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Anchors Away!

Last week, we went on a cruise.

I like the idea of a cruise.  The open ocean, several days at sea, a new port every morning.  What adventures lie ahead?

If you follow me on Twitter then you know a little bit about how our cruise started.  I won’t go into details here, as this is (ostensibly) a blog about wine and food.  I will say, however, that I do not like to see my fiancée cry, and she cried far too often on this trip for my liking.  Which is none.  I just mentioned that.  Why aren’t you listening?

I did sample some nice wines, however, so all was not lost.

Wine: Clos de los Siete by Michel Rolland, Red Blend, Mendoza, Argentina, 2009, $19 USD
Rating: Two Bottles

We got this wine at a shop on Devonshire Street, in Boston.  It’s right next to the Elephant & Castle restaurant in the Club Quarters Hotel, if you are nearby and want to find it.  I suggest that you do.  They’re lovely folks.

Caramel and toffee overtones are met with soft tannins that give this wine a buttery impression.  Deep, black cherry colours backup the dark red fruit flavours that come singing through from the first sip.

Wine: Underwood Cellars, Pinot Noir, Oregon, USA, 2010, $17 USD
Rating: Two Bottles

We also grabbed a bottle from Oregon, since U.S. wines are hard to find in Mexico, unless they are from California, and then, usually only if they are from Napa.

Very fruity, mostly berries, especially gooseberries, apples.  Very light.  Perfect for a hot summer night or an afternoon at sea.  Hey!  Look at that!  That’s what we were doingwhile we were drinking it!

Wine: Murphy Goode, Merlot, California, 2010, $29 USD
Rating: One Bottle

Dry tannins gave a very dry finish.  Coppery.  A little flat.  Fruity bouquet and a deep ruby colour, but a bit disappointing.

I ordered this wine at our first evening dining on the ship.  We had an amazing waiter.  His name is Charlie.  He is from the Philippines.  He made Caia a mouse out of a cloth napkin.  This made her giggle to the delight of all within earshot.

Wine: Peter Lehman, Shiraz, Australia, 2008, $29 USD
Rating: One-and-a-half Bottles

Charlie also joined some of the other waiters to dance for our pleasure.  Not just our pleasure.  Other people watched, too.  My mom got up and danced with him.

Soft and plump (the wine), russet colouring, really nice up-front, but a little sharp on the back-end.  One of those wines that you think is going to be great when you first sip it, but it never really fulfills it’s promise.

Wine: Sledgehammer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, California, USA, 2008, $17 USD
Rating: Two Bottles

Another bottle from our friends at the wine store on Devonshire which we didn’t think to write down it’s name or snap a picture of the storefront.  Honestly, we had two cameras, and Caia was with my mom.  We could have at least grabbed a business card.  I’ll try Googling it.*

Bought mostly for the label (and because it’s called Sledgehammer), this wine was a great find.  Ripe figs and dates, fragrant bouquet, and very easy to drink, we were very happy with this purchase.

I have to say, there is something so freaking amazing about sitting on the balcony of your stateroom, watching the setting sun over the hills of Portland, Maine, with a glass of wine in your hand.

At one point, I may or may not have been standing on the balcony, watching the setting sun, with a glass of red wine in my hand, a cigarette in the other, and no clothes on.  That may or may not have happened.

Can’t be sure.

There is no proof.

Wine: Chianti, Bella Sera, Tuscany, Italy, 2010, $29 USD
Rating: One-and-a-half Bottles

Light and delicate on the nose.  Pleasant, but a little weak for my liking.  One of those wines that you enjoy drinking, but cannot pick out of a line-up.  You know, one of those wine line-ups like they have on all the gritty cop shows.

Victim: “Number three.”

Detective: “Are you sure?”

Victim: “Not really, no.  It was a little flat and didn’t have a lot of mouthfeel, so I can’t really be sure.”

Detective: “Okay.  Can you think of anything else?”

Victim: “It was red?”

Wine: Louis Martini, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma, USA, 2009, $40 USD
Rating: Two Bottles

Charlie also made sure to get me any info I needed for each wine.  If it wasn’t listed on the menu, he would go and ask what year it was, that kind of thing, and this is during a full dinner rush.  He really was tops.

