Wednesday morning after Simply Red I dragged myself out of bed; it was definitely a work-at-home day. A relatively slow pace kept me busy until that evening, when I knew I had something exciting to look forward to. The reason I was so excited was because the week before I had WON tickets to ChefmeetsGrape! Originally I had passed on purchasing tickets when I learned the theme this year was seafood – as a vegetarian I didn’t feel I would get my $80 worth having to pass on half the event. Winning tickets thanks to the BC wine institute was pretty awesome to say the least: now I could concentrate on the wine and ignore the food!
ChefmeetsGrape is an annual event that pairs BC wine with culinary creations from various Lower Mainland restaurants. The room is centered around a dozen different tasting stations producing small portions of signature dishes from each eatery, matched with a selected BC wine. This year the event took place in the new Vancouver Convention Centre, in the same space that hosted the Playhouse International Wine Festival this past spring. (Too bad Playhouse is going back to VCC East – the “old” convention centre – next year!) The new facility is spectacular, roomy and modern; I’m going to miss it! Around the perimeter of the room – in alphabetical order – were about a third of BC’s over 180 wineries, including all the big players such as Mission Hill, Jackson-Triggs, Nk’Mip, Sandhill, CedarCreek, and many, many more. Not needing to line up for food we headed straight to the wine tables, with a quick stop at the Savoury Crackers table for some samples.
Needless to say I was most definitely spitting this evening, as my stomach was still doing summersaults from the night before. Not that the crowd made it very easy however, as some people seemed totally oblivious to the spit bucket while they stood directly in front of it. I soon gave up on decorum and just leaned down to spit more inches away from people’s crotches – if you get splashed Mr. Dumbass it’s your own fault! The crowd was definitely different from those you’d meet at the Playhouse Festival; people were hungry and very interested in food for one, but they also seemed kind of rude as well to be frank. More than I few times my wife and I got jostled and pushed around; a number of people just seemed more interested in getting their $80 worth of food and wine than in actually appreciating the learning opportunities in front of them.
I enjoyed a number of new releases from wineries both big and small, including Quails’ Gate’s new 2008 Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay. Last year’s (2007) release won a Gold medal at the Canadian Wine Awards and this year looks to be equally polished and valuable. I also enjoyed stopping by Painted Rock’s table to sample most of their portfolio, many of which I have cellared but not had the chance to try (one bottle of $55 Red Icon is enough for me at this stage in my collection). Painted Rock’s 2008 reds are being released next month, and this time there will be quite a bit more of their Lt. Governor’s Award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon, as the Red Icon didn’t include any in the blend this year. The Sandhill table was also a lot of fun, with a limited selection of Howard Soon’s Small Lot wines to taste – and the man himself to meet as well. Sandhill was just named Canadian Winery of the Year by Wine Access last year, and had the swag to publicize it – I helped myself to a couple of charming Sandhill pens touting their success. I also stopped by the Church & State table to try their new release 2008 Chardonnay, which took away Best of Category at both the All Canadian Wine Championships and the San Francisco International Wine Competition. This creamy, toasty wine will definitely be joining the 2008 collection alongside Quails’ Gate and others.
ChefmeetsGrape yielded many more treats and surprises (such as the stunning Daniel Chocolates table), and if you enjoy food and wine I suggest attending in the future, just wear a helmet and shin guards, and be ready to defend your spot in line. Lastly, don’t wear light-coloured pants if you’re going to stand beside the spit bucket, lest someone decorate your lap. Cheers!