Tag Archives: Wine Festival

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British Columbia, Canada, Vancouver

Vancouver International Wine Festival – Vintners Brunch

Category:Drinks,Food Tags : 

Sunday, the last day of the Vancouver Wine Festival. The highlight of the day, for us any way, is the Vintners Brunch. This event consists of 2 1/2 hours to make it through about 16 food courses, each with a wine pairing. The wines were from around the world, with concentration on Italy since it was the country focus this year. All the food was from various Vancouver Restaurants. Each course was just a small tapas-sized bites or canapé and even a few cups of soup so you would think it not a difficult task. But in the end we found ourselves rushing to get the last few items before they were gone and the event over. We managed to make it through, just barely.

We were greeted at the door with a glass of sparkling brut from Okanogan Valley, British Columbia by See Ya Later Ranch. A nice, refreshing way to start as we found our table and caught up with Pam and our other friends, Ken & Victoria, Van & Marcella,  Justin & Elena, Matthew & Reema. Once oriented, we were off to our first course.  In the interest of brevity, I'll only mention some of the highlights.

The first up was a Warm Fresh Cheese, Carrot, Egg Yolk, Brioche from Latab Food (who has since closed) paired with a Valdo Marca Oro Prosecco do Valdobbiadene DOCG NV. This was a light but yet rich dish with the warm and a sous vide egg yolk, but the prosecco cut through and lightened up each bite. Kevin and I both thought it could use a little more seasoning, but overall, it was a good breakfast started that paired well with this processo.

Next up was a Dungeness Crab Salad with Grapefruit, Vanilla & Hollandaise paired with a Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc 2014. This was the big surprise for me! I don't generally care that much for Geyser Peak wines and typically ignore them when wine shopping. But this with the crab and grapefruit worked really well together. We probably wouldn't buy this just for sipping, but if serving these flavors, it may be worth consideration. And it was a really good crag cake from Showcase Restaurant and Bar - may have to check them out next time in Vancouver.

I didn't try the next one, but Kevin did and really liked it, this was  Nikkei Ceviche. Ceviche has never been one of my favorites, but I trust Kevin's opinion. It was paired with a Columbia Winery Chardonnay 2013. Kevin called this an "amazing pairing, food off the hook. The buttery chardonnay balances the pungent nori and crisps." The program describes this wine as offering aromas of pear, apple and tropical fruits. Expect this wine to pair nicely with other light seafood such as Dungeness crab or mussels.

Food, Vancouver BC, Wine

Skipping ahead a bit to one of my favorites, the Ebi-Shinjo Shrimp and Fish Ball with Dashi Espuma (miso foam) with Julienned Beets, Radish, Green Onion & Ginger from the sake bar and Japanese bistro, ShuRaku. The sweet-savory shrimp and fish ball along with the spiciness of the vegetables paired nicely with the Thornhaven Estates Gewurztraminer VQA 2014.

Here's what Kevin had in his tasting notes:

"Wine stands up and highlights the dish. Not normally a fan of Gewurztraminer - good pairing that softens the radish. Alone it has a good mouth-feel."

This dish by-the-way took second place with the judges for today's brunch.

And now for something less complicated. This is something that anyone can throw together for your guests before dinner - Fig and Goat Cheese Tart with Carmalized Onion, Dried Fig & Farmhouse Cheese's Goat Cheese. This was offered by Savoury Chef Foods, the wine chosen to go with if was the Sandhill Rosé 2014. The write-up on the program had this to say about it:

...made from Cabernet Franc, Gamay Noir, Sangiovese and Barbera grapes. A special yeast for fruity white wines was used to help capture flavours of juicy strawberries and raspberries...

Next up was one of Kevin's favorite, Spiced & Braised Lamb, Gribiche Sauce, Olive Oil Crouton, Sumac Salt from Blackbird Public House. Served with our first red of the day, Delicato Family Vineyard Black Stallion Los Carneros Pinot Noir 2013. No picture of this unfortunately but our notes say "Amazing dish! A full bite work on every level - peppery greens! Color of the pinot edges towards a bit brown, but taste is solid."

