When I step into the Acura Tasting Room, a world of wines rise up to meet me. So does the crowd. This is the 38th Annual Vancouver International Wine Festival, bigger than ever. I have a plan, my map is circled with targeted vintners to visit, pages of their descriptions dog-eared.
But with crowds three and four deep at any tasting table and kiosk numbers too small to read at a distance it’s time to change my tack, so I do what any self-respecting wine blogger would do: seek champagne.
The search leads me to an interesting Gruet from New Mexico, which received accolades at this year’s kick-off mingler. Their Brut Rose 2012 has a nose of strawberry, a nice balance of aromatics and a delicate finish.
Bubbles still at top of mind, I’m directed by a wine buddy to Booth 3. Here I stumble on a find, the heavens open up and my palate sings a Hallelujah chorus. It’s Cleto Chiarli Lombrusco di Sorbara DOC. The hue is deep pink, and the velvety liquid keeps exploding in my mouth in a symphony of flavour fireworks, reminiscent of forest berries and woods.
Handsome Graham Nordin pours, saying that this is the most consumed wine – both varietal and label – in Italy. Big claims for big taste, and at about $25 a bottle, this one is a must have.
Next, it was onto the Italian whites. Choice picks would be from Mezzacornona, who offer two Pinot Grigios, Trentino 2014 and Tolloy Alto Adoge DOC 2014, both made in the traditional style. The Mezzacorona (named a best buy in Wine & Spirits) has notes of pear and green apple. The Tolloy also has notes of pear, melon and a hint of floral. Both offer crisp acidity and minerality.
Before hitting the reds, I check out the Croatia kiosk, figuring I’ll have to move to Eastern Europe soon if I want to maintain my writing habit. Poor Croatia is so tucked away it can be easily missed. Bedraggled and thirsty, I finally land and try the offerings of Coronica. Their two whites both have a unique taste, a crisp acidity and briny edge.
The vintner describes them as having the “scent of the sea”, and let’s add to that the taste of the sea. Coronica 2014 Malvazija of Istria offers citrus and pepper notes. The Coronica 2013 Gran Malvazija of Istria is the next step up, balancing some seriously interesting flavours: stone fruit, smoke, spice, hazelnut and saline.
Retailing around $30 and $40 respectively, these can’t be considered bargains, but if it’s unique you’re after, consider the Croatian offerings.
It was en route to the reds that I stumble on another surprise, Fresh Tap. With mixed feelings, I venture to their kiosk and chat with their knowledgeable intelligent rep Brianne Carson. Offerings on tap include some favourite local wines from Hester Creek and Haywire. So I give it a try and decide it’s pretty good. In such a pricey city, Vancouver bars might go the steel keg route to save money.
Brianne notes that pricier wines work well from the keg. The restaurant doesn’t have to worry that an expensive pour will leave a half-consumed bottle to go off. Once ‘tapped’, the keg keeps wine fresh for many months.
I consider where a keg would fit in my apartment, but am reminded that they’re for restaurants and bars only.
Finally it’s time to cozy up with some dark handsome Italians: the reds. The buzz in the room is all Barola, so I head to that stretch of Convention Centre real estate. Barolo is from the Piedmont area in northwestern Italy.
Made from the Nebbiolo grape, Barolo is downright revered for its fragrant tannic and elegant profile. Pio Cesare Barolo Ornato 2011 is the talk of the crowd and with good reason. This single vineyard Barolo is rich and complex, full of ripe fruit and subtle tannins. It’s produced only in small quantities, from excellent vintages, and its price, well over $100, reflects that standard.
Generous nods of respect go to two Barolos under $40: the Batasiolo Barolo DOCG with its notes of plum and cedar and juicy finish and the Barolo Riserva DOCG by Ricossa. This Riserva is presented with friendly flair by Richard Ii and winery rep Francesca Giorgoni. The bottle is sophisticated and complex with mellow tannins.
From there I ramble, and not in a straight line, to the Valpolicello and Amarone area. Here is where I float on a cloud of deliciousness. Here is where I find home.
The Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2013 by Tenuta Sant’Antonio has a stunning ruby colour with aromas of cherry. The full body offers a hint of sweetness and spice, and can be had for about $20. Their Amarone Della Valpolicella 2011 is rich and soft, with juicy red fruit with a hint of licorice, black pepper and chocolate.
Cantina Valpolicella Negrar offers two gems. Valpolicella Ripasso DOC Classico Superioire Le Roselle 2013, priced at a mere $22, boasts smooth, well balanced flavours of fruit and spice. The first Amarone producer in the Valpolicella region, this vintner’s Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG Classico 2012 is delicious.
Made from a long, controlled process this one is dense with dried prunes, floral and spice notes. Full bodied, with soft tannins.
These are some serious reds. But the catch of the night, the dark Italian I want to take home with me is the Montresor Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2012. A bargain at $40, this treasure is intense yet refined, with a bouquet of raspberry and violet, a full body and a finish that lingers like a kiss.
Amarone, how I love thou. Next to Lake Como resident George Clooney, you are the Italian I hold closest to my heart.
The 38th Annual Vancouver International Wine Festival Acura Tasting Room is open tonight (7 to 10 pm), Saturday afternoon (2:30 to 5 pm), and Saturday evening (7 to 10 pm). Note that all sessions except for Saturday afternoon are completely sold out.