It is truly one of Canada’s best wine shows, if not the best.
Our community is being ably represented by three of our Principal Wine Critics: Monique Sosa, Wine Columnist for Ottawa Life Magazine; Matt Steeves, Wine Expert for CTV Morning Live; and Jon Steeves, Certified Sommelier and Co-owner of Bespoke Wine Tastings.
You can read the first of their reports below.
They’ll be reporting on key trends and tastings this week, with live winemaker video interviews and other contributions.
I’m thrilled that Canada is the featured country this year! While I can’t taste these wines at the event, as I’m not attending it, I have focused on them frequently in chats with Global’s Morning Show, CTV’s The Social and CTV News.
Just for fun, take The Great Canadian Wine Quiz below to see how much you know about Canadian wine.
Enjoy the festival!
P.S. Here are my latest Canadian wine reviews, which you can add to your shopping list to see which liquor stores across the country have them in stock and access on the free mobile apps with bar code reader and front label scanner.
By Monique Sosa and Jon Steeves
The 39th annual Vancouver International Wine Festival kicked off a week-long list of nearly sold out primo wine events this past Saturday at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouverwith the spectacular, Bacchanalia Gala.
The gala hosted an auction and raffle raising almost $280,000 for Bards on the Beach – one of Canada’s largest non-profit professional Shakespeare festivals.
On Thursday evening, February 16, 2017, the International Festival Floors will open to thousands of eager palates ready to taste their way through Canada’s premier wine show – widely considered to be one of the top wine shows to experience in North America.
Each year the ‘VanWineFest’ features a themed country focusing on their top wine regions, signature wines, benchmark styles and standout producers. This year the spotlight is on Canada, in celebration of our nation’s 150th year of confederation.
This is our second year attending this world class festival and it won’t be our last. Each year gathers exciting and innovative themes, topics, and all around cool people.
You get the opportunity to connect with renowned winemakers, wine educators, and key players in the wine biz, all hailing from across the globe in trendy downtown Vancouver.
The festival is taking place at over 25 venues across the city throughout the week of February 13-19th with the Vancouver Convention Centre playing host to the International Festival Floor and the nerve centre of it all.
On the festival floor, expect to find over 750 wines available to sample with another 160 or so available to those palates holding a trade tasting badge.
This festival is serious when it comes to connecting people with wine.
An impressive mission indeed. Last year, festival organizers confirmed that over 43,000 bottles of wines were poured into over 82,000 perfectly polished glasses.
This year, the themed country – Canada – will have a special section carved out on the tasting floor, destined to attract attention. Included in the grand tasting ticket, is the opportunity to buy any bottle of all the wines served on the tasting floor at the onsite BC Liquor Store.
What else can you expect this year?
Besides a lot of wine, you will have an opportunity to meet, shake hands, taste wines and perhaps make friends with the winemakers and/or winery principals representing 182 wineries, plus other industry-related exhibitors.
There are over 50 scheduled – and soon to be sold out – public and trade events ranging from winery dinners, hosted brunches and lunches, wine minglers and dozens of thematically structured tastings.
For us, the winery dinners are one of the highlights of the week. You get to enjoy superb wines crafted by featured wineries paired with exquisite dishes at Vancouver’s top fine dining restaurants, including a few of our recommended favourites: Blue Water Café, Hawksworth, Black+Blue, Ancora Waterfront, ARC Restaurant, Le Crocodile, Cioppino’s and more.
With this year’s spotlight on Canada and its vast terroirs, we are looking forward to learning, sharing our insights, and tasting our way through the benchmark styles of cool climate Canadian wines.
We are eagerly anticipating everything Canada has to offer, from the brilliant, aromatic crisp still and sparkling white wines of Nova Scotia, to our home province’s unique selection of cool climate Chardonnays, mineral-rich Rieslings, and alluring Pinot Noirs, to the powerful reds of BC’s Okanagan Valley.
Of course, there is more to Canada than just those benchmark styles and we can’t wait to try them!
For us, trekking across the country for this show is definitely worth the investment. After all, it’s Vancouver! This year is a little ‘different’ weather-wise because, typically, by mid-February, this city starts to hit the double digits.
For the wine pros coming in early to attend the Trade portion of the festival or the wine enthusiasts also coming in early from out-of-town to enjoy the city, here are some foodie spots we recommend within walking distance of the Vancouver Convention Centre:
- For the coffee lover – you must, at least once, head over to Revolver at 325 Cambie St. for any style of coffee imaginable. Be aware, you might be in for some ‘brewed awakenings’ finding yourself heading there on the daily.
- For the taco aficionado – you won’t be disappointed by La Taqueria Pinche at 322 W. Hastings St. or Los Amigos at 1118 Davie St.
- Crave oysters? Chewies is a five-minute walk from the convention center. They offer a perfectly timed Happy Hour and Buck-A-Shuck menu right before the grand tasting floor opens to the public.
