Goodbye Zoey. We will miss you more than we could possibly put into words.

Without a doubt the toughest blog post I have ever written. We’ve lost so many amazing cats over our lives that it seems unfair to single out this one loss as if this dog’s life meant more than the cats; that’s not what I’m trying to say. However, this dog changed our lives in a way that we never would have expected. She brought so much joy into our lives, so much love, so much laughter. And, now, so much incredible sorrow.

Our little Pork Chop

She came to us about four years ago. She had been my Mom’s dog, but when Mom’s dementia progressed to a stage where she could no longer take care of the dog, we inherited her. Neither Tracey nor I had ever owned a dog, at least not since we were kids. We’ve always been cat people. Cats are just EASIER. I started to type “they give unconditional love just like dogs” but that’s only partially true, I suppose. Cats are wonderful, but I’m not sure they do anything “unconditionally”. They do things on THEIR timeline. They’re in charge. It’s their world, and if we take good care of them, they let us live in it.

Dogs are different. This dog was different. Her name was Zoey, but we didn’t call her that much. She was “Zo-zo”. “Idiot”. “Burnt Orange”. Sometimes just simply “Dog”. If we were trying to get her to do something that she was ignoring, it might become “Zoey the Dog!”. Her groomer coined the nickname “Pork Chop” because she had become of an aggressively large nature in the belly region.

And, sometimes, she was just “Zo”.

Losing a pet is heartbreaking, and this one is the worst we’ve ever felt. It’s sadly ironic that the thing that brought her to us – dementia – is the thing that has taken her away. She’s been changing for months. It started out with what we called the occasional “bad night”. She’d be up all night, anxious, panting, growling at us, barking at nothing. Experts call it “sundowning”, where dogs can no longer distinguish night from day. It started to get more common, and for the last couple of weeks, it has been every night. Medication worked to calm her anxiety a bit at first, but it was a very temporary solution to a problem that was only getting worse by the day. She got so aggressive at night that we started to fear for our safety, and the safety of our cat, Ashley. At that point, we knew what we had to do. We also knew where this was headed (and, given the rapid progression of the disease the last few weeks, probably quickly). The next steps are similar to what Alzheimer’s disease does to humans: confusion, fright, forgetting who we are, violence. It’s common for dogs suffering from this condition to cower, afraid, in a corner. We didn’t want her to suffer like that.

Even though we knew it was the right thing to do, it was tough to reconcile the mean, aggressive nighttime dog with the sweet, loving, affectionate, adorable dog that she still was, mostly, during the day. There had been signs of the daytime dog changing a bit as well, particularly her aggressiveness with the cat. Zoey had always been very protective of her stuff, baring her teeth if a cat got too close….but at this point, she was going well past ‘teeth baring’, and was chasing the cat away with such fierceness that we were sure there would eventually be some injuries. It was heartbreaking to witness.

I’m reminded of a touching poem that Jimmy Stewart read on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1981, about the loss of his dog, Beau. I’m borrowing it below, with slight modifications to fit our situation.

“Zo”, by Jimmy Stewart

She never came to me when I would call even if I had a tennis ball
Unless she felt like it
But mostly, she didn’t come at all.

When she was young, she never learned to heel, or sit, or stay
She did things her way.
Discipline was not her bag
but when you were with her, things sure didn’t drag.

She’d dig up the blankets in her bed just to spite me, and when I’d grab her, she’d turn and bite me
She bit lots of folks from day to day – our little niece was her favorite prey
She didn’t bite hard, it was more like a ‘nip’, however it got worse when she started to slip

On evening walks, and Tracey took her, she was always the first out the door
the wife and I brought up the rear because our bones were sore

She’d charge up the street with Mom hanging on, what a beautiful pair they were
And if it were still light and the people were out, they created a bit of a stir

But every once in a while she’d stop in her tracks and with a frown on her face look around,
just to make sure that Daddy was there, to follow her where she was bound

We’re early-to-bedders in our house, I guess I’m the first to retire
And as I’d leave the room, she’d look at me and get up from her place by the fire

She knew where the biscuits were in the bedroom and we’d give her one for a while, and she’d push it under the covers with her nose and we’d dig it out with a smile

But before very long she’d eaten the biscuit, and then several more,
and then she’d be asleep in her bed, and she’d start to snore

There were nights where we’d feel her climb up on our bed and lie between us, and I’d pat her head

And there were nights when I’d feel her stare, and I’d wake up to see her sitting there, and I’d reach out to stroke her hair

And sometimes I’d feel her sigh and I think I know the reason why
She’d wake up at night and she’d have this fear
Of the dark, of life, of lots of things
And she’d be glad to have us near

And now she’s gone

And there are nights when I think I feel her climb upon our bed and lie between us, and I’d pat her head
And there are nights when I think I feel that stare
And I reach out to stroke her hair
And she’s not there

Oh, how I wish that wasn’t so
We’ll always love a dog named Zo.

