6 delish sips to swish at the Vancouver International Wine Festival 2017

    1 of 7 2 of 7

      A half-dozen newish wine releases for you this week from all over the map.

      The common thread of these selections, besides their deliciousness, is that each one of these producers will be participating in this year’s Vancouver International Wine Festival, running February 11 to 19.

      So you can think of this as a sneak peek. (Or if you’re not able to make the festival this year, a little home version!)


      Monte del Frà Cà Del Magro Custoza Superiore 2013

      (Veneto, Italy; $20.99, B.C. Liquor Stores)

      This blend of Garganega, Trebbiano Toscano, Tocai Friulano, Cortese, Chardonnay, Riesling Italico, Malvasia, and Incrocio Manzoni is quite the bonanza of indigenous Italian white varieties along with a couple global icons, but let’s not get too hung up on the details.

      The sum of all parts is an ultrajuicy, fresh, and lively white that leaps out of the glass with wonderfully intoxicating aromas. Akin to that moment of opening a can of fragrant fruit cocktail, there’s a sweet lift of pears and peaches, which are then joined on the palate by young pineapple, Granny Smith apple, buoyant acidity, and a pitch-perfect light apple-skin textural note, bringing wonderful structure.

      An absolute pleasure to quaff.


      Sperling Chardonnay 2015

      (Okanagan Valley, B.C.; $26, website)

      Winemaker and owner Ann Sperling’s family have been farming this Kelowna estate for generations, allowing her a sixth sense when harnessing terroir for each one of her bottlings.

      For this delightful Chardonnay, she uses large French oak barrels, allowing the fruit to be perfectly framed and not suffocated in the least. The nose is quite clean and delicate, maybe some guava, starfruit, and fresh-sliced Honeycrisp apple.

      When it comes to your first few sips, all of that fruit gets baked into a delicious pie with a little cinnamon mixed in and a graham-wafer crust.


      Quails’ Gate Cailleteau Gamay Nouveau 2016

      (Okanagan Valley, B.C.; $19.50, website)

      Quails’ Gate’s Stewart family got their geek on this year, making their own version of a Beaujolais Nouveau. This Gamay from the 2016 vintage was quickly fermented and shipped to market, and it hits winter well with a wine well-suited to wild-mushroom risotto, rich, meaty stews, and more.

      Served with a hint of a chill, it carries brambly berry fruit, notes of Turkish delight, a smattering of nutmeg and cocoa, and a tiny splash of Welch’s grape juice. So fresh; so fun.


      Montes Twins Malbec–Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

      (Santa Cruz, Chile; $16.99, B.C. Liquor Stores)

      Nice to see this complex little number coming in at a price point that’s more than fair. A generous serving of blueberry compote is livened up with fresh rosemary, sage, eucalyptus, and thyme, then rounded out with a few shavings of dark chocolate. As it opens up, a few savoury notes rise to the surface: a few roasted tomatoes, and red bell pepper, too. Although there are many layers here, it manages to stay fresh from the first sip to the very end.


      Catena Zapata Catena Alta Historic Rows Malbec 2013

      (Mendoza, Argentina; $52.99, B.C. Liquor Stores)

      Feeling decadent? From one of Argentina’s most lauded producers comes this Malbec from select rows of their highest-quality, high-altitude vineyards.

      Think dark-chocolate almond bark with dried cranberries, infused with cloves, cardamom, garam masala, and other aromatic spices. Those characteristics narrow on the palate when the wine is first approached, merging into dark, fruity chocolate and maybe a spot of balsamic reduction.

      As you continue swirling the wine in the glass and visit it a few more times, it steps into a patch of wild strawberries, brightening up and becoming rather cheery.


      Monte del Frà Bardolino 2014

      (Veneto, Italy; $17.49, B.C. Liquor Stores)

      If you’re a fan of Amarone wines but in the mood for something less expensive, not as rich, and a few degrees lower in alcohol (we’re talking 12.5 percent versus an Amarone’s common 15 percent or higher), here’s a wine for you.

      It’s made from common Amarone varieties (Corvina and Rondinella), and all of the rich, ripe red and blackberry fruit you’d hope for is piled high, with just a touch of heat on the long, peppery finish.

      Hey, B.C. wine fans! What looks to be a kick-ass wine event is going down at Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar on February 4, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., as part of the current Dine Out Vancouver Festival.

      The Explore B.C. Wine Brunch @ Boulevard is a casual, grazing-style brunch by Boulevard executive chef Alex Chen wherein seven British Columbian wineries will each be pouring a couple of their favourites. Everyone from Arrowleaf Cellars and Haywire to Tinhorn Creek Vineyards and Tantalus Vineyards will be on deck.

      Tickets are a measly $56.50 and available via the Dine Out Vancouver website.