Archive for the 'Wine Event' Category

Tasting – Marquis Wine Cellars presents Buty Winery at C Restaurant

First things first… I’d like to thank John Clerides and the staff at Marquis Wine Cellars for putting on this great tasting. The food and wine pairings at C Restaurant made my day.

From the left, that’s Graham, Caleb (the winemaker and co-proprietor at Buty), John and me (sporting a bit of a winter beard).

Last summer, when Graham and I were down in Walla Walla for the Wine Bloggers’ Conference, we ran into John and as I’ve already written, he said, “Do you guys want to taste something great? Come with me.” We headed out to Walla Walla’s airport wine area and made our way into Buty Winery’s tasting room. What we tasted were some of the highlights of the weekend.

So, when John decided to bring some of the Buty wines into his shop I was pretty stoked. I’ve grabbed a few bottles of the Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and  Muscadelle blend over the last month or so.

I’ll run through what was being poured, with a bit of a review of each wine. So, let’s go. Here’s they are:

  • 2009 Beast Sphinx Semillon
    This was the surprise of the tasting for me. It was a medium-bodied mouthful of honeyed lemon and mineral. So tasty. (4 stars – $24.99)
  • 2009 Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc/Muscadelle
    Personally, I love this wine. It has a crisp acidity that makes it a great food pairing wine along with beautiful melon, noney, citrus and stone flavours. What’s not to love? (4-4.5 stars – $31.99)
  • 2009 Conner Lee Vineyard Chardonnay
    Wow. This was another surprise for me – and was a perfect pairing for the delicious C Restaurant-prepared lobster. It had a really nice citrus-edged crispness with nice tropical and stone minerals on the finish. More Chablis than slutty Chardonnay. Very nice. (4-4.5 – $45.99)
  • 2008 Beast Wildebeest Red Wine
    This blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Syrah and 10% Malbec adds up to a really tasty deep cherry, berry fruit-driven wine with a pepper-edged mineral finish. Nice. (3.5-4 stars – $32.99)
  • 2009 Merlot & Cabernet Franc
    Well now… another surprise. I really liked this. It had wonderful dark fruit and a flintiness on the finish that I find really appealing, especially on elegant Washington State reds. (4.5 stars – $48.99)
  • 2008 Columbia Redviva
    Wow. This is the winner. This blend of 52% Syrah and 48% Cabernet Sauvignon was definitely the standout of the tasting for me. In a word, this wine is elegant. It has a tonne of dark red fruit, but not in an over-ripe sort of way. The berry fruit is almost perfect. So good! (4.5 – $59.99)
  • 2009 Redviva of the Stones
    This wine is a blend of 79% Syrah and 21% Cabernet Sauvignon. To me, this one needed a bit of time. It was pretty closed up. I’m thinking in a year or so its dark fruit and minerality will be more in balance. (4-4.5 stars – $59.99)

It was great to see Caleb again. I always love seeing talented folks who are passionate about what they’re doing. All wines are of course available for purchase or order from Marquis Wine Cellars. Head on over to their site for the contact information.

The folks at C Restaurant deserve a special mention for the fabulous food. Everything was delicious and reminded me that I should head there soon for my seafood fix. Amazing stuff.


The Festival Approaches…The Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival 2011

Earlier this week, we had a chance to have a little preview of this year’s Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival. This year’s feature region is Spain and the varietal theme is fortified wine. It looks to be a great event again this year.

The gathering at the Shore Club restaurant gave us an opportunity to sample a few of the wines and get a “sneak peek” of some of the key events being held throughout the festival.

The great thing about Spain being the star of this year’s festival is the breadth of choice we will be able to enjoy. From the crisp minerality of Albariño, the delicious value bubbles of Cava, let alone white Rioja, the offerings in white are really exciting. In terms of the reds, full fruity Garnacha, deep, bold Priorat and rich complex Riojas are just a few of the sips bound to test and tempt the palate.

The great thing about this year is that the choices with Spain go one step further. As mentioned, the feature theme is fortified wine, and there stands to be an amazing array of choices. If you’ve never tried the broad ranges of Sherries or Ports, this is your chance. Many will challenge your tastes and are an experience not to be missed. We had the opportunity to sample some Solera and Fino sherry, along with some tawny and late bottle vintage port that were perfect on a chilly evening.

