A new year of wine adventures in Vancouver

Fill your 2019 calendar with grand tastings and can’t-miss festivals

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      I’m doing plenty of the common, expected things to start off the new year. I’ve been hitting the gym fairly often, going for runs, trying to read more, and so on. Eating better is a big one; my meals have been a little fresher, less processed, plant-forward, and when opting for meat or seafood, I’m putting extra effort into ensuring they’re sourced ethically and sustainably.

      I’ve been on the same train of thought with wine lately, too. If I’m looking for my food to be authentic and sustainable, I want my wine to follow those same lines as much as possible. I’m not saying that every bottle I reach for this year has to be organic or come out of a LEED–certified winery, but I do want to put more of a personal focus on drinking wines where the growers, winemakers, and proprietors behind them err in those sorts of directions. While I won’t be militant or sanctimonious about these choices, I will try to be much more thoughtful with them, and the wines featured in these pages will likely reflect that.

      We’re certainly primed for a year full of wine-fuelled adventures.

      Tourism Vancouver’s annual Dine Out Vancouver Festival runs January 18 through February 3, when we’ll see a multitude of local restaurants offering three-course menus at incredible value while pop-ups, food tours, and other events fill the calendar.

      All the events are kicked off on January 17 at the Rocky Mountaineer station with the Grand Tasting. For $99, attendees will have the opportunity to try culinary delights from more than a dozen local restaurants like La Mezcaleria, the Arbor, and Wildebeest while enjoying drinks from over 30 British Columbian craft breweries, cideries, and wineries—from Central City Brewers and Distillers and Steamworks Brewery to Summerhill Pyramid Winery and Vancouver Island’s Blue Grouse Estate Winery. More information and tickets are available at dineoutvancouver.com/. In the past, it’s been a quick sellout, so don’t sleep on this one.

      Following Dine Out festivities is the return of the Vancouver International Wine Festival, running February 23 to March 3. Tickets have just been released for all events, and the can’t-miss editions of the International Festival Tasting—with all participating wineries at the Vancouver Convention Centre overlooking the North Shore mountains—go down February 28, March 1, and March 2. Although wines from all over the globe—including Australia, Portugal, Italy, and Chile—will be poured by winery principals, the theme region this year is California, where folks from more than 50 wineries are heading up the coast to show us their best stuff.

      I’m particularly looking forward to sipping the dynamite organic fare from Grgich Hills Estate and catching up with the Trefethen family, whose sustainable methods span the vineyard and the winery, including employment practices that incorporate living wages and benefits. Oh, and they make kick-ass wine, too! All you need to know is at vanwinefest.ca/. I’ll have more of a comprehensive preview in coming weeks.

      If you’re looking to enhance your wine knowledge, mark January 24 and February 1 in your calendar. Those are the dates of the local two-day course from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust of London, where passing the final exam nabs you the level-one award in wine certification from the most respected wine-education body on the planet. Local educator Iain Philip will lead two three-and-a-half-hour classes at the Les Amis du Fromage digs on East Hastings Street, covering classic regions, grape varieties, food-and-wine pairing, and more. Head to wineplus.ca/ to lock things in.

      Finally, I found myself smitten with a bottle of Domaine de la Pépière La Pépiè Cabernet Franc 2017 (Loire Valley, France; $25 to $29, private wine stores) I picked up recently. Out of southwest-facing hillside granitic soils comes this zesty, biodynamically farmed red, which is macerated for four days postharvest, lightly pressed, then fermented in stainless steel. Far from a chunky, Napa-style Cabernet Franc, this one is clean as a whistle and light on its feet. On the nose, an abundance of fresh herbs like basil, sorrel, and mint leads to a palate loaded with vibrant red berry fruit, a little red bell pepper, and a pinch of white pepper on the finish. Served with a hint of a chill, it’s buoyant and cheery and will go well with anything from duck confit to stinky cheeses. I picked up a bottle at Robson Wine Beer & Spirits, right across from the library downtown, but it’s also recently been spotted at Kitsilano Wine Cellar on West 4th Avenue. A highly recommended, bright start to the new year.