Archive for the 'Festival notes' Category

Reflections on the 2009 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival

02292008.gifWow, this post has been something of a mental block for me. Graham got his notes together pretty quickly for me, but I’ve been procrastinating. It’s time to get this done. A couple of weeks have gone by since the Vancouver Playhouse wrapped up yet another successful Wine Fest and as usual, it was full of some pretty entertaining events and some really smokin’ wines.

Pinots (Noirs, Gris/Grigios, Blancs, etc.) were the feature varietals and there was plenty of it from places such as France, New Zealand, Australia, Italy, the US and of course BC. This was good fun. The representation from Burgundy was a treat. We could go on and on about the high end offerings that were being poured – both white and red.

Sean’s International highlights included:

  • Olivier Leflaive – These wines were nothing short of amazing. The 2005 Pommard 1er Cru Epenots and 2006 Puligny-Monbtrachet 1er Cru Champ Gain were show-stoppers for me. So tasty. There was no spitting here.
  • Saintsbury – The Brown Ranch Pinot was all sexy dark fruit with a long-lasting finish.
  • Dobbes Family Estate – These folks make some great Pinot. The 2005 Griffin’s Cuvée Pinot Noir was a standout – all berry and mineral-laced cherry fruit.
  • de Venoge – The 1995 Cuvée Louis XIV was under the table and spectacular. It may have been my mood, but I could have just grabbed a bottle of this and gone home. Show over.
  • Champagne Deutz – Their 1998 Cuvée William was another standout bubbly. Wow.
  • Vallet Freres – The hand-harvested 2002 Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru AOC caught me completely off guard (in a very good way). The slight dill pickle edge gave way to succulent and silky cherry fruit with an aged edge. Incredibly tasty.
  • Albert Bichot – The 2006 Vosnee Romanée Premier Cru Les Malcosorts Domaine du Clos Frantin was a big ‘ol mouthful of good. Deep, dark, mineral-edged and very young. Holy cow, it was a sexy drop.
  • Domaine de la Vougeraie – Their 2006 Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru was amazing as well. Wow.
  • Fetzer – Yep… amazingly, they were pouring a couple of really tasty wines – the 2005 Sanctuary Cabernet Sauvignon was a sexy piece of Cabernet juice for $35 and the Coro Mendocino was a pretty amazing field blend of Zinfandel and its best friends Syrah, Petite Sirah and Grenache Noir.

Graham’s International highlights included:

  • Olivier Leflaive – Both the Volnay and Montrachet were outstanding examples of all that is great about Burgundy.
  • Albert Bichot – Holy smokes.
  • Bouchard, Perin et Fils – what a line up. The high end red Burgundy had a hint of dill pickle – amazing stuff.
  • Saintsbury – The Brown Ranch Pinot – full of jammy strawberry briar and nice spice.
  • Dobbes Family Reserve Pinot – Everything I love about Oregon Pinots. Big red fruit with gorgeous spice and earthy notes.

Now onto wines from BC. Our province was the feature region for the 2009 Wine Fest. What can I say?  Well-done BC. I think our province can be quite proud of what was offered up (except for the corked taste of Mission Hill’s Oculus we received amidst the hordes downing it).

Sean’s BC highlights included:

  • Wild Goose Winery – I’m a big fan of the whites these folks turn out. Their Rieslings and Gewurztraminers are bloody tasty. I buy their wines pretty frequently for sipping at home – and you should too.
  • Dunham and Froese – Their Bordeaux-style Amicitia Red blend was a pleasant surprise. I’ll be trying more of that sometime soon.
  • Stoneboat Vineyards – Tim from Stoneboat was nice enough to be one of our video interviewees and it also happens that they make some really tasty wine. Their Pinot Noir and Nebbia white blend is a must-try.
  • Township 7 Vineyards – I like what Brad Cooper does for these folks. They have a couple of nice Chardonnays and a pretty sexy Black Dog Merlot. Brad also had his Black Cloud Pinot Noir for the trade folks. You already know what I think of that wine. 🙂
  • 8th Generation – This was another surprise find. Their line-up of Rieslings is something I’ll be looking for in the future.

