Vancouver residents can raise a glass while raising funds to help fire-battered Australia

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      Friends, family, and colleagues in Australia have been top of mind these days as bushfires continue to ravage the landscape across the country. Coupled with Australia Day, coming up on January 26, there’s no better time to support the Australian wine industry.

      There are a couple local initiatives raising money for Australia that are definitely worthy of our dollars and palates.

      The folks at Mount Pleasant’s Cascade Room (2616 Main Street) have a few things going on to raise money for WIRES, a wildlife rescue service in New South Wales. They are donating two dollars from every Jacob’s Creek Chardonnay or Shiraz ordered by the glass. Either would be quite the enjoyable pairing with their feature Aussie Burger, which is also a fundraiser, with two dollars from each order going to the cause. I’m talking house-ground sirloin (or vegan chickpea patty) topped with pineapple, beets, and a fried egg! Aside from those delicious offerings, the team is also donating one dollar from every Main Street Pilsner and Absolut vodka lemon-lime bitters cocktail sold.

      Over at Chambar (568 Beatty Street), wine director Kelcie Jones has been playing around with Rieslingfreak No. 3 Clare Valley Riesling 2018 for a while now. The tropical fruit and citrus-laden wine coming from red-clay soils handily pairs with much of chef Nico Schuermans’s menu, from “Foie de Canard ‘Villa Lorraine’ ” (spiced foie gras terrine, port reduction, kriek granita, truffled brioche french toast) to “Thon aux Trois Poivres” (seared Ahi tuna, polenta fries, aioli, roasted eggplant, pea tips, peppercorn sauce). Two dollars from each glass sold are going to Australian fire brigades.

      This season also sees the return of the Vancouver International Wine Festival, running February 22 through March 1. Tickets for all events have now been released, and as it has gone in past years, they’re selling quite fast and now is the time to secure ‘em for the events you’re wanting to attend. This is not a drill: as of press time, a dozen events have already sold out.

      Chambar's wine director, Kelcie Jones, has come up with a tasty way to help fund Australian fire brigades.
      Deep End Creative

      Shockingly, as I write this, there are still tickets for the Vintners Brunch (11:30 a.m., March 1, Vancouver Convention Centre West, $175), which is usually one of the first events to sell out. Fifteen local restaurants are matched up with 15 wineries. During two-and-a-half hours, attendees will enjoy a plethora of pairings, including fare from Ancora Waterfront Dining and Patio False Creek joined with Wines of Substance ViNO Rose 2018 (Walla Walla, Washington), and Richmond’s Origo Club serving up the goods with Louis Jadot Bourgogne Chardonnay 2018 (Bourgogne, France).

      Over in Gastown, the Alsace, Synonymous With Hugel event (6:30 p.m., February 26, L’Abattoir, $225) pairs chef/owner Lee Cooper’s contemporary France-meets–West Coast cuisine with gleaming Rieslings, Pinot Noir, and more from the storied Famille Hugel winery, with 13th-generation proprietor Jean Frédéric Hugel holding court.

      Not all events cost an arm and a leg, either!

      Rah, Rah Rosé! (5:15 p.m., February 29, Vancouver Convention Centre West, $59) looks to be a cheery mingler, with 18 wines being poured with small bites and a DJ keeping the room good and lively. I insist those attending make a beeline for Italy’s Tiberio (full of dark cherries) Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo 2018, and Franc Arman Winery Istra Rosé 2018—because when was the last time you had a Croatian pink wine?

      Finally, The Global Cru event (5:15 p.m., February 29, Vancouver Convention Centre West, $100) is a sit-down seminar where you can have a front seat for the wines, wit, and wisdom of global wine royalty. Laura Catena (Bodega Catena Zapata, Argentina), Mark de Vere MW (Robert Mondavi Winery, California), Jean-Luc Colombo (Jean-Luc Colombo, France), Alessandra Boscaini (MASI Agricola), and a host of others will be discussing the concept of “cru”, whether a single vineyard or group of vineyards clustered together, and the sense of place offered by these global hot spots.

      Of course, there’s still the grand International Festival Tasting going down at the Convention Centre on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (February 27, 28, and 29), where all 163 participating wineries will be pouring. In the coming weeks, I’ll share a preview of the room with a good array of highlighted wineries that shouldn’t be missed.

      In the meantime, do go out and support Australian wine, nab your event tickets for the Vancouver International Wine Festival, and keep on sipping the good stuff.