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A Wine Lover's Diary, Part 450: Salt Spring Island (July 2, 2013)

Monday, June 24: Deborah and I arrived in Vancouver on Saturday to celebrate my ex-wife Brenda's 75th birthday with our children, Guy and Annabel. Ian, Annabel's husband, picked us up at the airport and dropped us at the Westin Bayshore Hotel. On Saturday evening a dinner with Brenda, her husband Jim, Annabel and Ian and Guy at Bishops. Deborah and I took a cab to the restaurant and concealed ourselves at a table in the back and had a glass of wine. Brenda didn't know we were coming so we surprised her when the party settled at a table in the front of the restaurant.

Brenda, Tony and Deborah at Bishops
Brenda, Tony and Deborah at Bishops

Annabel and Guy
Annabel and Guy

On Sunday, a tea gathering at Brenda and Jim's condo in the party room with many of Brenda's family and friends. That evening Guy dropped Deborah and me at Vaughan and Marie Bowser's house for a dinner party. The other guests were all members of the Languedoc-Provence tour in May. A great reunion with an amazing meal prepared by the Bowsers. Good to see the gang again, like our extended family.

On Monday, I had lunch with Annabel and Guy at Joey's while Deborah lunched with Brenda at the Granville Island Hotel (would have liked to be a fly on the wall at that tête-à-tête). Walked in Stanley Park with Annabel and Guy and Annabel's pit bull, Siena. Dinner in the Seawall restaurant in the hotel and watched the Chicago Blackhawks defeat the Boston Bruins for the Stanley Cup.

Tuesday, June 25: Took the float plane from Vancouver to Salt Spring Island to visit with David Wood, whom I knew in Toronto over 20 years ago when he had a fine food store on Yonge Street. David runs a company called Salt Spring Island Cheese.

Deborah boarding the sea plane to Salt Spring
Deborah boarding the sea plane to Salt Spring

We rented a car in Ganges and lunched at the Tree House restaurant – butternut squash curry with a bottle of Garry Oaks Pinot Noir 2010. Met up with David in the open farmers' market in the park. Bought a punnet of strawberries, which we devoured as we walked along the fruit and vegetable stands.

Lunch at Tree House Cafe in Ganges
Lunch at Tree House Cafe in Ganges

Drove over to David's house in the southern part of the island. En route we stopped at Garry Oaks winery and, with winemaker Elaine Kozack and tasting room manager Cliff Jones, I tasted the following wines:

  • Garry Oaks Prism 2011 (90% Gewurztraminer, 10% Chardonnay): light, dry, spicy and aromatic; clean with lively acidity. (87)
  • Garry Oaks Pinot Gris 2012: pale straw colour; peachy nose with a floral note; medium-bodied, elegant, good mouth feel and nicely balanced. (89)
  • Garry Oaks Labyrinth 2011 (Pinot Noir and Zweigelt): spicy, cherry nose, light on the palate with a smoky, cherry flavour. (87)
  • Garry Oaks Pinot Noir 2010: light in colour, cherry nose, lean and firm. (87)
  • Garry Oaks Zweigelt Zeta 2010: cherry nose, good middle fruit with a board palate from the oak; cherry pit flavour with a dry finish. (88)

Cliff Jones made a very apt analogy, referring to winemaker Elaine – "She's the batter and Mother Nature is the pitcher."

Garry Oaks winemaker Elaine Kozack
Garry Oaks winemaker Elaine Kozack

David Wood had invited three other couples to dinner, which he prepared himself: Shrimps in a spicy tomato sauce on a bed of lettuce with Poplar Grove Chardonnay Reserve 2012, lamb slow roasted with a Moroccan rub, with Dave Nichols Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District 1999 (which was still alive!) and Poplar Grove Oeuvre (NV). Salad, then lemon pound cake with fresh strawberries. Over dessert, David posed the question (I paraphrase him): "We have all reached a point in our lives when we can reflect on life and give advice. What is the best advice you could give to your children?" This sparked a lively discussion. My final thought on the subject was distilled into two words: "Be kind." Everything will flow from that.