Graham’s BC highlights included:

  • 8th Generation – Man, these are some nice Rieslings. For under $20, these are definitely on my radar.
  • Dunham and Froese – These are some smokin’ BC reds. Their Bordeaux style Amicitia Red blend was fantastic!
  • Stoneboat Vineyards – Really nice people making really nice wines. The Nebbia white blend and their Pinot are ones to watch.
  • Township 7 Vineyards – I really like what they are doing. From a nice Chardonnay, through to thoroughly enjoyable Merlot and Syrah. Good stuff.
  • Wild Goose – What can I say? These are easily my favorites. Their Riesling and Pinot Gris are simply superb. The consistency of their wines is a model.

Some other highlights:

  • Whitehall Lane – High-quality and tasty Napa Cab, Merlot, and Reserve Cab were beautiful. Loved ’em.
  • It’s great that some of the better California wineries are making “budget” wines of high quality like Signorello’s “Fuse and Fetzer’s “Sanctuary.” Smart moves in these tight economic times.
  • Quinta do Vale Donna Maria – Their LBV Reserve port is a steal at $30.
  • California Chardonnay – Caymus’ Mer Soleil, Saintsbury’s Brown Ranch and Antinori’s Antica were enough to purge the over-oaked memories of the 80’s Aussie chards from my memory. Gorgeous.

The festival was obviously well attended, and not that feedback is necessarily being sought, but we’ll offer up a couple of things that would make it a much better experience:

  • More spit buckets, please! A bunch on tables in the centre of the room, away from crowded winery tables would save a lot of people some forced inebriation.
  • Thursday’s Trade tasting was a zoo. Perhaps two shifts? Or tighter criterion?
  • Maybe it’s time for a bigger venue? I hear it may move to the new Trade and Convention space next year. That would be great.

In general, the fest was – as usual – very well organized and had a great line-up of events. Cheers to everyone we met there.

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Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival – “Blind-blind”

03312009On Saturday I had the chance to participate in the “Blind –blind” tasting as part of the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival. I was really interested in this tasting because I looked at it as a bit of a challenge for the palate. Many of us wine geeks like to think we are continually learning, and this was a chance to test outside of a course.

It turned out to be a really cool experience. The glasses were all covered when we entered, and we were encouraged to reach under the shroud and check by touch where the glasses were. We were then blindfolded and the glasses were uncovered.

The premise of the tasting was to heighten the other senses without having our sight to fall back on. As we went through the wines, we were instructed to listen to the wine (the first was a Prosecco), feel the glass temp, sniff, then swirl and taste.

I think the best parts of the tasting were the fact that the panel of winemakers and principals were also blindfolded and asked to comment on their wines. As much as being blindfolded was a little disorienting, as the tasting progressed I found myself becoming much more confident in my palate. Mireille Sauvé of the Wine Umbrella led us through nine other wines from Pinot Blanc through to a Riesling Ice Wine.

In general, this was a lot of fun. Something you could easily do at home with a group of friends as well to challenge your palate. Try it!

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The 2009 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival kicks off

02292008.gifIt’s that time of year, folks… The 2009 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival kicked off last night with an event at Earl’s. I wasn’t able to make it to the event, but it was the start of one of my favourite weeks of the year.

The Festival has a tonne of events and runs March 23 – 29. This year, I’m headed to the Beringer Private Reserve Vertical Tasting, Perfect Pairings – New Zealand Wines, BC Cuisine as well the trade and regular festival tastings at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre. It’ll be fun and informative.

In case you’re wondering, I have a few tips for going to wine tastings:

  1. No perfume/cologne: we all want to be smelling the wines, not you
  2. Bring some lip balm: this helps to avoid the red wine ringed lips of death that happen when tasting a schwack of red wines
  3. Wear black: there will be a tonne of folks there and inevitably someone gets bumped and spills
  4. Lastly, if you plan to taste a LOT of wine, try spitting. It’s great to be able to leave the fest at the end of the night and remember the trip home. 🙂

I hope to see you there.

