Today in the Pourhouse Blog: a game of lost & found, cheap BC wine makes ‘plonk’ status, and make way for a new hard-hitting cab!
First up: plonk. Used the world over to describe table wine, the term plonk can be used to varying degrees of fondness or derision, depending on the tone and context. At Pourhouse its use is more playful, denoting an inexpensive wine we’ve brought in because of it’s great value. It’s also used as a disguise. Knowing that our entire wine (and beer, and food and cocktails) is centered on North America at the turn of the 20th century, a wine priced to $7/glass can and does exist in the states at good quality, but as soon as that wine crosses the border, it goes out of reach for us. A wine at that price point from BC, is almost less achievable at the quality level we expect, especially when compared to anything else from France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Argentina, etc. etc. It’s funny for me to think that for a BC wine to achieve plonk status here is a big deal; knowing how much I love and respect BC wine for all that it is, I still giggle at the thought. But it is a big deal; for the first time in our history, Pourhouse has a glass of plonk from BC!
Second story: lost and found. Thank you to Tom Doughty for thinking of me when he found some cases of a wine he’d unintentionally let age for over a decade. Back in his days as sommelier at C, he’d brought in several cases of Claret from Washington State that he felt needed a few years to sit down. Over time, some job titles changed, and this little 2002 got lost in a quiet, dark corner of a cellar somewhere. Upon its unearthing, (or un-dusting certainly) he popped a cork, and was pleased to find this wine still showing some youthful aromas as well as lovely developed characteristics that you just don’t find in restaurants these days without a price tag most of us can only daydream about affording. I challenge you to find any information on Vierra Vineyards online, but I can assure you, that if you make it down here before we run out, we can tell you all about it; and with any luck share a bottle of this magnificent twelve year old gem. Soft corks and sediment to be expected and relished at $6.25/yr.
Third to the plate: new Pinot Noir, and Judgment of Paris legacy wine. Still waiting on delivery of two new wines, so I won’t speak too long on them, but I’m super excited to have them both on our list. A North American wine list isn’t complete without a Willamette Valley Pinot, and I found a new one (new to me) that is every bit as good as it’s predecessors. Also, for our big-ticket wine, our last two were both wineries that were in the original Judgment of Paris competition of 1976. And we are about to welcome the 3rd. It’s a wine that I tasted two years ago when The Vancouver International Wine Festival was still sponsored by the Playhouse, a single vineyard bottling by the famous Stag’s Leap (correct apostrophe placement). And it is still in my memory bank as a standout amongst standouts, can’t wait!!
“soft corks and sediment” photo credit ianjamieson©2014
Murray Stenson seen walking around town!
Pourhouse would like to thank everyone who came in and had a Stenson during the last few months, wether you knew about our efforts on his behalf or you didn’t (and I spoke to a lot of people who were saddened, amazed, and delighted to hear of the story and our small part in it). Since I posted my last piece, we sold 511 cocktails, which means you helped us raise over a thousand dollars to help Murray Stenson. By the time we had counted the cash and tried to send it in it looked as though the doors were closed. We have yet been unable to get the funds to MurrayAid, and from their most recent update it seems as though we might not. Good news though, that means enough was raised, and Murray has been spotted walking about Seattle! We’re trying to get through to see if our cheque can go personally, or if not, the plan B is to set up a grant or donate it to something relative in Murray’s name.
There has also been some interest from abroad from those who can’t make it by to try one in person, that I share the recipe with you. So I think I will. Keeping in mind, your palate will differ from our barmen’s and that our (well researched) homemade Bokers bitters is one that doesn’t exist outside of Pourhouse (except in Brian Grant’s house).
2 dash Bokers
Happy stirring, and thanks again for helping us out. I’ll do a final piece on where the loot finally ended up.
Two years ago I was hit by a truck on my bicycle and broke my neck and back. I spent two months in a neck brace, off work, collecting a very small percentage of my income from Employment Insurance, and the promise of (hopefully) one day collecting an insurance settlement. Considering I live in Canada and did not receive a bill for my ambulance ride or hospital visit, I’m fortunate that I’m not completely bankrupt. It also afforded me the luxury of a visit to see my sister who lives in Seattle, and a chance to meet Murray Stenson.
My unfamiliarity with the Pike Place area at the time meant I arrived at Zig Zag at five minutes past five o’clock and every barstool was occupied. No matter, I was wet, and hungry, and had nowhere else to be, so I sat down at a table for dinner and waited my turn. The service was immaculate, cocktails made by the service bartender, superb; and I still talk about the tender pieces of alligator in that gumbo…but I was there to hand deliver a bottle, and to meet Murray. I feel privileged to count myself in the tens of thousands who have had the pleasure of sitting at Murray’s bar, but more than having said I’ve been there, I wanted to meet the man I have to thank for my current place in life. I was there to pay my respects.
My good friend, former roommate and bar manager at Pourhouse Christopher Flett, along with our current bar manager Jon Ledwidge made a journey to Seattle years ago, to discover what was going on in cocktails in a neighboring city. They went to Seattle not knowing what to expect or whom they would meet. They ended up at Murray’s bar and into a friendship that would help guide the growth of them as bartenders, and in turn, our city’s cocktail culture. I’m not saying the Christopher and Jon are responsible for craft cocktails as they are in Vancouver today, far from it. But I am saying that they are two of countless other bartenders who’s careers have been influenced by him whether they know it or not; and most are well aware. Ask any bartender in town, and they’ll be able to tell you the impact that Murray has had on them, someone who has trained them, or someone who’s sat at their bar. Murray helped mold not only barmen, but shaped an entire culture of discerning palettes, and did so like most great men; with great humility.
“When I met Murray I did not yet understand the process of making classic cocktails. Yet he still treated me with the same level of generosity and respect that a peer or equal would. That was Murray. My path to maturing as a bartender would have been greatly inhibited were it not for the friendship that followed.
I have always maintained that Murray’s bar would still be full, even if he made bad cocktails. This is because Murray is not just a great bartender, but a great individual… gracious and welcoming. There is something here that many aspiring bartenders should take note of.
I once brought a friend to Zig Zag to meet Murray. Upon introduction he exclaimed, “So, you’re the legendary Murray!” with a faint grin on his face, Murray modestly replied, “no, just Murray.”
Unfortunately, Murray has been diagnosed with a heart condition that has left him unable to work, and requiring heart surgery. As he lives in Seattle, WA and medical expenses are quite extraneous, bars and bartenders across North America and worldwide have united to raise funds in support of Murray. Pourhouse will be putting a cocktail from a previous list back on the menu and donating $2 from each Stenson cocktail sold to aid in raising money for his heart surgery. The Stenson was an homage Christopher paid to Murray at the thought of his potential retirement last year. It reminded me of the cocktails Murray made for me when I was at his bar: rich, dark flavors…and strong. I invite you to come in and have a drink in his honor, to toast the man who has greatly influenced what we do and aspire to, or to get stories from the mouths of our barmen themselves, and to help us aid Murray.
If you’d like to know how the fundraising effort is going, or to donate personally, visit murrayaid.org