Wednesday 29 September 2010

Wine Wednesday Warm-up!

There is a tradition on Twitter of celebrating Wine Wednesday by discussing what you’re drinking that evening, or posting other interesting wine information. Last week we celebrated Wine Wednesday in style by attending the ChefmeetsGrape wine and food event at the Vancouver Convention Centre. But first, I warmed myself up with the Naramata Bench Simply Red Fall wine release at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Simply Red has always been a media/trade-only tasting event in which all the Naramata Bench wineries show off their latest red wine releases. This year however, for those of us civilians the event was paired with a public version in the evening, following the afternoon trade tasting. I purchased tickets and arranged to attend with some friends for an evening of purple tongues and gray teeth!
The Simply Red event was held in the heritage courtrooms at the Art Gallery, two small rooms that were actual courtrooms when the building was the Vancouver Courthouse. Hard to believe this seemingly small space was a courtroom compared to the giant galleries we see on TV these days, but they were perfect for a wine tasting! There were quite a few wineries present, many of which I am very fond of, having visited in person last Spring: Nichol, Kettle Valley, Therapy, Van Westen, Lake Breeze, Black Widow, Howling Bluff, Laughing Stock, Hillside, Poplar Grove, D’Angelo, Red Rooster, La Frenz, Township 7, and Elephant Island Orchard Wines. I even stayed at Black Widow in their lovely Bed and Breakfast and was looking forward to saying hello to Dick Lancaster, the owner, but alas he was not present that evening (hard to make the trip to Vancouver for every event no doubt).
The highlights of my evening at Simply Red were tasting Laughing Stock’s small but finely crafted line-up, including their delicious Blind Trust Red, the majestic Portfolio, and the heavenly Syrah – their first vintage, and long since sold out (I never even saw any in stores). Also very enjoyable was sampling Howling Bluff’s exquisite Pinot Noir and chatting extensively with owner and winemaker Luke Smith. I had just met Luke’s son Daniel earlier this month at a tasting at Taylorwood – he regaled me of his attempts to reassure his father their choice of a risky wild yeast ferment would yield dividends. It appears to have worked like a charm, as Luke informed us his Pinot Noir has been awarded a Gold Medal at the Canadian Wine Awards, a huge coup! Alas, it is now sold out at the winery, but I managed to pick up a bottle at Taylorwood, and as of Sunday they had ten bottles left; if you can find it buy some because it is simply fantastic.
Other notable treats I can recall – the evening seems to get hazy near the end for some reason – include the powerful reds of Van Westen, following in the footsteps of a reputation built on well crafted whites. Both the Merlot/Cab Franc “Voluptuous” (two vintages) and the all-Merlot “Vivre la Vie” were present and impressive in their attention to detail and power. Anthony Gismondi declares the young Vivre la Vie “a brute” with strong potential to improve and I would have to agree; I hope to lay down a bottle if I can find any in stores (only 100 cases produced)! For much less “brutish” flavours we travelled to Kettle Valley’s table for a sample of their rare and desirable fortified Malbec called “Starboard”. At $24 per 375ml bottle this is a slow-sipping wine but still a bargain compared to ice-wine! The flavour is very enjoyable and the use of Malbec (and Petit Verdot) such a treat – it will make a great stocking-stuffer; check private stores such as Liberty Wines.
A few more samples, and then a late dinner and bar visit made sure my body was well aware of its limitations the next morning. I was certain to do a better job of tasting and gracefully spitting at ChefmeetsGrape, which I’ll cover in tomorrow’s post. Until then, happy Wine Wednesday!

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