Navigating the Vancouver International Wine Festival
February 26, 2019
It’s here! The 41st Annual Vancouver International Wine Festival is happening this week. When I say Festival, I truly mean it. The event encompasses winemaker dinners, master classes, trade seminars and of course the 4 public sessions in the Festival Tasting Room. Take a look at the Festival At A Glance to gain some perspective on how sought-after tickets are; the majority of the events were sold out weeks ago. From beginner wine-o’s to certified sommeliers, there’s something fun and educational for everyone.
But I get it; just looking at the schedule can be overwhelming. That’s why I’m going to break it down and help navigate you through the week.
Festival Dinners (greensquares on the Festival At A Glance)
Just don’t look at the price tag! Most dinner’s sit around the $200 per ticket and chances are you’re purchasing 2 tickets so that’s double the hit – but it’s worth it! It’s an experience you’ll remember for years. Multiple courses with intricate wine pairings in an intimate setting – all guided by the visiting winery principal. It’s the ultimate foodie experience with all the wine geekery to back it up.
Minglers (peachsquares on the Festival At A Glance)
These are the fun, swanky events that you see on friend’s social media feeds the next morning. They’re loud, raucous and oh-so-much fun. Organize a group of friends to go together, sample the wine, nosh on the canapés, and stand in awe of the acrobats (literal acrobats) or start dancing to the live music.
Seminars (yellowsquares on the Festival At A Glance)
Seminars are my jam, I love them so much. If you have any inclination of wanting to learn about wine, seminars are a great way to go. Wine is about tasting, tasting is about learning and learning is about spitting the wine. Yes, it’s ok, nay encouraged, to spit at seminars. I know very few people that can function the rest of the day if they drink everything that’s poured for them at 10am.
Festival Tasting Room (whitesquares on the Festival At A Glance)
The tasting room can be daunting. It’s a gorgeous, yet very large, room at the Vancouver Convention Centre with masses of sophisticated schmoozy people lingering about. How do you choose which direction to walk let alone what to taste? My first piece of advice is to do your prep work. Find out which of your favourite wineries are going to be there and visit their booths first. It’s a difficult task to see the whole room in 3 hours so you have to prioritize. My personal prerogative is to start with bubbles. Here’s my choice sparkling wine, along with a few other recommendations to seek out in the room.
$18.99 at Wine Festival On-Site Store & BC Liquor Stores Visit Chile in the Tasting Room Distributed by: Authentic Wine & Spirits
As soon as you enter the room, veer away from the theme region area (you’ll get there later, don’t worry). Instead, head to either the France region to find Champagne or look for a smaller region that only has one or two sparkling wines but makes them really well. My pick is Cono Sur Brut Rosé from Bio Bio in Chile. Made from 100% Pinot Noir, the gorgeous dusty rose colour matches the label perfectly. It reminds me of a lakeside country cottage in the morning, perfectly pristine and elegant.
At first glance this might seem like a whimsical wine, but upon tasting it I soon realized the depth and creaminess that goes alongside the bright red cherry and raspberry flavours. It’s the perfect prep wine for your palate. It’s light enough that it won’t over power what you’re going to drink next, but there’s enough complexities happening to get your taste buds moving.
$22.99 at Wine Festival On-Site Store Only Visit Argentina in the Tasting Room Distributed by: The Bacchus Group
Those in the industry likely have a wine producer they hold near and dear to their heart. One they’ve either visited, or dream about visiting or know their portfolio through and through. Or in this case, know their portfolio and their family tree! Zuccardi is that for me. What began with Alberto Zuccardi in the 60’s is now a multi generational desire to pursue excellence in Argentinean winemaking.
Alberto’s son, José, will be behind the table pouring for you at wine festival while Alberto’s grandson Sebastian, is back in Mendoza leading a very busy time of year as head winemaker. You can read more about their winemaking philosophy in a piece I did for Vitis.ca.
A highlight being poured at Wine Fest is the Zuccardi Q Malbec. It’s rich and chocolately with concentrated blackberry flavours. There’s a touch of green pepper and herbal component to balance. The Q Malbec is a Sunday dinner wine but at a weekday wine price. You have to try it.
$31 at Wine Festival On-Site Store and private wine stores including Legacy Liquor Visit Columbia Crest Booth / USA – Washington in the Tasting Room Distributed by: Dandurand
This is a new wine to me and I truly liked it upon first sip. After doing a bit of research, I like it even more. A few determining winemaking decisions sets this Cab blend apart. During fermentation, half of the grape skins were kept in contact with the juice for 9 months. Typically, that duration is only a month. The extended contact results in more concentrated flavours and also softens the tannins. A small portion was then taken and fermented in concrete tanks, which highlights the natural minerality. Half of the wine was then aged in older French oak, giving it a more subdued oak structure. Finally, did you notice I called it a blend earlier? That’s because there’s a small portion of Cabernet Franc (4%), which layers in some additional complexity.
What I really liked about this wine was the subtle richness. On the nose I got plum and blackberry along with some sweeter cardamom and cocoa. Upon tasting, the wine itself was brighter than I was expecting. There’s a lightness and acidity that really lifts it. And that subtle richness, I’m talking slow roasted beets with their natural sugars. And ripe cherries with sweet spice. Stellar wine, you have to taste it.
$21.49 at Wine Festival On-Site Store Only & $24.49 at Wine Festival Store & BC Liquor Stores Visit Joel Gott Booth / California Theme Region in the Tasting Room Distributed by: Dandurand
Joel is the driving force behind Joel Gott, obviously as the wines have his name on it. But after watching a few videos on their website, you can really sense the passion and fun that he has making wine. Sourced from various regions within California, the Zinfandel I tasted was the 2016, however you’ll taste the 2017 in the Wine Fest Tasting Room. It’s medium bodied with bright and juicy raspberry and cherry flavours. There’s a touch of spice and vanilla because of the oak aging, 20% of which is done in new American oak giving it a slightly more coconut essence. It’s a soft wine and an incredibly long finish.
The Sauvignon Blanc was a treat, a truly an enjoyable light and bright wine with high acidity. It was actually rated in the Top 100 wines of 2918 by Wine Spectator. While the citrus is prominent, much like your typical Sauvignon Blanc, I tasted more white and tropical fruit flavours on the palate. White grapes, crisp white nectarine and granny smith apple (which I know is technically green, but you get my gist) and then persimmon. Persimmon? Yes, persimmon! It’s definitely a unique and individualized Sauvignon Blanc. Where else can you say you’ve tasted a Top 100 wine? Wine Festival gives you that experience.
Well done, Joel Gott. I can’t wait to taste more at Wine Fest!