La Dolce Vita: With a loaf of bread

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We almost waited too long, realizing only a few days before that the da Vinci exhibit in Spokane’s Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture would come to an end on Labour Day. Described by friends as too good to miss, the exhibit consisted largely of creations made from da Vinci’s many sketches of ideas for machines. We made the drive south on Saturday and were not disappointed.

With the museum tour behind us, we set our sights on a Spokane favourite, Barrister Winery, which is located in a downtown alley called Railroad Avenue. Barrister was founded, not surprisingly, by two lawyers who cut their winemaking teeth on a five-gallon home kit back in 1997. What became a hobby eventually spun out of control and in 2001 Greg Lipsker and Michael White took out a winery licence. The results have been outstanding and the partners have the medals and awards to prove it.

We hadn’t been to the winery for about a year, so we accepted the offer of a tasting, making our way through samples of Sauvignon Blanc, Rough Justice, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Other popular reds, like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, have sold out.

The Sauvignon Blanc was a surprise, and not only because Barrister has built its reputation on red wines. This first white release is anything but a typical Sauv Blanc, a wine that can be austere and even a tiny bit off-putting with its aroma, which British wine writer Jancis Robinson describes as “cat’s pee on a gooseberry bush”. When we talked about the wines later, Angela said the wine had none of the aromas that she usually doesn’t enjoy. I thought the slightly off-dry wine had characteristics that one expects in Riesling or Pinot Blanc. It was a decidedly pleasant wine with a nice, full body.

Rough Justice is a blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot and Cab Franc and it has been one of our favourite wines for several years. Complex, with a bit of smokiness to it, Rough Justice has a beautiful, long finish. With plenty of tannins it is a great match with grilled red meats and tomato sauces. As we expected, the Merlot and Cab Franc were up to the usual high standards. To put it simply, these guys know how to make great wine. I also took the opportunity to get some suggestions for our upcoming trip to Walla Walla from Lipsker, who is very familiar with the area because Barrister Winery sources most of its grapes from the area.

We left with a bottle of Cab Franc to enjoy in our hotel room later (we were staying only one night, so we couldn’t bring any back to Creston with us — curses on our archaic B.C. liquor laws) and headed for our next destination, Riverfront Park. By pure coincidence, we had arrived in Spokane on the weekend that features Pig Out in the Park, an annual food and music fair that extends for six days and evenings.

Three music stages, more than 50 food vendors and lots of other display and handicraft booths make the event a great destination. We wandered through the food alleys, checking out the dizzying array of dishes available, then settled in to enjoy some music. Later we once again made our way through the throngs lined up for dinner and snacks. I was struck by how pervasive the smell of hot fat and oil was. Completely overwhelmed were the typically aromatic Asian and Mexican foods. One of the popular dishes was what one booth called Man Fries, an enormous serving of curly french (or is still “freedom”?) fries. A single serving, I estimated, could probably satisfy a half-dozen normal appetites, and the thought of one person (we saw many, actually) sitting down to eat the entire mound, completely put me off food for a bit.

Eventually, we opted not to eat at the fair and repaired to our hotel room, where our bottle of Cab Franc would pair nicely with a loaf of sourdough bread that we had, courtesy of an overly enthusiastic restaurant manager at lunch.

A loaf of bread, a jug of wine and thou, I told Angela. We sat on our bed and watched a PBS presentation of Eric Clapton’s 2010 Crossroads Guitar Festival and the bread and wine made a perfect ending to a very pleasant day.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.