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Off to Piemonte and VinItaly

03272008.gifI’m packing for my trip to Italy and am really looking forward to hopping on that plane tomorrow afternoon. It’s a long trek, but I know that Rachel and I will have a blast touring around the countryside, visiting wineries and eating some great food. I’ve got visits set up at Damilano, Prunotto and will be getting together with Anothony Nicalo of Farmstead Wines to visit a few of the farmer winemakers around the area. That should prove to be a highlight – small, family-made wines made from their own grapes.

In the first week of April, we’ll head up to Verona for VinItaly and will also pay a visit to Vini Secondo Natura, a smaller wine show that is the “alternative” to the humongous VinItaly, based around the farmer wineries.

On Saturday, April 5th, we’ve been invited to a party at Bertani’s Villa Novare estate just outside Verona. In their words, “it will be possible to taste beautiful food and taste the best wines from Bertani including some old vintages.” Man oh man, this is going to be great.

I’m just really looking forward to paying my first visit to the country that makes my favourite wine and food. I’ll post some pictures and write-ups as I go, so stay tuned. 🙂

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2008 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival Wrap-up and Picks

02292008.gifIt was a great time for both Graham and I at the Fest this year. We got into almost all the events we wanted to attend and tasted some phenomenal wines. I started with the Bertani Amarone tasting on Wednesday, did the trade tasting and Enoteca Italia (more on that in a minute) on Thursday, the trade tasting and Landmark Aussies on Friday and Aged Aussies and some of the evening’s Festival Tasting on Saturday…. whew. All that was followed up by the Piemonte to Puglia dinner at Quattro on 4th that I wrote up last week.

One of the highlights was the Enoteca Italia room, put on by the Consul General of Italy in Vancouver. We got to try a bunch of great Italian wines that aren’t currently represented in Canada. Wineries pouring were Caseta Casa Vinicola (pouring some beautiful wines from the Piedmont region), Fattoria Colmone della Marca (from the Marches region), MSO Wines Selection (representing Agricola Fontanelle, Azienda Vitivinicola Bine, Poggio Dell’Aquila, Nada Guiseppe & Ravera Gianni from Piedmont and Tuscany) and Antonio Roncolato Vigne & Vini (who I have to say really impressed me with their beautiful Soave – yes, I said “beautiful Soave”). We actually had to have an interpreter take us around the room because none of the vintners spoke English. They sure spoke great wine though.

My friend, David MacMillan enjoying the FestivalFor the Friday trade tasting at the festival, Rebecca (Rachel’s Mom) joined us in our tour of the room. A couple of her picks for the day were the 2003 Quinta do Crasto Touriga Nacional and the 2004 Antinori Guado al Tasso Bolgheri Superiore.

OK, so Graham and I finally put together our picks from the Festival; broken up into whites and reds. Here we go:

Sean’s whites (in no particular order):

  • 2006 Ridge Vineyards Santa Cruz Mountains ChardonnayWine Spectator’s #2 wine this year (rated 95 points)… and Jesus, the Dictator is pretty spot on with that. This is a phenomenal wine. A not-overdone toastiness mixed with tropical fruit and a crisp minerality on the finish (that lasted for minutes). I’m glad this was in the store on Thursday. I just wish I had picked up more than the 1 bottle.
  • 2005 Pierre Andre Corton Charlemagne, Grand Cru – Like licking ripe pear juice off a smooth rock. Fantastic and sexy stuff.
  • Pretty much everything from the Spätlese to the Beerenauslese from Dr. H. Thanisch… these were a holiday for may palate at the festival and reminded me exactly why I love Riesling so much.
  • 2001 McWilliams Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon – a seriously tasty, but young bottle of Semillon that shows how good this varietal can be.

Sean’s bubbly picks:

  • Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Rare – fantastically complex and layered stuff… vibrant acidity, with lots of fruit and minerality on the finish.
  • 1997 Lanson Gold Label Vintage Champagne – creamy, citrus-y goodness. ‘Nuff said.
  • Too many good Proseccos… I really liked the ones from Col de’ Salici (one of which I already mentioned in my write-up of the Piemonte to Puglia dinner).

