The most important wine event in Canada splashes across Vancouver this week. Wine fans and festival organizers in other cities may take issue with that claim, but for the 35th straight year the Vancouver International Wine Festival will uncork and uncap some of the most important wines in the world, being poured by the men and women who made them. There are 175 winemakers coming from 15 countries.
On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights there will be iconic bottles poured alongside new bargains among the 600+ wines on the floor of the International Festival Tasting, with the trade wheeling and dealing during afternoon sessions. There will seminars and workshops, galas and grazes, lunches, brunches and dinners galore – 56 events in all. (Just try booking a table at Vancouver’s top restaurants this week). There will be pre-parties and after parties in the hospitality suites of jammed downtown hotels.
I liken this event to great film festivals like Cannes or Toronto, or great music gatherings like South by SouthWest in Austin, Texas. It is also viewed as such by winemakers around the world.
And I am pleased to say that WineAlign will be there announcing its arrival in British Columbia to help consumers land the best buys at their local British Columbia Liquor Distribution Branch store. It will also be the WineAlign coming out for Anthony Gismondi, wine columnist with the Vancouver Sun who joins WineAlign as a principal critic and partner. Mr. Gismondi has for many years been a huge volunteer supporter, ideas man and event host for the Vancouver Festival. (For more info: WineAlign Launches in British Columbia)
The theme region this year is California, the region that started it all in 1979 when Michael Mondavi flew up from Napa to lead a tasting called “In Praise of Wine”. This week there are 62 California wineries in town, hosting twenty events. And chardonnay fans will get their fill as well, with the world’s most popular white grape named the theme varietal this year.
At press time there were tickets remaining for the grand public tastings on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, as well as some of the seminars and other events. You can check out all events and purchase tickets at http://www.playhousewinefest.com/
For those who can’t make it to Vancouver this year, here are links to some nicely affordable and good value reds from California. As you open that good bottle contemplate taking a week off next year at this time to get yourself to Vancouver.
This region is better known for coastal pinot, syrah and chardonnay since this region starred in the movie Sideways. But inland regions of Santa Ynez do cabernet well too. This full-bodied cabernet has a classic nose of blackcurrant, roasted red peppers, dill and oak mocha. It’s svelte, dense and warm well-knit, firm tannin. Cohesive, impressive cabernet to enjoy over the next three to five years. Score: 90 (David Lawrason, WineAlign.com, Jul 2012)
Lovely authentic zin here. It has a nicely lifted, fragrant nose of classic blackberry fruit with mint, pine and oak cocoa scents. A nice woodsy character but it’s not hillbilly. It’s a full, soft, jammy and rich with classic dark berry fruit powering across the palate. Tannins are fairly soft. It’s from sustainably grown old family vineyards (without specifying which ones). It certainly has that kind of character. Excellent length. Score: 91 (David Lawrason, WineAlign.com, Sep 2012)
This organically grown cabernet steps neatly outside the normal, glossy California cabernet comfort zone. Yet is has very complete, authentic cab character. Expect a quite fine nose with well a blackberry fruit, mocha, pepper, herbs, and pencil eraser. It’s medium-full bodied and solid with some sweetness but it has girth and density. Very focused fruit, herbs and light oak on the finish, with excellent length. Best over the next five to seven years. Score: 90 (David Lawrason, WineAlign.com, May 2012)
This recent arrival upgrades the LCBO general list pinot selection. It has a fragrant complex nose combining classic Carneros strawberry/cherry jam fruit, with gentle toast, clove and cinnamon, plus some cedar from new French oak. It’s medium weight, warm, fairy rich and jammy with a nicely bitter, herbal finish. The length is very good to excellent. An appealing California pinot to enjoy over the next two years. Score: 89 (David Lawrason, WineAlign.com, Dec 2012)
The remote and rather enchanting Guenoc Valley in Lake County (next stop north of Napa) has old plantings of petite sirah. It is named for 19th century British actress Lilly Langtry who made the valley her home. This has a ripe fragrant nose of cassis, clove, pepper and mincemeat. Plus lots of smoky oak. It’s medium-full bodied, fairly dense, juicy with high acid and firm grippy tannin. The spice tumbles on the finish; the length is excellent. Very good value here. Try it now, but cellar a few for about three years. Also reminds me of the new generation of reds from Portugal’s Dao region. Score: 90 (David Lawrason, WineAlign.com, Jan 2013)
I’ll be back with my take on the March 2 VINTAGES Release.
VP of Wine