They like to keep busy in the winter months, these Vancouver types… hot on the heels of the excellent Dine Out festival, the Vancouver International Wine festival clinked into town. What began as a one winery, two-day event back in 1979 has grown into Canada’s premier wine show, featuring 175 wineries from 15 countries pouring an astounding 1,850 wines at 54 events. The ever-popular Grand Tasting evenings are an amazing opportunity to sniff, swirl and sniff your way around the world of wine; tasting everything from First Nations wine made right here in BC to vintage Champagne, Japanese Sake and even the first (surprisingly good) non-sparkling wines from Freixenet.
This year the focus was on California and Chardonnay wines and yes, I did mean to dive into exploring both, but flipping through the thick glossy brochure, something decidedly tempting caught my eye and well, it was too much for me to resist. French food. Dazzling Bordeaux. A restaurant I’ve been eyeing up for a while… Hey – I’m not made of stone, which is why I wound up at Le Gavroche enjoying their wonderful French food paired with heavenly wines from Château Olivier one rainy night in February.
Le Gavroche opened its doors the same year the wine festival launched – in Vancouver restaurant terms, a successful 35-year old restaurant is a venerable vintage indeed. I’ve written before about this city’s seemingly unquenchable desire for NEW! NEW! NEW! but for me, I like somewhere that’s shown it can do what it takes year after year, long after the bloom of a hot new opening fades. I had impossibly high hopes for this evening and I wasn’t disappointed.
I’ll confess: I’m new to the world of Getting Serious About Learning About Wine and I know my linguistic limits, so I’m not going to even try to write in any kind of intelligent way about the wine – perhaps after a few more ‘lessons’ I may be able to offer up something smarter than “I loved it” – but I’m discovering that maybe I like the elegance of old world red wines better than almost anything else at all. Paired with a perfectly fruity lavender crusted duck and a meltingly-meaty sous vide lamb (that came with witty side of sheep’s milk yoghurt) we had three different Château Olivier Rouge to try; the 2001, 2005 and 2009. Easy to see, after listening to estate owner, Alexandre de Bethmann talk about the process of creating these velvety reds and the history of the Château, what a seductive hobby ‘Being Serious About Wine’ could be; exploring the subtle differences between the wines, then trying them with food – and without – to see the flavours develop and change.
We finished the meal with a Château d’Armajan des Ormes Sauternes; silky and sweet, it was the perfect foil to an espresso chocolate cake. Swirling the golden liquid in my glass, listening to the talk of vintages around me, I realised that like when I went back to ‘school’ at the Victoria’s Art of the Cocktail festival, I learn so much when I’m around people with a passion for what they love. If you even have the slightest suspicion that you may ‘like wine’ then go to a winery dinner and learn from those who love it. Perfect food, fascinating company and world-class wine – what’s not to love? Make a note in your diary for November 1st, 2013 as that’s when advance tickets for the 2014 festival go on sale. I can’t wait…
Thanks to Le Gavroche, Château Olivier and Waldorf Wine for hosting me. As ever – my views are 100% my own.