A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 586: Vancouver Wine Festival

Vancouver International Wine Festival Acura Tasting Room Program

Monday, February 22nd: A winerytohome tasting at Doug Towers’s house. Still suffering from a cold, which meant I didn’t even feel like wine for dinner. Have to be up early tomorrow to catch a 9 am flight to Vancouver for the wine festival. This is the 38th year of the Festival. The host country this year is Italy.

Tuesday, February 23rd: A 7 am limo to the airport, where it seemed that half of Toronto was waiting in line to go through security. Slept for an hour or so on the flight in spite of the screaming baby two rows back. My friend Rick Slomka was on the same flight. My daughter Annabel (with my grandson Declan in the baby seat) picked us up. Dropped Rick at his hotel and then back to Annabel’s house to spend some time with Declan before being dropped at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel.

View from my room at the Fairmont Pacific Rim

My room on the 16th floor overlooks Burrard Inlet and the mountains beyond. A beautiful sunny day to improve the magnificent view. Tonight I was meant to participate in my first event of the Festival – “From Bubbles to Passito” at Vij’s restaurant, featuring ten wines from Giustini. But I was too tired from three nights of not sleeping because of coughing and the travel so I decided it would be best to have an early night, since the event was scheduled to end at 1:30 am my body time.

Wednesday, February 24th: A great night’s sleep and awoke refreshed at 6:30 am. My first event today is a seminar on “Italy’s Indigenous Whites,” moderated by Ian D’Agata, Michaela Morris and Gurvinder Bahia. Ian argues that Italy should be approached by its grape varieties rather than by its DOCs or DOCGs. “Italy is a country that throws at you wines made from some 600 grapes.”

The incomparable Ian d’Agata

(Prices quoted here are the cost of the wine in BC).

  • Mionetto Valdobiaddene Supriore di Cartizze Dry ($50.42) (Cartizze appellation is the most expensive vineyard land in Italy): pale straw colour; minerally, white peach, pear skin nose; dry, white peach, creamy, beautifully balanced with a long citrus finish. (91)
  • Bartolomeo Breganze “sulla Rotta del Bacala” Vespaiolo Breganze 2014 ($24.99): bright, light straw colour; minerally, flinty, crab apple, herbal-floral nose; medium-bodied, dry, lively acidity, green apple with white flowers, beautifully balanced. (89)
  • Frescobaldi-Attems Ribolla Gialla 2014 ($17.39): bright, pale straw with a lime tint; minerally, wet salt, green herbs, white pepper and white blossoms on the nose; medium-bodied, citrus-driven, well-balanced, fresh and lively on the palate. (89) (Only 150 hectares of Ribolla planted in Italy.)
  • Vietti Rorero Arneis 2013 ($34.79) (Arneis was once known as White Nebbiolo): pale straw colour; smoky, minerally, leather, pencil lead, citrus, light floral note; spicy, creamy, beautifully balanced, crisply dry apple-peach flavour. Good length. (90)
  • Tedeschi Capitel Tenda Soave Classico 2014 ($25.99): light straw colour; floral, spicy, peach, tobacco and almond note; light-bodied, citrus and peach flavours; medium to full-bodied; very elegant, fresh and lively on the palate with a tangerine acidity. (91)
  • Tiberio Pecorino 2014 (Colline Pescaresi – $27.99): bright straw colour; green herbs, minerally, salty, green tea and peach nose; medium to full-bodied, rich and spicy on the palate, lively and fresh, driving acidity with great length. (90)
  • Zenato Azienda “Sergio Zenato” Lugana Riserva 2013 ($38): medium straw colour; creamy, vanilla, minerally, dried flowers on the nose; full on the palate, lovely mouth-feel, full on the palate, touch of sweetness in mid palate; well balanced, a touch hard on the finish. (89)
  • Agricolas “Costamolino” Vermentino di Sardegna 2014 ($17.99): light straw colour; aromatic, lilac, minerally nose; rich and spicy, rich and full in the mouth; beautifully balanced, full-bodied, some heat on the finish. (89)
  • Ronco del Gelso “Vigna della Permuta” Malvasia Isonzo 2014 ($27.99): pale straw with a lime tint; aromatic, minerally, pear, citrus peel nose; dry, orange and tangerine flavours; light and lacy rose petal finish. A charming wine. (90)
  • Quintodecimo “Giallo d’Arles” Greco di Tufo 2013 ($60.89) (a tannic white grape): bright straw colour; earthy-floral, citrus nose with white pepper notes on the nose; dry, savoury, evident tannins, well structured, rich and complex, great length. (91)
  • Tenuta Olim Bauda “Centive” Moscato d’Asti 2015 ($24.95): very pale colour; spicy, orange blossom, honeyed nose; light-bodied, with orange and honey flavours. East drinking. (89)
  • Donnafugata “Ben Ryé” Passito di Pantelleria 2011 (Moscato d’Alessandria – $37.39): amber colour; honey, orange peel, raisins, dates and figs on the nose; full-bodied, burnt sugar, molasses flavours, beautifully balanced with enough acidity to balance and give great length. (94)