Round and fruity, the Louis Martini was one my favourites on the ship.  Soft tannins left a velvety mouthfeel.  I had Chateaubriand that night.  They were wonderful playmates.

Wine: Hess Select, Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast, California, USA, 2009, $35 USD
Rating: Two Bottles

And then I followed it up with another California red.  The Hess, unlike the Louis Martini, was dry.  Dry, but without being a dick about it.  Cherry flavours gave you the sweetness you enjoyed, while hints of dark chocolate and roasted coffee gave you the bitterness you desired for balance.

Wine: Côtes du Rhone, Michel Picard, Rhone, France, 2010, $33 USD
Rating: One Bottle

Our last night on the ship and it started off poorly.  Super dry and sharp.  Biting like grapefruit juice after you brush your teeth.  Not at all awesome, but if you like really dry reds, this might be the wine for you.

Wine: Mirassou, Pinot Noir, California, USA, 2010, $28 USD
Rating: One-and-a-half Bottles

Soft berry flavours were a welcome relief from Bittertown as the realisation that the cruise was coming to an end was sinking in.  The last dance number the wait-staff performed was awesome, and Caia squealed with glee watching them dance on tables and seeing the lights flicker and flash in sync with the music.

That was nice.

The pinot was like an old friend, patting your hand as you wistfully wipe a tear from you eye, hoping that no one noticed.  Time with family is so precious, and as we get older, so fleeting.  We spend so much time planning for the memories we want to make someday, instead of getting around to making them.

As Paulo Coelho once wrote, ““Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.”

In other words, follow your heart if you don’t want to be surrounded by trash.

Cheers!

*The store is called Boston Wine Exchange.  Check out their web site.  Don’t drop our name, though, since we didn’t tell them who we are and they might think that we were covert operatives buying reasonably priced wine to poison wino diplomats.

Murphy’s Law (As It Concerns Wine)

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You know when you take your car to the mechanic because it’s been making a weird sound for infinity?  Like, the minute you bought the car, years ago, it started making this indescribable, yet unmissable noise that gave you a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach and night terrors?

The noise happens every time you turn the car on, but especially when you make left turns.  Then, when you take it to the mechanic, it purrs like a kitten with noticeably increased performance in left corners.

“Don’t know what you’re hearing.  This baby’s cherry,” says the mechanic, smirking at you because you’re a man who has to ask another man what’s wrong with his car.  “Could be your halogen level’s a little low.  Then again, could just be your Johnson Rod’s a bit too small.”

Ha-ha, Mr. Mechanic.  Very funny.

(Where’s the Johnson Rod again?)

This holds true for guests and wine.  Invite guests over to sample wine with you, especially wines that you have purchased because you heard they were good, or you read somewhere that Bonardo was a lot like Malbec and was really good with hamburgers, and you’ll experience something not unlike the mechanic chuckling at your stupidness.

Oh, the fun you’ll have, trying to explain to your guests that you are not some dick who likes to have friends over to see the faces they make when you serve them vinegar in a stemmed glass.  “This wine isn’t very good,” you’ll say, nonchalantly, the sweat trickling from your forehead.  “I swear I read a good review about this in Awesome Wines Monthly.  This is so weird!”

The smirk you get from them is a lot like the smirk the mechanic gives you – grown man reviewing wine without any idea what he’s talking about, buying wines because the labels are pretty … and where’s his ascot?  Shouldn’t somebody this foppish be wearing an ascot and discussing Bone China?

No sooner had our guests left …

Wine: Woodhaven, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, USA, 2008, $234 MXN
Rating: Two-and-half-bottles

Plums, figs, and cherries play together nicely in the field that is this wine.  Wonderful mouthfeel – silky, soft, like flower petals.  (You all keep flower petals in your mouths, right?  Cool.)

A little tangy on a second glass, but pair it with steak (we did) and it compliments perfectly.  Actually, just a glass of this on its own feels like eating a steak.  Meaty with a hint of bitterness.

There is a sweetness to this wine that threatens to make it too rich at first, but it finishes tart, evening it out.

Plus, the label is pretty like nice things.

Go ahead: judge me.  I am impervious to your snide-isms.