Tickets go on sale on Tuesday and needless to say, many of the events will sell out quickly. Based in Vancouver’s Convention Centre, the Festival runs from March 28th through April 3 in various venues around town. Check out the Events page on the Festival’s web site for the where and whens.

One of the many highlights include the Vega Sicilia vertical tasting which may venture back 50 vintages. Their 2004 Bodegas Alion was one of the superb sips of our evening, look out for them in the tasting room too!

In addition, many of the winemakers’ events or seminars are very reasonable and give a great chance to learn from the experts in a smaller scale. There are where you can learn more about bubbly, a region of interest, pairings and of course, fortified wine! I always enjoy these guided tastings as they can lend so much insight into wines and their stories. As part of your festival experience this year, check one out!

We hope to see you there. Cheers!

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Loma Larga Vineyards and Vi̱a El Principal РTwo to watch from Taste Chile!

As I mentioned in the previous post, I really enjoyed exploring the wines of Chile a couple of weeks ago.  I ended up tasting at a couple of tables that I had never had before, but ended up being the highlights of the tasting for me, thus warranting a separate post.

The two wineries are Loma Larga Vineyards, and Viña El Principal.  Decidedly different from each other, I eagerly anticipate their arrivals in our local market.

Loma Larga Vineyards

Loma Larga Vineyards is located in the Casablanca Valley and has been producing a variety of wines for the last ten years or so.  I had a chance to sample through all their offerings with their winemaker, Cedric Nicolle and found each the wines to be unique from almost all the others in the room.

Chardonnay 2009, Casablanca Valley – made with no malolactic fermentation, and spending 9-10 months on 30% new oak, there’s beautiful apple and pear with some nice herb hints.  Delicious!

Lomas Del Valle Chardonnay 2009 Casablanca Valley – Chablis style, very clean with great mineral and tight citrus.

Merlot 2008, Casablanca Valley – Beautiful green leaf and dark berry on the nose with full raspberry on the palate.  This will make a merlot lover out of me.

Cabernet Franc 2007, Casablanca Valley – This was my favorite of the line up, a unique wine, full of fresh cracked pepper and nice currants. You definitely get a sense of a Loire influence on this wine.  Mmm…

These wines will all apparently be $17-28 when they hit the shelf; in my mind this equals fantastic value for unique wines.

El Principal

El Principal is a partnership between the owner of Hacienda El Principal and the owner of Chateau Pavie in St. Emillion.  The wines are being grown at elevation in the Maipo Valley at the foot of the Andes Mountains.  The focus is on only three wines based on Cabernet and Carménère.

Calicanto 2008 Maipo Valley – A blend of 63% Cab and 37% Carménère, spice draws you in from the first sniff.  Beautiful mint and pepper followed by plum and currants.  Great value – $20

Memorias 2007 – 80% Cab and 20% Carm, this one have much more of a vegetal and peppery nose that is followed up by a whack of juicy cassis and some nice oak through the finish.  My fave of the three – $38

– Cab is upped to 83% on this one and 18 months on new oak pumps up a lovely earthy, toasty nose with exceptionally elegant dark plum and cherry with almost a floral hint.  Maybe this one is my favorite?  $70.

Both of these wineries were true highlights where lovely wine was shared by folks who are clearly committed to showing the diversity of terroir and varietals in Chile.  Look for these wines!

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Wine Event – Port and Chocolate

Liberty Wine Merchants is pleased to present their 19th annual Port and Chocolate tasting event at the Vancouver Rowing Club.  The evening will explore new and classic pairings, featuring a wide range of ports with decadent chocolates from local vendors.  Don’t pass on this perfect excuse to indulge!

How much?: $29.99/person. Tickets on sale now at all Liberty Wine Merchants stores.

When and where?: September 30th from 7:30 – 9:30pm at the Vancouver Rowing Club, Stanley Park (directions & map).

It should be fun. I’ll see you there.

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“Perfect Pairings” Event at Township 7 Vineyards

Recently we attended “Perfect Pairings,” an evening of food and wine at Township 7’s Langley location that certainly highlighted the food and wine world of the valley is heading in the right direction.