Sean’s reds:

  • This list is rightly dominated by the Italians this year… and right near the top of those were a couple of wines from Piedmont’s Prunotto:
    • 2003 Prunotto Bussia Barolo – unbelievably sexy stuff. ‘Nuff said.
    • 2001 Prunottto Bric Turot Barbaresco – this is like looking at a 15 year-old supermodel… so young! It’s very good now, but it’ll be great when it opens
  • Pretty much all the higher-end wines Antinori was pouring… they had the 2004 Tignanello and the 2004 Guado Al Tasso as well as a couple of other tasty reds…. yum.
  • 2004 Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino – deep, young and gorgeous. I liked it. 🙂
  • Damilano had a few tasty reds from Piedmont… I loved their Barolos and Barbaresco, particularly the 2003 Barolo “Liste”.
  • 2003 Barossa Valley Estates E & E Black Pepper Shiraz – I love this wine pretty much every year… and this one is no different. Deep, dark, refined and complex… A great wine.
  • 2004 Concha Y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon Puente Alto Don Melchor – coffee, dark chocolate and big currant flavours… This is good stuff.
  • 2004 Ridge Vineyards Santa Cruz Cabernet Sauvignon – a gorgeous example of why I love Ridge wines, and this isn’t even a Zin. Beautiful and classical Cab Sauvignon flavours.
  • The boys from the Douro brought it to the table again this year, showing off the best that Portugal has to offer. Cristanio Van Zeller (Quinta do Valle Dona Maria & CV Wines) and Miguel Roquette (Quinta do Crasto) poured their best (especially at the trade tastings). The real standouts were the 2003 Quinta do Crasto Touriga Nacional, the 2005 Quinta do Crasto Vinha Maria Teresa and the 2005 Quinta do Vale Dona Maria “Curriculum Vitae”. The last 2 were behind-the-table pours we were lucky enough to taste, thanks to the good folks at Seacove Wines.
  • 2001 Peter Lehman Stonewell Shiraz – what can I say? It’s just a great bottle of Shiraz.
  • There were some other great wines from folks such as Altesino and Tenuta di Arceno. I don’t remember the specifics, but I really remember loving the wines (and wish I could find my notes). 🙂

Graham’s Whites (in no particular order):

  • 2006 Michael David Vineyards “Incognito” Viognier – ripe tropical fruit with nice concentrated grassy notes and long balanced finish despite 15.5% booze.
  • 2006 Ridge Vineyards Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay – What can I say about this one. THANK GOD we each got a bottle. An incredible California Chardonnay!
  • 2005 Dr H Thanisch Single Vineyard Riesling Auslese – Why love Riesling? This is why, Gorgeous peach and lemon notes with honey and mineral on a huge finish. Great stuff.

Graham’s bubbly picks:

  • 1997 Lanson Gold Label Vintage Champagne – All the things I love about Champagne, lemon, toasty and creamy goodness that finishes for ages.
  • Ca’Del Bosco Fran Ciacorta Brut DOCG N/V – This was the first wine at the “Rising Stars of Italy tasting. A tasty blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Bianco, it was a really different sparkling with nice mineral and nutty finish with a firm acidic backbone. A really unique food sparkler.

Graham’s red picks:

  • 2004 Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir “Laurene” – Gorgeous Oregon Pinot. Full jammy red currant, strawberry and floral notes equals yet another reason to simply love Oregon Pinots.
  • 2005 Quinta Do Crasto Douro Reserva – Fantastic earthy douro with red fruit and some spice on the finish. Great stuff, and the Vilha Theresa Single Vineyard (under the table), was out of this world.
  • 2001 Peter Lehman Stonewell Shiraz – Beautiful stuff. We tasted the 1998 at the Aussie seminar and this didn’t disappoint either. Beautiful briar, pepper, and mint with loads of jammy fruit and nice tannic backbone on the finish.
  • 2004 Marchesi de Frescobaldi Mormoreto – Now this is merlot. This is simply fantastic. Earthy and firm, it has smoky plum and tobacco with loads of black cherry.
  • 2003 Prunotto Bussia Barolo DOCG – Dark color and a nose full of prune, violets, brown sugar and some pepper. A nice big sip showed jammy blackberries and currants with lovely raisin overtones, followed up with nice balanced tannins with some tar and peppers.

