Saturday, March 2, 2019

Wines you must try at the Vancouver International Wine Festival 2019 - picks from the Wine Barbarian!

Beaulieu Vineyard winemaker Trevor Durling and Bill Tieleman - Wine Barbarian
There are way, way too many wines at the fabulous 2019 Vancouver International Wine Festival to try them all - an astonishing 1,450 different wines from 16 countries in total! 

So you need a plan for the International Festival Tastings - here's my Wine Barbarian advice based on exhaustive research at this year!

California is the regional wine theme this year - so there are lots of great Napa, Sonoma, Santa Barbara, Lodi, Santa Cruz, Paso Robles and other wineries here. But the rest of the world is here too, so tour around.  

Here are a few of the many great choices - and remember that I have not visited every table by far!


Beaulieu Vineyard - one of Napa Valley's best and oldest wineries - must try their Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 at $65 - excellent value - and their Napa Valley Cab Sauv at $44!  Winemaker Trevor Durling is pouring and very knowledgable to talk to.  

Silver Oak Cellars - simply one of California's best red producers!  Don't miss their Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 - also one of the most expensive bottles at the VIWF at $129!

Justin Vineyards - love their reds out of Paso Robles!  Isosceles red blend is superb at $117 but Justification is also great at $75.

Bill Tieleman - Wine Barbarian - and Gina Gallo - Gallo Signature Series
Gallo Signature Series - wonderful wines from all over California made by Gina Gallo, winemaker and yes, from the famous Gallo family!  Gina is great to talk to about her wines.  Love their Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir at $52, their Dry Creek Zinfandel at $40 and Napa Cab at $40.  Excellent values.

Duckhorn Wine Company - Known for their outstanding Merlots, Duckhorn is also making fabulous Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  Try their 2015 Napa Cab at $89 and Calera Central Coast Pinot at $43 - and a lovely Chard at $48!  Talk to Brian Bostwick, export director about their wines.

Ridge Vineyards - Outstanding Zinfandels and red blends from Sonoma plus a killer Chardonnay out of Santa Cruz - what more can I say except try them all, especially Geyserville 2016! 
Bill Tieleman and Joel Peterson of Ravenswood
Ravenswood Winery - Pioneers of Zinfandel, this Sonoma County winery founded by Joel Peterson - who is pouring - makes outstanding bottles. Try their Teldeschi Vineyard Zin at $43 and Bellonis Vineyard Zin at $44. 

Okay - out of California but just across the state border to Oregon, where they make powerhouse Pinot Noirs!


Elk Cove Vineyards - I just love this table!  Three fabulous Pinot Noirs that blow me away and a Pinot Gris from the Williamette Valley in Oregon.  Don't miss any but must try the Mount Richmond Pinot Noir.  Talk to Shirley Brooks - VP sales - who knows lots about Oregon wines. 

Washington State

Aquilini Red Mountain - yes, the Vancouver Canucks owners have winery too - and a damn fine one!  Their Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 is superb. 

British Columbia

Just across the border in British Columbia is a wide selection of great wineries but here are a couple you must visit.

One Faith Vineyard owner Bill Lui and Wine Barbarian Bill Tieleman
One Faith Vineyards - Bill Lui had a mission - make the very best possible wine to international high standards - and with One Faith he has succeeded!  Simply one of BC and Canada's best wines in both 2013 and 2014 vintages that are being poured - and at $132 a bottle they are not fooling around with their Bordeaux blend!  Beautiful wine but for a more affordable bottle, taste the Certitude 2016 at $42. 

Bill Tieleman  and Ben Bryant of Mission Hill 
Mission Hill Family Estate - This winery just keeps getting better and better and bigger!  New winemaker Ben Bryant has stepped in as former winemaker Darryl Brooker steps up to be president - and what a great opportunity that is.  The Legacy Collection Compendium 2014 is a beautiful Bordeaux blend of 45% Cab Sauv/37% Merlot/16% Cab Franc and 2% Petit Verdot - and it will age nicely for a very long time.

Bench 1775 - Winemaker Valerie Tait is producing some great bottles out of the Naramata Bench and Osoyoos.  Try their Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah 2015 at $27.

Quails' Gate Winery - The Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2016 at $52 and Chardonnay 2016 at $40 are both awesome wines not to be missed.


Achaval-Ferrer - They produce fantastic Malbecs and blends from Mendoza - try the two single-vineyard Malbecs - Finca Mirador 2014 at $125 and Finca Bella Vista 2014 at $108 - wow! 


Majella Wines - Owner Brian Lynn is a charming and regular visitor here in Vancouver - and so is his fabulous Sparkling Shiraz 2016!  Unique, refreshing and delicious - you may never have tried it and you owe it to yourself to do so!  Other lovely reds too.