On the Menu: Potato Salad, Sautéed Spinach and Zucchini, Filet Mignon, Peanut Butter Nutella Cookies

This week’s menu was more about relaxing and enjoying company than trying to impress anyone.  Rene marinated the steaks in beer and awesome for the day while Megan made cookies and potato salad.

The cookies that Megan made were little round temptresses, coaxing one to break one’s diet.

I caved.

Twice.

We drank some beer and wine while we grilled the meat, ate leisurely, and retired to the fumatorium for an after dinner cigarette.

Yes, I know – smoking is bad.  But sometimes a cigarette après steak is just what the doctor ordered.  Not a medical doctor, but the doctor who lives in my head and who tells me that carbs are better for you than protein and staying up all night means you technically add a day onto your life.

Is he the same doctor that tells me that I should open another bottle of wine when I am the only one drinking it?

No.  That’s the Life Coach in my head.  She’s another story.  Her name is Fran.

Wine: Jacques Charlet, Beaujolais, La-Chapelle-de-Guinchy (S & C), France, 2010, $145 MXN
Rating: Two Bottles

Now, I didn’t finish this bottle on my own.  Or at all.  But I wanted to.

Looking through technical terms for describing how a wine smells, I came up with one that I think fits.

Wow.

Very, wow, on the nose.

A jelly mouthfeel, like the cranberries that come in a can.  I know it doesn’t sound that appealing, but in wine-form, it’s amazing.

Cherries, cranberries make for a bitter but fantastic—

Rhubarb!  That’s … I couldn’t put my finger on it on Sunday, but it just came to me!  (Dammit, that was bugging me.)

Rhubarb, cherries, and cranberries.  But like you’d find in a pie; not raw.

All in all, we wished our guests from the last few months could have been around to share these wines with us.  They were a welcome change from the bottles of Meh we’ve been trying lately.

In other news …

We were nominated for an award from our friend Daughter Elle.  We’re lazy and not at all on top of it, but we have to come up with seven blogs that we really like and pay-it-forward, so to speak.

We’re working on it.

More later.  Now worky.

Cheers!

Poutine, Alfredo, and Five Bottles of Wine

Here at TSB, we have a long-standing tradition, established this weekend, of introducing Mexico to Canadian cuisine whenever possible.

Demian and MJ came to dinner, and Megan’s mom, Susan, has a friend, Wendy, who is visiting from British Columbia.  If there ever was a better Sunday to make that true Canadian dish, poutine, I’d like to see it.

For the uninitiated, poutine consists of thin-cut French fries, cheese curds, gravy.  If you’ve never had it, it will sound … odd … at first.  But trust us – there is nothing that sates a hungry person like poutine.

Canadian Fun Fact:

A Quebecois dish, poutine was invented when drunk coureurs de bois  ran out of beaver meat, and were forced to supplement their diet with potatoes and beef gravy.  Few people know this, but in addition to beer and maple syrup flowing from the trees of our plentiful coniferous forests, beef gravy can also be sourced from birch trees, and cheese curds grow on the stems of the ubiquitous blue flag irises that grow across la belle province.

On the Menu: Poutine, Garden Salad with Goat Cheese, Berries and Starfruit, Chicken Alfredo with Asparagus, Candied Ginger Cookies

Our guests had some reservations about the poutine, but once you try poutine, you are powerless to resist her … powers.  The salad was a product of Megan’s imagination, and cleansed our palettes before embarking on another rich culinary adventure.

Alfredo is a dish best served guilt-free.  If you are counting calories, Alfredo is probably not for you.  Anything made with heavy cream, butter, and cheese is one of those things best left to professional eaters.

Since we had so many guests this week, we were also stuck with a glut of wine.  Which we drank.

Wine: Canepa, Novísimo, Syrah, 2010, Chile, $122 MXN (Chedraui)
Rating: One Bottle

Demian, MJ, Cara, and I drank this while we waited for the rest of our guests to join us.  Nice on the nose, but flat in the mouth, this wine was disappointing.  Not terrible in any way, but also unremarkable.  The promise of fruits and berries is replaced with a mouthfeel of “Meh” and a palette of “Well, that’s a shame …”

Acidic aftertaste – goes well with a glass of water.

