February 10, 2017
ON THE VINE
By JOHN SCHREINER
Taste wines from coast to coast as Canada takes the stage at the Vancouver International Wine Festival
Here is a way to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada: Taste the most expensive red wine from the Okanagan at the Vancouver International Wine Festival.
The festival—this year from Feb. 11 to 19—has Canadian wineries as the theme region. Of the 181 producers in the tasting room, 60 are from B.C., 10 from Ontario and six from Nova Scotia.
Because there are nearly 1,000 wines to taste, you need a strategy to avoid being overwhelmed. Ferreting out the most expensive wines is how some consumers get value for their $100 tasting room tickets.
If that is your tactic, head for the table of One Faith Vineyards. The wines offered include three vintages of the winery’s red Bordeaux blend. Called Grand Vin, it is sold in three-bottle boxes for $430 plus tax. It is one of the top-priced wines at the festival, and one very few people will know anything about.
One Faith was launched late in 2014 by Bill Lui, a Vancouver businessman intent on making wines matching the quality (and price) of Bordeaux classified growths. The winery has just begun to develop a property on Black Sage Road. So far, there is no place where the curious consumer can taste the wines except at the festival. There should even be some for sale in the festival’s on-site liquor store.
Because there are nearly 1,000 wines to taste, you need a strategy to avoid being overwhelmed. Ferreting out the most expensive wines is how some consumers get value for their $100 tasting room tickets
Just the opportunity to taste these wines, which are made by Anne Vawter, a top Napa Valley consulting winemaker, is reason enough to attend the festival.
But there are plenty of other reasons to go.
The festival also gives you a chance to taste and compare the Pinot Noirs with which B.C. is making a name for itself. Foxtrot Vineyards, the Naramata winery that is one of the benchmark Pinot Noir producers, is another producer without a tasting room. But it is pouring several Pinots and offering them (until they sell out) in the festival liquor store.
Pinot Noir fans will want to see how Foxtrot’s wines match up to the top Pinot Noirs from its peers in the festival. These include 50th Parallel, Quails’ Gate Winery, Howling Bluff Estate Winery, Meyer Family Vineyards and SpierHead Winery—plus Averill Creek from Vancouver Island and Baillie-Grohman from Creston. Then I would suggest tasting the Elk Cove Pinot Noir from the only Oregon winery in the festival.
Once-neglected Riesling is also on fire and B.C.’s top producers are in the festival: Sperling Vineyards, Tantalus Vineyards, 8th Generation Vineyards, Wild Goose Vineyards and Ex Nihilo Vineyards. To make an international comparison, check out Mosel producer Nik Weiss at the St. Urbans-Hof winery in the festival’s German section. His grandfather developed the Clone 21-B Riesling now widely planted in the Okanagan.
Some of BC’s biggest reds will also be poured at the festival. Some of my favourites are: The Godfather ($70) from Cassini Cellars; Sandhill’s Soon Series Red ($60); La Frenz Grand Total Reserve ($45); and the Syrah wines from Black Hills Winery, Laughing Stock Vineyards, C.C. Jentsch Cellars, Painted Rock Winery and Time Winery.
The most widely grown red in BC is Merlot. There will be plenty on the floor, including the best Merlot I tasted last year: Mission Hill’s Terroir Collection Organic Merlot 2014 ($60). Compare it to the two very good Merlots—Silica and Alluvia—from Intersection Winery.
John Schreiner is author of John Schreiner’s Okanagan Wine Tour Guide and other books on wine. email@example.com
For the first time ever, a Turkish producer is in the festival. Suvla Wines, located on the Gallipoli Peninsula, only opened in 2009. It is likely searching for export markets because of the challenge of selling alcoholic products in increasingly Islamicized Turkey, even though there is a long tradition of winegrowing in Turkey. The Suvla reds, like many Turkish reds, are bold and ripe. The winery backs up its Bulgarian and Turkish winemakers with French consultants. The winery’s owner and president, Halak Erenguc, will be behind the Suvla table at the festival. This will be a rare chance to taste wines from Turkey.
As a wine region, Nova Scotia punches above its weight when it comes to sparkling wine. Festival attendees will discover Champagne-quality sparkling wines, notably from Benjamin Bridge and L’Acadie Vineyards. Halifax mining executive Gerry McConnell, who owns Benjamin Bridge, hired top sparkling wine experts to make the wine, including chief winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslauriers, a Quebecker with international experience. L’Acadie Vineyards owner and winemaker, Bruce Ewart, formerly made wine in the Okanagan at Summerhill Pyramid Winery. He moved to Nova Scotia in 2004 and has been producing highly regarded bubble since 2006.