a trip to oz: 2015 Vancouver International Wine Festival

Next week, I’m going to Australia. Also Chile. Probably Germany, Spain, and Italy, too. The best part: I’m carpooling with a friend and it will take about five hours for us to reach our destination.

The Vancouver International Wine Festival runs February 20 through March 1. From wine-paired dinners and minglers to seminars, all roads lead to the main event: a series of massive tastings in an enormous ballroom where dozens of countries occupy hundreds of tables and pour thousands of bottles of wine. It’s a sweet deal, anticipated by consumers and industry alike.

Whether you’re attending one event or diving in for many, there are ways to make the most of your time.

Choosing An Event

  • Determine your goal. Each event is suited to help you achieve something different, with a few overlapping benefits. Decide what’s most important to you: a focused tasting with a smaller portfolio, exposure to a wide variety of new wines, in-depth education on a specific region, etc. Ask yourself what you want to get out of the experience, and find an event that matches.
  • Be flexible. Is the event you want already sold out? Many have wait lists. Get in touch with the organizers, ask, and keep yourself open to jump in at the last minute. It happens.

Getting ReadyVIWF France

  • Skip the perfume/cologne. It interfers with your ability to smell the wine and will make you unpopular with everyone including the visiting winery. We want to smell wine, not you.
  • Dress for comfort and style. Many events are an opportunity to don your best threads, but keep in mind the situation you’re headed for. Dark tops are good for a wandering, nibbling feast (think hand-held bites) as things can get messy/drippy. Stillettos are lovely, but might not be ideal for a 3-hour tasting room tour with no seating to provide respite for tired toes.

In the MomentValue in seminars: tasting with M Chapoutier

  • Be mindful. In a crowd, queue up and step away when you’ve had a taste. In a seminar, try to keep chatting to a minimum so your neighbours can hear the presenters. At a dinner, give the host a chance to talk about the wine and food – even at the end, when we might be a little tipsy.
  • Sip responsibly. Have a designated driver and take advantage of spittoons. Keep hydrated. Eat well, and often. This is a marathon.
  • Try something new. The best part of Festival is discovering a new gem. Break out of your habits and you’ll be delightfully rewarded.

Best Value (not sold out – yet)

  • Seminar: Mod Oz, $45, Saturday Feb 28, 5:15pm. Taste some of the unexpected and hard to find gems coming out of a newer, modern Australian wine culture. Bonus: moderated by the talented Treve Ring and Mark Davidson. Access to these folks is worth the price of admission.
  • Seminar: McLaren Vale Scarce Earth, $55, Saturday Feb 28, 5:15pm. Go glass-deep into the study of single vineyard terroir with shiraz/syrah from this diverse and complex wine region. Bonus: moderated by Rhys Pender, MW. Who better to help unearth the secrets of McLaren Vale than this witty Aussie.
  • International Festival Tastings: $89 Thurs Feb 26, 7pm | $68 Sat Feb 28, 3pm. The Saturday night event is sold out, but don’t mind that. Enjoy a less crowded Thursday evening or Saturday afternoon; get the same exposure to outstanding wines with fewer elbows.

Happy tasting.

~ Jeannette

BC wine: a complicated love affair

love: the smell of a fresh pop-quiz
(photo credit: wikipedia)

There’s nothing wrong with the idea of unconditional love when it’s applied within the context of (maybe) family, pets, or your first crush. Beyond those, it’s entirely acceptable to have conditions – it’s the responsible way to care.

I love BC wine. I’m an unabashed cheerleader for it; not because the industry – primarily the people in it – need me, but because it and the folks working in it deserve our support while they grow. Here’s where the unconditional part comes in.

Should we love BC wine unconditionally? Hell no. It’s not my family, a pet, or my first crush. (if it is my family, then all the more reason to give it a hard time)

Instead, BC wine is more deserving of a complicated love affair. We’re still discovering each other, falling in love – hard, and at the same time we’re able to see beyond the initial glow and more deeply into the flaws that make us unique. To love all of this unconditionally would be to do a disservice to the people we care so much about.

I want to go the distance with my BC wine love affair, which means I’m probably in for a bumpy ride. I’m okay with that – as long as it’s willing to go the distance with me. I think it is. The fact that we have such diversity in one province tells me that some are moving beyond the expectation of unconditional love and working to earn their place in the complicated love affair.