We are going to miss this little monkey more than I could possibly convey in a blog post; the only thing that makes it a bit easier is knowing that she’s been reunited with my Mom, in a place where there is no dementia – only love. And what a glorious reunion that was, I am sure.

Goodbye, Zo-Zo. We love you so much.

The Top 10 Wines of 2022!!

OK here we go, a list of my favorite wines reviewed on this blog in 2022! As always, some spectacular wine was enjoyed, but I feel like 2022 was a bit of a down year with, for the first time ever (I think), some wines scoring less than 95-points making the list. 94 point wines!? Oh the horror!

Let’s get to it!

Starting with a bevy of the more interesting 94’s I tasted this year, consider this a 6-way tie for 7th place! And, yes, I realize this actually makes this a top-12 list, but I couldn’t exclude any of these beauties!

At #6, I challenge anyone to find a better Pinot Noir in BC!

#5 – It wouldn’t be a “best wines of the year” list without something from Turnbull. They just keep over-delivering year after year!

#4 sees us with the quintessential Chateauneuf-Du-Pape. The first time I’ve had this wine, and it certainly won’t be the last!!

At #3, a beautiful decade-old favorite from a top producer in Napa Valley!

Coming in at #2, it’s rare that you’ll see Sparkling wine on my list, but when you do, they generally cost an arm and a leg. Both arms and both legs, in this case. Truly spectacular!

And at #1, as we still chase that elusive 100-point table wine, a true stunner from Washington State that, despite it’s brilliance, will probably be even better the next time I have it!

That’s it for today! I guess as “down” years go, that was still pretty darn good!

Up next! Lots of random stuff to update you on, and coming up next weekend we head to one of our favorite places on the planet where much fun, much frivolity, and much good wine will be enjoyed and discussed! Stay tuned!

Finally wrapping up the Okanagan trip at a perennial favorite, Little Engine!!

A beautiful spot and always beautiful wine, let’s get right to it!

As always, a spectacular lineup of wine from one of the best wineries in the Okanagan!

Whew, finally finished the trip five months ago! LOL. Up next? My hotly anticipated “Top 10 Wines of 2022” post! Don’t miss it!

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Theme nights return as we take a bite out of Portugal!

So, for those of you who haven’t yet seen my latest vlog in the “Cheap and Cheerful” series, you can check it out here. It features three wines from Portugal that served as our ‘welcome wines’ at the beginning of our evening. It wasn’t really a warm welcome as everyone agreed they were, at best, underwhelming.

Now, to the main event of the evening! I was unable to find any really good advice online about what to pair with these traditional Portuguese dishes, so I just tried to do the best I could. All the links are clickable if you want to see the entire recipe.

Course 1

Sopa de Grão de Bico

Basically a chickpea soup, and I don’t like chickpeas, but I enjoyed this quite a bit. Lots of cilantro flavor. Everyone really enjoyed this dish, and the wine pairing was OK. The wine was actually better without the food.

Course 2

Shrimp Mozambique with Arroz de Tomate

This was good but the shrimp could have used more seasoning. The directions on the recipe seemed to be indicating to include way more spice than logically possible, but I think it was right and I should have followed it 100%. Still, it was enjoyable and the tomato rice was excellent. The wine pairing was good, but the first wine actually paired better with this dish.

Course 3

Peri Peri Chicken with Crispy Potatoes

A couple of my guests are not OK with spice of any kind, so rather than make the sauce included in this recipe, I used store-bought Nando’s “garlic and herb” Peri Peri sauce. It was good, but it still added a bit of a kick, especially to the potatoes. Wine pairing didn’t work at all.

Course 4

Molha de Carne

This was beef stew with potatoes and it was not any good at all. It tasted of allspice and cinnamon, which are prominent in the dish. I guess it’s a very traditional Portuguese stew, but it’s not to our taste. The wine pairing was irrelevant as hardly anyone ate the stew, but it featured two long-aged wines that are still available at Liberty Wines (or were, recently) on Granville Island, for those of you in the Lower Mainland.

Course 5

Portuguese Prego Rolls

I probably wouldn’t make this again because it’s basically just a steak sandwich and I can make a better one, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t good. Just different. And it paired well with the wine of the night!

Dessert

Sarradura

This was my favorite thing of the night. Basically just crushed up Digestive cookies and cream, but it was really fabulous. I’d make this again any day.

We had a Port to pair with it but by this point, everyone was wined-out so it stayed in the wine fridge for another time.

A great night of wine, and the food was hit-or-miss, but it’s always nice to experience another culture. Hopefully many more of these theme nights to come!

That’s it for today! Next up, I finally finish up my Okanagan report (Little Engine coming up), and I have lots more to report on. Stay tuned!

Okanagan trip continues at a winery we’ve missed, @lafrenzwinery!