A Fraser Valley resident by choice, I often look on with envy at the opportunities for food and wine available on a daily basis in the city. Someone calls and says “we’re driving through, where is a good place to eat?” Um…

Events like this affirm that there are great choices available out here; they just require a little rooting around. After a trip to the ever-expanding Langley Farmer’s Market, we made our way to the tables set up in the vineyard at Township.

While the grapes (save for the sparkling) are not grown on this property, I find a sense of the local community present in the wines. Perhaps because I watched the vineyard start, now in its tenth year of operation.

To start our evening, we were given the 2008 Rose and asked by winemaker Brad Cooper to connect the aroma of the wine with a scent from childhood Connecting the wine to our personal experience, Brad created a comfortable environment for all levels of wine lovers. Honest, open and willing to share his passion, everyone left feeling good about BC wine.

Back to the rose, it had a nice strawberry, citrus mix with a vegetal undertone (Allison from Okanagan Taste said “strawberry rhubarb pie”) that matched really well with the pulled-pork slider provided by Angie Quaale from Well Seasoned. The pairing initially surprised me, but the sweet – savory balance was great.

From there we were treated to a number of decadent snacks with really well paired wine choices. We appreciated how Brad encouraged us to try the other wines with the various food items to find our own match.

The highlight for me was the “7 Blanc,” Township’s 50/50 blend of Gewürztraminer and Pinot Blanc. The nice blend of tropical fruit was killer with the amazing prawn atop a kiwi-cilantro-lime salsa. For $19, this is an ideal summer sip. I made sure to take a couple bottles home.

My wife loved the 2006 Syrah with both the incredible baked beans (best I’ve ever had) and Township’s house dark chocolate with peppercorns. She felt the smoky dark fruit of the wine. We also were given a barrel sample of the ’08 syrah, which I am definitely looking forward to.

The evening closed with a taste of Brad’s own 2008 Black Cloud Pinot Noir. My first sips were really tasty and I look forward to sitting down with a bottle (and a glass!) to fully explore it. From here we pried ourselves away from the truffle butter popcorn and closed a lovely evening.

Thanks to Brad Cooper and Township 7, and also Well-Seasoned, and 1Fish 2Fish (who provided my favorite – the prawns) – local Langley folks who deserve regular visits.

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“Let the Vineyard Speak” – Musings on the Walla Walla Experience at the 2010 Wine Bloggers’ Conference

“Let the vineyard speak.” – I heard this phrase a couple of times during the whirlwind of experiences at the WBC 2010 in Walla Walla. To summarize what I learned about Walla Walla and the wine, I honestly believe that the artisans making wine in this region use this phrase as a guiding mantra.

In general, all the producers, growers and owners we met expressed a commitment to minimal intervention in the growth and path towards finished product. The results are an increasing number of organic wines that are really excellent examples of the region’s terrior.

I had some experience with Washington wines prior to visiting, and learned a great deal about the hallmarks and breadth of wine experiences available in the valley. Some but not all of the things that stuck with me are:

  • A commitment to elegant meritage style blends. Of the many we sampled, there was a distinct elegance characterized by beautiful floral hints, followed by in some cases the lovely graphite and rustic mineral finish often associated with Bordeaux.
  • “Letting the vineyard speak” was evidenced by the rocky, mineral soils we observed in the River Rock Vineyards, and tasting it in the fantastic Buty Wines grown there.
  • Balance was a hallmark through out the lineups of many of the wineries. There were very few “monster” wines; even the Syrahs and GSMs had nice balance and finesse. (The exception being the wines of Charles Smith, whom I sense wouldn’t have it any other way. – we wouldn’t want him to either, as they are such fun wines).
  • The whites were full of Old World-esque minerality (DeLille’s Chaleur White – wow!), and wonderful acidity. I loved the number of seafood beckoning Chenin Blancs, and gorgeously subtle Rieslings.
  • Another highlight was the handful of Rosés we sampled. Spicy, with light red berries, they are fantastic summer wines at even more striking prices. Barnard and Griffin, Mannina (made from Sangiovese) and L’Ecole 41 (whose is a Grenache rosé) all had delicious sips under $20.