Vancouver BC

We're not done yet! Railtown Catering has offered up the dish that took first place in the food judging today. The name is a bit long so bare with me - Black Rice Congee with Red Wine-Braised Duck, Soy-marinated Quail's Egg, Black Currant Grastique, Togarashi Crackling.

I don't know what else I can say beyond that to describe it but I do have to say it was, in my opinion, the most interesting dish served today. It was paired nicely with a 2013 Hahn Family Wines Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir. The black currant aromas in the wine helped bring out the black currant in the dish - well played! The crew preparing the food looked like they were having as much fun as we were.

I had decided to wear my Scottish Kilt to today's event. I don't get much opportunity to pull it out of the closet, but this was a special occasion, so why not? It turned out to be a great conversation starter. One nice lady who caught me a couple times insisted that I try the Scotch Egg - or more fully, the Chorizo Scotch Egg with Urban Digs Pork, Smoked Paprika, Hen's Egg and Hay Aioli from ARC at Fairmont Waterfront paired with 2013 Gil Family Estates Tridente Tempranillo - Castilla Y Leon. The tempranillo was a good choice for this as it balances and cuts through the richness of the egg  and the deep fried pork. If I could have my eggs this way every morning, I'd be happy - though I think I would need to start taking cholesterol meds.

Food, Vancouver BC, Wine

Several desserts had been on offer. By the time we got there far, they were beginning to run out. We were lucky enough to get the Sable Breton with Salted Carmel, Spiced Okanagan Apples, Tainori Grand Cru Chocolate Cream and Nutty Tuile. from the Vancouver Convention Center's own kitchens. This was paired with Fonseca Guimaraens 10 Year Old Tawny Port. A perfect combination to end a fabulous food and wine experience.

We had arranged for a late check-out from the hotel and our time was running out to get back, finish packing and check-out. So we weren't able to stick around for the music and dancing. The small group had been playing a range of music all through the event. As people finished their tastings, they began to dance. Looks like it could have been fun, but for us, it was time to go.

Vancouver BC

We had a great time and a big "Thank you!" to Pam and Marcella for getting us involved and helping us get all our ticket. Next year's festival will be focused on Canadian wines. We look forward to being back.


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British Columbia, Canada, Vancouver

Vancouver International Wine Festival – Taste Italia!

Category:Drinks,Food Tags : 

Taste Italia!

Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016

            Noon-2pm – Taste Italia!

As the Italian’s say, a meal isn’t a meal without wine. Nothing could be closer to the truth than this.

This event is was a must for the festival. Today's Taste Italia! lunch, as you can imagine, is a celebration of the wines of Italy   We got there about 30 minutes before the start on the advice of Pam. She was right. We were among the very first there, and started the queue that would stretch out of sight and around a corner of Level 3 of the Vancouver Convention Center West by time they open the gates to let in the throng.

The convention center is really a jewel. We topped the escalator and stepped into a panoramic view to the north, appropriately called North Vancouver. Five of us descended on the ballroom and adroitly took a prime bar-style seating area all to ourselves.

The layout put the wine makers, 60 in all, around the outside with the amazing food offerings pretty much in the center – a great arrangement that encouraged us to get some food, enjoy some wine, then get up and move about the hall as we wanted. Food was always just a few meandering curves away.

After all the food and drink, everyone was feeling pretty happy!

One of the most helpful additions to the tasting was a big map of Italy with the wine growing regions clearly displayed. For those of us unfamiliar with Italy’s vast wine growing history, this map is a good place to start. Silly me, but I would have thought Roma was in the Emilia Romagna region...but no, it’s really in Lazio where some fine Sangiovese wines are grown. Look over the map below. I learned a lot.