Firstly, I hope all my fellow Canadians are having a wonderful Thanksgiving! I sure have a lot to be thankful for, and I hope you do as well.

During our recent Okanagan trip we stopped in at La Frenz, a winery we have always enjoyed but haven’t been to for a few years. Were the wines of the same quality as we remembered? Let’s find out!

As expected, not a bad wine in the bunch. This winery always comes through with quality and consistency!!

Next up! We head just up the road to one of our favorites, Little Engine!

Okanagan trip continues with our first ever visit @RocheWines!

Up early for an 11 AM appointment at Roche Wines! We get to taste in the barrel room, always a special experience. Our guide, Angie, was friendly and knowledgeable, and the wines were universally good! Let’s check them out!

Next up! I still need to post final reviews and scores from my recent rose vlog, and the Okanagan trip churns along at a winery we have loved in the past but have not visited in a few years, La Frenz!!

Last, but not least, you’ll notice something different at the bottom of this blog; an opportunity for you to contribute to the blog if you are so inclined. I got an Email the other day telling me that they had added a payment processor and I could include this widget in case anyone wants to make a donation to help offset some of the costs incurred in my blog and/or vlog. Totally optional of course, no pressure. If you are interested, it’s below. If not, I’ll see you next time!

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Great food, great friends, great wine. What else IS there??

Last weekend we attended a fabulous wine event at some friends’ house. Everyone brought a bottle of wine (or several bottles in some cases) and we all got to taste some excellent wine. Included was an Amarone that was born in the last decade of great music: The 80’s!!

Also included is a BC wine from a grape that I had never heard of until this evening. I had to Google it.

That’s a pretty great lineup!!

To start, I brought a couple bottles of a wine that I have tried several times and have never been impressed with. I left the other bottle behind for anyone who liked it more than I did. It’s the first and only vintage of this wine, and for good reason, IMO.

So now we come to the bizarre portion of the evening. My old high school friend, who owns Blasted Church winery, brought a bunch of his wares including almost every one of their lesser-known wines. This one, in particular, sent me to Google to look up the grape:

<<A family of closely related varieties found Northern Italy and neighboring Slovenia with genetic links to the grapes of Valpolicella. Wines range in body and style but usually feature deep color and elevated acidity.>>

So, OK, let’s see what it’s like!

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming of grapes I have heard of 🙂

Next up, my choice for wine of the night. It so happens to be one of the wines I brought. We picked this up at auction during the Vancouver International Wine Festival in 2021; there was no actual festival that year, of course, but they still held the auction and I paid $800 for a lot of 6 well-aged wines from Chile. Four of them were just terrific, one was corked, and this was the last of the lot. This lot was a real treat, worth every penny.

And the last table wine of the night, an Australian beauty that our host picked up at a recent auction. It’s usually Grenache-heavy but this particular vintage had more Shiraz.

To finish up a beautiful evening, a little dessert wine that I brought along!

What a fabulous night of great food, friends, and wine. Nights like this are tough to beat!

Next up! Still have to finish off last month’s Okanagan trip, and also have to give the scores for the rosés from my latest vlog. Stay tuned!!

Next stop on our Okanagan trip features one of the best Pinot Noirs you will EVER have, @FoxtrotVineyard !

As we wind down our first day, we pay our first visit to a new tasting area at Foxtrot Vineyards. It’s a hot one today, and we are greeted by a lovely patio area and an impressive wind, which helps to cool us down without causing any real issues (but there had been issues earlier in the day with the wind blowing down their umbrellas!)

Let’s get right to the delicious wine!

As I said in my video (click here to watch if you have missed it), that’s what Pinot Noir is supposed to taste like, folks!

To the hotel for the evening, and we are starting tomorrow with a morning tasting, our first, at Roche Wines! Stay tuned!

The second stop on our Okanagan tour is our inaugural visit to @VanWestenWine!

Our first appointment of the day takes us to an area we’ve never visited before, and after some confusion driving (seriously, a sign or two wouldn’t hurt??) we arrive at our destination: Van Westen Vineyards! We are the only ones in the tasting room (although another group would join us halfway through our tasting) and our guide is friendly and knowledgeable. OK, also so talkative that it was impossible to include this tasting in my vlog, but this will just have to do!

Next up! Another ‘first’ for us, as we head up the hill to a newly-opened tasting room at Foxtrot Vineyards! Stay tuned!

Okanagan Trip report begins at a winery we haven’t visited in a few years, @8th_Generation !

Last weekend we had a little whirlwind trip to the Okanagan. Just two nights, but we fit some nice tastings into those two days! We started with an impromptu stop at 8th Generation. For a full look at the tasting, check out my YouTube channel, as the video is uploading as we speak. I’ll have full reviews of the wines here as well.

That’s it for today! Check out the video on my YouTube channel, and stay tuned for the rest of the reviews. Next up: our first visit to Van Westen!