- Why just dream of sushi when you can indulge in it? The best sushi experience you may encounter in downtown Vancouver is at Miku. It’s stylish, sophisticated, embraces sustainability, and boasts a gorgeous harbourfront view with friendly and knowledgeable staff.
- Feeling a little palate fatigue? We’ve been there! Take a stroll across the street to the Fairmont Pacific Rim. You’ll find a glamorous Lobby Lounge known for their signature hand-crafted cocktails, lavish High Teas, and lively evening entertainment.
- Also located at the Fairmont Pacific Rim is the casual Italian eatery, Giovane Café, known for an attractive selection of Italian wines available by the glass, delectable coffee, scrumptious pastries – especially the sugar buns – and a selection of everyday authentic Italian dishes. By the way, the scene at the Lobby Bar changes from day to night, especially near the weekend when the festival begins to wrap up. You will find a mass of officially ‘off the clock’ wine exhibitors flocking over to the Lobby Bar to unwind.
Speaking of the Fairmont Pacific Rim, it is perhaps the most convenient, posh and ultra modern accommodation you may choose to book if you are attending the festival from afar or any event/conference at or around the convention centre for that matter.
The Pacific Rim opened their doors just in time for the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. It overlooks pristine views of the harbour and mountains along the waterfront.
It features a range of luxurious contemporary rooms and suites designed with naturally inspired details, state-of-the-art technology, and comfortable streamlined (minimalist) furnishings.
It’s refreshing how genuine, helpful and bubbly the hospitality staff are when interacting with the folks at the Fairmont Pacific Rim. The sense of pride they have in their work is inspiring!
Some of the most memorable extras we experienced during our stay at the Pacific Rim last year were the complimentary private car shuttles to events that were off-site, the complimentary bike rental service, and a tasting with their accomplished wine director, Jill Spoor.
What a way to celebrate Canada150 eh? As the week goes by, we will be sharing with you some of our most memorable wines, favourite events, standout experiences, and rising stars to look out for in the wine business. Altogether, you hope you can make it here (or back here) some day.
Monique + Jon
Monique Sosa is the co-owner of Bespoke Tastings offering tailored private and corporate wine, craft beer and whisky tastings. Monique is also a regular wine, craft beer and whisky columnist for several publications including Ottawa Family Living Magazine a, Fifty Five Plus Magazine, and Ottawa Life Magazine. She is a Principal Wine and Whisky Critic for NatalieMacLean.com.
Jon Steeves is the co-owner of Bespoke Tastings. Jon is also a wine writer, photographer and certified sommelier specializing in wine list designs and tailored private and corporate wine tastings. He is a Principal Wine Critic for NatalieMacLean.com.
The Great Canadian Wine Quiz
“Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” is just so yesterday. The hot new new quiz is “Who Wants to be a Canadian Wine Whiz?” Test your vinous savvy with the questions below, then see how you do.
Get fewer than ten correct, and you may want to consider switching to beer. Get between eleven and fifteen right and you’re well on your way to the inner sanctum of the Canadian wine savvy elite. More than sixteen, and you’re always the one who gets handed the wine list in restaurants.
To check your score, look at the bottom of the page for the answers.
1. Which famous Canadian comedian owns a Canadian winery?
a) Mike Meyers
b) Dan Aykroyd
c) Stephen Harper
d) Rich Little
2. What does VQA stand for?
a) Vintners Question Authority
b) Vineyards Quality Assurance
c) Vintner’s Quality Alliance
d) Vin Que Allemangne
3. The father of Canadian wine is known as:
a) Johann Schiller
b) John Niagara
c) Johnny Grapeseed
d) Gordon Lightfoot
4. Many Canadian winemakers make extensive use of:
a) Oak aging
b) Carbonic maceration
c) Hand harvesting
5. There are how many wineries in Canada:
a) Cher and Madonna
b) McCain and Weston
c) Boisset and Constellation
7. The first commercial winery in Canada opened in:
8. The largest producer of icewine in the world is:
9. Approximately what percentage of the current price of wine in Canada is government taxes:
10. Which champion golf pro owns a Canadian winery?
a) Greg Norman
b) Ernie Els
c) Mike Weir
d) Arnold Palmer
11. Which of the following does not belong?
a) Prince Edward County
b) Niagara Peninsula
c) Lake Erie
d) Thunder Bay
12. Which of the following is not a hybrid grape?
a) Baco Noir
c) Marechal Foch
13. Grapes for ice wines are picked at which temperature?
a) Below –8C
b) Below freezing
c) Below 8C
d) A nippy winter night
14. White zinfandel is made from which of the following?
a) Red Zinfandel grapes
b) Blend of Chardonnay and Zinfandel
c) Traditional rosé grapes
d) An industrial pre-mix solution
15. What is noble rot?
a) Grapes are damaged by cold temperatures.
b) When good wine is left in poor storage conditions.
c) A benevolent fungus attacks the grapes which can result in sweet wine but not icewine.
d) When good winemakers go bad.