The food tastings at Taste Italia! were all well-executed, even though you couldn’t really say they were ‘Italian’ per se, but in leaning. Okay, so there was the obligatory assorted focacce and oh-so-yesterday prosciutto e melone that even Midwesterners would recognize (apologies to my birth heritage). A few standouts were the Prosciutto-wrapped tuna, clams, fennel, and olives, the Beef short rib brasato lasagna, alfredo gratinee, and the Wild mushroom risotto. All in all, a big boo-ya to Executive Chef, Blair Rasmussen of the Vancouver Convention Center.

Now to the wine highlights.

We passed up the various Prosecco’s and went straight to the whites. Of particular note was Casetta Winery’s Mumplin, Roero Arneis DOCG 2013, which paired wonderfully with what amounted to our first courses – Wild Prawn in saffron emulsion, Proscuitto e melone, and Mini Zuppa di pesce “Cacciucco” in tomato Vermouth broth.

Thought by many to be the queen (or prince) of Italian white wine grapes, this particular Arneis is an example of intense elegance, a wine that is full-bodied, liquid yellow in color, and can stand up to fish, tomato-based soups, and even melon – not an easy feat I know from experience. It is a value by anyone’s estimation at about $17 a bottle. Unfortunately, by time we got to the convention wine store, this wine was sold out completely.

Spotlight Casetta Winery/Piedmont
Web resources
US distributor, unknown. From Canada, http://boushelong.com/en/
Price: $23.83 CAD about $17 USD.

Next door to Casetta was another Piedmont wine, ‘Il Fiore’ Langhe Bianco DOC 2013 produced by Briada Di Bologna Giacomo. We had the chance to speak to Principle, Norbert Reinisch, which is always a treat at these events. Mr. Reinisch described their approach to growing the wines we tasted, including a very fruity Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2013. The bianco differed from the Arneis. Wine Searcher refers to this as an example of a Rare White Blend, a wine that includes various whites, but most often centering in on one key characteristic, such as dryness. I found the bianco a little ‘light’ compared to the full Arneis, though it too stood up well to our first course.

Our final Peidmont tasing was the Lecinquevigne Barolo DOCG 2011. We paired the Barolo with the Beef short rib lasagna and fennel sausage, chicken and green lentil misto. This is one of those special wines that you want to search out and drink up...slowly. You won’t want to loose one sip of this luscious, fruity, soft red. Reviewed any where from 88 points to 92 points by the Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast respectively, this wine is drinkable now but would lay down well for a few more years. Borolo’s are generally known to be big and fruity with cherry, pepper, and licorice overtones, this one was no exception.

From the Puglia region, we tasted the Tormaresca Trentangeli Rosso Castel del Monte DOC 2013 ($14.60 CAD) and the Torcicoda Primitivo Salento IGT 2013 ($20.43 CAD). According to the pourer, 2013 was a good, no, very good year for the Aglianico, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah, which comprise the Rosso. Not having much to compare this wine to, it was smooth, without any of the harshness you sometimes get with a relatively new red. The Torcicoda had the same smooth character and I imagined it would make a great addition to our cellar.

Much to our disappointment, the festival wine store was already sold out of this Tormaresca. Instead, they had just six bottles of the 2013 Neprica Puglia IGT at $10 USD, we took them all off their hands. One bottle already drunk, we loved it for its unassuming character and playful notes of cherry.

A New Italian Renaissance?

Both of these wines – indeed many of those we tasted - are part of a new era in Italian wine making according to the principles and sellers at the festival. Italy is witnessing a development that seeks to bring back native vines and enter them into relation with notable European stock, such as the Cabernet and Syrah.

