My husband and I just returned from a whirlwind visit to Vancouver. This was my first visit to the area, but I knew to expect some wonderful opportunities for enjoying local wines. Our host, eager to show off the wonders and resources of Vancouver took us for a fabulous stroll along the famous “Seawalk,” and then took us to the Beach House Restaurant–THE place for great food and great sea views.
We left the wine decisions up to Chrisopher, our friend and tour guide, since he was so knowledgeable about everything British Columbian! Our lunch wine was a Red Rooster Pinot Gris–from the famed Okanagan Valley. The wine was dry and crisp with hints of citrus–wonderful with the citrusy dressed house salad and my carrot soup.
Since the Beach House Restaurant was so good at lunchtime, we unanimously decided to return for dinner. This time, we shared a bottle of Burroughing Owl Estates Pinot Gris–another Okanagan wine. This was complex and crisp, with overtones of melon and pear. This went beautifully with my lobster Mac and cheese.
Later that evening, our hosts Christopher and Dorothy served up a bottle of unoaked Chardonnay from Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery, named Townsend Jack, after the now extinct Jack Rabbit. The wine was bright, with tastes of tree fruits. This was a refreshing end to a busy day of sight seeing.
It is not surprising that all three wines we tried were all from the Okanagan Valley. Most of the British Columbian wines originate from that lovely area–Canada’s Napa Valley, I think. We didn’t have time to explore the wineries, themselves, but a look at their websites is enticing, with not only tours and tastings, but luxurious accommodations, as well. I can’t wait for a more extensive visit in the future!
Does altitude affect wine? That’s a question I hadn’t considered for a long time. A few years ago, discussions about altitude and wine were awash in the wine world, as we all wondered how wines would do at 30,000 feet on a jumbo jet. Of course that issue was of concern to those who sat in the front of the plane where wine was poured from real bottles, not to those of us who sat in the rear and contented ourselves with quarter-liter bottles often of plastic. Even the folks in the Sears Tower and Windows on the World took precautions to make sure the wines in their elevated cellars were properly cared for.
The question in my mind arose this weekend when I moved my small collection of aging Napa Cabernets from our place 7,000 feet above sea level in the mountains just east of Albuquerque down to our place in the city, only 4,000 feet in our neighborhood. In our Indiana home, 616 feet above sea level, altitude had never been an issue, but in the Sandia Mountains we knew that water boiled at temperatures considerably different from Indiana, and other adjustments had to be made because of the heights. I recalled a conversation with Paul Bocuse who cautioned me to be careful with his recipe since we were headed for the Alps where “adjustments will have to be made.”
Like many issues, this one seemed to take care of itself. It just went away. Most people who thought about it began to see that the wines weren’t affected very much at all, and on those rare occasions when I could get a business or first class airplane seat, I found the wine delicious — perhaps at the excitement of just being there but nonetheless finding the wine what it should be.
In the Sandia Mountains all my wines tasted exactly like they do in the Hoosier National Forest. We should not forget that grapes grow at all kinds of elevations, from coastal plains to mountainous tree lines. In Alsace some growers claim the quality derives from being 2,000 feet above the Rhine; others say their wines benefit from the proximity to the river. Think of the high elevation of the great grapes of Chile and Argentina and of the Bordeaux and Sonomas at the sea’s edge.
No, I wasn’t worried about moving my Cabernets. But the descent did remind me of a hot topic some years ago, and it never hurts to care enough about your wines to consider every possibility.
Last week as I waxed nostalgic about Alsace and the harvest season, my thoughts turned to one of my favorite places for a lunch, le Caveau in Eguisheim. Those thoughts were reinforced by a bottle of “One,” a wine blend of Alsace grapes from Pierre Sparr just up the Route du Vin in Sigolsheim. The Sparr wine is called “One” because it is a blend of Riesling, Muscat, and Pinot Gris, and in Alsace if it isn’t 100% of the variety on the label, it cannot be labeled as a specific wine, hence a non-specific name.
But back to Eguisheim (known as Le Gwish to the locals and us former locals.) It is an ancient village built in concentric circles around the castle, fallen today but still intact enough to show that it was quite the place in the tenth century. Le Caveau is directly across the cobbled street from the castle and offers an inspiring vista — the castle along with the vineyards surrounding the village. In my days in Alsace, I often found Leon Beyer, the town mayor and one of the most respected vintners in France, lunching there and readily accessible to wine curious travelers like me. I even met his son Marc who, some of you may remember, was the organizing Chair of the French-American Committee conducting the 100th anniversary celebration of the Statue of Liberty. (Bartholdi, you may also remember, was from Alsace, Colmar to be exact, just five or six kilometers from le Gwish.)
One of the village sites was a weather-worn sign describing the castle as birthplace of Pope Leo IX, born in Eguisheim in 1002. He was Pope from 1049 to 1054, but I didn’t know until much later that he is considered one of the most effective Popes, a great reformer and a protector of the power of the Papacy in the face of restless royals. According to the Beyers and the Sparrs, Leo also loved fine wine, though I haven’t seen that in any historically documented information about him.
The restaurant has enjoyed its ups and downs over the years, gaining and losing a Michelin star from time-to-time, but its setting in a very old wine cellar provides a romantic ambiance to go along with the exterior views. Its cuisine is classic and traditional, but the wines are of the surrounding fields and offer the best of the Beyers.
The Sparr bottle transported me there immediately, as do most fine wines from that part of the world. And its good to know that Rieslings and Gewurztraminers and Pinot Gris have Pontifical blessings.OLDER POSTS »