Wine: Moëbius, Cabernet/Syrah/Merlot, 2009, Mexico, $450 MXN (Cava Veinte33)
Rating: Two Bottles

Robust and full, this is a great wine for people that love a big wine.  Oaky and leathery, Moëbius is a complex wine that hints at all-spice, cardamom, and dark chocolate.  On a muggy afternoon, this wine was a little overbearing.  It lacked a fireplace and a cloudless, cold night.

Pronounced “Mo-e-bee-us.”

Wine: Domaine de Chaberton Estate Winery, Canoe North White Bluff, VQA, 2008, Langley, British Columbia, $12.99 CAD
Rating: Three Bottles

This is a superb white.  A blend of grapes (Pinot Blanc, Madeleine Angevine, Chardonnay and Madeleine Sylvaner) makes it soft and sweet, with flavours of peaches, lemongrass, and cotton candy.

Being Demian’s first try at a Canadian wine, we were very grateful for Wendy bringing it down with her, and so was he.  Yay, Wendy!  I love it when people try Canadian wine for the first time.  They always have a look on their faces that reminds me of when Cara saw me play sports for the first time.  Like, “You can run?”

Capitoso, Tempranillo, Rioja, 2009, Spain, $136 MXN (Chedraui)
Rating: One Bottle

Flat.  Meh.  Smuh.

I don’t know what’s going on with Chedraui.  They used to carry decent wines.  Maybe they just aren’t selling enough of the stuff to make it worth consistently bringing in good vino.  Whatever the reason, the last few bottles we’ve tried in the $100 – $200 pesos range have been fairly disappointing.

Next.

Fratelli Pasini, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009, Mexico, $400 (Cava Veinte33)
Rating: Two-and-a-half Bottle

FP strikes again!  We love this winery.  And not only because it’s in Mexico, but because their wine is so fantastically consistent.  Their wines never disappoint, they are balanced, have all the right characteristics in all the right places, and are not ridiculously expensive.

The Cabernet is a very good, well-rounded wine.  Soft tannins make it a perfect wine for pasta. (And for the fifth bottle of the night.)  Being Wendy’s first taste of Mexican wine, we were very glad it was this one.

Needless to say, everyone was pretty much ready for bed by the time we were finished with our heavy food and copious cups.

I think I will need the rest of this week to rejuvenate.

Until then,

Cheers!

Happy Birthday, Baby

We delayed Sunday by one day this week to accommodate Cara’s birthday.  Hence, why we’re a day late posting.  Or two.  No, just one.

AND … my family is visiting from Canada, so it was quite a thing.  Joseph, Cara’s dad, made dinner, which was amazing.  It being such a long weekend, however, (Rene’s birthday was Friday, which we were still recuperating from on Sunday, which led right into Monday, and well into the night) we didn’t really get into the wine that much.  Also, there were babies everywhere, which made it difficult to actually sit and enjoy anything in a wine glass.

Why is it that babies wait for fun events to have total meltdowns?  Must be an evolutionary trick.

Anyway, with ten adults and two babies, it was a full house, which, after all, is the meaning of Christmas.

Er …

On the Menu: Spinach Salad, Potato Salad, Beef Roulade, Pork Roulade, Apple Crumble Pie Crisp Cake, Lemon Meringue Pie

Joseph used to own and operate his own fine dining restaurant in Kelowna, British Columbia, so when he offers to cook, we feign resistance and then quickly get out of his way.  In case you are unfamiliar with a roulade, it is typically a cut of meat rolled around some kind of filling, like vegetables, cheese, other meats … awesomeness …

It was one of those dinners that people just sort of ate leisurely, without thinking too much about it, and just enjoyed it.  (I spent most of the dinner with Caia upstairs, since she was exhausted and kept having small-scale nuclear events with the crying and the screaming and the rending of clothes.)

The Apple Pie Crispy Crumble Cake Dish is this deep dish apple pie thing that Joseph made that makes you think of all things good and home.

Basically, the perfect birthday dinner.

While many of us drank various libations that night, we did try to remember that we had bought some wine and it was to be tried.

