Thursday, February 27, 2020

Wine tasting - "Kiss - Don't Spit!" when at the 2020 Vancouver International Wine Festival this week!

Hipsters beware of spitting!  But there is no fine! 

"Kiss Don't Spit!"

It’s not hip to spit in my book! 

And even more so with the Coronavirus epidemic going around. 

So that's my very contrarian advice to those attending the 2020 Vancouver International Wine Festival this Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening - and Saturday afternoon - for the International Festival Tastings or wine seminars.

Almost wine experts will advise you to "spit" the wine after nosing the bouquet in the glass and sipping it into your mouth and swirling it around - but I strongly disagree.

After all, there's a reason I'm called The Wine Barbarian! 

The experts' reasoning makes some sense - you can taste far more wines without getting intoxicated by the alcohol content if it doesn't go down your throat and into your stomach.  

But you - the wine consumer - are not an expert nor are you tasting hundreds of glasses.

First - you simply cannot fully experience a wine without swallowing it, feeling the wonderful elixirfloat down your throat, discovering the length of the finish - you can literally count the seconds when you can still taste it, and know the satisfaction of having tasted one of the best wines in the world!

Spitting?  Sorry but you just don't get that sensation.

And you are at North America's largest consumer wine festival, with literally dozens of wines priced at $100 or more per bottle - why the hell would you spit that out?!!!

Plus,  you can simply "kiss" a lot of wines without swallowing or spitting!

By kissing I mean you nose the wine in the glass, bring it to your lips and then - unless it's awesomely tasty and probably quite expensive, you simply pour the wine into the conveniently located spit bucket on the table. 

Polite, discreet, saving your sobriety for none but the best and when you do sip and swallow it will be worth it!  

Lastly, proper spitting is hard - don't try to learn it in front of 1,600 people including sommeliers, winemakers, family and friends!  

So enjoy the Vancouver international wine festival and taste lots of the fantastic California and other wines from around the world and kisses lots of them!


Thursday, January 2, 2020

Vancouver International Wine Festival 2020 public event tickets on sale January 8, 2020! Don't miss out - spotlight is on France!

Wine Barbarian Bill Tieleman with Gina Gallo of Gallo wines fame at 2019 Vancouver International Wine Festival! 
Vancouver International Wine Festival tickets for public events go on sale Wednesday January 8, 2020 at 9:30 a.m.!

And those tickets will most definitely sell out!  With the wonderful wines of France as the regional theme plus dozens of other countries sending their best bottles, this is the wine highlight of the year!

There will be 163 wineries from 16 countries, including 42 wineries from France, and an astonishing total of 1,450 wines poured from over 42,000 bottles into over 82,000 glasses! The VIWF runs from February 22 to March 1, 2020. 

So don't miss out - there are great wine dinners at some of Vancouver's finest restaurants, featuring winemakers or winery principals pouring wine you may never see anywhere else; there are seminars where winemakers, owners and experts from all over the world lead you through amazing tastings; and there are the big International Festival Tastings - with over 100 wineries pouring hundreds of wines!

You can buy your tickets for public events starting Wednesday January 8 2020 - go here to get them on that date - and don't delay or you will miss out.  And out of towners - don't miss the great Sip and Stay deal - get a free International Festival Tasting ticket if you stay in one of many Vancouver hotels - go here for details!

Important to note:  the International Festival Tastings tickets are already on sale - get them here - and Saturday night February 29 from 7 to 10 p.m. will be the first to sell out, guaranteed.  You can also attend Thursday night February 27, Friday night February 28 and Saturday afternoon February 29 at 2:30 p.m.  Tickets for all these tastings will be long gone by the start of the Festival so do not delay!

[Trade Festival event tickets go on sale January 22.]

