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Wayne Gretzky: Superstar Ninety-Nine!

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Happy Mother’s Day, all you mothers out there and greetings from Canada! Cara and I have travelled with our daughter to the land of outrageous gas prices to bring you a special On The Road edition of The Sunday Bottles. Put your drinking caps, and away we go …

So we’ve been on hiatus for a while. Things have been very busy down in Mexland – work, baby, business, getting engaged!!

That’s right: after five years and bearing my child, I finally decided that Cara and I should make it official and spare our traditionalist parents the shame of having a bastard grandchild. Next summer, Cara and I will be man and wife, and my daughter will finally be able to inherit the throne. I mean, I wasn’t raised Ontario royalty only to have my lineage squandered by illegitimacy. I was certainly raised better than that. As was Cara. And if Will and Kate have taught us nothing else …

So, from now on, Cara will be referred to no longer as my life-partner or as my girlfriend. No. From now on, she will be referred to as my fiancee; my soon-to-be-wife; my soul-mate. We shall regale you with stories of our adventures in granola manufacturing, the love affair we both share with cats, and the benefits of wheatgrass and a gluten-free lifestyle.

Also, we won’t be doing any of those things.

We will be a normal couple with a seventeen-month-old daughter who is cutting several molars, who doesn’t like to sit still on airplanes. We’ll also be international persons of interest, flitting from border to border, skirting authorities on our quest to show off the giant diamond I put on her finger, which hides a microfilm that contains information so scandalous, the Pope himself will try to stop us from spreading it! Then, we’ll be extradited to some Scandinavian country …

AAAaaaaannnd so on and so forth …

So, we’re back. Although, this time, we’re back in more ways than one! We’re back from our hiatus, but we’re also back in Canada, land of the brave, home of the free, even if you didn’t vote for Stephen Harper.
There are many, many weeks’ worth of wine that we need to catch up on, dear readers. We have sampled many sumptuous bottles, from all over the world. We’ve also tasted bottles, sadly, that would make your ancestors come back from the dead, only to haunt you in an attempt to make you go mad, by making crude love to each other in the middle of the night, in your bathroom, as you get up to make tinkle, surprising you with a Bacchanalian orgy – Aunt Mildred’s leg up on the vanity, tongue out to the side as she watches Uncle Herbert pleasure Great-Grandma Beryl, who is reclining on Cousin Franklin’s, fetid, naked lap.

Those wines, we shan’t discuss.

Instead we will stick only to the wines we liked. We will also have a guest appearance from Canadian celebrity, Sahara MacDonald, of Pop Stars/Sugar Jones fame, who has a surprising nose and discerning palette, and who will provide us with the best bullshit way to describe wine that will make you sound like you know what you are talking about, even if you don’t, we have ever heard!

But not this week. Not, this week is about the mothers.

God bless the mothers. God bless their strength, their sacrifice, and their patience. Also, God bless them for watching toothy seventeen-month-olds with a penchant for getting into the kitchen despite the dog gates up at your parents’ house while you are putting the finishing touches on the demi-glace for the evening’s Mother’s Day Roast.

On the Menu: Mother’s Day Pot Roast, Caramelized Asparagus, Steamed Green Beans, Mashed Potatoes, and Wilted Spinach

Was it a triumph of culinary prowess? Was it a testament to hours of cooking show watchery? Was it a culmination of all of my pent up cookiness, unreleased in months due to pinches in my schedule and an upper respiratory tract infection that wouldn’t die, no matter how many Halls Cough Drops I threw at it, like some leviathan from a zombie movie?

You bet your sweet ass it was.

My brother, who is a harsh, harsh critic of food, said of my asparagus, and I quote: “This is the way that asparagus is supposed to be made.”

Boo to the Yeah, readers. Boo to the Yeah.

How do you do it, you ask? Well, read on!

Begin by browning the beef on all sides, using a little oil in the pan. Set aside.

Next, saute three or four yellow onions, sliced, in a pan. Once golden, add four or five cloves of chopped garlic, and toss. Remove immediately from heat.

In a jug, mix 750ml of red wine, fresh rosemary, thyme, a small can of tomato paste, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper. If you are British, substitute ground pepper for milled pepper.

Let stand.

Roughly chop three stalks of celery and four or five carrots.