Wines that stuck in our minds (value and others):

  • 2004 Altesino Rosso di Toscana – Clearly the value of the festival (in red). This is a beautiful red with loads of pepper and a bit of mint on the nose and with a big sip comes lovely earthy red currant. We had this with a steak Saturday and it was superb for $21.99.
  • 2006 Agricola Marrone Langhe Arneis “Tre Fie” – a beautiful, crisp and lightly fruity example of this under appreciated Italian white varietal.
  • 2005 Waterbrook Merlot – The full velvety cherry and plum with nice spice on the nose an finish has me thinking, maybe I will choose merlot a little more often.
  • 2005 Molliard Chorey le Beaune – I had never tasted their stuff before, and am certainly glad I did. This was beautiful red currant and cherry with some nice vanilla and violet.
  • Bodegas Y Vinedos Pascual Toso S.A. – Sparkling N/V – 100% Chardonnay, this one is full of zesty lemon with creamy soft bubbles and crisp finish. For $13.99, I am definitely sold.
  • 2001 McWilliams Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon – After tasting the incredible 1998 at the Aussie Wines of Distinction tasting, this was a real treat. Grassy Citrus and incredible crisp acidity that makes it seem like it can last for decades.

In short, we tasted a hell of a lot of wine… and found a lot of new ones to love. If you’re just getting into wine, don’t be intimidated. A Festival Like the Vancouver one is a great chance to taste a bunch of wines and to talk with folks from the wineries. There can’t be a much better crash course than that.

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2008 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival – Piemonte to Puglia Wine Dinner

02292008.gifI just got home from my last event for this year’s Vancouver Wine Festival, the Piemonte to Puglia Wine Dinner at Quattro on 4th. It was a great event – the highlight of which, for me personally, was sitting at the main table with the Italians around whose wines the dinner was based. There was Saverio Notari, the winemaker from Compagnia del Vino (whose tasty Prosecco was poured as we walked in the door), Francesco Domini, the General Manager from Tormaresca and Emanuele Baldi, the marketing manager from Piemonte’s Prunotto.

I won’t get too into the food (which was great), but I’ll let you in on the wines that were poured. First up, as I’ve already mentioned, was Saverio’s 2006 Col de’ Salici Prosecco di Valdobbiadene DOC. I love Prosecco and this is a great example of why I feel that way. It was fresh, citrusy and had zippy acidity. It’s a great way to start the night. Find it and drink it. 4 stars.

Next up was Francesco’s 2006 Tormaresca Chardonnay IGT. This one caught me off guard… in a good way. Seeing as the wine is from Southern Italy, I was expecting a flabby, mouth-filling and non-descript Chardonnay. This was SO the opposite. It had racy acidity and crisp citrus and mineral flavours that made it the perfect pairing for the first course of Tuna Carpaccio with parmigiano reggiano coated buffalo mozzarella with Antinori Olive Oil. 4 stars.

One of the better food/wine pairings in my recent memory was the next course of freshly made ravioli filled with wild mushrooms, marscapone cheese and white truffle oil in a light porcini cream paired with the 2001 Prunotto Costamiole Barbera D’Asti DOC. It was cool to hear Emanuele describe the wine and to hear him compare the Barbera d’Asti (he drew the voluptuous figure of a woman in the air with his hands and said “Sofia Loren”) to Barbera d’Alba, which he described a more of a “snob’s wine”. The wine was beautiful… lots of dark cherry fruit with the earthy minerality. 4 – 4.5 stars.

I thought the ravioli/Barbera was a fantastic food match… then we hit the next course. The venison rack stuffed with morel mushrooms and dried blueberry duxelle finished with Barolo succo (no idea what that is, but it tasted great) was phenomenal with the 2001 Prunotto Bussia Barolo DOGC and the 2004 Tormaresca Masseria Maime. In my eyes, the Pronotto Bussia Barolo (at $90 and 94 points from the Wine Dictator) was the wine of the night. It kicked culinary ass and did it with flair. Its flavours were a magical mix of cracked pepper, cherry and a gorgeous floral edge. The finish went on for as long as I could hold off on taking another sip. The Tormaresca Masseria Maime Negroamaro was also fantastic (especially for the price of $39) with its inky dark flavours of blackberry, licorice and bitter chocolate. I’d buy both. 4.5 – 5 for the Barolo and 4.5 for the Negroamaro.

