Bubbles, Barbecues and Basketball

Due to our generally unfortunate weather here in Calgary, we seem to appreciate a beautiful day more than the majority of the world. After a long and cold winter and a thus-far miserable spring, this past weekend brought a welcome splash of sunshine and warmth. Blurry eyed and grumlie, my friends and I emerged from our long hibernation, bottles of wine in hand, to bask on a balcony and fire up the bbq.

As I have likely stated before one of my favourite indulgences is pairing amazing wines with very simple food. Following this theme my associates ordered some delightfully thick and particularly greasy pizza from a great spot called “A Pizza Plus” here in town. My brother Cody and I were feeling slightly more gourmet and decided to try our hand at a North American delicacy…beer can chicken. For those unfamiliar with this exquisite dish, it basically involves placing an opened can of beer into the rectum of a whole prepped chicken and standing it up on the barbecue. The unfortunate bird in question was free range and organic, purchased from the local farmers market. Prior to its alcoholic suppository, Cody had marinated the bird in a delicious blend of blackening spices. As the bird cooked slowly, standing upright on the barbeque, we wasted no time diving into the wine.

Perhaps it was the invigorating sunshine or just the usual excess, but this turned out to be one of the greatest impromptu wine sessions of my young career. I am still in awe recalling this outstanding selection of vino which served as yet another reminder of just how awesome my life truly is.

1988 Veuve Cliquot Champagne – This was the surprise of the night. Too often as wine geeks we get caught up in the fervirous support of small growers and producers, forgetting that sometimes the big guys can make some pretty damn good juice too. Veuve Cliquot is definitely one of the big guys, being a part of the Luis Vuitton Moet Hennessy portfolio and producing a relatively large amount of Champagne. Although their standard Yellow Label non-vintage Champagne is not necessarily my favourite, this 1988 vintage was epic. Forgotten in the basement of a local business, a case of this wine was recently discovered and my brother was able to nab a bottle for an extremely reasonable price. Any doubts as to the provenance of this bottle were quickly put to rest as the deep golden/bronze liquid spilled into our glasses, still delivering a flurry of fine bubbles after 22 years. The nose was mind-blowing, bursting with notes of honey, hazelnuts, baked apple, brioche and spice. On the palate it had incredible freshness to accompany the mature flavours of wild mushroom, roasted nuts, coffee, honey and apple pie. This made the entire group question why we don’t have more Champagne aging in our cellar…a true treat!

2008 Huet Vouvray le Haut-Lieu Demi-Sec – This outstanding Chenin Blanc, hailing from the acclaimed region of Vouvray, was absolutely delicious. Huet is generally considered the greatest producer in this esteemed region, crafting wines bursting with character and showing a true sense of place. The demi-sec is an off-dry style, providing a touch of sweetness that plays perfectly with the mouth-watering acidity. Aromas and flavours of apricot, crisp apple, honey, wet stone and just a touch of the classic Chenin Blanc “wet wool” character glide through a long and harmonious finish. Although this is enticing now it will age beautifully.

2004 Les Vins de Vienne Hermitage – Our friend Jim (aka “The Mantis”) blew us all away when he pulled this out of the cellar. Hermitage is an extremely small and renowned region in France’s Northern Rhone Valley famous for producing some of the world’s greatest Syrah’s. This was textbook stuff, at once muscular and elegant. Flavours and aroma’s of grilled meat, wild herbs, fresh blueberries and minerals emanated from this young yet elegant wine. Due to its price this is not normally a pizza wine, and the wine makers may well have an aneurism if they found out, but what the hell. Carpe diem!

2005 Ojai Thompson Vineyard Syrah – Hailing from a small single vineyard in Santa Barbara , California, this wine from Adam Tolmach and the extremely small Ojai winery was a stunner. The Thompson Vineyard is nearly always the richest and fullest of all the Ojai single vineyard Syrahs.  A small proportion of Grenache and Mourvedre are added to give the wine balance. The nose screamed Rhone Valley, with deep aromas of grilled meats and fresh flowers, while the palate was all California with lush berry fruit which made this dangerously good.

2006 Pahlmeyer Merlot – My roommate Kevin made up for his late arrival with this iconic Merlot. Famed wine critic Robert Parker has called this one of Napa Valley’s greatest Merlot’s and this beauty definitely did not hold back. This is Napa Valley in a bottle, it’s bold, brash and unapologetic for its ripeness and generous use of oak. Big notes of ripe black plum, vanilla, mocha and dark chocolate carried through to a long, long finish. This is extremely hard to find and at over $100.00 a bottle quite frankly out of my budget, but what a treat indeed. A fitting end to an already mental line-up.

With a belly full of food and amazing wine we were tempted to sit and lounge in the fresh evening air. Instead, myself and 5 other equally inebriated gentleman decided to engage in a friendly game of pick-up basketball. While the wine may not have improved our jump shots, it did make for an interesting and memorable end to the evening. Yet another sound reminder to enjoy the little things in life.



PS. Being partially awake as I published this I had ommited two outstanding wines. These were the outstanding 2002 Genot-Boulanger Meursault “Meix Chevaux” and the delicious 2004 Rockford “Moppe Springs” Grenache-Shiraz-Mourvedre.


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