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Last night, I navigated my way through the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival’s International Festival Tasting, aka a flood of people on the hunt for new wine favourites.

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I’d attended the Thursday evening event in previous years, and as always, it’s a daunting experience even for those familiar with wine.

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The Chilean wines (featured focus wine of this year’s festival) are conveniently located just past the entrance of the beautiful Vancouver Convention Centre West, offering superb views and overall a much more suitable venue for an event of this popularity and size.

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I began my adventures with several whites, including Cremaschi Furloitt’s Sauvignon Blanc 2011. Its floral nose and mix of creaminess, minerality, and smooth finish makes for an excellent wine. Cremaschi is located in the Maule Valley, and their winery combines Italian heritage with a longstanding winemaking background. This one’s only available through the festival store at $13.95.

Lapostolle: Casa Chardonnay 2011

Another favourite was Lapostolle’s Casa Chardonnay 2011 ($18.99), such a creamy and flavourful wine. It’s a brightly coloured wine with citrus aroma and hints of lime and pineapple.

Junta Winery: Reserve Viognier Sauv Blanc Chardonnay 2011

Junta Winery’s Reserve Viognier Sauv Blanc Chardonnay 2011 is not available in Canada (only through the special liquor store at the back of the tasting floor), but is a delicious and fruity wine that I’d happily consume with an apple, medium cheddar, and seeded crackers. The floral notes of the Viognier combine well with the more tropical Sauvignon Blanc’s.

Junta Winery: Reserve Syrah Carmenere 2010

I later returned to try their Gran Reserve Syrah Carmenere 2008, one that IS widely available here, and it’s a delicious find! It’s got a beautiful rich red colour with dark fruity tastes and is produced in the Curicó Valley.

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Viña Arboleda’s Chardonnay 2010 and Sauvignon Blanc 2011 were up next, the medium-bodied chardonnay with its great range of fruit on the palette (hinting at truffle and white flowers) and the sauv blanc’s bright and fruity character.

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Cono Sur Vineyards is certainly no longer a stranger to Vancouver wine lovers, and their winery was well represented with four varietals: the Organic Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Organic Cabernet Carmenere 2011, 20 Barrels Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, and 20 Barrels Pinot Noir 2009.

I sampled the Organic Sauvignon Blanc 2011, with it’s spicy/fruity combination hitting my nose, resulting in a smooth and flavourful taste.

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Concha Y Toro’s Terrunyo Sauv Blanc 2011 ($25.00) contains strong notes of apple and grapefruit, with a high acidity. It’s considered an expressive and elegant wine with great complexity. It too is available onsite at the festival’s wine shop.

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My final white was the Miguel Torres Cordillera Chardonnay 2011 ($26.99), available through private liquor stores. With apple and hazelnut aromas, its acidity is mild and can easily pair with salmon or other fresh seafood.

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Onto the reds.

Marisco Vineyards: The King's Wrath Pinot Noir 2010

I bounced around different regions for the reds. New Zealand’s Marisco Vineyards’ The King’s Wrath Pinot Noir 2010 ($29.99) had a warm, pleasant taste in the palate. I enjoyed this wine’s red berry fruitiness.

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I tried another Pinot Noir, also from New Zealand, from Durvillea. Their Pinot Noir 2010 ($24.99) has a lingering taste of cherry, plum, with a black cherry aroma at the nose. I loved its smooth, silky finish.

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I lingered in the New Zealand section, sampling a third pinot noir: Sacred Hill’s Prospectors Pinot Noir 2009 ($39.99). I enjoyed this wine for its rich aroma of dark cherry and berries, later taking in the bold flavours and tannin finish. This was one of my favourite of the pinot bunch.

The final pinot for me was Oregon’s King Estate Signature Pinot Noir 2010 ($36.99). This wine had a great depth, taking in the dark fruity flavours typical in pinots, as well as the medium body and finish. This wine is available at the festival store, though I didn’t find out whether it was available at BC Liquor stores as well.

Campo Viejo: Reserva 2006

A quick jaunt to Spanish Campo Viejo’s table for a sip of their Reserva 2006. Couldn’t resist, as we’ve recently travelled to this region of the world. This expressive red is oak barrel aged for 18 months and spends another 18 in order to complete the aging process. I liked it in Spain, and here too, far away from its homeland.

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To bring things home a bit, my final notes were from Mission Hill’s Select Lot Collection Syrah 2009 ($36.99). This wine took gold at 2011’s International Wine Challenge, and it was my second time tasting it this week. Previously, I enjoyed it at the Canadian Wine Awards lunch, paired with mini bison sliders and applewood smoked cheddar. Since I’m headed to a Syrah event later this afternoon, and am in BC, I thought this would be a fitting way to round up my wine tasting experience.

Men's brocade suit circa 1630's, worn by Frank Zotter as Cleante
[Men’s brocade suit circa 1630’s, worn by Frank Zotter as Cleante]

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[Terra Breads]

The Playhouse Wine Festival only comes around once a year, so don’t forget to drink lots (of water), eat (!), mingle, and enjoy the surroundings. Stay tuned as I uncover the mystery behind the next “star grape”, Syrah, and explore the North Shore’s Fishworks Restaurant on Sunday evening.

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More photos from the evening can be found here.

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