Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Wine Barbarian's Tables to Taste At and Quick Quaffs for the 2017 Vancouver International Wine Festival!

Mission Hill winemaker Darryl Brooker and Bill Tieleman - The Wine Barbarian
UPDATED: So many wines, so little time - and such limited ability to taste them without unfortunate inebriation consequences! 

That's always the problem with the fabulous Vancouver International Wine Festival - and each year it actually gets worse - because the selection and number of wines gets better.

This year there will be 1,700 wines from 180 wineries located in 16 countries!  And the 25,000 wine drinkers will have sampled or purchased about 43,000 bottles of wine!

Fortunately you can count on the Wine Barbarian for some timely and helpful advice to guide you through that massive amount of wine - and so here are the first of my Tables to Taste At and Quick Quaffs for the 2017 Festival.   Rest assured, all the wines at VIWF are worthy and have their champions - and omission is no insult here - I just give you some wines I've tasted already; some more where I know the winery is awesome and others that I'll add as the Festival goes on.

And check my Twitter feed and Facebook for additional wines!

Oh Canada - our host and native wine land

Where to start?  

Mission Hill Family Estate - Increasingly complex reds as winemaker Darryl Brooker makes great wines even better - and I was able to taste his work in the Oculus vertical tasting earlier this week, along with previous John Simes vintages - outstanding wines.  Tonight I was tried the 2012 Compendium at $82 and the Terroir Collection Organic Merlot No. 39 Whispering Hill 2013  at $60 - long name, longer finish!  Both very fine wines.  Their Perpetual Chardonnay is also fabulous.

Don't miss Foxtrot - love their Pinot Noirs - and tasted two great ones Thursday night - The Walls and The Waltz - both beautiful. Winemaker Gustav Allender is at the table.

Laughing Stock - a Naramata favourite, with great red blends Portfolio and Blind Trust.  Owner David Enns is in the house.

Bench 1775 - Enjoyed my visit this past summer and their wines - lots of good value and particularly like their reds - try the Cabernet Franc/Malbec. Winemaker Val Tait is in attendance.

Averill Creek Vineyard - Some BCers still don't know the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island makes great wines!  I'm a big fan of their Pinot Noir and tonight winemaker Andrew Johnson poured me their Somenos Series 2014 - a reserve Pinot Noir that is elegant, along with their regular 2013 Pinot Noir that is always a great drink.

Osoyoos Larose - France meets Okanagan, makes finesse wines!  Thursday night I tasted three vintages of their Le Grand Vin - 2011 - 2012 and 2013 - all awesome but loved the 2011 most!  Their Petales d'Osoyoos is also a great buy and immediately accessible for current drinking, while the Grand Vins should be aged. And yes, this winery is part of the Gruaud Larose Bordeaux family.

One Faith - the most expensive wine in the house and certainly one of the best - pouring three red Bordeaux-style blends from 2012-14 and star winemaker Pascal Madevon and owner Bill Lui at the table.  At $200 a bottle this is not to be missed.  Their Certitude is the second label as at $42.  Pascal previously made Osoyoos Larose!
Chateau d'Armailhac is $147 a bottle

Cedar Creek - makes lovely Pinot Noir among others - I tried their Platinum Block 2 and Platinum Block 4 from the 2014 vintage - extremely fine wines at $54 each.  Will be back for their Chardonnay and Riesling. And for $19 they produce a very good value 2014 Merlot with lots of character.

Pentage - Another of my love-to-drink Okanagan wineries - try their Pentage red blend and the Rosanne, Marsanne, Viognier white blend.  With co-proprietor Julie Rennie at the festival.  

From Ontario - I love, love, love Closson Chase from Prince Edward County!  Big, beautiful, balanced Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Domaine Queylus - I know nothing but that they have three different Pinot Noirs froml the Niagara Peninsula and I am tasting them all soon!

Nova Scotia - Yes, they make wine and it's excellent!  Particularly sparkling - try Benjamin Bridge - with two Brut Methode Classique wines - and Blomidon Estate Winery - their $41 Late Pick Chardonnay sparkling is super dry and delicious!  Also from Nova Scotia is L'Acadie Vineyards - try their excellent 2010 Prestige Brut Estate - a different, toastier style.

France - Of course - always one of the must-visit countries and tables like that of Baronne de Philip Rothschild don't get any better.  With Chateau d'Armailhac 2010 running at $148 a bottle and Chateau Coutet Sauternes-Barsac dessert wine at $87 there will be no shortage of drinkers lined up. And for good reason - they are outstanding!

Sadly no Champagne houses this year - don't understand why - but lots of other superb wineries.  

And from the Rhone Valley - Louis Bernard is a winery with enormous values in all the produce. Try their Vacqueyras 2014 and Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2014 - both excellent and under $40 amazingly.  Meet Guillaume Blisson - Canadian Sales Director but also a former winemaker I shared a delicious dinner with at Provence Marinaside!

Be sure to visit the Borie-Manoux table - four excellent Bordeaux selections including Chateau Beau-Site at $50 in both the 2005 and 2010 vintage - great opportunity to compare two different vintages! Plus Chateau Herve Baroque - at $38 a Bordeaux bargain.

