Vancouver Tasting Playoffs Round 3 – Italy and BC

I entered Round 3 of my Vancouver Tasting Playoffs thinking there would only be one event to attend, the Bloom tasting of BC wines on Thursday, May 22nd.

Then, on May 20th, I received an invitation to the Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri trade tasting scheduled on the very same day and thought, harrumph! A last-minute invite me that conflicts with another event. Oh, well.

Although daunted to hit two tastings on the same afternoon and remain sober, Gambero Rosso made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

After all, it’s Italian wine!

Fortunately, both tastings were held within a block of each other on the Canada Place waterfront and were neatly staggered by a couple of hours. I figured if I arrived early enough, ate plenty and spit heavily, I could probably dive bomb both tastings and still be able to coach my WordPress Workshop that evening.

So, tasting for my playoff life, I charged my camera and iPhone batteries and set out on a beautiful sunny day for the Fairmont Pacific Rim.

Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri

Tre Bicchieri (three glasses) Vin d’ Italia is a trade-only tasting on a world tour organized by the massive Gambero Rosso company. Gambero Rosso trades not only in food and wine, they are a multimedia publisher of guides, weeklies and monthlies as well as having a TV channel at SKY411 and an educational system for food and wine. They’re bigger than US Steel!

Three glasses is the highest score a wine can achieve in Gambero Rosso’s wine guides.

As soon as I walked into the Star Sapphire Ballroom and saw the row of bottle-covered tables lining the windows, I knew I was in for a treat. The first thing I reached for, as I always do, was bubbly. In this case, prosecco.

I found the Vigneti Le Monde table and got a pour of their 2013 Prosecco (rated two glasses) and was blown away by it’s freshness and crisp acidity. I could have drank a full glass. Just then the small crowd was called to the main ballroom for some speechifying by the hosts, so I grabbed and pour of the Cantina Della Volta 2010 Lambrusco di Modena Brut Rosé Spumonte, with it’s hefty cheery cola body, and found my way toward the ballroom.

There we learned, through some pretty thick accents, that the wine were vetted by 60 experts who traveled Italy tasting 45,000 wines, 450 of which were awarded by Tre Bicchieri, with only a selection of 40 producers on offer outside.

On a tip from the ubiquitous Lenora Heyman, I went straight to the table of Guerrieri Rizzardi for a taste of their Amarone della Valpolicella 2009 Cl Calarole. It had a huge nose of ripe black fruit and a massive, concentrated mouth of black cherries, road dust and tar. Just dreamy.

I was told how this was the only amarone made from a single vineyard, the one in the picture. They were going to release it next year until the Gambero people named it the Best Red Wine of the Year. So now there are 1,000 cases allocated for the Fall by the LBD. Estimated price, $110.

I wandered to the Piedmont tables and tried some Barolos. The G.D Vajra is a wine made from nebbiolo grapes grown at the highest elevation in the commune of Barolo at 4000 meters above sea level. It had sizzling acidity and high-toned stewed red fruit that sent me into the stratosphere. Their 2009 Baudana Luigi Barolo was super elegant with deep, ripe fruit and a powerful backbone. Now, that’s Italian.

It was all uphill from there. One delicious gem after another. I liked almost everything, although I’m losing my appreciation for Valpolicellas. Here are a few agented wines I dug the most:

Castelletto 2009 Barolo
Sarmassa 2009 Barolo
Masi Cl Mazzano 2006 Amarone
Canalicchio di Sopra 2009 Brunello di Montalcino Reserve
Colle Massari 2008 Brunello di Montalcino
Fattoira di Felsina 2011 Cl Berardenga Chianti
Rocca Delle Macíe 2010 Cl Fizzano Chianti Reserve

These are some un-agented wines I would like to see in the Canadian market:

Vigneti Le Monde Prosecco (mentioned above)
Cantina Della Volta Lambrusco di Modena Brut Rosé Spumonte (mentioned above)
Bel Colle Monvigliero Barolo

Man, was it hard to leave this tasting, and the amazing buffet of Italian cheeses, salads and breads.

But I had to tear myself away and head across the street to the old Vancouver Convention Centre to have a taste of BC.

Bloom BC VQA Spring Release

My strategy at Bloom was to taste the juice of new wineries. I confess to having a fascination with crazy people who venture forth in this crowded market and I wanted to meet some of them. In the ever-burgeoning BC wine industry that means a lot of tasting.

Also, I went for whites only, not just for staying sober, but I needed to cleanse my purple tongue.