For my part, I’m willing to work just as hard – to educate myself beyond a BC palate, to have honest conversations about what I’m drinking, and to shine a light on the beautiful parts of our relationship.

My BC wine relationship status: happily, it’s complicated.

Here are a few of those beautiful parts in this grand love affair with BC wine.

attention to detail and an embracing of countless small lots means Stag’s Hollow finds some brilliant expressions of terroir.
consistently delivering a strong reflection of vineyard each year, Wild Goose has a well-earned following for their Riesling.
Specializing in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Meyer Family Vineyards didn’t want to be all things to everyone – resulting in an excellent portfolio.
they came out of the gate with a solid lineup, tasting stellar wines from a trailer on site – until they were ready to grow. Painted Rock is a study in good wine business, from bottle to balance sheet.
with facilities & licenses in two BC wine regions, Township7 is a BC wine anomaly. when I like one of their wines, I like it a lot. this Semillon is one.
the tasting room (and winemaking facility) is in an industrial complex. old derelict cars make next door neighbours. and this Pinot Noir from Tyler Harlton is unlike any I’ve tasted from BC. it’s like the promise in a new love.

of TIME and place

People and place are what lend time context. We can measure it, but we can’t make it – and maybe that helps gives time a value.

Someone who has given one place (the Okanagan) a great deal of his time is Harry McWatters. 2013 marks his 46th vintage in winemaking – a remarkable amount of time in any industry.

The McWatters timeline includes planting what was in its day the largest vineyard in Canada, purchasing fallow land others shook their heads at in disbelief, and starting unproven Bordeaux reds in the Okanagan desert. Add to that the founding of a quality assurance program (today’s VQA brand), growing one of the most successful wineries in British Columbia (Sumac Ridge, later sold to larger commercial interests), and retiring a few years ago only to restart a second (or third? fourth?) career – still in the wine industry. Bringing the word “meritage” to Canada? Harry did that, too.

If people and place lend time its context, then Harry was meant to launch TIME Estate Winery in the Okanagan.

The winery license was obtained in 2011, and TIME began its first vintage of Chardonnay and Meritage (red and white). The people behind the brand are Harry, partner Bob Wareham, and Dick Cleave, viticulturist. Current vintages have been made under the watch of Township7 winemaker Bradley Cooper, acting as Harry’s hands in the process.

Time, it could be said, is on their side.

2011 TIME Chardonnay $27.99: looks like pale liquid gold; smells like hazelnuts and butter; tastes… like it looks and smells.

2012 TIME Meritage (white) $25: looks like sun-bleached straw; smells like honeysuckle, pear, peach, cantaloupe, pineapple…; tastes bright and beautiful, like a summer day after a sun shower.

2011 TIME Meritage (red) $29.99: looks like garnets drowned in ink; smells like memories of boot leather, cherries and cocoa, sage; tastes like the okanagan.

Wine country isn’t just a place anymore. It’s an attitude.

~ Harry McWatters

TIME Estate Winery media launch in the Okanagan, at Local Lounge * Grille in Summerland on June 20 2013 – just in time for summer solstice
the three elements of TIME: red meritage, white meritage, and chardonnay
elegance in the details – from the wine itself, to all aspects of presentation
the faces of TIME, l-r: Harry McWatters, Bob Wareham, and Dick Cleave
the new facility for TIME will include a hospitality centre, commercial kitchen, four luxury guest suites, and a lap pool – all but buried into the hillside to be as integrated into the landscape and unobtrusive as possible – architect: Nick Bevanda, CEI Architecture
Local Lounge Executive Chef Lee Humphries matched TIME wines with his new menu: tuna tatami with orange-honey gel paired exquisitely with the TIME 2012 white meritage
a study in glassware: the TIME 2012 white meritage in two options, both unique and delicious
second course: wild pacific seared salmon, grilled romaine, asparagus, clam-chorizo sauce verige – paired delectably with TIME 2011 Chardonnay
third course: roasted lamb rump, crushed minted spring peas, polenta croutons, tomatoes in texture, olive jus – paired magnificently with TIME 2011 red meritage
the pickled cherry chocolate truffle – just because
Okanagan, your TIME has most certainly arrived