Back to Reality, eh!

Being gone all last week in the Great White North and deluged with work upon my return, I thought it best to dedicate this week's post to catching everyone up on some outstanding issues: 1.  We are now officially members of the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association!  We took a little heat in the comments section over our contest, but we'll continue to poke good natured fun at the establishment (at least until we become part of that establishment and then we'll shun those damn young upstarts).  Next week we'll start our discussion of our second wine region, the Santa Lucia Highlands.  I can't wait to see how many people we inadvertently piss off up there!

2.  The Bruliam Brigade pictures are streaming in, and we greatly appreciate them.  We've gotten into a rhythm of posting the pictures on Tuesdays so if you send us a photo it may be a couple of weeks before it is posted.  Please be patient and don't be dissuaded from sending us your best picture.  By spacing the pictures we're actually increasing the odds of your winning a $250 monthly donation prize.  I'm sure there is some convoluted calculus proof that can show this, but you'll just have to take my word for it.  Also, we got our second shipment of shirts in today.  For those of you patiently waiting, they'll be in the mail shortly.

3.  You may recall that Seth M. won a $250 donation prize for being the first person to submit a Bruliam Brigade photo.  He has asked that the prize be donated to Teach For America.  We're pleased to oblige, and the check is on its way.

4.  As this post is published, Kerith is taking her midterm for the UC Davis course Introduction to Winemaking: Vinticulture & Enology 3.  Will she correctly differentiate bud break from veraison?  Probably.  Can she accurately locate France on a map of Europe?  Ummm, not so much.

5.  OK, now for what you really want to know.  Yes, I survived the trip.  Yes, I actually caught fish.  And, yes, I drank a lot of wine (and scotch, and bourbon, and, well, you get the idea).  Thanks to a recommendation from travel agent extraordinaire (and one of Travel & Leisure magazine's Top Super Travel Specialists and member of the Bon Appetit magazine travel agent advisory board) Doris White, we stayed at the King Pacific Lodge in northern B.C., and I highly recommend the property if you're looking for a good medium between outdoor adventure and coddling.  What does that mean?  Well, when I say that "I actually caught fish" I mean that I sat on the boat while the guide baited the hook, got it in the water, and set it in the fish when we got a hit.  When the hook was set, I got off my butt and reeled for a while until the fish was close enough to the boat for the guide to net it.  Then the guide would remove the hook, stun the fish, bleed it out, and reset the bait to start over.  While he was doing this, my responsibility was to ensure there was enough slack in the fishing line and to open my next beer.  Although I screwed up the slack in the line part at least five times, I am especially proud of my consistency in getting the beer cans open. 

Finally tally?  Five salmon and one halibut: short of the eight salmon / three halibut max, but enough to fill the freezer and keep the family fed through the long winter months here in San Diego.  In all seriousness, the place was spectacularly beautiful, the staff and accommodations were first rate, the food was fantastic, and best of all, we had a great group of fellow lodgers up there with us.  Other than the 30 minute flight in a 60+ year old Grumman Goose float plane, the trip was totally stress-free. 

Photographic evidence of our pseudo-manliness is included below.  Don't we both look stunning in neon red?  Sorry ladies, we're both taken.



If you can't see the picture, please click here.

And the wine?  Well, to be honest it was good but not great.  They certainly had a big varietal selection at the lodge, all from B.C. and pretty much anything you can imagine.  From chardonnay to cabernet to pinot to cab franc, they even had a merlot-pinot blend, something new to me.  What was perhaps most remarkable was the lack of uniqueness in all the wines.  The wines were identical to anything you'd find in mid-tier wines from California, New Zealand, France or any other major wine producing region.  Why?  I think it is because B.C. charges a 117% tariff on all imported wines (similar tariffs are assessed in most of the other provinces).  Yes, you read right - 117%.  That means the $30 bottle of Mondavi Chardonnay is $65 before any mark-up by a retailer or restaurant.  As such, for an average Canadian consumer it is nearly impossible to buy anything other than Canadian wine on a regular basis.  But, even our beer guzzling, hockey loving neighbors to the north want decent wine from time to time, so what to do?  Their solution is to create copy-cat wines that can be sold at reasonable prices within Canada.  So, while good, the wines at the lodge were uniformly unremarkable and not really worth writing about.

However, in Vancouver I had a couple of outstanding Canadian wines at a restaurant called West.  If you are ever in Vancouver I highly recommend this place.  The sweetbreads preparation was probably the best I've ever had, and the risotto was pretty close to perfect.  I sat at the bar and chatted up the bartenders and sommelier for most of the night.  They turned me on to the Foxtrot Vineyards Pinot Noir from the Okanagan Valley.  This wine has elements of dark fruit and spice with just the right amount of oak (not a lot of smoke or earthiness which I prefer in pinot, but still quite delicious).  For dessert, I had to try a Canadian icewine and went with a vidal icewine from Ontario (vidal is the grape varietal).  I wish I could tell you what it was, but I was a little buzzed at this point and just assumed that I could check it on the restaurant's website when I got home.  Unfortunately, they don't have their wine list online, but I have an e-mail into the sommelier to get the producer and vintage (**See update below).  What did it taste like?  Crazily enough, it tasted like grapes.  Yep, pretty much the sweetest, smoothest, richest grape juice you can imagine.  It was absolutely delicious, but I can't think of any other wine I've ever had that actually tasted like grapes.  Isn't It Ironic? Don't You Think? (Sorry Alanis.  No more bad Canadian jokes, I promise).  So, if you ever see vidal icewine on the menu, give it a shot.

OK, enough of the summer re-runs and fish tales.  Starting next week it's all new programming!

UPDATE 8/1/08:  I received an e-mail back from the sommelier at West.  He informs me that the vidal icewine I had was, in fact, from B.C. - the Ganton & Larsen Prospect Vidal Ice Wine 2006.  The tasting notes I've linked to here say the wine tastes like honeyed mango and tangerine.  I still just got grapes, but then again I was buzzed enough to think the wine was from Ontario!

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