Here is the straight truth from the VIWF itself:

The 42nd Vancouver International Wine Festival returns for an eight-day celebration of wine and food February 22 to March 1 at the Vancouver Convention Centre and other venues around Metro Vancouver. The 2020 festival features 163 wineries participating in 57 events. This year, the spotlight shines on wines from France, with 42 wineries from 10 regions in attendance.
  • Tickets for all public events go on sale Wednesday, January 8 at 9:30 a.m.
  • Tickets for Trade Days Conference go on sale Wednesday, January 22 at 9:30 a.m.
Tickets are currently on sale for the four International Festival Tastings, the Delta Air Lines Tasting Lounge, as well as the Gold Pass and Trade Days Pass.
From educational wine seminars, tastings and parties to lively lunches, winery dinners and the spectacular Bacchanalia Gala Dinner + Auction, VanWineFest offers something to please every palate. Browse public events online, click through the interactive Festival at a Glance PDF, or download the promotional brochure for full festival details. For those in the wine trade, see Trade Days events here.
Save, sip, and stay safe! Book a stay at one of’s 39 downtown hotels and receive a free International Festival Tasting ticket (an $95 to $115 value) to the session of your choice. Quantities are limited and the offer is only available until February 13, so book early to taste for free. The initiative is an important cornerstone of the festival’s Don’t Wine and Drive program.
HOW TO PURCHASE TICKETS 24/7 (all events will be off-sale on January 7)
Phone: 604-873-3311, toll free 1-877-321-3121 (Monday to Friday, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.)
In person: 202-162 West 1st Avenue, Vancouver (Monday to Friday, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.)
All ticket prices include wine, food (if a food event), gratuities, taxes and service charge.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Wine matches recommended for all kinds of celebratory holiday meals!

Holiday dinners means family, good friends and great wines! 

Holiday wines for all kinds of celebratory meals!

Over the holidays people will be getting together with family and friends to celebrate and give thanks to what we have with a big meal.  

And despite what some wine experts say, New Year's Eve or Day, holiday, Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners are not really isn't that hard to pair wines with - especially if you a Wine Barbarian like me!

What's more - as Captain Barbossa put it in Pirates of the Caribbeans, they're more like guidelines than rules! 

So from the traditional turkey to turducken to tofurky fake bird to chicken to roast beef or prime rib to my favourite - rabbit in Dijon mustard cream sauce - the wine matches are really not too hard - and I'm hear to help.

Sparkling wines to start with appetizers

First - guests rule.  If someone wants a beer, a gin and tonic or another cocktail, make it so.  

But if it's wine, I suggest a sparkling wine to start, especially for special occasions!

Fortunately sparking accommodates every price range - from budget bubbly to chic Champagne, we can do this.  Click on links to find where you can buy this wine at BC Liquor Stores - all prices before tax

Budget Bubbly - Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut is just $15.99 and is a nice, crisp clean Cava from Spain that is widely available. 

Got a big party?  Get one or more of the 1.5 liter Magnum for $27.99.  Drinking alone or 2?  You can also buy a 3-pack of baby-bottles for just $12.99 
 Slightly Upscale Sparkling - BC has some of my favourites sparkling wines at reasonable prices.  Try the Summerhill Cipes Brut at $27.99 or the Stellar's Jay Brut at $22.99.   

And California makes some great sparklers - Mumm Napa Cuvee is one of them at $27.99.  All widely available in BC.

Chic Champagne - Let's face it: nothing says celebration like real Champagne.  If only it weren't so damn expensive!  But if your Thanksgiving is one to show your family or friends you are truly grateful for their presence - or you just want to show off - make it Champagne.  

For me, the standard is Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial - at $69.99.  
A classic Champagne from Epernay, scored 91 points by the Wine Spectator, this has good acidity, toasty poached pear and black currant notes and oh, those beautiful tiny bubbles!  

If you are even richer than you think, vintage Champagne is another cut above the basic bottles.  Try the Veuve Cliquot Vintage Brut 2008 for another $30 at $99.99.  You will not be disappointed!  

AND - if you really, really like bubbly, keep serving it with your holiday meal, because it goes with just about everything! 

Alternatively, many people like a white wine with appetizers rather than bubbly - and nothing wrong with that because it also goes with your.....