Wine: Diavolo, Reserva de la Vina, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile, 2009, $44 MXN
Rating: Two Bottles

That’s right: forty-four pesos.  That’s $3.34 USD.  For a bottle of wine.  You can’t buy a glass of wine for that!  So I know you are wondering how such an abomination got a two-bottle rating from us.  I’ll tell you … it wasn’t easy.  It wrested it from us like so many firearms from so many cold, dead fingers.

Okay, it’s a very light wine.  Very simple.  There really isn’t anything to it.  Some light berry flavours.  Slight mustiness and earthiness.  But really, not much of a powerhouse.

But incredibly drinkable!  If you were to try this wine, without knowing that it costs forty-four pesos, you would think this was a marginally forgettable, but not at all unpleasant wine.  Compared with some of the bags of ox urine that we’ve paid much, much more for in the past, this is a wine that you could easily buy, drink, and not worry about.

And believe me – the snob in me wanted to trash this wine.  I was laughing about it the entire weekend after I bought it.  “This is going to be so terrible,” I thought.  “But I simply must try a forty-four peso bottle of wine.  Who do they think they are?”  The snob in me wanted to give this, at most, one bottle.  The drunkard in me, however, wanted to give it three bottles, since it isn’t every day that you find a bottle of alcohol that can hurt your liver without hurting your wallet.

In the end, we settled on two.

Wine: Hahn Winery, Pinot Noir, Monterrey, California, USA, 2010, $18.95 CAD
Rating: Two Bottle

This wine came all the way from Canada.  Well, California, but my parents brought it down with them from Canada.  It was on a plane, is my point.  My friend, Vanessa, a fellow wine-lover, suggested it as an import we probably wouldn’t be able to find down here.  Which is true.

This was a very interesting pinto noir, I thought.  Peppery on the nose, it also had subtle hints of cherries, strawberry jam, and watermelon.  Allowing it to breathe really brought these aromas and flavours out.

My only issue with this wine was the feeling that if I had left it alone for a couple of years, it would have been truly remarkable.  Alas, it is a problem living in the tropics, as keeping wines from going off due to heat and humidity is basically a nightmare.  So you’ll all have to do it for me.  If I could, I’d buy a case of this stuff and just wait.  Try one each year.

Oh well.

As it was, it was a very enjoyable wine.

Part of my family leaves tomorrow, and that is sad.  It’s been great having them around, and watching Caia get to know her little cousin, Edie.  Turns out, they both like Play-Doh.  Who knew?

We’ll re-wish Rene and Cara very happy birthdays.

Next week will be a smaller affair.  Only eight adults and one baby.

Until then,

Cheers!

A Good Time Was Had By All

This week, we decided to switch things up a bit.  Instead of our usual evening of fine wine and a family dinner, we thought it would be fun to invite some friends over, drink some wine and eat some snacks, and try a wider swath of wines all at once.

We were not wrong; a good time was had by all.

Six wines, lots of cheese, some prosciutto, and mini-hangovers the next day.

We invited four of our dearest friends to join our family for a fun little set-to.  We would decant each wine, one by one, so that people were unable to prejudge the wines they were drinking based on either the vineyard or the varietal.  My thought was this: if I tell you that you are enjoying a merlot, you immediately dig into your memory vault of merlots you’ve tried in the past, but also into your emotional vault of how you generally feel about merlot.  In general.  If you are unaware of what wine you are sampling, you have to try the wine and really taste it.  Your only preconception is that it’s red.

Each guest brought a bottle.  With Megan and I, that made six wines, and a loose price range of $300 to $500 pesos per bottle.  (Roughly, $20 – $40, FYI.)  We weren’t looking for snobbery, just a blanket, approximate, assurance of quality.

(I had actually toyed with the idea of buying a couple of really cheap bottles to see if anyone noticed the difference, but people had to drive, so …)

Our guests included Marcelo and Alejandra, good friends of ours (and of our family) for several years; Demian and Maria José, just back from their recent nuptials and honeymoon; Megan and Rene, of course; Cara and Caia (until bedtime); Marilyn and Joseph, the in-laws.

Oh: and me.

With snacks out, we decanted our first bottle of the afternoon.