A quick search for this wine on the web lead me to this statement:

The production of high quality wines is related to recent steps towards innovation and creativity: substantial changes have been obtained through the use of modern viticulture techniques and the introduction of non native grape varieties (i.e. Chardonnay and Cabernet) that express themselves in this ”terroir” in a completely unique way. Tormaresca is the expression of the above two souls. Character, personality and top quality are the characteristics that Puglia transmits to the native grape varieties. For this reason the Antinori family gave birth to Tormaresca in 1998 when they started investing in Puglia, considering it one of the most promising regions in Italy for the production of high quality wines with a strong territorial identity.

Some winemakers focus on small scale production, choosing to hone their considerable legacy in winemaking to the modern pallet. Others are exploring wild yeast fermentation and using only organic stock. Another thing we notice with great relief, was how reasonably priced the Italian wines are. Yes, you could certainly find higher end wines, but we were on a mission to stock up on only the daily wines, the ones we wouldn’t think twice about opening for an evening meal.

For us, the importance of a wine is less about its pedigree than whether we can open it up and have it match well with what ever we’re eating for diner that night. We reserve our better bottles for special dinners with friends or if we’re experimenting with a new recipe and want to find that perfect pairing. But that’s our point of view on buying wines at this stage in our collecting. Find out what your point of departure is and I’m sure the Italian wines will make you very, very happy.

What ever the Italians are up to, we have to applaud it.

La viva dolce!

Here is a quick list of other wines we tasted, in no particular order and with a few comments:

Medici Ermete / Emilia-Romagna
Concerto Lambrusco Reggiano DOC NV
$19.99 CAD

Poderi Dal Nespoli / Emilia-Romagna
Il Nespoli, Sangiovese Romagna
Superiore Riserva DOC 2012
$20.99 CAD

Tenuta Olim Bauda / Piedmont
La Villa Barbera D’Asti DOCG 2011
$26.95 CAD

Marchesi Antinori / Tuscany-Umbria
Bramio del Cervo, Chardonnay, Umbria IGT 2014
$22.62 CAD

Lionello Marchesi / Tuscany
Coldisole, Brunello di Montacino 2010 DOCG
Sangiovese predominant
$49.88 CAD

Coldisole, Brunello di Montacino Riserva DOCG 2008
$75.40 CAD

*These are two exceptions to our goal this weekend (buying lower cost/high value), but we couldn’t resist. They come from one of the most famous and prestigious wine makers, both richly complex, deserving of that special event but easily fine on its own. Seek them out if you need to fill out your cellar with exceptionally crafted wines.

San Polino / Tuscany
Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
Helichrysum 2010
*It’s hard for me to find words for this one. But at $132.58 CAD a bottle, what should be said except that it is gorgeous on all accounts. Rich, dark, fruity, subtle. Wow.

Here are some of the other wine options on offer.

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Vancouver BC, Wine

Vancouver International Wine Festival – Delta Lounge

Category:Drinks Tags : 

This post is from our friend and wine mentor, Pam Miller. It is the first of what we hope to many more posts from her in the future as we explore the world of wine together. Pam has been involved in the the Washington wine industry for many years, and an enthusiast for many more. She has also served on the Washington State Wine Commission through the Washington Wine Ambassador program. Don't be surprised if you see her some weekends pouring or tasting in Woodinville at Lachini, Sparkman, and many more. We're also proud to say that she helped us select and serve our wines for Kevin and my wedding reception a couple years back - what fun we had tasting wines and food pairings!

Here's Pam...


You must wonder if we have lost our minds…what would make you spend two and a half hours driving in the pouring rain to tell the Border Crossing officer that you are just coming to taste wine???

That would be the International Wine Festival that is held in Vancouver, BC every February. The Bacchanalia festival starts with a week of trade tastings, seminars, a formal gala and auction honoring Bacchus – the God of Wine. Then on Thursday they open the festival to the first of three nights of international tastings of over 700 wines (no I did not drink all of them) from over 155 wineries and 14 countries. This year’s headliner was Italy which was represented by 60 wineries who poured from 2 to 6 wines each.
I started out on Friday night with four friends at the Delta Lounge tasting- this is an event that starts before the large tasting and many times features wines that were used in the seminars that day or very hard to find vintages that could be 16 to 20 years old (not counting the Port). The food served was a variety of fish, vegetables, pizza and of course meatballs. I counted 8 meatballs on one of our groups plate! He must have liked them.

