Posts Tagged: wine

Mar 16

Vancouver International Wine Festival Tasting Room Quest: Find Five Alternative to Pinot Grigio


In the darkness and gloom of February in Vancouver there is one bright spot to look forward to: the Vancouver International Wine Festival. One of North America’s biggest wine fests, VIWF brings a head-spinning variety of wines from around the world –and from right here in B.C.– to sample along with seminars, winery dinners and plenty of fun events.

I was inspired this year to try something new after talking to David Smyth at the Fešta Croatian Dinner Party, at YEW, a fantastic multi-course feast from one of my favourite chefs in the city, Ned Bell, paired with wines from Stina of Dalmatia and Coronica of Istria. I’d never heard of any of the wines that we drank– Croatia has 64 indigenous grape varieties – and David told me that Italy has hundreds more. Over dinner I began to fall for Croatia’s wines, especially Stina’s 2013 Posip Majstor, a fresh white wine with a deliciously sea salt-y minerality with a creamy finish, which Ned served with a roasted sablefish, and and their 2011 Plavac Mali Barrique, a gloriously dry red which somehow managed to be juicy and fresh at the same time.  Continue reading →

Mar 13

Bordeaux bliss in Vancouver: Château Olivier winery dinner at Le Gavroche

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.

Blissfully divine wine

Blissfully divine wine

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.

Seeing double?

Seeing double?

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.

Nov 12

Five Things We Learned At Cornucopia

Whistler Village

First things first – Whistler is beautiful.

1: Wine dinners are good dinners
And no, not just because you get to try many different wines (although, yes – that is a bit of a bonus too) but because of how much you get to learn in a fun way. I went to the Tinhorn Creek winery dinner at Nita Lake Lodge‘s Aura restaurant. Over four mouthwatering courses, plus dessert, we sipped our way through Tinhorn Creek’s Oldfield series of wines and heard from their Viticulturist and Vineyard Manager, Andrew Moon on the fascinating process of what goes into creating the wines. Just two years ago I tried my first wine from the Okanagan in British Columbia, now I try hard not to drink anything else (did you even know that Canada made wine?! Alas, due to the industry’s current boutique size, they barely export at all. I suspect that in ten years time, Canada will be where Australian wines are now – everywhere and beloved). Tinhorn Creek was new to me, but I’ll be looking out for their wonderfully strawberry-ish Series 2 Bench Rosé  and ambrosial Kerner Ice Wine from now on. Fact of the night for me, was learning how the Rosé was made, I had no idea that in cold seasons you can make great rose from Cabernet Franc grapes, so in colder years, you are likely to have more Rosé being made.

2: It’s called Crush for a reason
The Crush tasting gala takes place in Whistler’s Sea to Sky ballroom in the conference centre in the village. It’s a chance for dozens of wineries to show off what they do and it’s a great opportunity to work your way through a dream of a wine list, one sniff, swirl and sip at a time. Of course the key part to managing that without needing to be carried out is the all-important ‘spit’ bit at the end. If you swallow down dozens of different wines, well – you can guess the rest… I’ve come to the conclusion that either Whistler folk are just very polite and fear causing offense by spitting in public or they really like to drink… I got there on Saturday evening and didn’t see one ‘spit’ all night! Everyone was awfully happy though. The room was heaving, men in suits accompanied women in thigh-grazing minis and vertiginous heels as they clomped from table to table. Earnest conversations took place over swirling glasses between winemakers and wine-lovers. I tried a few wines, sticking as always to my Canada-only policy, I loved Inniskillin’s Pinot Grigiot – I’d only tried their ice wine from the Niagara peninsular in the east of Canada so was delighted to see that they had west coast Okanagan vines too. Pineapple-y and fresh this is another for my To Drink list

Glamour meets wine tasting at Cornucopia’s Crush.

3: Cooking demos always have great food
The Viking Stage Series of demos in the main foyer of the conference centre were great. If you love cooking shows then you’d love this. Chatty chefs cooking up a storm in front of you, explaining tips and tricks of the trade and then lovely, tasty samples coming out to the gathered crowd. Yum! I watched the Street Meet food truck chefs whip up heavenly sausage Arancini and pumpkin canollis which they paired with Vancouver’s Granville Island beers. Definitely a hot ticket and at $30 a great price to try something new.

4: When you put twenty champagnes in one room, people gon’ go cray-cray
Araxi‘s Bubbles and Oceans party is legendary in Cornucopia circles. One price, twenty different champagnes and sparkling wines and freshly shucked oysters and seafood canapes. “Go to the back room” everyone advised me. “The back is where it’s at”. So after queueing for 20 minutes in the minus 6 degrees chill, I tottered on frozen legs to the back room and found some rather delicious cavas and champagnes. The pours were generous and there was absolutely no question that there would be any spitting here at all! I wandered as best as I could through the packed restaurant to watch the live entertainment, Kytami, a new age “violinistextremist”, she was amazing and I’d love to see her in concert as it was tricky to thoroughly soak up her music over the cheery roar of the crowd. My advice on this is to come with friends and wear steel-toe capped boots. I have a bruised foot from some gal’s spindly heel who clobbered me in her rampage to grab some of the (admittedly delicious) shrimp!

Love this. These ladies had made their own hats. Too cute!

5: Everything is more fun in a hat
Oh wow, how I love a tea party. And how much do I love tea-infused cocktails! So the blend of the two at the gorgeous Fairmont Chateau Whistler in its Mallard lounge was my idea of heaven. It was a sold-out event and I loved the effort that everyone had made. All the women had feathery fascinators or smart cocktail hats. The triple-layered tea tray made me so homesick for Brighton and tea at the Grand! Gorgeous little ham and cheese puffs, pink-hued sweet scones with just-right clotted cream and oh! The cocktails were great too. I tried a green-tea infused Martini which was perfect. Loved this event. It was the first time it has happened at Cornucopia and it’s definitely going to be coming back next year.

I travelled as a guest of Tourism Whistler, but my views are 100% my own.

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