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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