Walla Walla is a fantastic place that is so welcoming for the wine enthusiast. The vineyards are beautiful and the vintners are warm and genuinely interested in sharing the work that they do. The town center of Walla Walla is also a great stepping off point to explore the wine, with dozens of tasting rooms, cool restaurants (tasty pizza at The Olive, by the way) and a fantastic mix of generations of architecture.


Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival – Return to the French Classics Dinner at The Hermitage

This dinner at The Hermitage featuring the wines of Domaine Doudet Naudin was the first of two events I received invites to as part of my Media pass for the 2010 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival. Classic French food paired with extremely food-friendly Burgundy wine – what’s not to like? Nothing as far as I was concerned.

I hadn’t been into The Hermitage before last night. It’s a cozy place that is what you’d expect of an old-school French restaurant with a dose of 70’s living room tossed in – decorative brick arches, flowered curtains and all… but it worked. The room was comfortable and many of the folks in attendance last night were regulars who seemed to be on a first-name basis with the Hermitage’s owner, Hervé Martin. He creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

I grabbed a seat at the table reserved for media types and started chatting with the folks seated there, including Julie Pegg (contributing editor for EAT Magazine), Kelly Robson (wine writer for Chatelaine Magazine & her Full Bodied wine blog) and a couple of non wine geeks, Arnaud and Bobby. Soon enough, the dinner kicked off with a chat from the event’s sponsor, Rare Finds Wine Importers LTD and we were off. Here’s a scan of what was ahead. My mouth and palate were watering.

While we waited for the first course, we sipped the 2007 Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune, Château d’Antigny ($27.95 – 4 stars). It was the perfect palate cleanser – all flinty lemon with a puckering acidity that just begged for some food. Up next was possibly my favourite pairing of the night – the wild mushroom feuilletté with a veal and port reduction paired with the close to magical 2006 Savigny-Les-Beaune en Redrescul, 1er Cru ($45.95 – 4.5 stars). A white with a sauced mushroom dish? Yep, this white – and it was fantastic. It reminded me a lot of the Tissot Jura Chardonnays I tried a few months ago. It had a dill-like funkiness that really added to its powerful and earthy flavours. It was complex and delicious. Try some if you can find it.

After that, it was onto a delicate salmon fillet with a creamy sorrel sauce ‘troisgros’ paired with the last Chardonnay of the evening; the 2007 Pernand-Vergelesses Sous-Fretille, 1er Cru ($49.95 – 4.5 stars). It was another great wine-food pairing. The delicate flavour of the salmon helped highlight the crisp elegance of the wine. Delicious.

Next up was a delicious house-made duck sausage with pistachio purée of Jerusalem artichokes paried with a delicious and light and 2007 Gevrey-Chambertin ($56.95 – 4.5 stars). This is the kind of pairing that really helps explain the earthy French Pinot Noir food pairing magic. You taste each separately and they’re good, but it’s together that they really sing. The light red fruit and crisp tannins of the wine perfectly balanced the fat and earthy meat flavours of the duck sausage.

We weren’t done yet… the kitchen then served the beef tenderloin medallions and the 2003 Savigny-Les-Beaune Les Vergelesses, 1er Cru ($42.95 – 4.5 stars). The meat was fantastic and the wine really grabbed my taste buds. It had gorgeous dark cherry and plum fruit along with a floral and black pepper edge to its earthy finish. Wow. Another great pairing, by the way.

The last food/wine pairing of the evening was a selection of French cheeses with the 2000 Aloxe Corton Les Marechaudes, 1er Cru ($56.95 – 4.5 stars). I loved the earthy elegance of the wine, but this was the only pairing of the evening that didn’t click. I separated them – downing the cheeses and then savouring the wine.

A delicious vanilla syrup soaked rum baba rounded things off and left me wanting a walk to wear off the meal. All in all, Hervé Martin and his team did a heckuva’ job with the food choices and the wines really stepped up as well.

I left determined to drink more wines from Burgundy. That’s never a bad thing.

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The 2010 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival

The Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival is on this week, and it’s always a fun time to sample a huge variety of wine from around the world and a great chance for some brief interactions with some cool people in the industry.