I tasted an Old Vine Folle Primitivo Di Manduria from Luccarelli that I looked for the rest of the weekend, and never found. It was one of those wines that you can not get out of your head. The color was a deep ruby red and the smell of ripe cherries made me think I needed to look for some red meat to go with this…the meatballs…I was not disappointed. The wine was, in my opinion, a full bodied red but with soft tannins and oak. The one thing I remember the most was the way the wine felt in my mouth so smooth and the lasting vanilla taste. One of my favorite, and yes, I like oak. There were so many wines that night and my friends who are way more wine savvy than I am keep coming and telling me to taste this wine or that and of course they were right. A few more that I liked was the Grand Reserve 2006 Tempranillo from Rioja, Spain from Herederos Del Marques de Riscal.
Another one I could not seem to get out of my head was Torres 2006 Grans Muralles. There was just something about this wine that made me take a picture of the label so I could look up why this had a taste I found somewhat like the Rocks AVA in Washington. Some facts about this wine that I took from their web site:

This wine takes its name from the walls that protected the monastery at Poblet during the Mercenary Wars. The unmistakable identity of Grans Muralles is thanks to the stony, slate ground (Licorella) of the region, and the grape varieties used to make it. One century after the phyloxera plague the Torres family have begun to recuperate autoctonous grape varieties believed to be extinct, such as Garró and Samsó, using modern viticulture techniques. Together with red Garnacha, Mazuelo and Monastrell they create the unique spirit of this wine.
Vimbodí - Conca de Barberà (Tarragona) Grape Types:- Garnacha tinta,Monastrell, Garró, Samsó, Cariñena

I had no idea what the grapes were when the gentleman poured my glass…now I know. Boy do I have a lot to learn!

The night was over before I knew it, but I had some great wine to remember the night along with pictures of their labels.

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Vancouver BC

Vancouver International Wine Festival 2016

Category:Drinks,Food Tags : 

It was a busy week for wine lovers in Vancouver, BC and we were quite happy to join in the fun...at least for the final weekend of festivities. We were turned-on to the Vancouver wine festival about a year ago by our columnist and friend, Pam Miller. She’s been attending these, along with a group of friends, for many years. This year’s focus was on the wines of Italy.

The week is packed as you can tell from the schedule at a glance.

Due to time constraints (i.e. vacation time available) we decided to go up on Thursday night and stay until Sunday. We arrived too late on Thursday to take part in any of the fun that evening, which you should know is possibly the best night for the Grand Tasting and access to the Delta Lounge (more later). The crowds arrive in full force Friday and continue to the closing event, the Vintner’s Brunch on Sunday.

We stayed at an event-sponsored hotel, the Pan Pacific Vancouver. It’s adjacent to the conference centre (note the English spelling...when in Rome...) and is a pretty nice place to stay, if a bit pricey ($409 CN per night), but first the wine event, then a review of the hotel.

This was our itinerary.

Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016 – Leaving Seattle, travel to Vancouver, BC.

  • Check-in Pan Pacific Vancouver
  • Walk about neighborhoods, Downtown and Gaslight, and call it an early night.

Friday, Feb. 26, 2016

  • Rest and enjoy the hotel, especially the fitness center and salt-water swimming pool.
  • 5:30-10pm - Delta Tasting Lounge and Grand Tasting. See our friend and contributor, Pam Miller’s post (coming soon).

Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016

  • Noon-2pm – Taste Italia!
  • 7-10pm – Grand Tasting

Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016

  • 11:30am-2pm – Vintner’s Brunch
  • 2:30pm – Late check-out, starting the journey home.

Oh, my goodness. Where to begin?

We'll begin with the Taste Italia! in our next post here.

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