Saturday, March 3, 2018

Kiss - Don't Spit! Wine tasting advice and must visit wineries at the Vancouver International Wine Festival!!!

Kiss - Don't Spit - or you won't know what you're missing! 

NO! Kiss - don't spit! 
That's my contrarian advice to those attending the Vancouver International Wine Festival Saturday afternoon and evening for the International Festival Tastings.

And below are some of my "Must Visit" winery tables based on extensive research the past few days!

But first - 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 - I strongly disagree.

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

The experts's reasoning is sound in a way - 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 elixir float 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!  

Okay - sermon over - what to drink at the Vancouver International Wine Festival:

With about 750 wines to potentially taste at the International Festival Tastings, you need a strategy and discipline!

So here's my suggestion - go to these excellent tables first and try all their wines.  You can't possibly go wrong and then everything else you taste will be gravy - err groovy.


Bill Tieleman with Cristiano van Zeller of Quinta Vale D. Maria
This years Wine Festival has a regional focus on Portugal and Spain - and I couldn't be happier with that!  

Portugal makes not only great Port of course but fantastic fresh, citrusy white wines that have blown me away and fabulous reds that are not only some of the best in the world but incredibly priced by comparison to say, Bordeaux.

I was honoured to have lunch and also attend a 2015 Vintage Port tasting with this famous gentleman - Cristiano van Zeller of Quinta Vale D. Maria - one of Portugal's great wineries!  Cristiano is hilarious, outspoken and one hell of a winemaker!

Don't miss his wines, especially the VVV Valleys Douro Branco - a beautiful white retailing for $39 - and the Douro Tinto 2014 - a big, bold red that retains for $56.  At the Trade Tasting I was able to sample his CV - Curriculum Vitae 2015 that is a marvellous wine I've enjoyed in previous vintages - superb wine.  It retails for about $120 if you can find it - perhaps at a private store sometime.

Jorge Ramos and Bill Tieleman
Be sure to also check out the Fonseca and Ramos Pinto tables, where you will find Jorge Ramos, Export Director and part of the fabled Ramos family.  Be sure to try the Fonseca Guimaraens Vintage Port 2015 - which I had a chance to taste - it's super-early to drink a Port now but you can just instantly tell that this will be fantastic for years to come.  It retails for $74.  And you don't want to miss Ramos Pinto 20 Year Old Tawny Port - a real beauty retailing for $64.
But everything from Portugal is well worth a try and just use these as starting points to discover the country's great wines.


Spanish wine was my first true love when I discovered that fermented grapes beat the hell out of hops - no offence to beer lovers - and Torres was the winery that led me to become a collector as well as a drinker.
Bill Tieleman and Miguel Torres Maczassak
So it was a real pleasure to meet Miguel Torres Maczassek - a 5th generation member of this famous winemaking family!  I've also been fortunate enough to visit Torres winery in Penedes in Spain in the past. 

Miguel led an excellent Wine Festival seminar walking us through Torres' wine from across Spain, including their flagship red - Mas La Plana - a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grown near Penedes that stunned the French and the world in 1979 by being blind tasted and winning top honours against the best of Bordeaux.  

Mas La Plana 2012 in the middle of two other great Torres wines
It's always a beautiful wine - and the 2012 is a powerful, tannic and layered with dark fruit - and you can taste it and meet Miguel at the Torres table. 
I also love the Celeste 2013 from Ribera del Duero that is a fabulous value at just $26.

With Spain being a focus region I could go on for days about the other great wines from there at the festival but let me just pick a few favourites:  Grupo Faustino - with a stunning Gran Reserva 1994 - that's no typo - 1994 - that is just marvellous at an amazingly reasonable $64; their Gran Reserva 2005 at $42 is also great; Muriel Wines from Rioja - and its great Gran Reserva 2005 at $38;  Rioja Vega has a wonderful Gran Reserva 2011 at just $40 - another stunning wine; Bodegas Valdemar is one of my mainstays - and they have a Conde Valdemar Gran Reserva 2004 at $90 for a magnum and a Rioja Reserva 2009 at $27 that you will love.  But try other Spanish wineries - they all have great bottles!


When it comes to the Vancouver Wine Festival there is always one table I tell everyone to visit - Inland Trading

Greg Corra, Managing Director, brings serious stuff to the table - literally!  While some wineries bring, err, simple, cheap Monday night wines, Inland Trading brings some of Australia's best.
Bill Tieleman, Greg Corra and agent extraordinaire Megan Thompson 

Try the fabulous Greenock Creek Alicie's Block Shiraz 2010 at $55 - you will be blown away!  And then move up yet another big notch to the Jasper Hill Georgia's Paddock Shiraz  2013 - stunning fruit, tannin and intensity! It retails at $87.