In a roasting tray, mix the chopped vegetables with a few sprigs of rosemary and the sauteed onions and garlic. Place the beef on top of vegetables. Pour the wine mixture over the beef. Put lid on roasting tray and put in the oven at 275 degrees Celsius for three hours, flipping the beef every half hour.

After three hours, remove lid and leave in over for an additional half hour.

After that, remove beef from tray and place in a shallow bowl (or deep plate, depending on what hemisphere you live in). Let stand ten minutes before carving. Leave the roasting tray in the oven for another thirty minutes to let the gravy thicken. (I know, I called it a demi-glace before, but it isn’t truly a demi-glace, since it was beef, and not veal, but who cares, right? It sounds better. Shut up.)

Remove roasting tray from oven. With a slotted spoon, remove the vegetables and place around the carved beef. Pour gravy over beef and serve to awaiting wolves, coyotes, and wombats.

To make the caramelized asparagus, put two tablespoons of white sugar on a high heat. Add a tablespoon of butter. Let caramelize. Add about two teaspoons of balsamic vinegar. Toss the asparagus in the mixture to coat it and crisp the asparagus. Place in a serving vessel and delight minions.

There is something so fun about a family dinner. Whether it is to celebrate something, like Mother’s Day, or just because it’s Sunday, they always seem to take on a familiar pattern and tone. And last night was no different. A collection of fun stories, amusing anecdotes, and mini-contests to see who knew more about meaningless trivia and the world at large, partly obscured with a paltry diplomatic veneer.

Since I was flying without my wingman this week, and since it was Mother’s Day, I took on all of the cooking duties solo. That did mean that I was not imbibing while preparing. With Megan at my side, we can check each other’s work and correct mistakes on the fly. This adds greatly to the opportunities to sneak a couple of glasses of vino in before dinner. Without her, I didn’t feel confident enough to attempt cookery and drinkery at the same time. That meant the wine had to wait until after dinner.

Wine: No° 99, Wayne Gretzky Estates, 2007, Merlot, $15.95 CAD
Rating: Two-and-a-half Bottles

Now, I will admit that I jumped on the Sideways bandwagon and quite often think to myself when selecting wines, that I’m not going to drink any fucking merlot. I’m no historian of viticulture, but I would imagine that our hate affair with merlot stems from its popularity in the nineties. People made so much of it, that it was quite easy to find plonky merlot made by hacks. Hence, whenever I think of merlot, I think of overly fruity wine without balance. I think of terrible finishes, and vaguely off tastings. I recall bottles that were so sweet, they made my pancreas weep, edging ever closer to diabetes. When I saw Wayne Gretzky’s merlot sitting on the shelf, I thought that if a celebrity made a merlot, it was going to be a lot of nothing. “Here we go,” I said to myself, “get ready for a big bottle of crap.” But, being in Canada, and being Canadian, and it being the playoffs, and me being a superfan of Gretzky, I had to give in to temptation and buy it.

What can I say but: He shoots, he scores. So often, celebrity wines fall somewhere between “terrible to drink” and “ridiculously over-priced.” This wine was neither. It was really nice at first sip – tones of honey, cranberries, gooseberries, and lilacs. Very smooth and mild tannins make for a soft finish, allowing the fruitiness of this wine to come through, but without being so fruity, you think you’re drinking jam. It has a taste that lingers without being bossy. It dekes around your mouth, curling in behind the goalie that is your tongue, and pots one, backhand, on your palette.

Of course, what would you expect? He is the best hockey player who ever lived. If he was going to make a wine with his name on it, you’d think he would make sure it wasn’t bad. Wayne Gretzky chose the Niagara region for his vineyard, Niagara being one of my favourite wine regions in the world, and not just because I’m from Ontario. I really wish we could get Canadian wines in Mexico, but they seem impossible to find. Possibly the importation fees. Whatever the reason, it is a shame.

My only regret was that I hadn’t opened it at dinner and shared it with my family. Dinner ran a little late, as is my wont, so I forgot that I had bought it earlier in the week. It would have gone very well with all of the caramelized veggies and the roast.

Next week, we are continuing our tour of the Niagara region with a Cabernet Franc from Lighthouse. Same price range as The Great One’s and I’ve always been a fan of Cabernet Francs, so let’s hope it’s a hit!

Until next week,


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