LAYA GARNACHA TINTORERA MONASTRELL (2010)—The wine I DIDN’T drink last night

Apparently my dad went over to the neighbors’ last night and finished off all their Johnnie Walker Black. The whole family went over actually, leaving me with an empty liquor-store bag. They must have bought wine to take with them before abandoning me to a house full of violent and possibly possessed animals, all without opposable thumbs.

I hope you’ll forgive me, my fellow inebriates—I was a bit angry. I didn’t realize the family was leaving until the last minute—not in time to stow away. I felt lonely and sad. So I decided to recruit Glen Bear to help me smash some bottles open and start our own party.

Polar bears being unpredictable, I wanted to make sure Glen was happy. So I told him about some foul-smelling canned salmon my dad had opened a while ago and forgotten in the fridge. But neither of us, lacking thumbs, could get the damn fridge open.

Photo credit: Miss V

So now my feelings of abandonment were compounded not just by the DTs but by an ornery polar bear romping around the kitchen. Just when I thought Glen might give up on the fridge and eat me instead, we heard a sound from the living room. OMG! Miss V’s scooter had fallen over all by itself.

Of course you know it didn’t fall over by itself. Fluffy had used his freaky evil mind on it. Things at LBHQ were going from bad to worse. Next I expected some officious Strata Council representatives to break into the house just to see if we got their warning letters.

But nothing else happened all evening. I was so freaking bored I started reading my parents’ receipts. And I saw they had indeed bought wine: LAYA GARNACHA TINTORERA MONASTRELL (2010)—a sensible go-to dinner wine from Spain and within the LBHQ price range. I felt partially mollified that they’d chosen a wine I’d had before rather than a new one that I would have wondered about forever. (We tried LAYA a couple of months ago while watching the season finale of Breaking Bad, which riveted all the bears including Glen, even though he didn’t understand it.)

Hailing from the Almansa region 700-1000 meters above sea level, LAYA is a luscious ruby-red combination of 70% Garnacha Tintorera (itself a red-skinned hybrid of Petit Bouschet and Grenache) and 30% Monastrell. Known as a blending grape, Garnacha Tintorera is increasingly appearing as a headliner varietal, although in the case of LAYA its intense fruity depth borrows some complexity and tannic action from the Monastrell grapes.

My favorite aspect of Monastrell grapes is their tendency to amp up the alcohol percentage in a wine. At 14.5%, LAYA doesn’t disappoint. But it goes well beyond being a vehicle for getting pissed.

Monastrell grapes

On the nose LAYA is ripe, expressive, and thankfully free of the barnyard notes that Monastrell can sometimes impart if not matured sufficiently. LAYA hits the tongue with plump, juicy notes, lingering across the back-palate with an elegant finish. While it doesn’t offer tremendous complexity, nor will it enthrall you, it is balanced and easily drinkable—and according to my parents when I interrogated them this morning, a good accompaniment to good food and conversation.

At $13.99 LAYA is a liquor-store gem with excellent value. My parents should bloody well have sprung for two bottles.

Okay, thanks for reading the rant. I know it was my fault I didn’t clue in and jump into my mum’s bag before they left. Then I could have helped my dad polish off the neighbors’ Johnnie Walker and had some LAYA. I am an idiot.

Why my parents yelled at me this morning

OMG, I got banished from the kitchen today.


GEHRINGER BROTHERS AUXERROIS (2011)—Good grapes, good vino

My Fellow Inebriates,

The only item you’re less likely to find in our fridge than white wine is Canadian white wine. Regardless of nationality, any white wine wanting entrée into LBHQ has to get past my parents’ childhood-instilled preconceptions. My mum’s first glass of white wine, homemade and therefore Canadian by definition, came courtesy of a neighbor who brought a jug of weirdly viscous who-knows-what varietal over to condole with her on her dad’s burial that day. The neighbor proceeded to fill and refill my then-16-year-old mum’s glass with it until she threw up.

Oddly though, my dad is more resistant to white wine than my mum. Perhaps this is because my mum is more firmly on the path to full-on alcoholism; perhaps it’s because the Fubar-type pub crawlers of my dad’s youth would have kicked his ass for ordering white wine—who knows? Personally, I don’t care for white wine’s typically lower alcohol content, but I’ll still get on board for it if I hear the corkscrew operating.

Canadian wine’s second hurdle as far as my parents are concerned is the notion they harbor, misinformed in the face of simple chronology, that Canadian vines are too young to produce good grapes. Now, this may have been true in my parents’ mosh-pit days, but OMG, 20 years have passed since either of them saw Skinny Puppy perform, and Canadian vineyards have spent those 20 years maturing very nicely, nudging Canadian wine from risible to…admirable.

This is even more true of Canadian whites than reds, although global warming may assist the latter over the next few decades. For now a $15 wine-shop gamble is best placed on a white, and with this in mind we chose GEHRINGER BROTHERS AUXERROIS (2011). The oldest winery in the South Okanagan Valley, Gehringer Brothers put itself on the map with Rieslings and ice wines but has escaped being pigeon-holed as a producer of strictly sweet German-style wines, earning rafts of awards for its 22-wine line-up. The PINOT AUXERROIS certainly proves the Brothers can do off-dry very well indeed.

Pale and straw-colored with shy citrus and granny smith hints, GEHRINGER BROTHERS PINOT AUXERROIS is appealing from the get-go. It glances the palate with bracing crispness and astringency—delicious while being a massive departure from the mouth-filling, long-finishing ZINCK PINOT BLANC we enjoyed on Mother’s Day (and suffering just the tiniest bit by comparison). The body is light, the fruit chiming with delicate high notes, the finish lightly sweet. And at 12.5% alcohol the entire bottle can be pounded with minimal consequence (so I argued to my mum without success).

GEHRINGER BROTHERS AUXERROIS has obviously been crafted with great skill and attention. More than a simple summer sipper, it offers intriguing flavor and structure with good acid balance. It was a delightful experiment for LBHQ, but I don’t anticipate a repeat purchase after my dad gets back from his naked golf week, especially if he has any cheap Scotch left over, in which case this entire review will escape my two brain cells, never to be remembered except perhaps if someone searches for “Skinny Puppy.”