Cioppino’s in Yale Town

Availed myself of the Fairmont Pacific Rim car to be driven to Cioppino’s in Yale Town for dinner. Sat next to Anthony Gismondi and Pio Boffa of Pio Cesare. On my right, Gianni Bertolino of Tenuta Olim Bauda (who makes some of the best Barbera I’ve tasted).

Pio Boffa of Pio Cesare

Reception wine: Pio Cesare Arneis Langhe 2013

British Columba albacore tuna seared in spiced oil with tomato gelatine, cauliflower and saffron shallots, with Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley Chardonnay 2012

Cavatelli del semola “Stracinati” durum wheat gnocchi, duck confit, roasted tomatoes, olives & dried ricotta salata, with Tenuta Olim Bauda Barbera “Rochette” 2012 & Tenuta Olim Bauda Barbera 2011 “Nizza”

Ravioli del pin with sugo d’arrosto tartufo “In honour of Armando Zanetti,” Piedmont-style pinched ravioli stuffed with braised beef & truffle sauce, with Pio Cesare Barolo 2007 & Pio Cesare Barbaresco Il Bricco 2008 (both in magnums)

Cinghiale della selva “Foresta Nera,” “Nuovo Dolce Forte” Tuscan-style wild boar tenderloin, preserve cherries, chocolate & coffee red wine jus, with Jacopo Biondi Santi Sassoalloro Toscana Rosso 2010 & Biondi Santi Tenuta Greppo Brunello di Montalcino “Annata” 2007

Chef Pino’s variation of dark chocolate Tanzanie – compressed cacao, house-made ice cream, mousse-stuffed hornet & tapioca caramel, with Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley “Library Collection” Cabernet Sauvignon 2008.

Biondi Santi Tenuta Greppo Brunello di Montalcino 'Annata' 2007

This was the best wine and food pairing dinner I’ve attended! Great food, magnificent wines.

Thursday, February 25th: Morning tasting, “Italy’s Great Wines: Evolution North to South.”

  • Ferrari Perlé Nero 2008 (Pinot Nero – $66.99, 8 years on lees): straw colour, tiny bubbles; leesy, green apple nose with a light floral note and a mineral thread; medium-bodied, crisply dry, biscuity, toasty apple and lemon flavours; creamy mid palate with a green nut finish. (90)
  • Umani Ronchi Vecchi Vigne, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore 2013 (50 year old vines – $29.99): bright straw colour; peachy, almond, citrus nose; medium- to full-bodied, dry, richly extracted peachy-apricot flavour, lovely mouth-feel, rich and powerful. Great length. (91)
  • Specogna Friulano Colli Orientali dei Friuli 2014 ($22.99): bright straw colour; herbal, spicy, forest floor, minerally, wet salt nose with herbal notes; crisply dry, medium-bodied, winter melon with a bitter almond finish. (88)
  • Medici Ermete “Querciol Sobara” Lambrusco ($18.99): deep pink colour; raspberry candy nose with a light floral note; light spritz, raspberry with a lively acidic spine; dry, light-bodied, raspberry with lemonflavours. Charming and easy drinking. (89)
  • Paolo Cali “Manene” Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico 2012 ($45.99): Sicily’s only DOCG wine. Deep ruby-purple colour; rose and plum bouquet with a touch of oak; medium-bodied, dry, savoury tobacco and plum flavours, firm but supple tannins with a fine spine of acidity. (89.5)
  • Barone Ricasoli Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010 ($70.00): dense ruby colour; lifted nose of cherry with a floral note, tobacco, vanilla oak nose with a pencil lead note; medium-bodied, dry, lovely textures and savoury flavours of cherries and tobacco and gently intrusive oak with a floral note; firm finish. Very elegant and well-balanced. (92.5)