OK… we’re almost done here. Next up was a selection of cheeses served with the 2001 Prunotto Bric Turot Barbaresco DOCG. I didn’t get a price on this one, but if you have to ask… It’s a powerhouse that tastes like it needs another 10 years before it would be a mouth-friendly bit of juice. It was complex, with cherry and a bit of tar, but it didn’t open up much beyond that. This needs time, folks… lots of time. If you can afford it, can find it and have the patience to sit it down for years you’ll be rewarded, I’m sure. 4.5 stars.

We finished up the night with a delicious honey semifreddo with vanilla crisps and an Anjou pear reduction and a big glass of refreshing 2007 Prunotto Moscato d’Asti DOGC. The apricot sweetness of the Moscato made it a great match for the semifreddo… yum. 3.5 – 4 stars.

I’ll work with Graham to get our take on the rest of the events in the next few days. Cheers.

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2008 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival – so far

02292008.gifWell, both Graham and I have just left the Saturday tasting at the Festival (wow, what a zoo). Over the next day, we’ll be putting together our list of favourites/finds from the the last few days.

What a great time… so many great Italian wines, as well as some great Aussies over 2 tastings. Overall, it was an extremely well-organized Fest, with some bloody memorable wines.

I’ve still got one Festival-related dinner to go. Good times.

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2008 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival – “Innovation by Tradition” – Opening Plenary

02292008.gif“Hedonisticament” – was the defining word Italian Wine Consultant Barbara Tamburini used in her rather verbose keynote presentation to open the Vancouver International Wine Festival. She explained that to her this meant the desire to create and drink great wine versus producing large volumes. Sounds great to me

As we entered, we were presented with a lovely glass of Mionetto Prosecco (not bad for 9:30am) and a tasting station with twelve wines each. I’m not sure if “good things come to those who wait” is an Italian adage, however ninety minutes later we were finally given the opportunity learn exactly what she meant by “innovation by tradition.”

The wines got to have their say and they spoke to the immense and wonderful diversity of Italian Wines. Some highlights included:

2006 Agricola Marrone Langhe Arneis “Tre Fie” – Nice honey and apple on the nose with soft citrus and peach on the palate, nice lime and fennel on the finish with great minerally acidity (4 Stars)

2003 Antinori Tenute Marchesi Antinori Chianti Classico DOCG – Amazing eucalyptus and mint with some pepper on the nose, followed up with jammy black currant and berry. Yep, I’m likin’ this year’s festival theme now. The finish was all nice firm tannins vanilla and hint of liquorice. (4.5 Stars)

2003 Prunotto Bussia Barolo DOCG – This will definitely make my top choices for the festival. Plain gorgeous is the place to start with it’s brick brown color and nose full of prune, violets, brown sugar and some pepper. A nice big sip showed jammy blackberries and currants with lovely raisin overtones, followed up with nice balanced tannins with some tar and peppers. A nice way to end the tasting to say the least. (4.5 Stars)

We followed this up with an afternoon of amazing Barolos, Barbarescos and Bubbles. A great start and back at it tomorrow.

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2008 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival – Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella vertical tasting

02262008.jpgI’m pretty excited about some of the tastings I’ll be attending at this year’s Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival… most of all the one I participated in today, the Bertani Amarone Vertical. I’ll let their words do the talking:

Carefully selected grape bunches are hand-harvested in Bertani’s best Valpolicella vineyards in Fumane, Marano and the Novare Valley. Unlike most leading Amarone producers, who buy grapes from outside growers, Bertani’s harvest originates entirely in the firm’s own vineyards. With their marly-calcerous soil sheltered by surrounding woodland, these vineyards offer the ideal terroir for nurturing the quality of grapes necessary for producing a world-class Amarone. Light appetizers will be served at the end of the tasting, which takes guests all the way back to the 1964 vintage.

