Kurtis Kolt shares his memories of an especially enjoyable wine year

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      Reflecting on the year that was, I can certainly say it was a busy one.

      We hit the ground running in January, with the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers B.C. Chapter crowning Sean Nelson as the best sommelier in the province after a nail-biter of a service competition. After years spent pulling corks at Vij’s Restaurant, he recently joined wine director Bryant Mao at Hawksworth.

      In February, Johannes Selbach of the renowned Selbach-Oster winery in Mosel, Germany, was in town to visit with local wine-industry folks. At Kitsilano’s Maenam restaurant, he copresented a Riesling seminar with David Paterson of the Okanagan Valley’s Tantalus Vineyards. It was a deep dive, where the grape shone brightly, whether via the grapefruit-and-honey laden Selbach Riesling “Fish Label” 2016 (Mosel, Germany; $16.99, B.C. Liquor Stores) or Paterson’s apple-and-lime filled Tantalus “Old Vines” Riesling 2015 (Okanagan Valley, B.C.; $30.43, www.tantalus.ca/).

      Winemaker Grant Stanley from Kelowna’s Spearhead Winery hit Vancouver to release his newest slate of wines in March. I’m really digging the winery’s focus on Pinot Noir, bottling various cuvées from a mix of clones and vineyard sites. I recently tasted the Spearhead Pinot Noir Cuvée 2017 (Okanagan Valley, B.C.; $38, www.spearheadwinery.com/) and loved the toasty integration of French oak, mulberries, and dried herbs, all perfectly placed.

      I zipped over to Croatia in April and was dazzled by the country’s aromatic white wines. If seafood is hitting the table this holiday season, grab a bottle of Stina Cuvée White 2016 (Dalmatia, Croatia; $19.99, B.C. Liquor Stores). Indigenous varieties Posip and Vuguva are rounded out with a splash of Chardonnay, culminating in an aromatic, citrusy profile with lively acidity.

      Top Drop Vancouver, the small, terroir-driven wine festival I cofounded five years ago, kept the month of May very busy. It was a privilege to welcome everyone from Elisabetta Foradori (try her peppery Foradori Dolomiti Teroldego 2016 [Italy; $35.99, B.C. Liquor Stores]) to Jay Drysdale from the Okanagan Valley’s Bella Wines sparkling house.

      In June I took my first visit to Alsace in France. The picturesque region’s lofty white wines like Hugel Muscat 2013 (Alsace, France; $28.99, B.C. Liquor Stores), with its white flowers, litchi, and apples, were a perfect pairing for the local cheeses, onion tarts, and other regional fare.

      July was spent in Barolo, Italy, as one of the Vancouver wine-industry guests at the wedding of Joey Restaurants’ Jason Yamasaki and Medina Café’s Jenna Briscoe. The ceremony and reception were on the terrace of Marchesi di Barolo, where plenty of the Abbona family’s classic clove- and rose-petal Barolo 2013 ($75.99, B.C. Liquor Stores) flowed.

      Argentina was the big destination in August. What resonated most from the trip was a visit with Sebastián Zuccardi, whose dedication to terroir expression is quite laudable. A great example is Zuccardi Q Chardonnay 2017 (Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina; $26.74, Legacy Liquor Store); enjoy its flinty, fresh citrus fruit, hint of sea salt, and crisp acidity.

      September saw the big 2015 Bordeaux release around town. Although I’m not plunking down thousands for a bottle, I was impressed by the value offered by gems like Château la Chandellière Médoc 2015 (Bordeaux, France; $30, B.C. Liquor Stores). Think fresh-carved roast beef, black currants, and a good smattering of dried herbs.

      I had the privilege of attending a vertical tasting of Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve Sangiovese wines out of Chianti, Italy, at Chambar in October. For those wanting to reach deep into their pockets, there are commendable back vintages available at B.C. Liquor Stores up around the $130 mark, although the Fontodi Chianti Classico 2015 (Tuscany, Italy; $37.99, B.C. Liquor Stores) punches above its weight, offering velvety red and black fruit dusted with pitch-perfect oregano.

      The Vancouver premiere of the film Somm 3 went down at the Rio Theatre last month, with a prescreening tasting featuring a host of local and international wines. For those who missed the third installment of the wine-fuelled film series, it’s now available on iTunes and other online platforms.

      And here we are in December, with no shortage of opportunities to raise a glass or two. Here’s wishing our readers the best of the season, perhaps with a hearty pour of Medici Ermete Concerto Lambrusco Reggiano Frizzante 2016 (Emilia-Romagna, Italy; $19.99, B.C. Liquor Stores). Do revel in its cherry red fruit, white pepper, and zippy finish while enjoying the holidays. Cheers!