It is now mere days until the next edition of Top Drop Vancouver, the terroir-focused wine event that a few industry colleagues and I started up four years ago.
It’s all happening around Vancouver on Tuesday (May 23) with various communal winemaker dinners. Then the Main Event—our grand tasting, featuring all participating wineries along with a good handful of craft breweries and cideries—goes down at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre in Yaletown on Wednesday (May 24).
The Georgia Straight has once again stepped up as an event sponsor, so some big thanks goes out to this very publication. As always, Top Drop proceeds support the B.C. Hospitality Foundation, our local charity that offers financial support to members of the hospitality industry who might be facing major medical crises.
A little peek behind the curtain:
Each year, our process begins the same. Our team casts out a wide net to British Columbia–based importers and wineries, asking for winery applications to participate in the event. Once applications are in, they go to our selection committee, and our guidance to them is simple. First and foremost, Top Drop wineries must fit with our general philosophy: that wines, indeed, express terroir or offer a sense of place.
Whether we’re talking vines grown in mineral-rich soils or under cool-climate growing conditions bringing bright acidity or in sun-drenched regions offering generous, opulent fruit and so on, we want those elements to be notable in the glass and for them to have arrived there authentically, rather than via heavy-handed additions in the winery.
Sustainable farming is also key. Although we’re not militant on producers being officially certified organic or biodynamic (though many are), there is a high priority on those who employ these methods while farming their own fruit or who work with growers who fit the mould.
The other major component is a commitment to partner with producers who rarely visit Vancouver or have never been here before, so we can offer local wine enthusiasts a unique experience.
After many meetings with our selection committee, a few mild battles, and an arm wrestle or two, we came up with a roster of 33 international and local producers we’re extremely proud of. In fact, after the dust settled, I realized that a handful of them are wineries or regions I’ve written about right here over the past year or so.
The whole reason I do what I do for a living is to share my enthusiasm for awesome wine with those who may be pickin’ up what I’m layin’ down. It’s one thing to write or Tweet or Instagram about something and hope for the best, but all cards on the table: it’s a whole other thing when I can play a part in actually bringing these fantastic people and their wines right to you, and even be in the room when you try them!
When I was in Barolo, Italy, last July, one of the highlights was meeting the Abbona family from Marchesi di Barolo, a phenomenal producer with a knack for weaving their clay and limestone soils through their elegant takes on the Nebbiolo grape. Anna and Valentina Abbona, mother and daughter proprietors, are two of the sweetest people in the wine business you’ll ever meet. I’m stoked that Valentina will be here to share their stories and that you’ll get to experience her charm in person.
Speaking of second-generation principals, the name John Duval has long been the stuff of legend in the Australian wine industry. After all, he was at the helm of Penfolds, and the winery’s iconic Grange wines, for 29 years. He now makes his own wine under John Duval Wines, and his son Tim, who is part of the family business, will be here to talk all things Barossa Valley.
Also on the eponymous winery front, we’ve got John Bookwalter of Bookwalter Wines here with his rich, rugged Washington state reds, and Anthony Truchard of Napa’s Truchard Vineyards, who’s also the second generation of a notable wine family.
Then there are many wineries I’m going to be experiencing for the first time. Champagne Devaux is on hand, and I can definitely see myself beelining to its table right off the bat, though the intrigue of my maiden voyage with sparkling wine from Luxembourg may see me popping by Caves Bernard-Massard’s table first.
Of course, there are downsides to running an event like this, besides the sleepless nights leading up to it. With all of the running around that’s in store for me, I won’t be able to enjoy any of the Top Drop dinners, including the Low Country Seafood Boil at Chinatown’s Mamie Taylor’s, where attendees will enjoy the wines and company of principals from Portuguese, Australian, American, and Italian wineries while cracking into spot prawns, lobster, Dungeness crab, and more. As well, every year after it’s over, I realize that with all my running around I’ve hardly had the chance to try any wines!
You can, though! Come join us, say hi, and meet some incredible global producers while enjoying authentic wines of place. By doing so, you’ll also be supporting the B.C. Hospitality Foundation, so it’s a win-win for all.
I hope to see you there. Get the scoop on all the producers, events, and more at www.topdropvancouver.com/.