Wine: Emevé, Tempranillo, 2009, Mexico, $350 MXN
Rating: Three Bottles

This is a really fantastic wine.  For the price, very hard to beat.  If you want to impress the crap out of people at your next dinner party or whatever, this is the wine to bring.  Fruity and soft, the flavours expand gently, not overpowering your senses, but being ever-present.  The perfect wine to start with, since it’s complexities complimented the varied fare we had laid on our table.

Wine: Inédito, Crianza, Rioja, 2006, Spain, $540 MXN
Rating: Two Bottles

Starting out with a wine like Emevé kind of ruins the next wine you try.  That being said, Inédito is not a bad wine.  Being a Crianza, it must meet certain requirements for its appellation, and we noted them well.  Leathery, peppery … a distinct odour of feet.  Yep.  Feet.  Unfair, I know, since New World tempranillos don’t have the same restrictions that Old World vineyards have placed on them, but still: feet.

Here’s the thing with buying wine in Mexico, and I would imagine anywhere: cost does not dictate quality or enjoyability.  It merely denotes what the rough cost of importation was for the product that you are drinking.  (Don’t get me started on the LCBO … ahem.)

Really, this wine was fine.  It had some very nice qualities and an eye-catching bottle.  For the price, however, I wouldn’t say it would be a repeat.  If we had tried it first, instead of the Emevé we would have most assuredly enjoyed it more.  It’s just the foot smell, you know?

Wine: Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Jacques Charlet, 2009, France, $490 MXN
Rating: Three Bottles

Loved this wine.  Sharp and clean, a welcome addition to the afternoon.  Strong berry flavours.  A good companion to the garlic bread.  Another benefit was watching our friends try to figure out which wine they were drinking as it is not a commonly available (or served) wine here in Playa del Carmen.  One thing you notice this particular Châteauneuf-du-Pape is it’s strength.  Compared to many New World wines, this is a powerhouse – strong, present flavours, with tannins equal to the task but without being pushy.

On the Menu: Assorted Cheeses, Prosciutto, Olives, Assorted Jams, Tomato Garlic Bread, Dark Chocolate, Quiche Lorraine

Megan and I wanted to keep things simple.  She picked up a couple of cheeses and whatnots, as did I, and we put some basic amuse bouches out.  Joseph, our father-in-law, made his Quiche Lorraine, which was a treat for our Mexican friends who had not been indoctrinated into the world of egg tarts.

The nice thing about finger foods is that everyone gets to eat whenever and however they like and we don’t have to spend eternity in the kitchen.  It frees us up to host and serve and entertain.  Megan was able to freely take as many photos as she wanted, or not, and I was free to talk my face off.  (Yeah, on that one, there is no “or not.”  Seriously: I don’t stop.  It’s a problem.)

Wine: Fratelli Pasini, Nebbiolo, 2010, Mexico, $310 MXN
Rating: Three Bottles

We’ve reviewed a Fratelli Pasini back in August.  We were impressed then; we are impressed now.  The wonderful berry flavours come screaming through this wine in such subtle, yet powerful, ways.  I will warn you, however: this is a very dangerous wine.  It would be easy to turn your back on this wine, thinking that it means no harm.  That would be folly.  This wine will wait for you to drop your guard and suckerpunch you with its awesome.  Fratelli Pasini makes dangerous wines because they are so smooth, so delicious, that without realising it, you have finished a bottle and opening another.

Which is exactly what we did.

Wine: Fratelli Pasini, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009, Mexico, $310 MXN
Rating: Two Bottles

A young, fresh wine, the Cabernet Sauvignon had a sharpness to it that the Nebbiolo did not.  Unlike the fuller, rounder, blueberry and cherry flavours of the Nebbiolo, the Cabernet snuck in some cranberries and black currant through the back door.  Where the Nebiolo was sweet and playful, the Cabernet is a little more pronounced, a little greener.

This really is a vineyard that you should try to find anywhere you can.  We have never been disappointed with their wines and Demian sells a lot of it at Cava.

Wine: Casa Madero, 3V, Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Tempranillo, 2009, Mexico, $250 MXN
Rating: Three Bottles

In my opinion, however, we saved the best for last.  Casa Madero, another winery we have reviewed in the past, has blended three varietals together in such a way that what you have in your glass is a triumph.  What you may notice first is the bouquet, flowery and delicate, and very surprising.  Unlike many wines that give you that acrid, bitten nose feeling, the 3v greets your nose with lilacs and lavender.  Very soothing to breathe in.