Barone Ricasoli Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010

  • Masi Agricola “Osar” Rosso del Veronese 2009 (Oseleta grapes, $59.99): dense purple colour; vanilla oak, black cherry nose with a spicy, floral note; medium-bodied, dry, tannic, very firm. earthy, muscular. (3 years in new wood.) Needs time. (89–90)
  • Biondi Santi Jacopo Brunello di Montalcino 2009 ($174.95): mature ruby colour; dried cherries and leather on the nose with gardenia notes; dry, medium-bodied, pencil lead, dried cherries, firmly structured; very elegant, seamless. Very youthful. (93)
  • Mastroberadino Taurasi 2008 (Aglianico – $48.95): dense purple-ruby colour; lovely nose of black fruits, black cherry, floral with a vanilla oak note; full-bodied, dry with a rustic flavour of black fruits with fresh acidity and lots of grip with unresolved tannins. Still young, needs 10 years. (91–93)
  • Pio Cesare Ornato Barolo 2010 ($109.95): deep ruby colour; lifted rose, cherry and leather nose; dry, medium-bodied, elegant, savoury, cherry, blackcurrant and licorice flavours; firmly structured, ripe tannins. Hold at least five years. (92)
  • Argiolas “Angialis” Isola del Nuraghi vino da uve stramature 2012 (Nasco and Malvasia – appassimento, aged in barrique 18 months – $49.99): old gold colour; floral, honey, orange, cardamom; rich and full on the palate, beautifully balanced and seamless. (95)

Argiolas 'Angialis' Isola del Nuraghi vino da uve stramature 2012
The best sweet wine I tasted at the Festival

Lunch followed by a walk-around tasting. There are 155 wineries from 14 countries (including 60 wineries from Italy) pouring 1,470+ wines at 54 events to a projected 25,000 admissions. Met up with Lindsay Greatbatch of Decanter Magazine, who is researching the possibility of a Decanter event in Toronto next year.

Next, a seminar, “Barone Ricasoli – 1000 Years in Tuscany,” led by Barone Francesco Ricasoli and chaired by Anthony Gismondi.

  • Barone Ricasoli Albia Rosé Toscana 2014 (Sangiovese, Merlot): flesh colour; minerally, cherry pit nose; off-dry, red berry flavour, fresh and lively; good mouth-feel. (87.5)
  • Barone Ricasoli Torricella Bianco 2013 (Chardonnay with 20% Sauvignon Blanc): medium straw colour; apple and citrus nose; creamy, vanilla, apple and passionfruit with a mineral thread and a touch of sweetness. Commercial, easy drinking. (87)
  • Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico 2013: deep ruby colour; cherry and roast chestnut nose; medium-bodied, dry and savoury sour cherry flavour with a note of spice. (88)
  • Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Riserva 2012: deep ruby colour; creamy, cherry nose with oak spice; sappy, fresh, cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, firm; light on the palate. Easy drinking. (88.5)
  • Barone Ricasoli Colledilà Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2010: dense ruby colour; savoury, herbal, sour cherry with a floral note; medium-bodied, dry, dark chocolate, grainy tannins with lively acidity. (90)
  • Barone Ricasoli Casalferro 2010 (100% Merlot): deep ruby-purple colour; vanilla, blueberry nose; medium-bodied, dry, fruity, lovely mouth-feel with a firm finish; lively acidity. (91)
  • Barone Ricasoli Casalferro Rosso Toscana 1997 (Sangiovese with 5-10% Merlot): dense ruby; cedar, leather, dried cherries with a saline note; savoury, herbal, balsamic and soy notes. (90)
  • Barone Ricasoli Castello di Brolio Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2010: dense ruby colour; leather, cherry, earthy-spicy nose; medium-bodied, dry, well-extracted flavours of cherries, herbs and cocoa. Firm finish. (91)
  • Barone Ricasoli Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico 1997: deep ruby colour; soy and balsamic notes on the nose, tobacco. Some sweetness in mid palate. Drying out but taking on some venerable claret notes. A grand old wine, and still delicious. (90)

Dinner with Annabel & Ian at Chambar Restaurant. Escargots in a cream sauce, followed by mussels in a white wine sauce with French fries and mayonnaise. The wine: Blue Mountain Gamay Noir 2014.

