generally run into these roadblocks a few times over the Christmas period. So far I've only encountered one, this past Thursday on the Cambie Bridge, and since I never drink before leaving work it simply means I'm delayed a minute or two in line waiting to be questioned. The procedure is pretty standard, or it was before this last stop, an officer will ask where you're coming from and whether you've consumed any alcohol and then decide whether or not you need to be tested further.

On Thursday after being asked where I was coming from, "On my home from work", and whether or not I'd consumed any alcohol, "Not yet", I was then surprised by the next question:

"Do you have any illegal drugs or firearms in the vehicle with you ?.

I paused a second, then answered "No, it's Thursday" which got a small chuckle from the officer and a wave to go on home.

The rest of the way home all I could think was: Does anyone ever answer "Yes" to that question?. I mean seriously, if I've got a kilo of weed and an RPG in the trunk is it likely I'm going to say "Damn, I was hoping you wouldn't ask but yeah I guess you've got me now" ?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Christmas Case - Part one

So rather than go through a litany of all the wines I liked this year I thought what I would do is send myself on a virtual trip to the BCLDB and pick up a case of wine for the holiday season. My goal was to grab a dozen bottles for Christmas dinner, Christmas morning and everyday holiday drinking, I gave myself a budget of $200 and was surprised at how easy it was to come in under budget. I was actually able to grab thirteen bottles, a baker's dozen, and still end up with change in my pocket.

The case consists of three white wines, a bottle of bubble, two bottles of "stickies" and seven bottles of red so you can easily mix and match if you drink more white by doubling up on one of the whites and dropping a red, or sticky. Without further ado here is the Christmas Case 2011 Part One - Bubble, Whites and Stickies

Veuve de Vernay Blancs de Blanc, Brut, France is a great everyday bubble, nice balance, good clean flavours and works well on its' own or with OJ on Christmas morning, as it is consumed in my house. It is widely available and retails for $13.99.
Big House White, California is an homage to the fragrant light bodied white wines of the Friuli region in Italy, but better value than the wines it imitates. This wine is a blend of Malvasia Bianco, Muscat Canelli, Viognier and Gruner Vetliner and thus has an inherent fruitiness and floral quality to it, it pairs well with spicy foods, like my crab dip, and is sort of like Cunundrum Light for those of you familiar with the Godfather of Californian fragrant white blends. It's in good supply and a steal at $11.99.
Frisk, Prickly Riesling, Australia is another slightly off dry white, perfect for rich or spicy holiday bites. From the cool climate Alpine valleys of the Victoria region this wine tastes like $14 German Rieslings used to taste but now to get this quality out of the "Old World" will cost you $20. The wine has lots of floral notes and great citrus flavours with the great bracing acidity you want from Riesling and just a touch of tingle, the frisky part, on the tongue. Excellent value at $13.99 and in good supply.
Spier Chenin Blanc, Signature, South Africa after Riesling Chenin Blanc is certainly my favourite white wine grape and like Riesling it can be made in many manners. In South Africa Chenin Blanc, or Steen as it is referred to, is the "worker bee" white grape. This example from Stellenbosch region is classic South African Chenin Blanc, tons of fruit in the nose and pale green/gold in colour the wine has crisp acidity, notes of peach and kiwi and a touch of vanilla on the finish. This would work nicely with the Christmas turkey, it's only $12.95 but supply is spotty.
Vina Errazuriz, Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, Chile the first of our "stickies" is an old favourite from Chile, a late harvest wine made primarily from Sauvignon Blanc grapes that have experienced "noble rot" and late picked Gewurztraminer.The incredible heat before the rot sets in produces very high sugar levels so the wine was able to achieve over 11.5% alcohol while still remaining sweet. The nose is fragrant with honey, apricot and candied lemon and the mouthfeel is big and rich with apricot tart flavours. The wine is not at all cloying but is rich in mouth feel with a long finish, perfect with creme brulee or the holiday baked goods, it's a tremendous value at $13.99 for a 375ml bottle and has reasonable distribution.
Taylor-Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage Port2003/04, Portugal this is for the cheese plate, or if you are lucky enough to have real Christmas pudding with dinner. Originally conceived as an alternative to vintage port for the restaurateur, LBV offers a wine with more complexity and concentration than the younger Reserve ports and Taylor-Fladgate were the first port house to label their wines with the Late Bottled Vintage designation . The wine has a deep purple colour and an aroma of raisins, bitter chocolate and spice box, the flavours are rich with plums,dried cherry , more chocolate and vanilla the tannins are still in force so a half hour to breathe is a good idea . Good value at $15.99 and well distributed in the lower mainland.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Drink a decent Bottle, help the Food Bank

The other day while cruising the aisles of my local government outlet I noticed bottle toppers on some decent Chilean red, Casillero del Diablo Carmenere stating that $1 from the sale of each bottle would be donated to the Vancouver Food Bank.

On the back of the tag was a listing of the various wines to which this applied, seventeen in total, all represented by Select Wines an old established importer in the BC market. I think this is an excellent form of philanthropy, and while I wish Select Wines would apply the donation to their entire portfolio they are to be commended for their actions. December is a busy month for wine sales so even the limited exposure should get $2-5,000 into the food bank coffers.

I'm not familiar with all the wines Select are donating from but some I know and can recommend are the aforementioned Carmenere, as well as the same brand's Merlot, additionally I can stand behind the Little Yering Pinot Noir, the St. Hallett Poacher's Blend and, for a bit more, St. Hallett Faith Shiraz .