Friday, April 3, 2009

Ode to Love and Spitting

I volunteered for the International Wine Festival in Vancouver last week. Pinot(s) was the varietal theme and British Columbia was the regional focus. Truly amazing and soooo glamorous. After refilling ice for the tables, we got to empty spit buckets into a large trough of human fluid mixed with wine. Then we went into the alley and dumped it into the drain, ewwwwwwwwww. Disposing of noxious human waste was not exactly what I had in mind, but I did learn proper spitting technique. There are varying styles; lean in, cover your mouth delicately and pitou very politely or get your face right in the bucket and let 'er rip. Very useful when you are tasting 100 wines in a night, I kid you not. I know it seems like a waste of great wine, but if you want to be conscious enough to learn anything or remember which wines were actually good (not just good because you were so tanked you could have been drinking deer blood and it would be 'just a little gamey'), it's essential. So, later on Friday evening, I set out to enjoy the festival. I wasn't sure how much I really liked pinot noir. I've had my share of Williamette Valley and Burgundy of varying quality levels, but even from those great regions, I just wasn't sold. One, the variety tends to be expensive because the grape is so labour intensive to produce. Two, it's all over the map flavour-wise, I'm never sure what I'm going to get and three, I'm sick of hearing Sideways (the film) references about it being the darling of the wine world. This is where the spitting came in. I spat all night, don't cry for me, I found true love because of it. I focused the first half of the night on BC wines to buy for my business and the second half I opened myself up to pinot noir. And through opening up, my love affair has begun. A lot of amazing producers from the main regions world wide known for great pinot noir production; Burgundy(France), New Zealand(Marlborough), Williamette Valley(Oregon), Chile, Australia, BC and more. I tried them all from the more austere, earthy French to the bouncy, fruit forward New World styles. From $17-$150, price was no object in my mad search to find ma amore. In the course of my hunt, I got a few splash backs as I was spitting and sometimes, cheeks ballooning with wine, you just can't bustle past the crowd to get to a bucket in time. I was able to discern a few gems out of the bunch and find my one magestic beacon of bottley love. When you are drinking pinot noir, you have to give it center stage, this was my earlier mistake, it tends to get lost in heavy food and lack of focus, drink it first in the night.

Here are my gems:

Burrowing Owl, BC 2007, $30.
Gloria Ferrer, Carneros (Cali), 2005, $39 (can't buy here).
Rodney Stong, Russian River Estate (Cali), 2007, $28 (can't buy here).
Domaine de Vougeraie, France, Gevrey-Chambertain "Les Evocelles", 2006, $60.
Oyster Bay, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2007, $25.

The last one wasn't at the festival. It won our hearts in a pinot noir tasting that I attended with my wine club, and it's really affordable for a pinot. Nice acidity, medium body and characters of caramel, cassis, light spice vanilla, white pepper, red current and a light herbaceous quality to boot.

Now on to my shining star; Born in 2007, my love's name is Erath, he sounds like some fictional god, but he's far more subtle and complex, in a good way. He is from Williamette Valley, Oregon and smells of caramel and strawberries. His kisses are tart with hints of raspberry, vanilla and some other character that I just can't put my finger on, we'll call it a mystery. And, he is living in Vancouver, for $33 you can try him too:)

One big note: Vintage is very important with pinot noir, it grows best in cooler climates which means that each year temperatures will shift for better or for worse and you will get grapes that ripen and taste different. If you find one year you like, the next one may be good but not the same as your favourite. If you love a particular year, buy a few bottles and drink them on special occasions.

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