Top 50 wines at the 2011 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival
And here, then, is the promised list of 50. Or part of it. And don’t think it was easy settling on those, either. Some 1,650 wines—more or less, probably more!—were poured at the recent Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival; 32 of them Spanish, so that’s where I focused much of my attention, to come up with 19 that particularly pleased the palate. As well, there were four from Argentina and four from Australia (three of them from the same winery); nine from B.C., four from France, and one each from Germany and Greece (big surprise to me, too!).
Then there were four Italians and four Portuguese, two from South Africa, nine from California, and a singleton from Washington. I’m sure there were many more of merit, but there’s only so much time—and stamina.
The caveats: most of the wines I picked—in fact, most of the wines in the room—were not readily available through the usual channels in B.C. The “G” designation (for general availability) opposite a wine appeared far too rarely; the “S”, for specialty, means these wines are available in specialty liquor stores. The “Spec” stands for speculative and means you can occasionally order these ones by the case through the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch.
Most of the wines in the Festival were designated “XF” or “XP” or “XA”, designating restricted products that were available at the on-site store or by ordering directly from the winery. Prices will change, and vintages will, too. It’s a minefield out there for the wine-lover and -buyer. Many wineries use the festival to showcase wines they’d like to get into our market. In many cases, many of us would like it, too.
One note for the eagle-eyed: a lot of the wines from the on-site store that didn’t sell during the three days will eventually show up in selected LDB stores, bearing a special tag and often a special price. Be on the lookout; there are good buys to be had if you catch them in time.
All prices, vintages, and other information come from the festival shop’s price list. Here’s my lot, my wish list, in case I see them again. In the meantime read ’em and weep.
Bodegas Arúspide Pura Sangre Tempranillo 2009 ($25)
Bodegas Arúspide Alaris Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($14.99) Very tart and bright; a real bargain.
Axial Vinos y Viñedos Esperanza Verdejo/Viura 2010 ($15.99) Would love to see more of this here.
Grandes Vinos y Viñedos Anayón Chardonnay 2009 ($25.99) Huge fruit, lots of lees, overwhelming.
Bodegas Martín Codáx Burgáns Albariño 2009 ($24.96) Long a favourite. Available as specialty.
Bodegas Olivares Dulce Monastrell 2008 ($39.99) Lovely late harvest-style sweetness but costly.
Ramón Bilbao Vinos y Viñedos Volteo Verdejo/Sauvignon Blanc/Viognier 2009 ($17.99) A great blend from Spain’s Winery of the Year.
Bodegas Valdemar Conde de Valdemar Crianza 2006 ($18.99) A very good buy and available as specialty.
Bodegas Valdemar Edicion Limitada 2004 ($225.99) Brilliant wine (at the price, it should be); seek it out when next in Spain.
Graffigna Grand Reserve Torrontes 2010 ($18.99) Can’t get enough of this southern white, but they also showed a rose-petal-tasting Gewí¼rztraminer, which stole the show.
Humberto Canale Gran Reserve Pinot Noir 2009 ($32.99)
Humberto Canale Estate Pinot Noir 2009 ($17.99) The Reserve was admittedly fabulous but the Estate was no slouch either, at nearly half.
Domaine Jean Bousquet Santa Bax Brut Rosé Organic Chardonnay/Pinot Noir 2009 ($22.99) A bracing unusual mix, fabulous finish; sold out on the first day at the on-site store!
Buller Wines Victoria Tawny ($22)
Buller Wines Fine Old Muscat ($37.90)
Buller Wines Botrytis Semillon 2010 ($27) The Rutherglen winery seems to have a lock on great, sweet wines; hope to taste more of them here soon.
Robert Oatley Vineyards Rosé of Sangiovese 2010 ($18.99, speculative) Unusual approach to rosé; Chardonnay and Shiraz are specialty.
(All wines in this category can be ordered directly from the winery.)
Averill Creek Gewí¼rztraminer 2009 ($18) Very much in the Alsatian style (wants food); beautifully balanced.
Cassini Cellars Chardonnay Reserve 2008 ($28.91) Uber dry, crisp, elegant.
Hester Creek The Judge 2007 ($45) Beautiful addition to the bench.
Hester Creek Character Red 2009 & White 2010 ($19.99 each) Two of the best new blends. Painted Rock Estate Chardonnay 2009 ($29.93)
Red Rooster Chardonnay 2009 ($16.99) Canada’s only Gold Medal wine at the Chardonnay du Monde competition this year. A major bargoon.
Sperling Vineyards Old Vines Riesling 2009 ($29.01) Old Riesling fans will love it.
Summerhill Pyramid Winery Ehrenfelser 2009 ($19.95) Summerhill is carving up the cutting edge of this grape variety.
Wild Goose Vineyards Mystic River Pinot Gris 2009 ($19.99) Luscious and elegant.
Cave de Tain Saint Peray White Fleur de Roc 2009 ($28) Beautiful new wine from an iconic French label.
Champagne Deutz Cuvée William 1999 ($174.99) Yeah, well, no wonder it tastes so good; didya pop one for the royal wedding?
Champagne Lallier NV Zero Dosage ($89.96) New in town, available as specialty.
Schloss Reinhartshausen Riesling Spí¤tlese 2007 ($27.79) Great late-harvest wine from a great house. Specialty.
Boutari Moschofilero 2009 ($15.99) Big surprise from this big producer who promises more (surprises).
That’s 31. Have to stop here for space reasons; I’ll list the Italians, Portuguese, South African, and Californian wish-list wines next week.