Then, as if to trick you, your mouth picks up on black pepper, oak, and chocolate!  You feel duped, so you take a whiff … nope.  Nobody here but us lilacs.  Sip.  Pepper party!!

If this wine is a changeling – distracting your senses into believing one thing only to reveal its true nature to be another.

Having started the afternoon at three o’clock, we finished the evening at around eight.  Our guests happy (and tipsy), we made our farewells and promised to do it again soon.  And honestly, if we did this every Sunday, we wouldn’t mind at all.

Until then,

Cheers!

Two Bottles, Both Alike In Drinkability …

Two bottles, both alike in drinkability. In Playa del Carmen, where we lay our scene …

This week was a special week since Michael returned from his adventures in Canada bearing gifts of wine. Also, this week was a special week since Rene decided to get into the kitchen and throw down. For me, this was an awesome week – I got to enjoy the company of friends and family without the pressures of prep-work, cooking, timing, and stressing out over outcome.  (Megan wasn’t so lucky, but someone needed to supervise.  Left to his own devices, who knows what Rene would get up to in there.)

And it must be said that Rene and Megan make a damn fine team. We were sitting down, ready to eat, at six on the dot, with no delays. Everything came together at the exact same time and at the exactly right time.  (While this was awesome, it afforded me few opportunities to make fun of or belittle anybody’s efforts.  It’s like they were TRYING to spoil my fun.  Lousy in-laws …)

On The Menu: Greek Salad, Spanakopita, Tzatziki, Chicken Kebabs, Pita Bread, Brandy Plum Pudding with Custard

The food was excellent. The chicken kebabs were done to perfection. The Greek salad was crisp and bitey. The spanakopita was freaking incredible. (And kudos to Rene for making Tzatziki from scratch!)  In short, we got spoiled. My eyes were too big for my stomach. I took two of everything and couldn’t finish anything.

Oh, and we drank some wine.

Wine: Moon Curser, Tempranillo, BC VQA, Okanagan Valley, 2009, $29 CAD
Rating: Three Bottles

This is a truly exceptional wine. Fruity – black currant, black cherry, (and other red fruits that taste good,) with soft, pleasant tannins, give this wine a drinkability that lets you feel like warm summer nights are the only things you have to worry about in the days to come. This wine makes you feel like your cares are all behind you, and you will soon be reunited with all of your dearest friends, and all you’ll be doing is laughing.
Yes, it’s that good. If you’ve not had the opportunity to try this wine, find it. Also, their website is awesome. Also, their label is awesome. In other words, this wine is pretty nifty.

There was a flavour that we hotly debated, also, which is nice. Not many wines generate conversation. After careful consideration, we determined that there was … something. We all agreed that it was … spicy.  Megan thought allspice.  I said star anise.  Michael said spicy.  Megan insisted that it was allspice.  Or nutmeg.  Or cinnamon.  Or CLOVES!  It was CLOVES!  I said star anise.  Then she went to the spice cupboard to get spices to smell, so I poisoned her glass when her back was turned.  (Come on … the night was virtually drama-free!  I had to do SOMETHING!)

Megan prepared the pudding while we opened the second bottle.

Wine: Pétales d’Osoyoos, Red Wine (Blend – Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot), Osoyoos Larose, BC VQA, Okanagan Valley, 2008, $25 CAD
Rating: Two Bottles

Vanilla and chocolate dominate this wine.  With a lesser alcohol content than the Moon Curser, it came up a little on the lighter side for us.  Especially when paired with Brandy Plum Pudding which was too rich for this wine.

We did, however, find this to be an extremely drinkable wine.  Michael said that the employees of the store where he bought he these wines all recommended the Pétales. This does not surprise me, since it is so light as cannot be offensive.  All of us found it a little bit simple, but we also conceded that, at the end of the night, after red wine, Greek food, cigarettes, and liquor-laden sweets, our palettes may just have been a tad on the blown-out side.

All in all, we have missed the wines of our homeland.  British Columbia is such a remarkable place for producing wines of amazing quality.  In the Okanagan Valley, there is a devout and enthusiastic community of vintners, aficionados, and viticulture in general.  Driving through the mountains that hug Lake Okanagan, you see more vineyards than houses.