Main Courses

Some wine writers say holiday meals are thankless for sommeliers - the French word for those who match the wines to food - because they have so many "complex and contradictory" flavours.  And it's true that from appetizers to the range of foods at the main course - proteins from fowl to meat to meatless, starches from mashed potatoes to yams to parsnips, vegetables from asparagus to carrots to squash, gravy or mustard or cranberry sauce - it's a cacophony of tastes.

If you are serving a 9-course meal, that's no problem - you serve 9 different perfectly paired wines - because you are rich! 

But for most of us, a choice of 2 or more wines at dinner makes it a special occasion.  And many people don't drink either white or red wine [or both, poor souls]  

So that's what we're going to do here - one white and one red - but you pick the bottles for your budget.  And you can serve a white before dinner with appetizers if you don't want sparkling.  Or red for that matter - be a Barbarian!

If you are serving fowl - be it turkey, turducken, chicken, cornish game hen, duck, goose or even quail - you really do have a choice of white or red.  It's simply a question of what you like best and how it matches the dish and how it is prepared.

White wines to pair with main courses

Personally, I love Chardonnay.  And for a special meal, it is your best choices because it can be lean or creamy, big and bold or a background beauty.  Since Chardonnay is the world's favourite white wine, there are a massive number of choices for every budget. 

But a nice Sauvignon Blanc will also do the trick and if you like Riesling, it's also a good choice.
Mission Hill

Somewhat Cheap and Definitely Cheerful Chardonnay

You are in good hands with BC wineries.  A never-wrong choice is Mission Hill Reserve Chardonnay 2017.  At $21.99 [and on sale for $19.99 til Oct 26], this wine gives you classic creamy, citrus, apple and tropical fruit at an affordable price. 

Another great pick is Quail's Gate Chardonnay 2017 at $22.99, as is Cedar Creek Chardonnay at just $18.99. 

Want to go global?  Then a personal favourite is J Lohr Riverstone Arroyo Seco Chardonnay 2017 from Monterey, California at $23.99  Classic Cali Chard - lush, tropical, white peach and melon notes. 
J Lohr

Or try Wolf Blass Adelaide Hills Gold Label Chardonnay 2015 from Australia - a great wine from down under at $24.99 [on sale at $19.99 till Oct 26!] 

Still too much money?  Then you will be happy with Alamos Mendoza Chardonnay from Argentina at $14.99 - good varietal character on a budget.

Charming Mid-Range Chardonnay

It's a special meal, with great company - so spend a little more and enjoy at lot more! 

Back in BC there are some impressive Chardonnays from our Okanagan wineries.  Try the Mission Hill Perpetua Chardonnay 2017 at $49.99.  This is a big boy fighting it out with our California Chardonnay cousins - and holding it's own.  Bold and luscious with pear, lemon curd and oak and a long finish! 

Other BC Chardonnays are equally impressive - but harder to find.  The Quails Gate Stewart Family Reserve at $39.99 is also great but a bit rare right now other than at the winery or some private stores.

But it's hard to beat the French.  A personal go-to is the Domaine du Chalet Pouilly - Pouilly Fuisse 2017 at $37.99.  This is simply a delicious Chardonnay from Burgundy with crisp acidity, pear and kiwi fruit.  Mmmmm! 

Chardonnay for Kings and Queens 

Okay, we are entering the price range of Champagnes - but if you love Chardonnay then you know why it's worth trying the good stuff!

The Rombauer Carneros Chardonnay 2017 is everything you can ask for from a California wine, at $63.99. Spiced apples, almond croissant, honeyed peaches and baked pear are just some of the flavour notes critics have found.  You'll find it delightfully delicious!

For those like me who think Chardonnay is synonymous with Chablis, there are loads of choices in BC.  I recommend the Domaine Christian Moreau Chablis 1er Vaillon 2016 if you can find it - currently in five stores - at $57.99.  If not, any Christian Moreau Chablis available is worth buying.  Like all good Chablis, this has the mineral taste of the region, with flint, citrus and white flowers. Perfect with turkey, chicken or other fowl!

