Arts Club Theatre fundraiser spotlights diversity of Californian wines

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      For the past decade, the Arts Club Theatre has organized a wine fundraising event each spring. Last year, 95 wineries from across the province participated in Chef Meets B.C. Grape. This year, the Arts Club hosted the 34th annual California Wine Fair during its cross-Canada stop in Vancouver. The fundraiser, which benefits the Arts Club’s community-based programs and youth education initiatives, took place April 22 at the Vancouver Convention Centre East.

      More than 400 wines from 115 wineries were poured at this year’s wine fair. While many people associate California wines with those mainly from Sonoma and Napa Valley, the state actually has many grape-growing regions. Similar to what I experienced at the Vancouver International Wine Festival tasting room this year—where France was featured, but each region in France produced distinct styles of wines—I learned that wines made in Northern California were very different to those in the Central Coast, Sierra Foothills, and Southern region.

      I was familiar with about a dozen of the featured wineries, so I chose to focus most of my time tasting ones that were new to me.

      The 2011 Pinot Noir from Napa Valley's Truchard Vineyards was an early favourite.
      Michelle da Silva

      Another highlight was J. LOHR Vineyards & Wines. This was another winery a few friends had mentioned to me before but I had never tasted. Their 2012 Riesling was crisp and refreshing, with bright flavours of apricot and lychee but not overly sweet. Of the reds, I enjoyed the 2011 Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon the most. The wine was rich and full-bodied, with hints of chocolate and nuttiness mixed in with ripe dark fruit. Their grapes are grown in Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties, located on the Central Coast.

      More than 100 wineries were showcased, including Sonoma's La Crema wines.
      Michelle da Silva

      There was also Wagner Family of Wine, which highlighted four of its labels—with the 2012 Belle Glos ‘Las Alturas’ Pinot Noir and 2011 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon being standouts.

      Rutherford Ranch Winery, another family-owned winery with over half a dozen labels in its portfolio, occupied two tables at the fair. My favourite of their bottles was the 2012 Rhiannon, a blend of Petite Syrah, Syrah, and Barbera Red. The medium-body wine had notes of bright red fruit and smooth vanilla.

      The tasting table for Francis Ford Coppola Winery was a popular spot at the California Wine Fair.
      Michelle da Silva

      The California Wine Fair lasted just two and a half hours, so tasting every wine in the room is unlikely. The event, complete with a silent auction and stations offering cheese and other snacks, however, is a fun and tasty way to celebrate one of Canada’s most successful professional theatre companies. If you enjoy supporting the arts and love wine, plan on attending next year.

      Domaine Chandon Wine was one of the few California wineries pouring bubbly at the event.
      Michelle da Silva