Wednesday, January 6, 2016

It's Vancouver International Wine Festival time again - tickets on sale starting Tuesday January 12 at 9:30 a.m. for the best wine event of the year, featuring Italy in 2016!

Wine Barbarian Bill Tieleman on left with legendary Joel Peterson of Ravenswood at VIWF 2015

It's Vancouver International Wine Festival time again - and tickets for the February 20 to 28, 2016 edition go on sale for all events on Tuesday January 12 at 9:30 a.m.

This year the VIWF is featuring Italy as the focus country - and that means every event will likely sell out - especially the fabulous wine dinners and special seminars.

Tickets for the International Festival Tastings are already on sale - and early bird tickets are sold out - for the big evening tastings on Thursday February 26, Friday February 27 and Saturday February 28.  So don't delay - these extremely popular events are in high demand every year and Saturday will be sold out soon based on previous Festivals.

Friday and Saturday evening tickets are $95 while Thursday is $89 - a slight discount for the weeknight - and one I always attend because it's a bit less crowded.

A welcome recent addition is the Saturday matinee - an afternoon edition of the International Festival tasting from 2:30 to 5 pm for a bargain price of $75.

What events to attend?  As many as possible in the short time available is my best advice. 

Take a look at the full VIWF brochure online to see all the events and much more information. 

But some are clearly exceptional and not to be missed - like Italy and Beyond dinner at Cioppino's with wines from Biondi Santi, Pio Cesari and more matched by acclaimed chef/owner Pino Posteraro's culinary masterpieces or the La Vita Ruffino dinner at CinCin - featuring great Italian foods and wines.

Sell-out seminars will surely include Tuscan Trailblazers on Wednesday Feb 25 with two of the most famous wines of the Antinori family - Tignanello and Guado al Tasso - in a vertical tasting of the two SuperTuscan classics - wow! 

Tignanello - one of Antinori's killer SuperTuscan wines

Also sure to be fully subscribed is 1,000 Years of Tuscany with Barone Francesco Ricasoli of the famous wine family in attendance, featuring Chianti Classico wines and Amaronely: Only Amarone on Thursday Feb. 26 for $85 featuring fabulous Amarone wines from Valpolicelli.

Please be assured that Italy is not the only country with wines at the Festival - in fact, there are over 1450 wines from 14 countries and 155 wineries participating over the eight-day event - France, Spain, Australia, Canada, the U.S., Portugal, Germany, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Greece, Japan and even Croatia are represented in addition to Italy!

There are so many other events to choose from and you simply can't go wrong with any of them - unless you procrastinate on buying your tickets - so remember that they go on sale Tuesday January 12 at 9:30 a.m. and many will sell out that very day!

Rock star wine maker Charles Smith of Walla Walla poses at 2015 VIWF
The VIWF is also a unique opportunity to meet winemakers, owners or principal staff of every winery at the event - it's a requirement - and that means you can meet legendary figures in the wine world, as I did with "Godfather of Zinfandel" Joel Peterson of Ravenswood Winery last Festival or Charles Smith of Walla Walla's great K Vintners and Charles Smith Wines - one of the wine world's rock stars.

Be sure to follow #VIWF on Twitter for updates from the Festival and wine writers and collectors - lots of good tips there.  

And watch this space closer to the Festival and during it for my recommended wines to taste!

Cheers and see you at the VIWF! 


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Wonderful Top 100 Wines from 2015 - all available in BC and under $40

In November the Wine Spectator magazine came out with its annual Top 100 Wines of 2015 - it's ranking of great wines that are high scoring but also not ridiculously high priced or completely impossible to find.
Porca de Murca

And several of them are available in BC Liquor Stores and private wine stores, as well as in other Canadian jurisdictions.  

But it you want them, move fast - there is limited availability and wine guys like me have already taken some of them off the shelves days after the Top 100 was announced.

Top of the list for great value is the Porca de Murca 2013 - a red from Real Companhia Velha in Douro, Portugal - rated 90 points by the Wine Spectator  and ranked #39 of the Top 100.  It is priced in BC Liquor Stores for just $12.99 plus taxes!  And there are over 1,000 bottles across BC - and the winery bottled an astonishing 250,000 - so more may become available here.