And if price is of little concern, it has to be a Meursault - the Pierre Brisset Meursault Charmes 2015 at $175.99 will be superb!  Says British wine guru Jancis Robinson: “Richly scented... This is utterly delicious! Gun flint and tarragon and spearmint and green-crystal fruit. Like tasting liquid green glass. So fresh! So focused. So direct. Stunning.”

If you have it, please invite me! 

Red wines to pair with main courses

For many of us, white wines are great - but they are simply not what we want for any main course except fish.  While this approach is simply wrong-headed, the only thing worse is not drinking whatever the hell you want!  Red it is!

Reasonable Reds 
Road 13

Back to BC first - because we have lots of good picks.  Road 13 Honest John's Red 2018 is a blend of up to 6 grape varietals but dominated by Merlot - and always a great value wine.  Easy drinking and easy on the wallet at $19.99.

Another standby is Nk'Mip Cellars Merlot 2017 - at $21.99 you will be impressed by it's cherry fruit flavour and tamed tannins.  
On the lower budget end, Cono Sur Organic Pinot Noir from Chile at just $15.99 will do the job just fine. In fact, any Cono Sur wine is always my first recommendation if you are either low on cash or buying in bulk for a big party.  And this one goes well with fowl in particular. 

Pey La Tour
And of course, what would dinner be without Bordeaux?  Not as good, that's what!  So for a budget Bordeaux, try the Chateau Pey la Tour Reserve du Chateau 2016 at $26.99. 

No, it's not Mouton Rothschild - that would be $1,800 a bottle - but it is a lovely Bordeaux Superieur that's a great introductory Bordeaux with all the attributes I love in that region. And ranked 88-90 points by Robert Parker!

Robust Reds

Robust in both flavour and getting up there in price, these are the reds you serve when you want to impress the relatives!
Osoyoos Larose

Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2015 at $47.99 comes from BC but tastes French - because it is part owned by the Gruaud Larose winery in Bordeaux!  Like Bordeaux, this is a red blend with mostly Merlot but Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec.  Always fabulous at a special occasion.

Domaine Drouhin
From our friends in Oregon comes Domaine Drouhin Dundee Hills Pinot Noir 2015 at $49.99 - a fruit forward wine with lots of cherry and strawberry notes that will pair with whatever main course you serve from fowl to beef.  

And you can't go wrong with Italy - Sette Ponti Crognolo 2016 is a blend of Sangiovese and Merlot that always satisfies at $39.99. Cherries and blueberries with a long finish to a fine meal!
Herve Laroque

And for a Bordeaux choice, try a personal top pick, the Chateau Herve Laroque 2010 at $49.99 - amazing taste and value for a 2010 Bordeaux from Fronsac.  It is full bodied, the BC Liquor Stores and the Chateau have aged it already for you and it will be amazing with whatever you serve! 

Reds For The Really Well Off

Let's be honest - if you can afford it, an expensive red wine with Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner is astonishing.

And once in a while, it's worth blowing the budget for.  With that in mind.....

You can never go wrong with Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2016 - at $89.99 or any other vintage!  This is a big beautiful wine from the Southern Rhone Valley of France - and a personal icon.

For a Bordeaux pick it is a bit more challenging as the selection is less consistently available.  
But I'd be happy to find the Chateau Berliquet 2016 from St. Emilion at $85
on my dining room table anytime! Rated 93 points by Robert Parker, it's 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc, with kirsch, black plums and black cherry compote scents.  Yum! 

Alternatively, many wine experts demand a Pinot Noir with turkey dinner - and I can't argue against that find choice either.  Pinot is generally a lighter weight than other varietals but so long as your turkey or other main is prepared without massive spicing or deep fried, it will do very nicely.

Burgundy is the French Pinot Noir choice and always a bit of a gamble in my experience.  You may wish to stick to the lower priced Oregon Pinot above. 
Domaine Taupenot

But if not, I would go with whatever Gevrey-Chambertin you can find locally - and ask your liquor store consultant for advice.  It's the one Burgundy that has been consistently good for me.  One choice is the Domaine Taupenot Merme Gevrey-Chambertin 2016 - not widely available but more than others, at $95.99, and rated 88-90 by Robert Parker.

But whatever you do, big budget or small, have a great meal!