Brian Lynn of Majella Wines and Bill Tieleman - Wine Barbarian
New Zealand

Jim Robertson of Stoneleigh and Bill Tieleman - Wine Barbarian
Stoneleigh - Always great wines at each price point, I particularly like the Latitude Pinot Noir 2017 - beautiful bouquet and lots of fruit for just $22!  Talk to my buddy Jim Robertson - another regular Vancouver visitor and so knowledgable about New Zealand wines.


Borie-Manoux - If you love Bordeaux like I do, you can't miss these fine wines.  Four excellent bottles but I really enjoyed tasting the 2003 Chateau Herve Laroque alongside it's 2010 vintage brother - so nice to see what seven years of additional aging brings to the table! Both fantastic wines from Fronsac - and reasonably priced at $44 and $50 respectively.  Also try the 2009 Chateau Beau-Site at $56 - a stunning St. Estephe.

Ballande & Meneret - More Bordeaux? Bring it on!  Four more lovely bottles - my favourite was the 2009 Chateau Larrivaux from Haut-Medoc at just $44 - a bargain for 10-year-old wine!

Ulysse Cazabonne - Yes, still more Bordeaux!  Four more fine bottles all from 2015 but with different blends of Merlot and Cabernet - try the Chateau de Croix Saint Vincent 2015 at $58 -70% Merlot/30% Cab.


Marchesi di Barolo - Nebbiolo grapes are great!  Three Barolos and a Barbaresco - all superb.  Try the Cannubi and Sarmassa 2014 Barolos for a cool comparison - both priced at $95 and both delicious!

Tenuta Argentiera - Not Bordeaux but Tuscany making Bordeaux blends - and stunning ones!  Great value on the lower priced red and rose but the Bolgheri Superiore 2016 is amazing - at $83.  


Stina - Amazingly, one of four Croatian wineries at this year's festival - and they are all eye-openers for many wine drinkers who don't know that country is producing excellent wines.  Try the flagship 2016 Posip red at $47 - beautiful! 

Okay - I know I missed dozens of wonderful wineries as well as the entire countries of Germany, Japan and Uruguay - all making great wines too and pouring here - but time is running out - have a great Festival and let me know what you think if you see me there or post here or on Twitter - @BillTieleman or Facebook! 



Thursday, February 28, 2019

Tasting at the Vancouver International Wine Festival? “Kiss Don’t Spit!” - is my strong advice

NOT cool! Kiss - Don't Spit! 
“Kiss Don’t Spit!”  

 It’s actually not hip to spit in my book! 

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

Most wine experts will tell novices 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.  

And those in the wine trade often have to taste dozen and dozens if not hundreds of wines in a day - it's not possible to do that and not have your liver end up like foie gras within weeks!

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!


Saturday, February 23, 2019

It's the annual Open That Bottle Night - Saturday February 23, 2019 - reach into your cellar and pop an old cork!

Which wine should the Wine Barbarian - Bill Tieleman - open tonight!  The Caymus Special Selection 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon or the Woodward Canyon 2006 Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon?  Tough, tough choice! 
Wine drinking friends - it's the annual Open That Bottle Night - Saturday February 23, 2019 

That means it's time to reach deep into your cellar and pop an old cork from a bottle that has been waiting far too patiently for the right occasion!

This is a brilliant concept - invented by Wall Street Journal wine columnists Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher back in 2000 - to each year open one bottle of wine that has been suffering in silence in your cellar that has been neglected while you wait for the perfect occasion to uncork it. The link above has some good tips for choosing and how to open that bottle. 

Tonight I have two choices: A fantastic Caymus Vineyards 2007 Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley California - rated 96 points by the Wine Spectator but also advised to open from 2011 to 2019.

Or an awesome Woodward Canyon 2006 Artist Series #15 Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington State - rated 91 points by the Wine Spectator but best from 2009 to 2016.  My bad!  

True confession: I have far too many bottles in my cellar that I have likely kept for too long, so Open That Bottle Night is so welcome - and I may extend it over many weeks or even months!

And whether you have just one or a handful of bottles in your own cellar or thousands, the unfortunate reality is that we often think that opening that special old bottle needs an incredible meal or the right combinations of friends or a particular anniversary, birthday, celebration etc. before we can open it.

And then it goes bad.

Been there, done that, poured it down the drain while I cried bitter tears - but not as bitter as the spoiled, corked or overdue wine!

So I hope you will join me tonight in liberating a libation from purgatory in your wine cellar!  

No matter whether you are ordering in pizza or preparing a simple repast or actually making a gourmet meal - whatever it is, your excellent old bottle of wine will match it perfectly!  

In fact, that's how I got my Wine Barbarian nickname.  A friend was stunned that I was drinking a lovely bottle of Chateau Montrose 3rd growth Bordeaux with pizza - "you, you are a barbarian!" he exclaimed.  

"Yes," I replied, "but I am a wine barbarian!"  

So open that bottle now and enjoy!

And if you are in Vancouver, I hope to see you and hear about what you opened up at the Vancouver International Wine Festival, coming up from February 23 to March 3.  See my recent post on the very few tickets remaining and act fast to get one!