Wednesday, June 26: After breakfast Josh, David's son gave Deborah and me a tour of the cheese-making operation and the stables where the goats are kept. We sampled the various flavoured Salt Spring goat's cheeses.

Goats at Salt Spring Island Cheese Company
Goats at Salt Spring Island Cheese Company

David Wood inspects his cheese
David Wood inspects his cheese

On the way back to Ganges we stopped in at Salt Spring Vineyards. I did a tasting while Deborah visited the Bee Lady and Bite Me (a bakery that makes delicious shortbread biscuits).

Salt Spring Vineyards 2002 Merlot label

Salt Spring Vineyards' label, designed by the ubiquitous Bernie Hadley-Beauregard, commemorates a latter-day Lady Godiva who rode bare-back – literally – through the streets of Vancouver to save Salt Spring's rain forest in 2001. The press release of the Lady Godiva Society at the time read: "Seated on a snow-white horse, clothed only in her long green hair, Lady Godiva took to the streets of Vancouver at 12 noon on Monday January 22nd in a last-ditch appeal to Mr. Rob Macdonald of the Texada Land Corporation to stop clear-cutting the forests of Salt Spring Island. Starting at 938 Howe St., in front of Texada's offices." It worked.

Salt Spring Winery

At the winery I tasted with the proprietor, Joanne McIntyre.

  • Salt Spring Vineyards Karma Brut (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay): dry, yeasty, green apple with a lemony finish. An elegant sparkler. (89)
  • Salt Spring Vineyards Aromata 2012 (Riesling, Sylvaner, Seigerrebe, New York Muscat): orange blossom nose with a grapefruit flavour. The touch of Muscat sings through. (88)
  • Salt Spring Vineyards Blanc de Noir 2011 (Pinot Noir): onion skin colour; peppery, yellow cherry flavour; light and easy drinking. (87)
  • Salt Spring Vineyards Millotage 2009 (Leon Millot): ruby colour; spicy, plum nose; dry and savoury with lively acidity. (87)

Joanne's husband Dev arrived with two samples of Karma 2010, asking us and the sales staff which dosage we preferred. All of us liked the one with a touch more sweetness which gave better balanced to the wine.

  • Salt Spring Island Vineyards Pinot Noir Reserve 2009: light ruby with a rhubarb nose; dry, earthy, cranberry flavour, firmly structured. (88)
  • Salt Spring Island Vineyards Cabernet Libre 2009: green pepper nose, Loire Style Cabernet Franc with elderberry and redcurrant flavours. (87)

Deborah and I had lunch at a Thai take-out restaurant in Ganges (seated at a picnic table in the park) and then toured the northern part of the island in the rain before taking the float plane back to Vancouver. Annabel was waiting for us at Canada Place, and as we were about to get into her Volkswagen we ran into Greg Berti, of Peller Estates, who was in town for the launch of Wayne Gretzky BC wines tomorrow (Wayne himself was apparently arriving this evening).

Annabel drove us to her condo where we said hello to Siena, a female pit bull, and then walked the three or four blocks to Vij, Canada's best Indian restaurant. We waited in the bar area for an hour before we were seated and managed to consume a bottle of Dr. Loosen Riesling 2009 and a significant amount of Silk Scarf Rosé Saigné 2012. Ian joined us and we had a magnificent meal. When I went to pay, the server said the bill had been taken care of – by Annabel and Ian!

Thursday, June 27: Up at 7:45 am to finish packing. Annabel picked us up and dropped us at the airport for the flight back to Toronto, A full flight. Deborah and I were in different rows. Back home we had pasta for dinner with a bottle of Stratus Tollgate Merlot 2010: deep purple colour with a nose of cedar, vanilla and blueberry; full-bodied, dry, savoury with a creamy texture and flavours of dark chocolate, licorice and blackcurrant finishing with grainy tannins (89).

Friday, June 28: Caught up on emails. Took Pinot for a long walk. For dinner, pork loin with Beronia Vinas Viejas 2010 (deep ruby colour with a nose of sandalwood and strawberries; dry with good mid-palate fruit, opening up with time in the glass with blackcurrant and cocoa flavours backed by lively acidity – 89).

 

 

 

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