CASTILLO DE ALMANSA RESERVA (2008)—When you’re looking for a deal

My Fellow Inebriates,

When in doubt at the liquor store, buy one known and one unknown item. This gives you, if you happen to have a booze blog, something to review, as well as something reliable to get you ripped out of your head if the new item doesn’t work out.

LB at liquor store near and farOn Saturday we searched the liquor store for our favorite consultant, a dude who has literally NEVER BEEN WRONG about any recommendation and who, when asked about, for instance, the appropriateness of daily wine drinking, will snort derisively and say, “I grew up in Europe. We always had wine—dinner, noon, Wednesday, whatever.” Confronted with the notion of alcoholism, our guy would no doubt scoff again and point you toward an extraordinary find for under $15.

Which is one of the reasons we shop there. Our family tree may dangle one or two alcoholic berries, but at LBHQ we haven’t started worrying seriously yet (at least about the humans). Our main problem is guilt—every time we buy a bottle of wine, that’s a couple of kids’ swimming or gymnastics lessons, right? Seriously, we’ll bankrupt ourselves long before we the humans disappear clinically into the bottle.


And so, carrying this perpetual guilt about what we might be depriving the kids of by spending money on liquor, we nevertheless entered the hallowed store seeking two cheap bottles in the hope they would overdeliver quality-wise for Easter dinner. But our guy wasn’t there to help us choose them. Instead we got this oily clown whose habit is to wander the aisles pitching hard liquor while describing his own drunken exploits.

Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy this very much, but my mother isn’t a fan. She thinks this idiot is a major douche—an opportunist who uses his liquor-store gig to maintain a permanent buzz.

Again, this sounds fine to me. We could both tolerate it, in fact, if he wasn’t such a condescending git. Compounding it: My mother was wearing her low-rent rocker jeans and hoodie rather than the usual semi-presentable trenchcoat. She had a mangy well-loved bear in her purse. So this douchebag consultant’s immediate impulse was to divert her to the discount section. When she said, “Actually, I’d like a wine recommendation for Easter,” he proceeded to read verbatim from the shelf-talkers, mentioning after this epic customer-service effort that he’d just been to a wine show himself, “but of course all the wines I liked were very expensive.”

customer-service-smallHoly crap, we were both starting to feel hostile—maybe even marginalized. Never mind that, for complicated reasons, we were carrying a tube sock stuffed with large(ish) bills and we could have rocked our oenophilic world were it not for the persistent voice of conscience reminding us of P and V’s swimming and gymnastics fees. This dickhead had no right to point us toward the expired Budweiser in the corner. Okay, maybe we looked a little sketchy, but we had business there. Only one of us would have drunk our purchase out of a paper bag in the park—and lacks the thumbs to accomplish such antics. My mother had respectable plans for our wine purchase, otherwise she would have made a beeline for something offensive like GRAY FOX CHARDONNAY.

castillo de almansa

If you haven’t given up on this post yet, you may wonder what we bought.

We decided to stick with two cheap winners, FINCA LOS PRIMOS TORRONTES (2011) and a Spanish fave, CASTILLO DE ALMANSA RESERVA (2008). A blend of Tempranillo, Monastrell, and Garnacha varietals, this $12.99 red wine was aged for a year in oak barrels before bottling, then cellared. The result is a mature, inky wine with considerable weight and structure—loads of dark berry character and a boozy finish. While some might argue that CASTILLO DE ALMANSA goes best with food, those of us who eschew food think it’s awesome by itself.

This wine is well known to bargain hunters. It’s big and bold, moderately tannic, and offers decent complexity in the licorice-cherry-oak vein. If you have the patience, which I usually don’t, it benefits from decanting and breathing. Or you can just pound it.


It happens to the best of us


KITSILANO MAPLE CREAM ALE—Finders/keepers for the Easter Bunny

My Fellow Inebriates,

Ever lost a camera or memory stick while on vacation? Losing an awesome camera sucks, but losing months of saved pictures is devastating.

