As we Vancouverites embark on a new year, let’s not ease in too slowly. Though this year’s edition of the Vancouver International Wine Festival isn’t happening until February 11 to 19, I advise local wine enthusiasts to head on over to the festival’s website (vanwinefest.ca/) on January 10, the day tickets are released for all of this year’s events.
More than 1,600 wines from 180 wineries will be poured at 54 events around town, and I can pretty much guarantee a good handful of events will sell out within hours of tickets being released.
That said, in my books, here is an array of can’t-miss fest destinations; for those that strike your fancy, I heartily encourage you to nab your spots sooner rather than later.
I Heart Bubbly Party
(8 p.m., February 14, Miele Experience Centre, $59)
C’mon, is there any more suitable way to kick off the festival than with an abundance of sparkling wine? And on Valentine’s Day, as well? Rather than begging to get that last 9:45 p.m. reservation at your seventh choice of restaurant, why not mingle with fellow wine lovers, enjoying some of the best bubbly from Argentina, Canada, France, Italy, and Spain while polishing off your fair share of canapés?
Redefining The Okanagan
(6:30 p.m., February 15, Blue Water Cafe, $175)
This. Should. Be. Epic. This dinner at Yaletown’s illustrious Blue Water Cafe celebrates the internationally renowned wines of the Okanagan Valley’s Mission Hill Family Estate. Proprietor Anthony von Mandl was a pioneering visionary as to the potential of British Columbian wine and has never been far from the front of the pack when it comes to some of the best wines our region offers.
From shimmering cool-climate Rieslings to his Bordeaux-inspired Oculus wine, Mission Hill has been turning heads around the world for a couple decades now. With charismatic chief winemaker Darryl Brooker bringing some of their very best pours and chef Frank Pabst leading the kitchen brigade, this will surely be a night to remember.
Discover Ontario’s Cool
(5:15 p.m., February 16, Vancouver Convention Centre West, $50)
So, apparently, they make wine in Ontario, too? I’m kidding, of course, but in our market one could be forgiven for not knowing anything about the wines from back east, since we hardly get to see any of the stuff.
The wine festival is taking good advantage of Canada being this year’s theme country and is offering this opportunity to get to know Ontario’s wines. I look forward to swirling many a delicious Riesling, Chardonnay, Gamay, and Pinot Noir, my four favourite Ontario varieties.
B.C. Pioneers & New Kids
(5:15 p.m., February 17, Vancouver Convention Centre West, $50)
I certainly won’t be missing this seminar, since I’m going to be moderating it along with local wine educator D J Kearney! We’ve assembled an awesome crew of pioneers, like the always entertaining Sandhill winemaker Howard Soon, who has been making B.C. wine for a quarter-century now, and then some next-generation winemakers who have been making many waves of late.
This is the past, present, and future of British Columbian wine, and I’m looking forward to tying it all together.
PICA Kitchen Party
(11:30 a.m., February 18, Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, $95)
Ain’t no party like a kitchen party, right? Head on down to Granville Island for this wine-soaked grazing lunch featuring chefs from Wildebeest, Vij’s, the Acorn, the Pear Tree, Ancora, and many more.
25 Under $25
(5:15 p.m., February 18, Vancouver Convention Centre West, $59)
Once you wake up from your well-deserved post–PICA Kitchen Party nap, it’s time to get back on the horse and head to this perennially popular mingler. We’re always on the hunt for great deals in wine, and this is a fantastic chance to discover many a new favourite.
Alpha Box & Dice @ Chambar
(6:30 p.m., February 19, Chambar Restaurant, $120)
Alpha Box & Dice is one of the most exciting, progressive wineries Down Under, casting a new light on the potential of modern Australian wine. Ever had an Australian Prosecco or Dolcetto? Well, you are going to this night. Chambar is always a good pile of fun and delicious; this evening should send that into the stratosphere.
International Festival Tasting
(February 16 to 18, Vancouver Convention Centre West)
This is the big one, the grand tasting featuring all 180 participating wineries, with winery principals there to tell you their story at each and every table. This is the absolute can’t-miss event every year of the wine fest; stay tuned for my guide to this tasting, coming up in the next few weeks.
In the meantime, don’t snooze on this one; tickets are on sale January 10 at the Vancouver Wine Festival website.