As the Vancouver International Wine Festival wind down to a close, more than 80,000 glasses of wine had been sampled and tasted. The festival which is in its 40th year was a nine-day extravaganza which kick-started on the 23rd February with the Bacchanalia Gala Dinner and Auction that raised $225,000 dollars for the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival, an educational society which imparts education to thousands of young children across British Columbia.
Starting off at Joey’s Wine Room
The festival was officially launched at a glittering ceremony at Joey’s Wine Room at Joey Bentall One, one of Vancouver’s premier dining spots. Coupled with three wines each from Spain and Portugal, Executive Sous Chef Roger Hildebrant’s team had cooked up a decadent mix of sliders, cold platters and scrumptious paella. The wines on display included the Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Heredad Cava along with an El Petit Bonhomme Blanco ’16, the Cune Crianza Rioja ’12 and Tio Pepe Palomino Fino sherry from Spain while Portugal was represented with the Sottal Lisboa ‘16 and the Quinto de Crasto Duoro ‘15. The latter is something that has sparked my interest quite a bit. Its multiple layers of red berry flavours along with floral notes had me quite intrigued and it was confirmed at a later tasting of the wine during the Great Red Grapes Session, when I came to know that it has been sourced from more than 30 grapes. The two whites, made for quite a combination with a cured Iberian ham while keynote speaker Paul Wagner officially started the festival with a toast and left these words for us.
“When we did not know each other, we used to drink. Now that we know each other, let’s have a drink”
Saviour Spain at Per Se Social Corner
The first day had just been a teaser for what was to come on Day 2. The Saviour Spain event at Per Se Social Corner showcased the best of Spanish wines and had more than 10 wineries on display. One of the first wines that we decided to try out at this tasting was the ones from Freixenet. Although I had already tried out the Cordon Negro, but this was the time for the Elyssia Pinot Noir NV and the Carta Nevada Semi-Seco NV. There was a second helping of Paella and cured Iberian Ham which we decided to combine with three spectacular red wines from the Iberian peninsula: Campo Viejo Reserva ‘13, Guy Anderson’s Anciano 10year Gran Reserva Tempranillo ‘06 and the Muriel Rioja Gran Reserva ‘06. Per Se Social Corner pulled out all stops with a magnificent display of Bruschetta with toppings such as Anchovies, Octopus and Eggplant Involtini. We combined these with the few Monastrells on display including one from Bodegas Juan Gill Silver Label ’15, Bodegas Atalaya Laya ’16 and the Familia Castano Hecula ’16.
Lunch with Keynote speaker Paul Wagner
Although Canada has been predominantly known for the ice wine it exports, wines from the British Columbia region are slowly but steadily making a space in the world market. Day 3 of our journey started with Lunch with Paul Wagner at Espana which was paired with BC wines. We started off with few of Sparkling wines on display. The Charme De L’il NV from the Unsworth Vineyards has flavours of citrusy green apples drawn from it’s tripartite combination of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and a local grape variant known as Sauvignette. Executive Chef Neil Taylor’s team rolls out a 4 course menu perfectly paired with the wines yet managing to retain the flavours on the palate. For the Bacalao, Frisee and Green Tomato salad we paired a Free Form White ‘15 from Haywire vineyards, a wine which has no cellar intervention along with the Cedar Creek Block 3 Premium Reisling ‘16. For the scrumptious paella and estofado, we tried out a few of reds. The ones which really left a mark on the palate were the two Cabarnet Francs from Chester Creek and Poplar Grove wineries. One interesting thing to note about the wine from the Chester Creek winery is that it is part of a sub appellation from Okanagan valley: the Golden Mile Beach.
Winery Dinners and Tasting Sessions
Day 3 ended with two different wine dinners. As Snigdha headed to her date with Sparkling Wines at ARC Dining at the Fairmont Waterfront, I headed to my passion for Latin Terrior dinner at La Terraza, finally a break from all the Spanish food. The amazing range of sparkling wines including a Rose NV and Milesime Cava ‘15 from Juve y Camps and a Limitada 40 Anniversary NV along with food by Chef Suri which had some grilled local octopus, foie gras and paella was something that we really enjoyed. The Latin Terrior featured wines from Spain, Italy and Uruguay where we enjoyed a Tannat ‘15 from the Uruguayan winery Bodega Garzon.
Things moved onto a more serious note from the next day onwards as all the tasting sessions along with trade tastings started. The “Great Red Grapes” session at the Vancouver International Wine Festival was quite an interesting one covering wines from not only the old world, but also the new world along with a local British Columbian label and also the previously Tannat from Uruguay. Although the Gevrey Chambertin ‘13 from Domaines Albert Bichot and a ‘13 Chianti Classico from Rocca delle Macie Wines took the honours, I was quite pleasantly surprised by the Quinta do Crasto Reserva ‘14 which has more than 35 varietals of grapes along with the Cabarnet Franc ‘14 from Poplar Grove Winery which we had tasted earlier at Espana.
In between tasting a multitude of wines from around the world at the International Tasting room including a 20 year old tawny port from Taylor Fladgate, a Domaine Des Senechaux Chateaunneuf-du-Pape ’15 and a Feudi di San Gregorio Taurasi ’12, we decided to head off to the panel session on “Pinot Noir: California Style“. Pinot Noir is a teenager, impressive many times and downright irritating once in a while. Although all of these wines were from California, we found quite a few impressive ones from the Anderson and Russian River valleys. I especially fell in love with the J Vineyards & Winery Pinot Noir ‘15 and the Robert Mondavi Winery Reserve Carneros ‘13.
The Vancouver International Wine Festival is one festival which not only caters to wine professionals but also amateur wine aficionados looking to try out a multitude of wines in a single place and this is one festival you shouldn’t plan on missing out.
By Sudipto De
Sudipto De is a travel, food and beverage writer. A WSET level 1 in wines, he travels to capture the beauty of the place and its food in intricate detail. He goes chasing stories in the forts of the medieval era and loves beverage based destinations.
You can follow his work on twitter @saltandsandals.