If you’re like many people, you leave hundreds of photos on your memory card without copying them over to your computer or printing them. I had to remind my parents of this the other day when my dad decided to take the camera card to work in his pocket. OMG! How would we get all those pictures back of me posing with wine bottles?!

Either this or the prospect of losing everything—from her trip to Ireland to Miss P’s 6th birthday—freaked my mum out and prompted her to copy the pictures over to the hard drive. But why was it so hard to get up the initiative to do it?

Is it because we believe in the kindness of others? Does my mum think that, if she left the Canon on a playground bench, someone would scruple to return it to her?

What would you do if you found a forgotten camera?

Well, first of all, I would look at ALL the pictures on it. Because there might be some funny or racy shots. But, after I finished snooping, I’d contact ifoundyourcamera. Founded by 21-year-old Canadian journalism student Matt Preprost, the site was conceived as a way to bridge losers with finders of cameras and memory devices—no fees to either.

There’s something really affirming about ifoundyourcamera. Using crowd sourcing to help us help other people is a great way of leveraging the web, and the site has pages of success stories to recommend it.

Just recently one of my mum’s friends accidentally left her camera in a restaurant after lunch. (If you have a lot of liquid lunches, the probability of this increases.) She never saw it again. In all likelihood it was stolen, but imagine if the thief had had the semi-decency to extract the camera card and contact ifoundyourcamera. He/she could have kept the camera, disavowed all knowledge of it, but returned the irreplaceable pictures. Then, using insurance money, my mum’s friend would have bought a kickass new camera.

If we’d had a kickass new camera, here’s what I would have done at Easter. I would have set it up on a timer to take pictures at intervals, so we could catch a shot of the Easter Bunny. You see, he took the last beer out of the fridge. It was a KITSILANO MAPLE CREAM ALE from Granville Island Brewery, one of the nicer Lower Mainland breweries and a cool tourist attraction.

When my dad bought this beer he was worried that the maple would be overwhelming. He bought it, I would assume, because he loves me so much; he wanted me to have something novel to review. Granville Island has a great track record with us, though, so that worry diminished before the beer finished pouring.

In the glass KITSILANO MAPLE CREAM ALE is a striking amber with a creamy head. On the nose, maple is apparent without being cloying; vanilla and caramel notes play back-up. On the palate it’s refreshing and balanced—again, not cloying, but satisfyingly sweet (my mum thought perhaps a little too sweet). The mouthfeel is very rich and creamy, yet still quite crisp. Moderately carbonated, this ale goes down very smoothly (and quickly). The sweetness lends it a perceived heaviness that might prevent (other) drinkers from imbibing it all night, and lingers on the tongue for quite a long time.

Overall, KITSILANO MAPLE CREAM ALE is a pleasant member of the Granville Island beer family. I’d still take the PALE ALE over it, but it’s a damn decent beer.

Unfortunately the maple flavor must have appealed to the Easter Bunny’s sweet tooth. I wish I’d been awake with the camera to catch a shot of him leaving us bereft of beer and leaving behind a shitload of non-alcoholic chocolate. But let’s face it, you don’t really want to leave a camera running non-stop: if it happened to catch my parents in some marital affectionate moment I would have to bash the whole apparatus to pieces.

And speaking of Things That Cannot Be Unseen, another of my mother’s acquaintance’s, Bea, once handed her camera to a trustworthy-looking tourist while on vacation in Mexico. She asked the dude to photograph her parasailing. Don’t forget my mother is ancient; this was before digital cameras. Bea did her parasailing bit, then looked anxiously for the tourist. Initially she thought he’d pulled a fast one. But he did emerge from the crowds and hand her the camera. When, back in Vancouver, Bea developed the photos at the drugstore, she found one shot of herself parasailing, and ten of the friendly tourist’s genitalia.

Which isn’t the sort of photo ifoundyourcamera would have published, even if Matt Preprost had been out of diapers and preternaturally web-savvy enough to start the site in preschool. So it was lucky for Bea that her tourist friend was so nice. Not only did she get a parasailing shot; she got some free porn too (which, incidentally, wasn’t how she saw it).