That’s 1964 people… I can’t say I’ve ever had a wine older than me, so I was pretty worked up over the chance to taste these wines. What can I say? They lived up to my expectations.

Bertani has been around in the Verona area of Italy since 1857 and started making Amarone somewhere back around 1957 (the presentation at the tasting mentioned 1957, ’58 and ’59). I knew that Amarone is made from choice grapes (for Bertani this is usually a blend of 80% Corvina Veronese and 20% Rondinella) dried on mats for up to 4 months, but I didn’t know that after a 50-day fermentation in glass-lined cement vats, they spend 6 years – many of the older wines spent 10 years or more – in large (5,000 litre) Slovenian oak barrels before being bottled and spending another year aging at the winery before release.

02272008.jpgToday, Lorenzo from the winery took us through wines from the 2000, 1990, 1983, 1975, 1973, 1967 and 1964 vintages. All of them had a still-vibrant red colour with a slight brick-ish orange edge to the older ones. Here are my quick notes:

2000 vintage: The youngest of the bunch and still tight. The nose was all spicy violets, raisins and cherry. The tasty flavours showed intense spicy cherry candy along with licorice spice leading into a firm tannic finish. (4 – 4.5 stars)

1990 vintage: The nose was a sexy mix of dark plum, ripe cherry and spice. The flavours were spicy dark cherry, leather and dark chocolate-coated raisins, which lead into a cherry brandy finish. Tasty stuff! (4.5 stars)

1983 vintage: An intense and perfectly-aged nose of dark chocolate, raisin and licorice-edged dark cherry cola. The flavours were soft dark cherry fruit with leather and spice. Complex stuff. (4.5 stars)

1975 vintage: Pretty different from the ’83… it actually seemed younger. Its nose was a fresh and intense mix of plum, raisin, walnut/cherry liqueur and spice. At this point I was thinking, “Jesus, I love Amarone!“. The flavours pretty much mirrored the nose with walnuts, cherry liqueur and bitter chocolate with a finish that went on for minutes. (4.5 stars)

1973 vintage: This actually seemed younger than the ’75… Its nose had a schwack of cherry brandy, prune and a meaty edge to its spice. Wow. Still young! Complex and sexy. (4.5 stars)

1967 vintage: The wine seemed to really change with the next 2… there were new layers of flavours and aromas. The fruit started to disappear a bit, being replaced with the leather, nut, spice and herbs. This was one gorgeous bunch of grape juice! There was a distinct walnut edge to the cherry brandy and the long luxurious finish. I want to drink this every day. (4.5 – 5 stars)

1964 vintage: This one was really interesting. I got a bit of burnt rubber on the nose… of course it also had the cherry brandy/raisin thing going on, but the nuts, tobacco, leather and spice were really evident. I loved it.

In order, here are my picks:

  1. 1967
  2. 1964
  3. 1973
  4. 1983
  5. 1990
  6. 1975
  7. 2000

Hopefully I’ll get a chance to visit the folks at Bertani when I’m in the Verona area at the beginning of April. I’d love to see what else they have stored away. I’ll say it again. I love Amarone.

The wines are available in Vancouver through Select Wine Merchants Ltd. (www.selectwines.ca). The prices for these ones? Well, let’s just say that if you have to ask…

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2008 Wine Festivals – Vancouver is next… then VinItaly

02222008.jpgWell, it looks like the start to my 2008 wine festival season is off to a great start and about to get better. A few weeks ago Graham and I went down to San Fransisco for the 2008 ZAP Festival and our calendars are full in the coming week with events at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival… and wait for it… it gets even better. Last night I bought my ticket to visit Rachel in Italy and we’re going to hit up VinItaly while I’m there.

You may not have heard of VinItaly, but dammit it has me worked up. It’s pretty much the world’s largest wine event. Over 5 days (April 3 – 7, 2008), 4,200 exhibitors (wineries and wine-related businesses) show their wares to folks like lucky ‘ol me. It’s going to be a blast… and I get to share the experience with my favourite wine partner, Dr. Rachel Black.

Of course, I’ll bring back notes and pictures, but first up is the Vancouver wine stuff later this week. Stay tuned.

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