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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