This is just an amazing value for a medium weight, delicious wine with red berry, plum, pepper and slate notes, made from classic Portuguese grapes like touriga nacional and tinta roriz but no oak aging.   

This should be your house wine for many months to come.

Next up - a really great wine for your steak, lamb or grilled meat - or hearty vegetarian  alternatives - the Viña Carmen Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Alto Gran Reserva 2012 from Chile - #32 on the Top 100 with a score of 91 points and priced at just $19.79 plus taxes at BC Liquor Stores.
Vina Carmen Gran Reserva

This is a classic Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, with lots of blackberry, currants, leather and cedar notes.  The wine is 94% Cab Sauv with 3% Carmenere and 3% Petit Verdot to round it out.  

Simply delicious now and it will drink well through 2019.

White wines are a bit harder to come by on the Top 100 and this next one is always a great bottle - but it may be difficult to track down this vintage.

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2014 from New Zealand is ranked at #21 of the Top 100 and scored at an impressive 93 points - it sells for $31.99 at BC Liquor Stores, where some of the 2014 bottles are still around but quickly being replaced by the 2015.

Having tasted this wine, I would definitely urge you to hurry and try several stores, because it is remarkable!

Cloudy Bay 2014
Cloudy Bay put New Zealand and its Marlborough region on the world wine map many years ago and you can see why with just one sip - an explosive, beautiful grapefruit, lemon, lime, ginger combination that is a revelation to the tongue!

The only good news about the short supply is that Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc is rarely not scored 90 or higher, so the 2015 vintage will almost surely be another winner.

One more from the Top 100 not to be missed is the Arcanum Toscano Il Fauno 2010 from Italy - scored at 92 points and ranked #55.

This is an interesting wine because it's a Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot - none of which is native to Tuscany - but man does it grow well there!

The Il Fauno 2010 is a little higher priced at $37.99 a bottle at BC Liquor Stores but I highly recommend trying it - and there are hundreds in stock.

Loads of cherry fruit with some tobacco and cedar - a really wonderful wine that can be enjoyed now or aged up to another 10 years.  
Il Fauno
It would be interesting to blind taste it up against some similar priced 2010 Bordeaux wines from France for a comparison - don't bet against it!

There are a few other Top 100 wines on BC Liquor Stores' shelves and I believe others will appear there in the months ahead, as we are sometimes behind the distribution curve compared to the United States - so keep your eyes open and check back here for more tips!


Fantastic Faustino! 97-point rated Spanish Rioja available in BC at bargain price!

It's not everyday you can taste what esteemed experts believe is a near perfect wine - one with a 97 point score out of a possible 100.

And it's almost never that you can do that in British Columbia for less than hundreds or thousands of dollars for that bottle of liquid luxury.  Or buy a wine on the shelf in 2016 that is 15 years old!
Faustino I Gran Reserva 2001 Rioja

So when Britain's The Decanter wine magazine scored the 2001 Faustino I Gran Reserva from Spain's Rioja wine region at 97 points, lauded it as the best of its Top 50 Wines of 2013 and had Master of Wine Pedro Ballesteros give it a perfect score - this wine became one of the most sought after in the world.

And lucky us - BC Liquor Stores have over 100 bottles still available in 23 stores across the province, including three in Vancouver - for the amazing price of $35.99 plus taxes!

Needless to say, I already bought and tasted some of this great wine - it deserves all the accolades.

Leather, game, tobacco, dark cherry - you will taste them all in this wine, which is drinking beautifully now but also could last several more years to come - if you can hold out.

That said, not everyone ranked the Faustino I as highly as The Decanter.  The Wine Spectator gave it a surprisingly low 89 points and Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate 88 points - but that's the way wine works.

I'm with The Decanter on this and its three experts who rated the Faustino I as so impressive.

But one thing is clear - you can afford to find out for yourself if you hurry - and at that price you will not be disappointed in the least!