Here we are again: it’s Vancouver International Wine Festival week, this time celebrating its 42nd edition.
Although there are numerous seminars, dinners, and other shindigs going on around town, it all culminates in four International Festival Tasting Room sessions at the Vancouver Convention Centre West this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (February 27 to 29). The grand tasting features all 163 participating wineries, including 42 from France, with principals from each winery pouring a host of favourite selections. Hit up VanWineFest.ca to nab the last few remaining tickets.
I’ve pored over the program and have chosen my can’t-miss tables, wines to sip, and folks to meet.
Don’t forget to eat a good meal beforehand, don’t wear strong perfumes or scents, and make sure you spit as often as possible so you can taste with stamina and stay sharp the whole course.
22. Hugel & Fils (Alsace, France)
Jean Frédéric Hugel, who is part of the 13th generation of the proprietary family, is such an enthusiast for his family wines and the Alsace region in general. Have him take you through their bright and aromatic wines, particularly the Estate Riesling 2015, which should just be hitting its stride.
23. Jean-Luc Colombo (Rhône, France)
Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Bartavelles 2016 is a herb-and-spice-driven blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre. Have owner-winemaker Jean-Luc Colombo share why this combo of grape varieties works so well that we now see this blend all around the world, from Australia to California.
24. Maison Joseph Drouhin (Burgundy and Beaujolais, France)
Laurent Drouhin is not only a member of the proprietary family but is also the house’s global export director, and he’ll be happy to tour you through everything from Chablis Réserve de Vaudon 2018—a stunning barrel-aged Chardonnay—to his Morgon 2018 out of Beaujolais, an elegant Gamay full of cherries and plums.
31. Domaine Michel Gassier / Les Halos De Jupiter (Rhône, France)
If there’s anything at all you’d like to learn about the Rhône Valley, don’t miss the opportunity to bounce queries about anything Grenache, Syrah, Viognier, and more off vigneron Michel Gassier—he’s a wealth of information and tales. While you’re chatting, don’t miss his Domaine Michel Gassier Nostre Paīs Blanc 2018, a flinty and floral white blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and more.
41. Champagne Taittinger (Champagne, France)
Clovis Taittinger, general manager and member of the founding proprietary family, will be pouring his Taittinger Prélude Grands Crus NV, a pitch-perfect combo of Pinot and Chardonnay that spent more than five years on the lees before disgorgement. Get in line and wait as long as you have to.
45. Bodega Catena Zapata (Mendoza, Argentina)
While the Argentina-raised, Vancouver-based Marina Castillo, export manager for Catena, is listed as the official principal at the table, rumour has it her loveliness and charm will be supplemented by family proprietor Laura Catena, who will be zipping through town on the weekend. Their Malbec Argentino 2017 is an old-vine wonder of purity and grace.
52. Majella Wines (Coonawarra, Australia)
Proprietor Brian Lynn is embarking on his tenth Wine Fest appearance, and he’ll be eager to share Coonawarra lore and tell you why Cabernet is king in their iron-rich terra rossa soils. The Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 is bound to be a gem, natch.
87. Unsworth Vineyards (Cowichan Valley, B.C.)
No need to catch a ferry; proprietor Tim Turyk is crossing the Salish Sea to pour his fresh and breezy odes to Vancouver Island terroir. Charme de l’Ile NV is a fun and fizzy sparkler, but don’t miss his Pinot Noir 2017, offering evidence of the Island being the Next Big Thing in global pinnacles of the variety.
99. Weingut St. Urbans-Hof Nik Weis (Mosel, Germany)
Winemaker Nik Weis crafts lovely internationally lauded Rieslings with a local connection. It was cuttings from St. Urbans-Hof that crossed the ocean to become the foundation of old-vines Rieslings from B.C. favourites like Tantalus, Sperling, and more. His Goldtröpfchen Spätlese Riesling 2018 will stop you in your tracks.
120. Tiberio (Abruzzo, Italy)
Winemaker and proprietor Cristiana Tiberio is a champion of her local indigenous grape varieties. I can guarantee you this Vancouver wine-trade favourite’s eyes will light up as she pours and shares the stories behind her crisp and citrusy Pecorino IGT 2018 and her game-changing Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC 2018, a pink wine I’ve bought more than any other this year.
130. Fonseca (Douro, Portugal)
Terra Prima Organic Reserve Port NV is at the beginning of a new wave of organic port production. Export director Jorge Ramos will be on hand to share the strides Fonseca had to take to make it happen.
159. Robert Mondavi Winery (Napa Valley, California)
The first-ever Vancouver Wine Festival was centred around one winery, and it was Mondavi. All these years later, their Napa Valley wines still turn heads and score big points. Mark de Vere, master of wine and director of education for Mondavi, is at once a charismatic winery ambassador and Napa Valley wine historian. Step up and taste history.