Friday, February 26th: Today I have to change hotels from the Fairmont Pacific Rim to the Loden, a boutique hotel on Melville Street, a five-minute walk away. A meeting with the Fairmont’s PR lady Kaylyn Story before the first of today’s seminars, “Barbera Variations,” featuring Giacomo Bologna Braida wines, led by his son-in-law, Dr. Norbert Reinisch. The late Giacomo Bologna was the first to put Barbera in barrique. (I remember a great evening in 1985 when Giacomo Bologna, who was known as “The Pope of Verona,” Angelo Gaja, Georgio Grai, Franco Precedello and I went down to the cellar of Bottega del Vino in Verona and began a heroic wine tasting with great plates of pasta.) “You have to reduce the crop up to 40–50% to make a good Barbera,” says Reinisch. 80 hL per hectare are allowed, which is too much. 60 hL would be perfect to make quality Barbera. Barbera is the third most widely planted red variety in Italy.

Barbera Variations

  • Braida La Monella Barbera del Monteferrato Frizzante 2014 (La Monella means “naughty girl”): deep ruby; sour cherry; light-bodied, dry with a light spritz, light on the palate although 12.9% alcohol. Easy drinking, black cherry with fresh acidity. (88.5)
  • Braida Il Monello Barbera d’Asti 2011 (stainless steel fermented): deep ruby colour; more intense nose of blackberry and black cherry; medium-bodied, dry, blackberry, licorice flavours with lively acidity; medium-bodied, dry with a touch of bitterness. (89)
  • Braida Il Baciale Monferrato Rosso 2013 (60% Barbera, 20% Pinot Noir, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot): dense purple colour; violets, vanilla, cedar, black cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, lovely spicy fruit flavour, well balanced, firm finish with a mocha note. (90)
  • Braida Montebruna Barbera d’Asti 2014: dense purple colour; tobacco, black cherry with a cedar notes; medium-bodied, dry with lively acidity; fresh and lively on the palate with focussed fruit and a floral grace note. Lovely mouth feel. (90)
  • Braida Bricco dell’Uccellone Barbera d’Asti 2013: dense purple-ruby colour; vanilla, cedar, blackberry-black cherry, mocha, with wood spice; medium-bodied, dry, savoury, firm on the palate with lively acidity. Beautifully balanced and seamless. (91)
  • Braida Bricco della Bigotta Barbera d’Asti 2013: dense purple colour; pronounced tobacco, vanilla oak, black cherry nose; richly extracted sweet cherry with lively acidity with a cherry pit finish. (91.5)
  • Braida Bricco della Bigotta Barbera d’Asti 2009: dense purple-black in colour; toasty, roasted note on the nose spicy black fruit, pencil lead; full-bodied, fleshy, dry, savoury, blackberry and dark chocolate; firmly structured with a lively spine of acidity. (92)
  • Braida Bricco della Bigotta Barbera d’Asti 2006: dense ruby-black colour; cigar leaf, cedar, vanilla oak, red berry with a soy note; firmly structured. Medium-bodied, dry, mocha note, reminiscent of a mature Bordeaux. Still showing tannin. A delicious wine. (90)

At 5:15 pm Rhys Pender MW and I led a Decanter-sponsored seminar entitled “Iconic Grapes Around the World.”

  • Cleto Chiarli Vigneto Cladini Lambursco Grasparossa di Castelvetro 2014
  • Schloss Johannisberg Riesling Trocken Gelblack QBA 2014
  • Miguel Torres Albariño “Pazo das Bruxas” Rias Baixas 2014
  • Meyer Family Reimer Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014
  • Marqués de Riscal Gran Reserva Rioja 2005
  • Damilano Brunate Barolo 2011
  • Poplar Grove Okanagan Syrah 2012
  • Viña Montes Purple Angel Carmenère 2013
  • Stina Plavac Mali Majstor 2011
  • Argiano Brunello di Montalcino 2011
  • Majella Wines Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
  • Grgich Hills Estate Yountville Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Dinner at Tableau restaurant in the Loden – steak frites with a side order of Brussel sprouts, a glass of Bellingham Old Vines Chenin Blanc 2014 and Nichol Syrah 2014.

Spring comes early in Vancouver

Saturday, February 27th: The main event to day is at noon – “Taste Italia!”: food stations in the middle of the room with 60 Italian wineries at tables around the walls, each offering two wines. Best wine of the lunch that I tasted was Allegrini Palazzo delle Torre IGT Veronese 2012. Spent the rest of the day with Annabel, Ian, baby Declan (who turns two next Saturday). Ian prepared a delicious spaghetti with black garlic and rose sauce and opened a bottle of Argiano Brunello di Montalcino 2008.

Sunday, February 28th: Up at 7 am to pack. Annabel, Ian and Declan picked me up to drive me to the airport for my 10 am flight to Toronto. A great five days in Vancouver for the wine festival. Next year Canada is the featured country, which is only fitting as it’s Canada’s 150th birthday.


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