6 free wine tastings taking place in Vancouver this month

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      Sure, you’re a little broke now that we’re just past the holiday season—and, potentially, getting a bit bored, too?

      For wine enthusiasts, there is almost always entertainment on the local calendar. We can expand our knowledge while sipping and swirling around town, and sometimes we don’t even have to reach into our pockets to do so! This week, here are a half-dozen opportunities that won’t cost you a dime.

      Broadway International Wine Shop, operating in Kitsilano since 1986, is an intimate hub for West Side wine lovers and visitors from all around Vancouver. In 2018, it is continuing its series of complimentary tastings each Sunday afternoon between 2 and 5 o’clock.

      “It’s a great community feel in here,” co-owner Christopher Reid told me by phone. “It’s a casual drop-in scenario where we see plenty of regulars and a good amount of first-timers, too.”

      Reid explained how each week they’ll open five or six different wines within a certain theme, labels that staff are enthusiastic about and eager to share with customers.

      Upcoming highlights include an exploration of how to examine a wine through the blind-tasting process, on January 14; a visit with the “natural wine” category, on January 21; and a “Tour de France” on February 4 covering the Loire and Rhône valleys, along with other wines from the country’s south.

      Oh, and on February 11 there will be a rosé tasting in honour of Valentine’s Day, natch. For more information on upcoming tastings and the store, visit the Broadway Wine Shop website.

      Over in Olympic Village, Legacy Liquor Store has tastings with representatives from not one but two British Columbian wineries from the famed Naramata Bench on Okanagan Lake.

      On Sunday (January 14) between 2 and 6 p.m., it’s Foxtrot Vineyards on deck. The winery—owned and operated by the Allander family (Torsten and Kicki, along with their winemaker son, Gustav)—has been renowned for lavish Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs since its inaugural vintage in 2004. I still vividly recall trying the wines for the first time more than a decade ago and noting how they were perfectly ripe while being comfortably cradled in French oak, offering both a purity of fruit and a warm, toasty undercurrent of baking spices.

      All these years later, they have maintained this opulent style and their bottlings have become quite coveted by collectors both at home and abroad. (Foxtrot wines are also sold in the U.S., Switzerland, and Japan.) These are luxury wines made in small batches and can be quite memorable after the very first sip.

      Moving toward the end of the month—on January 26, from 4 to 8 p.m.—wares from winemaker Kathy Malone’s Hillside Winery are being poured, a welcome postwork tipple. Established in 1989, it is one of the pioneering wineries on the Bench, and although grapes have been sourced from up and down the Okanagan Valley over the years, the Hillside crew now only work with 100-percent-Naramata fruit.

      Step up to the tasting bar and you’ll be introduced to Hillside Gewürztraminer 2016 ($21.29, in-store). It’s a true snapshot of sunny Naramata, as it’s sourced from a half-dozen vineyards dotted up and down the Bench, some of them up to 40 years old. Bright mangoes and pears are graced with a rose petal or two, and there’s a fun, spicy kick of fresh ginger on the finish.

      Hillside Merlot 2014 ($21.21, in-store) is next up in the flight. After harvest and destemming, there was a nine-day cold soak, then a ferment and maceration with the skins for 27 days. From that point, the finished wine enjoyed seven months in French oak, which added cocoa and cardamom notes to the bright red berry and plum character coming from the fruit.

      Following that will be Hillside’s Syrah 2014, which is my personal favourite (but wasn’t in stock at the store by deadline, which is why I don’t have a price; it’s $26 if you order from the winery). Syrah is one of my very favourite grapes being grown in the Okanagan, and this expressive vintage is a great example why. It chimes in at 13.3 percent alcohol (so this is far from any big and jammy Shiraz), and the aromatics offer a host of spices, including cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and pepper. Then the palate is full of blackberries, black currants, and a splash of mocha flavours toward the end.

      For more info on the store, including other tastings they’re offering, visit the Legacy Liquor website.