International Festival Tasting 2013-19

So where can you sip 763 wines from 175 wineries representing 15 countries under one roof? Look no further than to the Vancouver International Wine Festival, the largest of its kind in North America.

International Festival Tasting/Whistler Water
[Whistler Water onsite: stay hydrated!]

Last night saw the opening of the International Festival Tasting, and the only way to really see those numbers mentioned above is to experience it live.

International Festival Tasting 2013-6

Glass in hand, I navigated for my fourth year through the different country areas, starting with this year’s chosen region, California. I’m no stranger to this neck of the woods, having spent 19 years living in California. While living seven of those 19 years in the Bay Area within an hour’s drive of three principal wine-growing areas – Napa, Sonoma, and Healdsburg – what hadn’t yet gotten on the wine-growing radar at the time were regions south of the big three.

International Festival Tasting 2013-14
[Getting fancy with Riedel decanters]

Several spots between Santa Barbara and San Francisco have seen rapid expansion, particularly in Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, and the Monterey/Santa Cruz corridor. The Central Coast, home to Silicon Valley, is now known for its Pinot Noirs, Syrahs, and Viogniers.

My first few sips were of the festival’s chosen varietal: Chardonnay.

International Festival Tasting 2013-10

Monterey County is home to Bridlewood Winery. Both Monterey 2010 Chardonnay ($19.99) and Santa Barbara 2011 Chardonnay ($19.99) were poured. My favourite of the two was the Monterey, a well-balanced wine that spends between six and nine months in 75% stainless steel and 25% oak barrels. I tasted hints of lime, apple, pineapple and mandarin orange, with a bit of honey. Bridlewood’s Santa Barbara Chardonnay cousin was similar but a bit more tropical and spicy to my palate.

International Festival Tasting 2013-29

Davis Bynum’s River West 2011 Chardonnay ($29.99) and Rodney Strong Vineyard’s Chalk Hill 2010 Chardonnay ($26.99) were at the same table, but differed vastly in taste.

While Healdsburg’s Chalk Hill had a creamier flavour, hints of Meyer lemon, and apple, and a softer texture enhanced by nine months in French oak, the River West was much crisper and tart. This Sonoma wine uses a select variety of Chardonnay “clones” to add overall complexity.

Another crisp, enjoyable chardonnay is Napa Valley’s Starmont 2010 Chardonnay. Also from Napa, the wine spends nine months in both French and American oak, and is 55% stainless steel, 45% barrel fermented. The wine’s got aromas of pineapple, pear, orange blossom, and hazelnut with a clean finish. I enjoyed the balance between sweet and crisp.

One final favourite of the bunch for me was Cameron HughesLot 324 Atlas Peak Chardonnay ($22.99). The soft creaminess of the oak came through with the lemon curd, toasted almond, and honeysuckle. I especially loved the taste in my mouth after allowing the wine to sit for a few seconds on the palate. Perfect for cheese and crackers or on its own.

International Festival Tasting 2013-11

With the reds, I tasted an Australian Shiraz by Gemtree Vineyards, located in the heart of the McLaren Vale wine region. This Certified Organic winery is family-owned and began in 1960, producing fruit for some of the larger Australian distributors. In 1988, the first vintage was produced. Since 2011, they’ve been organically certified, and while biodynamic are not certified in that particular category.

Their Uncut Shiraz 2010 ($24.99) spends 18 months in French oak, using fruit off of 40-year old vines. Winemaker Mike Brown is the proud recipient of four gold medals in his country’s wine competitions. I enjoyed the blackberry, plum, and jammy texture of this lovely wine that produces a complexity across the palate.

I Greppi Greppicia Rosso Doc 2009 ($69.99) is a treat. It’s lively with raspberry and cherry flavours, as well as having a firm tannin structure. You’d better believe that Tuscany is alive and well when it produces Chiantis of this stature. The Fattoria Viticcio estate is located in Greve in Chianti on 30 hectares of land midway between Florence and Siena.

International Festival Tasting 2013-12

I landed back in California to continue my red wine-tasting journey, sampling two wines: the “La Masía” 2009 Pinot Noir ($44), and the “Mas Cavalls” 2008 Pinot Noir ($44), both from Marimar Estate Vineyards. The vineyard’s 20 acres of Pinot grapes contain three different clones used in both wines poured last night.

La Masía is fermented in stainless steel and aged in premium French oak, with dark berries and orange peel aromas. The silky structure adds a hint of clove and cinnamon, and it’s a hearty wine perfect for steak.

Mas Cavalls also uses stainless steel fermentation and French oak, producing a deep black cherry flavour, with a bright acidity, a firm structure, and delightful finish.

International Festival Tasting 2013-25 International Festival Tasting 2013-27 International Festival Tasting 2013-28

The evening went by in flash as they have in past years. Mingling with friends, stopping for a snack, and people-watching add to a fun event that will be repeated tonight and tomorrow from 7 to 10 pm.

Some of the lovely volunteers who help make the festival happen

Don’t forget to thank a lovely volunteer on your way out. Without them, it would be a chaotic mess around the tasting room!

International Festival Tasting 2013-23 International Festival Tasting 2013-7 International Festival Tasting 2013/@TheSpitter interviews Charles Smith of @KVintners

More photos from the evening can be found here.

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.