Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Viva Espana! UPDATED Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival features Spain's fabulous wines - what to drink up!

Bill Tieleman - the Wine Barbarian - goes to the source of great Spanish wine - at Pesquera in Ribera del Duero in 2007
UPDATED!  Hot picks from the Festival!

Okay - here's the skinny after my marathon session Thursday night - there are a lot of really great wines and a lot of really expensive wines - sometimes the same ones, not always.

In the interest of time for those attending Saturday night's tasting - here's the quick and dirty list of what not to miss based on my own research, in addition to predicted Spanish winners below in original post. 

[And if you are looking for these in the Festival Guide - remember that for the first time they have separated the wines first by country and then alphabetically - using the term loosely.]

I use a 1 to 5 ***** rating system on the fly at the festival - more stars the better.  And please remember with over 600 wines there - I only got to 63 of them!  Try what looks good and be sure to not be rude and attempt to drink only the winery's best wine - give the others a tiny taste at least.

LASTLY - I will be writing about the great BC Liquor Store Rip-Off - on Thursday night within 5 minutes of entering the tasting and heading straight to the on-site store without sipping a single wine - I found at least 20 listed products with SOLD OUT signs on them!

How is that possible you ask?  The afternoon Trade Show participants - importers in the wine business, restaurateurs, chefs, agents etc - come in early and are allowed to clean out the stuff they like - leaving none for the consumers who are supposed to get first crack. 

And the BC Liquor Stores - a government operation - does not allow wineries to import enough stock to satisfy demand, even though they make a large fortune off this event's sales!

Watch The Wine Barbarian for more on this unfair issue - it has happened year after year and I'm sick of it.  In the meantime, get into the store right away if you taste a great wine and complain to the staff - not their fault of course - that your picks aren't available. If we all kick up a big fuss it might just get fixed next year.
Bodegas Abanico - Los Colmillos 2008  $45 **** still tannic but great!

Bodegas Faustino - Autor Reserva 2001 $48 ****

Grupo Faustino - Portia Prima 2007 $32 **** - killer wine at this price!

Osborne - Montecillo Gran Reserva 2003 $36 ****  - another great buy!

Caves Pares Balta - Gratavinum 2PIR 2007 $47 - **** - big blend.


Herder Winery - Twin Benches Chardonnay 2008 - $35 - **** - very smooth.

Meyer Family Vineyards - Pinot Noir McLean Creek Road Vineyard 2008 - $40 - **** - tasty stuff.


Champagne Deutz - Cuvee William 1999 - $174 - ****1/2 - best wine of the night - fabulous vintage champagne - wonderful they offer it here.


Badia a Coltibuono - Cultus Boni 2004 - $47 - **** - so good I bought some!

Rocca Delle Macie - Ser Gioveto 2005 - $45 - **** - also grabbed this great super Tuscan blended wine.   Roccato 2005 - $50 **** - an all time favourite of mine - try it!

New Zealand

Man O'War Vineyard - Merlot/Cabernet Franc 2008 $29 - **** - great value!
Flagship Dreadnaught Syrah 2009 - $50 - ****

Mud House Wines - Central Otago PInot Noir Swan Reserve tier 2009 - $35 - **** - just great - a really big pinot typical of the power in that emerging region.  Their regular 2009 for $23 is a good buy.

Sacred Hills Wines - Deerstalkers Syrah 2007 - $40 - **** - all their stuff is fabulous but also try the luscious Riflemans Chardonnay 2009 - $40 - ****

South Africa

Boekenhoutskloof - Syrah 2008 - $70 - ****

Graham Beck Wines -  The Ridge Single Vineyard Syrah - $30 - **** - great value!  Brut sparkling - $23 - ***1/2  

United States

Miner Family Vineyards - Napa Valley Chardonnay 2009 - $40 - **** - great!

Ridge Vineyards - Santa Cruz Chardonnay 2008 - $55 - wonderful.

Apologies to the fine wineries I've not included in this quick round up - didn't taste a bad wine all night and I didn't get to some of the very best wineries in the world who are pouring tonight - I'll try to get to them all and once again update you on the wines you can find in BC public and private stores after the Festival ends.  Here's my original posting with additional top Spanish picks:

 The Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival is featuring Spain's fabulous wines this year - in addition to the always great selection of wines from all around the world.


And if you haven't got tickets to the three main events - the evening wine tastings Thursday March 31, Friday April 1 and Saturday April 2 - you are a bit late - tickets are sold out for Friday and Saturday and only a few remain for Thursday - the best night to go.  [But check Craigslist and other sources for tickets - it's worth attending.]

There are many other great events - and many are also sold out - but for those attending the three big tastings, here are some key Spanish wineries you should not miss - and that may not be back in Vancouver again.

I will be there on Thursday night and will update this list with the latest info before I head back again on Saturday night for another round.

Remember - you can't possibly taste all the wines available even if you are there for all three nights - so choose wisely and taste moderately.  It's the only way to get to as many as possible.

How many is that?  My personal one-night record for tasting wines and making notes of some sort is 78 - I'm a professional so don't try this at home or at the Festival.  And no, I don't spit!


Alvaro Palacios - with wines from Priorat - one of Spain's hottest wine regions - as well as traditional Rioja and up and coming Bierzo, this is one to target. The Les Terrasses has always been a 90+ point wine and the 2008 on tap will likely do the same. Senor Palacios will be in attendance too.

Bodegas Juan Gil - a regular fixture on the Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines of the Year, this Jumilla winery is producing award-winning wines.  Their "monastrell 12 meses" - a 12-month oak aged monastrell - also known as mouvedre elsewhere - is a killer.

Bodegas Valdemar - a personal favourite, this excellent Rioja winery puts out the Conde de Valdemar line of reds - Crianza - always reliable value - Reserva - a great wine - and Gran Reserva - long aged and simply awesome after 25 months in French and American oak barrels.  Their 2001 is amazingly good - and available years after other countries 2001s have long disappeared.

Vina Mayor- another Top 100 Wines winner, their 2004 is still available in BC for $29 - and it's a 93 point wine!  Hard to underestimate how good this one is.  I look forward to tasting their other offerings.

Bodegas Faustino - like excellent old wines?  Don't miss this winery, which will be serving it's 1999 Gran Reserva and its 2005 Reserva

Bodegas Palacio - sharing space with Vina Mayor, don't miss their 2004 Glorioso Reserva - one of my perennial favourites, an 88 point wine and reasonably priced at $25. [It's baby brother Crianza at $18 is also a winner.]

Miguel Torres - one of the biggest wineries in the world, Torres produces value wines like Coronas and elite wines like Mas La Plana - a cabernet sauvignon that can take on Bordeaux, Napa Valley or anywhere else for top quality.  Also on tap - Torres Celeste from Ribera del Duero - another wine I love.

Cava Pares Balta - from Penedes north of Barcelona, this organically-certified winery - since 2004 - produces tasty reds, whites and sparkling wines.  Look for the Mas Elena - a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc.  Interestingly the winemakers are two young women oenologists.

And that's just a taste of the fine Spanish wines available - not to mention those from around the world and here at home in BC.

See you at the Festival Thursday and Saturday night and check back here after Thursday for more info and wine picks!