Next week is a little up in the air, as we have a hurricane bearing down on us, and I’m sorry about the pun.  We may just be doing our next post from somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean.  But hey, what’s life without a little “Wizard of Oz”-like impending doom?

Until then,

Cheers!

Reflections and Judgements … and Chilli

I feel kind of bad when we buy wine that isn’t great.  I wonder if anyone reading this gets put off by the negativity.  But when we started this thing, it was meant to be a journal of wines that we’ve tried – wines that we liked, and wines that we didn’t like – so that we’d know what to buy again and what to avoid.  This was a concern we discussed this week with our guest, Karen.  (There: I’ve put you in the blog, Karen.  NOW GIVE ME BACK MY DOG!)

Wines we’ve hated:  Estampa Estate – not reviewed.  See?  A Zero Bottle wine that we didn’t bother slashing to bits.  Suffices to say, it sucked.  It was like drinking wine-flavoured cough syrup.  Blech.  Wolf Blass, Yellow Label, Chardonnay – not terribly good.  Described as a bottle of pee.  Very disappointing.  Blackstone Winemaker’s Select.  Have you ever noticed that whenever the words “Select,” “Quality,” or “Dignity” are used, they never describe the product they name?  Dignity … I love this word in conjunction with products of any kind – typically reserved for products sold to the elderly, and one that I appropriated for the leash that Cara tried to use when Caia was little.  I dubbed it: The Dignity Harness.  “Your toddler can’t escape, and strangers can’t help judging you for using it!”  Quality Inn: the only thing quality about a hotel that uses the word “quality” in their name is their knowledge of what words trick people into believing them.  Winemaker’s Select: I strongly DOUBT that any true winemaker would SELECT this wine for anything other than to put it on a sponge to give to a man on a cross.  Sacrilegious?  Yes.  False?  Hardly.

Wines we’ve loved: Yarrunga Field – Three Bottles.  Altos de Tamaron – Two-and-a-Half Bottles.  No° 99, Wayne Gretzky Estates – Two-and-a-Half Bottles.  We have loved.  We have lived.

Some wines we’ve enjoyed – others not so much.  Sometimes, you need to be critical.  Sometimes you need to be complimentary.  That’s life.

This week, we did not love the wines we chose.  We loved the food we made.  But not the wine.

On The Menu: Corn Bread Muffins, Chilli Con Carne, Strawberry Cake

The food was great and it was what we needed.  Comfort food for a rainy Sunday with family.  Food that sticks to your ribs, as my grandfather would say.  Food that keeps you sane.

And after the week we had, we needed it.  We suffered through a toddler’s cold, a plant fire at two in the morning, a week filled with ten plus hour work days, insomnia, and a paper-cut.  We made it through, but only barely.  The thought of making some elaborate dinner brought tears to Megan’s eyes and made me punch a hole through a canoe.  That never happened, but I could if wanted to.

I made the chilli; Megan made the corn bread and the cake.  Megan’s corn bread complimented the chilli very nicely.  Made with jalapenos and banana peppers, there was a soft, sweet heat to them that cut through the corn and made your mouth hum.

The chilli I made in one pot using ground and cubed beef with lots of fat, yellow and red bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, and love.  Lots of love.  And cumin.  Lots of cumin.

Wine: Alma Mora, Cabernet Sauvignon, San Juan, Argentina, 2008, $105 MXN
Rating: One Bottle

The problem with this wine was that it bored us.  There was no real flavour to it.  Kind of fruity, pretty salty, and with tannins that kind of sneak up on you.  And … that’s pretty much it.  For the money, I would rather drink something else.  Concha y Toro, say.

(Sorry, Jorge.)

Wine: Monte Xanic, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California, Mexico, 2006, $360 MXN
Rating: One-and-a-Half Bottles

A heavier wine, but also more pleasant.  Softer tannins, but with a bitter finish.  Oaky, which Megan doesn’t like, but I don’t mind in a red.  Less fruity than the first.  Still … meh.

At this point, I have no idea what next week will bring us.  Hopefully not locusts, but who knows.  Send us positive vibes.

Until then,

Cheers!

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