Hard to believe it is that time again, but the 2013 Vancouver International Wine Festival is on this week! With 176 wineries pouring over 600 wines, it can be a pretty intimidating evening of tasting, to be sure. So here is a quick guide to some of my recommended wineries and wines.
California was the only winery represented at the initial festivals, and it is great to see them back as the feature wine area! While prices have soared in the past years, the quality – and ripeness – of many wines continue to be very high. Here are five wineries to visit:
1) Antica Napa Valley – a venture by the Antinori family of Italy, this relatively new winery is producing fabulous Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays
2) Joseph Phelps – one of the most reputable and established wineries in California, Phelps is justifiable famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines, especially its Insignia blend
3) Paul Hobbs – another relatively new winery, but Paul Hobbs has been growing grapes/consulting for cult producers for years. Try his Cabernets, Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs
4) Ridge Vineyards – one of my favourite wineries, led by legend Paul Draper. A Zinfandel specialist – check out their Lytton Springs and Geyserville bottlings – Ridge also makes very nice Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay
5) Wagner Family of Wine – the new name for the winery that makes Caymus (among other wines), and go to taste the Caymus Cabernet Sauvignons. Year in, year out, they represent all that is great about California Cabernet – super ripe black currant fruit, just enough wood, and the structure to age well!
Not as many wineries as in past years, but still a few that make really nice Malbec (the signature grape of Argentina). If you only go to one winery, visit Catena Zapata, which makes rich, ripe Malbecs in all price ranges, as well as some nice Cabernets and Chardonnays.
Disappointing to see so few Australian producers this year; not sure why (they are among my favourites). Of those attending, I would recommend visiting Gemtree Vineyards (nicely valued Shiraz), Inland Trading Company (they own Turkey Flat Vineyards, which can make great old-vine Shiraz) and Yalumbia, which makes the full range of wines (I particularly like their Grenaches).
By comparison, I was very happy to see so many BC wineries attending, including some of my favourites. That includes Averill Creek from Vancouver Island (Andy Johnson makes amazing Pinot Noir in Duncan), Blue Mountain (not sure if they will have their Reserve Pinot Noir, but it is one of the two best made in BC; also try their Gamay and Sparkling Wine), and NkMip Cellars (a First Nations winery making very good Pinot Noir and Syrah).
I am also disappointed by the low number of French wineries this year! Even so, there are a couple of very good ones from the Rhone Valley – Chateau de la Gardine and Les Halos de Jupiter (both of which make very nice Chateauneuf du Pape). And, of course, the Perrin Family, which makes perhaps my favourite wine – Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape – as well as great Gigondas, Cotes du Rhones Villages and others.
Italy has also sent a smaller than usual roster of wineries (am I sensing a trend here?). Worth checking out, however, are the Chianti Riservas from the likes of Antinori (as well as their Tignanello if they have it), Fontodi, Ruffino and Rocca della Macie.
Finally, a great way to end the evening is with some Port! Three of the “biggies” are there – Taylor Fladgate, Fonseca and Croft – so it will be interesting to see if they bring any of their vintage wines.
So have a great time at the festival! My final advice, as is the case every year, is two-fold – spit if you can (to avoid getting drunk) and get out of the way once you’ve tasted (to avoid causing a line-up).
PS I will once again be “tweeting” my Festival experience, so feel free to follow me at @sbwinepage.