Wine to Celebrate a Milestone

Let's Get this Party Started
Let’s Get this Party Started

This is what a weekend of wine, friendship and celebration looks like. The event, a milestone birthday  – with my best friends Lynne (the birthday girl) and Helen and a promise it would be EPIC.

The weekend proved to be all that and more. Highly appropriate  because Lynne and I have shared many a bottle of good, bad and even the odd ugly wine over the years. This celebration’s wine list – proved to have  a little of each.

Our first toast was over a glass of Cuveé de FlyPorter. Not exactly vintage, but good enough to get this party started. By the way, a shout out to Porter Air for having the best service – they switched our flights to get us to Newark on the same flight – with a smile and no charge.

Live from New York...
Live in New York…

 

 

The Birthday Odyssey Surprise  began at NBC studios for a live taping of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Did I mention TV-friendly Hugh Jackman was the guest with a surprise appearance by the mildly photogenic Chris Hemsworth? No pix or wine allowed – but the experience whetted our appetite for later.

 

 

Little Italy’s Finest Apple

La Mela is fixture in Little Italy. 20 years ago, one of the waiters stopped my sister Eileen and lured her in. Since then, there has been a steady Canadian contingent enjoying the family style meals (menus are for tourists they told me) with wine to match. In the early days we ordered a bottle (or three) of house red to share at the table.

 

This time, we went for a full-bodied Primativo, after all what’s a milestone birthday all about? And just as they do in Italy, a digestivo of Limoncello, on the house of course.

A Perfect Primativo
A Perfect Primativo
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Cheers to All
Three Friends at La Mela
Tre Amici at La Mela

Day One. Good wine – check. Great surprise – double check. SO far so good.

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Morning with Kelly, Helen & Lynne

The TV experience didn’t end there. Lynne got up close and personal with Kelly Ripa.  Helen made 6 ft 5 Michael Strahan laugh when she looked up, way up, and told  him “I’m  5 ft 2 in a good mood”. Helen also ended up winning the daily trivia prize too. Day Two starting well. But where’s the wine?

 

AH, EATALY – the food emporium for people not afraid of carbs and wine.

Abridged for Wine Lovers
Abridged for Wine Lovers

We settled on fish and ordered an incredibly delicious Santa Vittoria Gavi 2013, a superb selection, refreshing, crisp and a perfect match with our Skate and Mixed Grill Seafood platter.

Santa Vittoria GAVI
Santa Vittoria GAVI

 

Categorize this one as GREAT.

 

The BAD came at the theatre when we were handed two sippy cups of wine. “That will be $51” said the man at the concession stand. “Pardon?” Lynne and I, the polite Canadians replied at the same time. I kept the cup.

Dame Helen on Broadway
Dame Helen on Broadway

 

Hey when on Broadway…and when you throw in a post-show sighting of the amazing Dame Helen Mirren  – well, what’s to complain about?

Day Two: two more thumbs up.

 

Our next theatre experience, “Cabaret” starring Alan Cumming, proved it’s all about the context.

The Golden Ticket
The Golden Ticket
Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club
The Kit Kat Club

 

The wine probably wasn’t any better. But this time we were sitting in the former Studio 54 disco now converted into the Kit Kat Club.

Cabaret Cabernet
Cabaret Cabernet

 

 

And this time the wine  came out of a bottle. It  made  the Santa Marina Cabernet “delle Venezie” bottled last month,  taste just fine.

 

Kick Start to an NYC Morning
Kick Start to an NYC Morning

 

Oops, forgot the Prosecco at Eatery NYC– a fantastic find on 9th Ave and 53rd street.  The best Mimosas in Hell’s Kitchen- crisp and ice cold bubbly with just enough orange juice for colour (the food was fantastic too – especially Helen’s Mac and Jac).

 

 

But the big wine winners on this celebration weekend came at the official birthday dinner at Ilili in midtown where friends came from near and far to toast the birthday girl.

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The waiter Isaac couldn’t have been more accommodating, When the  white drinkers asked for Pinot Grigio – he suggested a Greek wine at the same price point.

 

A Glorious Greek
A Glorious Greek

 

I’ve sampled  a few Greek wines in the past months, especially the whites and I have only good things to say. Like the  Mantania Tselepos Classic 2012- they were light and refreshing, much more appealing than the average Pinot Grigio.

 

 

A Superb Spanish Red
A Superb Spanish Red

Isaac did the same for the red. I looked at the Chianti Classico – and he suggested a Bodegas Ateca Atteca Old Vines Garnacha 2012 . Deep red with a lovely long finish – and most important – it met the approval of the Birthday Girl. This was without a doubt my favourite wine of the evening  – upstaged only by the toast with Veuve Cliquot – which according to Lynne -” if it’s not Veuve, it’s crap” (a motto repeated to much hilarity by her 10-year old niece at a dinner party).

 

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And this is how the birthday girl felt at the end of the  weekend.

 

 

 

The moral of the story: when you are lucky enough to have great friends as I do, whatever you toast with is a celebration.  Friends pick you up when you need it, dance with you when times are good, and they always turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.

 

Friends Worth Celebrating
Friends Worth Celebrating

And yes, it was EPIC.

 

Wednesday Wine Picks

 

The holiday season may be over but the crop of new wines that hit the LCBO last week are worth celebrating.   They include some promising Spanish wines worthy of exploration aWeekend Pickslong with  a great selection of BC wines. While I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting either place, I can say I am a big fan of their wines.

Chardonnay’s from the  Mission Hill estate, the awesome Pinot Noir from Burrowing Owl, or the Bordeaux Blends of Osoyoos Larose, there is gold in them thar BC vineyards and finally they are available in the east.

I sampled the Burrowing Owl  Pinot Noir 2010 VGA from the Okanagan Valley – it is a splurge to doubt at $41.95. It is supremely balanced with strong notes of cherry and other red fruit.

There is rarely a Rioja that has brought me disappointment in my wine tasting life. It could be luck, or it could be great wine-making – I like them big and bold and plan to get better acquainted with my friends from Rioja, Navarra, and my pick for the weekend : Virgen Del Aguila Artigazo 2007 from DO Carinena – just south of Rioja  region $18.95.

I admit I did try a couple of the other new releases that are absolutely worth the splurge. 

A Bolgheri Beauty from ItalyI Greppi Greppicante Bolgheri 2009 DOC  from the west coast of Tuscany – which is super Tuscan territory. This is  beautifully smooth, complex, fruit forward with rich tannins and a lovely finish. It is $23.95 and worth the splurge.

The Maitre D' by MollydookerMy other splurge-worthy suggestion is by a favourite Australian wine maker that has never disappointed, Mollydooker The Maitre D’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 from South Australia. The deep purple colour and black cherry jammy flavour characterizes the  full-bodied and luscious wine. The finish is long, fruity and entirely worth the price. Buy two, one to drink now and one to save for later.  Oh and their labels are delightful. $29.95

 

Finally if you can still find it, Three Rivers  River’s Red from Columbia Valley, Washington – I may have mentioned it before because it was one of my favourite wines from my wine class. But if you haven’t tried it yet, hurry while there are still bottles left. At $19.95, it is a real bargain.

Give them a try or explore the LCBO’s new bounty and let us know If you have sampled a wine worth sharing.

Cheers