And don't miss Majella Wines nearby, with owner Brian Lynn and his wife Ros - their Sparking Shiraz 2012 is a total surprise and eyeopener if you haven't had it - a truly unique and great wine!  

And Grant Burge Wines are also next door with one of the tastiest - and most expensive - wines in the room - the Meshach Shiraz 2011 at $155 a bottle! Huge, beautiful wine.  Also try their Filsell Shiraz 2015 at $39 and Holy Trinity GSM 2013 at $40 if you are counting pennies! 


Cherry Pie - if you love Pinot Noir like I do, you simply can't miss this one: four Pinots, all great but the two big boys: Huckleberry Snodgrass Pinot Noir 2015 and Rodgers Creek Pinot Noir 2015 are killers at $92 each.  And the Stanly Ranch Pinot Noir 2014 at $73 is also awesome. 

Duckhorn Wine Company - four great wines, all $48 or more!  Brian Bostwick of Duckhorn brings the good stuff - including their Napa Valley Merlot 2014 at $67 a pop and a very tasty Napa Valley Chardonnay 2015 at $48 that are both outstanding!  And their Goldeneye Pinot Noir 2014 - sadly only at the Trade Show - is one of my all time favourite Pinot Noirs - and you can find it at some private stores for about $73.

New Zealand

Stoneleigh - my buddy Jim Robertson will pour you some excellent Stoneleigh Rapaura Pinot Noir 2016 - a really great Pinot at $32 - and the Stoneleigh Rapaura Sauvignon Blanc 2016 - another favourite at $25.  

Their Latitude wines are also excellent value.
Bill Tieleman, Jim Robertson and wine fiends! 

Where to begin?  Well, there's only one Champagne house - Laurent-Perrier - and there's no such thing as mediocre Champagne!  But their Grand Siecle at $180 a bottle is an absolute revelation!  No wonder the rich love Champagne - see why! 

Like Bordeaux?  If not, get that checked out - it's a serious illness!  I love it and you can get some wonderful wines at Sovex GrandsChateaux - including a Chateau Branas Grand Poujeaux 2009 at $78 that is really awesome and - hate me if you will for this - an excellent value.  Their Confidences De Prieure Lichine 2008 is also beautiful at $56 and they have two more Bordeaux! 


We can't forget our own great British Columbia wines - and there are also sparklers from Nova Scotia's L'Acadie Vineyards

I somehow have missed Cassini Cellars but won't make that mistake again after trying their Godfather Red 2012 - a massive wine that will make you an offer - you know the rest -at $75!  Also loved their Maximus 2012 at $40

Painted Rock - always a favourite and owner John Skinner is in the house.  Try the Estate Grown Red Icon 2015 - their flagship - at $54 - beautiful wine and a true value at that price.

And please don't neglect the rest of our awesome BC wineries - don't drink like an Albertan! ;-0  

Running out of time again - but don't miss Tenute Silvia Nardi for two great Brunellos - the Tenute Silvia Nardi Brunello di Montalcino 2012 at $59 and the stunning Tenute Silvia Nardi Brunello di Montalcino Manachiara 2012 at $115.  Simply beautiful wines with a long life ahead of them - unless you are easily tempted.

Tenute Sette Ponti - All great wines but the standout is the famous Tenute Sette Ponti  Oreno 2015 - awesomely big and bold - it will last a long time and at $90 you shouldn't open early.  Their Tenute Sette Ponti Crognolo at $39 is a Vancouver favourite and what you drink while waiting for the Oreno to mature! 


Bodega Catena Zapata - truly one of the most reliable wineries in the world - everything they do from entry level to flagship wines are fabulous!  You likely know their Malbec 2015 at $24 - because Vancouver drinks tons of it and for good reason.  But their Nicosia Vineyard Malbec 2013 at $100 shows just how far you can go with that varietal - into the stratosphere of excellence!  I also love their Alta Chardonnay 2015 at $39.


Another country that produces fabulous wines - go to Vina Montes and try the Purple Angel 2015 - it is outstanding Carmenere!  At $75 it is not cheap and the price has gone up  a fair bit in the last few years - but that's because it's well worth it.  Carmenere disappeared from Europe but this "Jurassic Park" grape as Montes calls it is superb and this is one of Chile's best expressions of its excellence.

Okay - I've now definitely run out of time and haven't scratched the surface of all the great wines and wineries at the Vancouver International Wine Festival!  If you're going today - I hope this helps and if you aren't - it was sold out ages ago - you may still find some of these fine wines at your liquor/wine store.