Backyard Vineyards has been making wines in Langley, BC for the past couple years using local and Okanagan Valley fruit. I liked the bright and yeasty Non Vintage Brut Bland de Noir $20, the fresh and fruity 2012 Pinot Gris at $16 as well as the clean, peachy 2013 Reisling for $19. Yum!

Baille-Grohman is based in Creston, BC in the Kootenays and is named for pioneer William Baillie-Grohman who worked to develop the area into a farming region in the 19th Century. Owner Bob Johnson poured me their soft, dry, appley 2013 Pinot Gris, and it was a revelation that it came from an area so far from the Okanagan. Available for $20-ish in private stores.

Bella Wines is a sparking wine producer on their 3rd vintage of bubbles produced at Okanagan Crush Pad from grapes sourced throughout the Okanagan. Owner Jay Drysdale poured me his Sparkling Chardonnay 2012 had a big body of peach and apple fruit that I loved. Not normally a fan of red sparkling, I also really liked his Sparkling Gamay 2013 from Oliver with it’s huge, bright red fruit flavors. Both are around $24 at VQA stores.

Another new winery in Oliver is C.C. Jentsch who poured at the BCATW 2014 Symposium a few weeks before, just a couple weeks after they opened their doors. And here was Chris Jentsch giving me a bear hug for inviting them. A grape grower in the Golden Mile since 2005, two years ago he lost a grape contract with Andrew Peller Ltd, so he was forced to get into winemaking and he seems pretty happy about it. A.J. poured me the lovely, dry 2012 Gewürtztraminer, ($18) with its classic aroma of spice and flowers, as well as the enticing 2012 Viognier ($25) full of ripe apricot and tropical fruit. I think the Jentsch family is going to do real well.

Daydreamer is brand new on the Naramata Bench scene and they grow a 3.5 acre vineyard in addition to sourcing Okanagan fruit. And they are organic! The 2013 Pinot Gris that winemaker/owner Marcus Ansems was pouring was very big bodied with bright white fruit – almost gewürtztraminer like. $20 at the winery.

The Daliwall family who own Kismet have been growing grapes in Oliver for the past 20 years and now they’ve started making wines. Their 2012 vintage includes a sauvignon blanc/semillion/orange muscat blend called Safed that is beautifully floral and pretty with candied fruit. $17. Their 2012 Viognier is also impressive with fresh, honeyed apple and pear flavours at $18.

Lariana Cellars is described as the Southernmost winery in BC, being right next door to US Customs. Owners Dan and Carol Scott have been in and out of the Okanagan wine scene but are re-establishing themselves by growing viognier, cabernet and carmenere. So far they have released the 2012 Viognier, 200 cases of which was fermented in their aucurrant concrete egg. I found it rich and bright with tropical fruit and citrus. Delicious for $23 in private stores.

The quite British Saxon Winery was started by Paul and Jayne Graydon who bought an organic Summerland vineyard in 2012. They make a huge portfolio of wines but I only tasted the bright, peachy/appley 2012 Pinot Gris with its persistent finish ($19) as well as the lush, ripe 2013 Pinot Noir Rosé ($20). Both were classic summertime sippers.

Time is a brand new brand, but the wines are made by an old timer in the BC industry, Harry McWaters, founder of Sumac Ridge. I tried the Time 2012 Chardonnay, which he told me was made from grapes cloned for their tropical fruit characteristics. It was true, the wine had evocative pineapple, mango and melon playing on a soft bed of rich vanilla and butterscotch. Available at the winery for $28 and well worth it.

Vancouver Tasting Playoffs

There was more – much more – but I’ve got to stop now so I can post this tomorrow.

Just as New York and Los Angeles have advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals, the Vancouver Tasting Playoffs continue, so come back next week for a review of the Vancouver International Tequila Expo.

Mari Kane

Mari is a writer, blogger and WordPress consultant, living in Vancouver, BC, the most wine-soaked town north of the 49th Parallel. She also blogs about WordPress web design at Blogsite Studio.com. Follow her on Twitter or Google Plus.

2 thoughts on “Vancouver Tasting Playoffs Round 3 – Italy and BC

  • June 3, 2014 at 12:30 pm
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    Always a pleasure to exchange our personal wine tasting experiences Mari. It has been a very busy “sipping & spitting” time for us all.
    Lenora Hayman

    • June 3, 2014 at 1:30 pm
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      Thanks Lenora. Looking forward to seeing you at the next event!

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