There is a LOT of information out there about “how to” with the fest – usually with valuable information like don’t wear perfume or cologne, dark clothing is advisable, eat before, spitting is completely acceptable and advisable, leave the giant bag at the coat check, etc…

That said, let’s look at what’s in the room. Once you enter and grab your glass – something sparkling is always a great way to toast the evening and get a nice fresh “zing” on the palate. Don’t miss:

  • Champagne: de Venoge, Lanson, Nicholas Feuilliatte
  • Prosecco: Catina Breganze
  • Franciacorta: Ca’ del Bosco

From there, the host countries have some fun stuff in both white and red. For New Zealand, most have some exposure to the Sauvignon Blancs from Marlborough. That said, give some of the Pinot Gris a go. Of course the Otago Pinots are don’t misses, and keep your eye out for the odd Riesling or a Bubble of some sort as this can be where the real gems hide.

We’ll be checking out (at a bare minimum):

  • Ata Rangi
  • Spy Valley
  • Two Paddocks

With Argentina, the dominant grape will of course be the Malbec, but keep your eye out for the whites – there are some interesting Sauv Blancs, Pinot Gris, and the signature Torrentes which can really be unique while being in a great price bracket. The Syrahs and Bordeaux blends will certainly show well.

Not to be missed are:

  • Bodega Catena Zapata
  • Bodegas y Vinedos Renacer (killer value Malbecs)
  • Tomas Achaval
  • Valentin Bianchi

Rosé is the feature “variety” if you will, and a couple of likeable choices include:

  • Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato
  • Lanson Rose Brut

If you are getting late into the evening and are at the point that it’s time to hit the “can’t miss” booths, here are a few:

  • Altesino – Brilliant Super Tuscan sips.
  • Damilano – Good things from the glory that is Piedmont. Try the Cannubi Barolo and taste what it’s all about.
  • Louis Latour – Corton Charlemagne – need we say more?
  • Michael David Vineyards – Intense California wines from the Lodi region.
  • Panther Creek – Great Pinots from Oregon.
  • Penfolds – Classics from Australia.
  • Poplar Grove – Quality BC vino.
  • Ravenswood – Look for the single vineyard Zins.
  • Seghesio – More great Zinfandels. Try the Home Ranch.
  • Torres – Excellent Spanish staples – mmm Priorat!
  • Vina Errazuriz – One of the first and finest Chilean Wineries to arrive in BC.

To cap off the evening, it’s gotta be all about the port. Most of the room will head for Taylor Fladgate (great stuff), but look for Quinta De Passadouro and see if Penfolds has their “Grandfather Tawny.”

It should be a great week, and it will be interesting to experience the new Convention Centre as a venue. If you are on Twitter, watch the hashtag #vpiwf and offer up the gems you find- we will! Remember – Sip, spit and move the heck out of the way so others can get in for a taste. 🙂


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Wine event: Liberty Wine Merchant Company’s 2nd Annual Rosé Revival

Think pink.

Want to check out a wine event before the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival hits town?.. and support a great cause at the same time? This is your chance to participate in North America’s fastest growing segment of the wine industry. Come and sample a fantastic selection of Rosé wines, with all proceeds benefiting the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

When?: Monday April 12th, 2010 from 7:00pm – 9:00pm.

Where?: Bridges dining room on Granville Island.

How much?:  Tickets are $24.99 and are available at Liberty Wine Merchant stores.


Blood Into Wine movie playing at Vancouver’s Rio Theatre March 12th to 18th

Back in the 90’s, I was a fan of the band Tool, so I took a bit of an interest when I heard that Tool’s singer, Maynard James Kennan had started a winery in, of all places, Arizona.  It’s called Caduceus and they produce some pretty interesting (and well-reviewed) wines.

I haven’t had the chance to try any of their wines, but I notice that a movie about the winery/winemaker/journey, “Blood Into Wine” is playing at Vancouver’s Rio Theatre for a week from Friday, March 12th to Thursday, the 18th. Show-times are posted on their site. I’ll be checking it out.

If you don’t live in Vancouver, the movie’s site has a few screenings listed there.

Here’s the YouTube trailer:

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