Italy - Another wine region you can't miss - go to Rocca delle Macie for their excellent Tuscan bottles - and meet charming General Manager Marco Toti - who I shared dinner with at Cibo earlier this week - it was amazing.  Their Super Tuscan Roccato 2011 is superb and a longtime favourite at $47 - a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon in equal parts - and their Chianti Classico Riserva is always great and great value at $26.
Bill Tieleman, Greg Corra and wine agent Megan Thompson.

Allegrini - This winery from Veneto produces wonderful wines at many price points.  Try their Palazzo della Torre at $29 and La Grola at $33, then don't miss the $100 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico.  Magnifico!

Australia - Inland Trading - This is absolutely always a must-stop-at table - because Greg Corra brings the most amazing Australian wines and every one of them is a winner!  This year is no exception - try the Masseno Mataro 2010 - stunning wine.  Mataro is also known in France and elsewhere as Mouvedre.  And the Kelleske Pirathon Shiraz 2013 is also astonishingly good - super smooth and a real finesse wine.

Majella - Another great Australian table - you do not want to miss their 2009 Sparkling Shiraz - it will turn your head about bubbly upside down!  A full blown red full of intensity - and it sparkles!

United States - Justin Vineyards makes great wines out of Paso Robles, California and I've visited them in the past - don't miss their Justification at $75 and Isosceles at $118 - both powerhouse reds of enormous concentration and longevity. 

Etude - It means study in French and their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay definitely went to school in Burgundy!  Four exquisite Pinots but my favourite is the Santa Rita Hills Fiddlestix 2013 at $77 - really an exceptional wine from Santa Barbara, not that their two Carneros versions are anything but tasty.  And a $29 Lyric from Santa Barbara is a true bargain!

Bill Tieleman and Shirley Brooks of Elk Cove.
Elk Cove Vineyards - Oregon - Another real treat with Pinot Noir - loved extremely much their Clay Court Pinot 2014 - super soft and yet powerful. And the Mount Richmond is also awesome.   Had a nice chat with VP Shirley Brooks - she is their Vine Star at the Festival.

Chile - Vina Montes - I was lucky enough to taste their fabulous Purple Angel Carmenere 2013 at the trade tasting Thursday and sorry it isn't going to be there for the other tastings but I'm also a huge fan of their Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon - the 2014 vintage is on tap along with their 2014 Syrah.

Bill Tieleman and Jim Robertson with photobombing friends!
New Zealand - Stonleigh - Simply outstanding value every time with all their wines.  I particularly like their Rapaura Pinot Noir at $32 and Rapaura Sauvignon Blanc at $25 - loads of delicious fruit!  And their Latitude versions of the same grapes at $22 and $21 are also lovely.  Say hi to my buddy Jim Robertson - Global Brand Ambassador who is here.

Greece - Alpha Estate - I'm a big fan of their wines - and if you haven't tried Greek wines recently, please do!  Their Florina Turtles Vineyard Syrah and Red Blend SMX will convince you that there's more to this wine country than Retsina!
Thursday afternoon at the Trade Tasting - VIWF

Croatia - Stina - Another revelation when they first came to VIWF a while back - great wines and from grapes we don't know. Their exceptional Plavac Mali Maestro is $63 a bottle and the Posip $47 - these are world class wines.  Stina means "white stone" in the Dalmatian dialect. This year Coronica winery from Croatia also visits - I look forward to trying their wines as well.


BUT This blog post will be updated AGAIN when I have had a few MORE drinks!

Vancouver International Wine Festival - Thursday and Saturday night tasting SOLD OUT! Friday and Saturday afternoon still available.

Cibo Trattoria manager Mark Taylor, Rocca delle Macie General Manager Marco Toti and Bill Tieleman, Wine Barbarian at winery dinner Wednesday night.
If you love wine and want to attend any of the big International Festival Tasting events - MOVE QUICKLY - because not only is the ever-popular Saturday February 18 night event sold out but so is the Thursday night tasting!

Fortunately the Friday night tasting and the Saturday afternoon matinee tasting still have tickets available but you have to act now if you want to go.

Head online directly to the Vancouver International Wine Festival ticket sales site - linked here - and purchase your tickets now.

There are also a few tickets left for Thursday afternoon's "Ontario Cool" tasting with wines from that province and Saturday's noon Celebrating Canada's 150th lunch - both sound great!

This is an incredible tasting - North America's largest consumer wine festival!
Rocce delle Macie wines at Cibo dinner
And with Canada featured as the regional country focus for our 150th anniversary celebrations - its a unique opportunity to try many fine wines from not just British Columbia and Ontario but also Nova Scotia - where there are some really interesting wineries producing award-winning sparkling and still wines.  

And of course, there are lots of wineries from France, Italy, Spain, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Chile and the United States - as you would expect.

Then there's the unexpected countries - Turkey for the first time I believe; Croatia on a return visit after surprising and impressing previously; Uruguay - another first if memory is correct - home of some great Tannats; Greece and Japan.

So don't miss out - this is your once a year chance!  See you there - and check this blog, my @BillTieleman Twitter feed and Facebook page for updates and recommendations for top wines you shouldn't miss!