16. Which hockey player owns a Canadian winery?
a) Mario Lemieux
b) Wayne Gretzky
c) Mark Messier
d) Sidney Crosby
17. Which of these is not a Canadian winery?
a) Dirty Laundry
b) Organized Crime
c) Laughing Stock
d) Vine and Punishment
18. What factor contributes most to the loss of grapes for icewine?
a) predators such as birds and deer
b) mold, mildew and rot
c) government bureaucrats
d) temperatures too warm to harvest
19. Ontario produces what percentage of Canadian wines?
20. Niagara lies on the same latitude as:
1. (b) Dan Ackroyd
2. (c) Vintner’s Quality Alliance
3. (a) Johann Schiller
4. (c) Hand harvesting
5. (d) 497
6. (d) Boisset and Constellation
7. (a) 1866
8. (b) Canada
9. (b) 67%
10. (c) Mike Weir
11. (d) Thunder Bay
12. (d) Semillon
13. (a) Below –8oC
14. (a) Red Zinfandel grapes
15. (c) A benevolent fungus
16. (b) Wayne Gretzky
17. (d) Vine and Punishment
18. (d) temperatures too warm to harvest
19. (d) 90%
20. (a) Bordeaux
Editor’s Note: Tania Thomas wrote this report on the 36th Vancouver Wine Festival, and we include it here for more background on this year’s event and how it as evolved.
The Vancouver International Wine Festival has become Canada’s most anticipated extravaganza of the grape. This year, 14 countries participated with 177 wineries pouring more than 780 wines.
In addition to providing educational and entertaining wine events for both public and trade, the Festival also raises funds for the Bard on the Beach Theatre Society.
With France as a theme country and a global focus on Bubbly, it was a sure crowd-pleaser for any novice wine lover and a seasoned connoisseur alike. Nine wine growing regions of France were featured, from Alsace in the northeast, to the sunny southwest in an endless array of flavours and styles.
Hailing from the heart of Alsace, this delightful Crémant is always a welcome addition to any celebration. Distinctive and refined, Crémant is a sparkling wine made in the traditional method with a second fermentation in bottle followed by at least 12 months bottle aging on its lees. Crisp and refreshing with pronounced minerality, it delivers aromas and flavours of ripe melons with a hint of tropical fruit and a touch of nuttiness.
Château de Sancerre, Loire Valley
Loire Valley contains several wine growing areas, each with a very different wine styles. Sancerre region in the far east of the Valley is home to this complex white. Produced in limited quantities, it is vinified with a 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes from 30 year old vines, fermented in stainless steel tanks and aged on its lees for a minimum of six months prior to blending. Nose is intensely aromatic with citrus notes and a hint of minerality. The palate brings crisp acidity and flavours of lemon drops and grapefruit, followed by a long finish. For a perfect pairing serve it with a slice of chèvre.
Maison Louis Jadot, Moulin-à-Vent Chateau des Jacques, Beaujolais, Burgundy
This serious, full-bodied, complex red is made with 100% Gamay grapes grown in the prestigious Château des Jacques vineyards’ granite soil in the village of Moulin-à-Vent in the Burgundian region of Beaujolais. It delivers ripe berries on the nose with a whiff of spice and earth, followed by firm, chewy tannins on the palate with a long, lingering finish. Lay down for 8-10 years and prepare for a delightful surprise. Best served with hearty dishes and roasts.
M. Chapoutier’s Châteauneuf–du-Pape, La Bernardine Rouge
As a style of wine; “Châteauneuf” is a blend of 13 grape varietals (all red) allowed by the AOC as it is the first Appellation Controllee in France. Michel Chapoutier is one of the most respected winemakers in the world and a pioneer in biodynamic winemaking. His La Bernardine Rouge is a full-bodied complex blend of Granache, Syrah and Mouvedre. Bursting with blackberries, ripe cherries and plums with a touch of spice, it is a great companion to a gourmet cheese tray.
Vignobles Brumont, Montus Red 2007, Madiran, Southwestern France
Alan Brumont of Vignobles Brumont is one of the most famous and respected winegrowers in France and is known for crafting the best Madiran, Tannat based wines. The challenge is to soften astringent tannins in this robust, highly tannic varietal. Montus Red, a blend of 80 % Tannat and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon is a full-bodied, long lived wine. A great addition to a well-stocked cellar. Pair with a lamb roast.
From a very young age, Tania helped with picking grapes in her family’s Croatian vineyards as well as with wine making. Later, she lived abroad in London, England, Milan and Venice, Italy and explored the food and wine cultures while also traveling extensively throughout Europe.
While living in Toronto, Tania completed studies with the International Sommelier Guild. She continued her wine education with the prestigious, internationally recognized Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET), based in London, England, and in 2007, received the WSET Level 3, Advanced Certificate in Wine and Spirits.
In March 2013, Tania was awarded with a Certified Specialist of Wine designation by The Society of Wine Educators, based in Washington, DC, and is currently preparing for their Certified Wine Educator exam.
Tania has since started her own business and offers sommelier services, consulting and wine tastings via RunawayGrape Guided Gourmet Food & Wine Tastings.
Photos: Andrew Chin