Vancouver Tasting Playoffs Round 1 – Mexico, New Zealand, Naramata

I don’t know if it was the spring weather or the improving economy or the relief from Canucks-related hockey, but May has seen more Vancouver tasting than I can remember. Each week has been like a round of tasting playoffs where we are eliminated based on how much we can sample.

I’m talking about the media and trade tastings held in the afternoon in advance of the public tastings, at a time of day when the temptation to get up from your computer and mosey downtown to taste amazing things is always irresistible. To win, you just have to spit a lot and dump loads if you want to be able for form words when you get home.

It was all a bit of a blur, too much to describe in detail. But since I did shoot a lot of pictures I decided to finally make use the WordPress Mosaic Tile function to display them. Hopefully, you’ll get the picture.

Vancouver International Tequila Expo Media

April 29 was my second media party with Vancouver Tequila Expo, again held on the patio of the oyster house, Joe Fortes. And again, another bright shiny day downtown. Knowing it would have tropical theme, I wore an appropriately loud shirt.

So many gorgeous bottles were lined up on the bar, I couldn’t stop shooting. The food was sumptuous, especially the oysters, and it all paired well with the tequila and mezcal.

Karen and Dominic Eggerman of Reservas Tequila had lots of their products on hand, including the resonant Grand Mayans. The Celestial Reposado tasted fantastic with the jumbo tempura prawns. And I was blown away with the earthiness of the Mezcal Enmascarado and the Pierde Almas Mezcal, and how different they are from regular tequila.

Tequila Week starts in Vancouver on Monday May 26 with events at Legacy Liquor, Uva Wine Bar, and Joe Fortes. The main event, the Tequila Expo happens at the Hyatt Regency and is a fundraiser for the BC Hospitality Foundation, which supports service industry workers in medical crisis.

So, it’s drinking for a good cause.

New Zealand Wine Festival

My second Vancouver tasting of the week was the annual New Zealand Winegrowers event, this year moved from the rustic Roundhouse to the gleaming Pan Pacific Hotel. Chardonnay was the featured varietal. My favorite Chardonnay’s were the fresh fruited 2012 Kings Legacy from Marlborough and the well endowed 2011 Kumeau Village from Auckland.

But New Zealand makes excellent pinot noirs and that was what I was kept zeroing in on. The Astrolabe 2012 Pinot Noir, Marlbourgh was big, soft and plummy and tasted better knowing only 56 cases were delivered to BC stores.

The Mud House 2012 Claim 431 Pinot Noir from Central Ontago has beautiful aromatics and a savory spicyness that I loved.

And what a deal the 2013 Sileni Cellar Selection Pinot Noir from Hawkes Bay is for $18; fruity and earthy with great body and quaffability.

The pinot that really grabbed me was the 2010 Villa Maria Reserve from Marlborough; wildly juicy fruit, a smooth round body, it felt like liquid silk. It should for $60.

Naramata Bench Wineries

My third Vancouver tasting of the week was Friday May 1, the Naramata Bench Wineries Association, assembled at the Hyatt Regency for Wine for Waves in support of the Vancouver Aquarium Oceanwise program.

While I was busy soliciting support for The Taste of Travel Symposium I was planning, my co-palette, Nancy Baye was busy taking notes on the wines.

232582cAs I perused the dozens of booths, one stunning table caught my eye. I was up for a little misconduct, so stopped by Richard da Silva’s Art Deco-styled booth. Misconduct is a micro-lot winery with a theme built around bad behavior. Da Silva, an imposing bald guy with studded ears and a mischievous look in his eyes, suggested this had to do with the family’s checkered past. Nudge, nudge, drink, drink.

The recommended Misfit, a white blend, held a complexity maintained its dry nature and full body. Their Rose held a lovely jeweled color, offering the taunt of strawberry on the nose, and a nature nearly as mysterious as the lurid stories da Silva hinted at.

Despite an extensive online sweep for nefarious tales of the label or the family, I unearthed none. These goons are good at covering their tracks. 

As an added bonus, Misconduct puts GPS codes on each bottle, so you can track down the exact patch of soil where the grapes in your bottle grew. If I were you, though, I wouldn’t go digging around in any of their land. God knows what hidden secrets or bodies you might find. 

The next booth that caught my eye was Serendipity Winery. The New York International Wine Competition dubbed Serendipity BC’s Winery of the Year in 2013 and the passion of winemaker Judy Kingston was evident in each sip. Judy didn’t need to say much about her wines as she poured. They spoke for themselves: complex yet light, fruity yet dry, flavorful and with exceptional bouquets. A few sips took me to a light and happy place. 

The 2011 White Lie is a crisp, refreshing blend that tickled my nose with aromas of tropical fruit. A blend of Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer, this hit my palette with a wave of melon and apricot. The finish was green apple. 

The Serendipity Rose 2012 nearly made me swoon with the first deep inhale of strawberry and rhubarb aromas. Dry and made in traditional Alsatian style, with only red wines, this was a flavorful rose that maintained its fruity notes. 

But it was the 2012 Viognier that won my heart and taste-buds. The lovely fruity nose was followed by a burst of tangerine on the palette. Tangerine! A hint of apricot, luscious blood orange and a nuance of toasted coconut held my attention. I refused to dump even a drop of this into the slop bucket. Work day be damned! These wines were truly serendipitous.

La Frenz is a winery with a French name, located in the Okanagan, run by a couple of Aussies, Jeff and Niva Martin. That mind-bending combination has produced a host of award-winning wines. The Rattlesnake Vineyard 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, touted as being crisp and dry, was smooth and flavorful to me. Even better, in my mind, or at least on my palette, was the 2012 Viognier which was rich and warm with a hint of apricot and mango. Both of these vintages are sold out online. 

An associate directed me to Kettle Valley’s booth to try their 2010 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc which didn’t disappoint with its balanced flavors and smooth body. But it was the 2012 Pinot Gris that delighted my senses, its sunset blush shade (the vintners beg I call it salmon) was matched only by its spectacular taste profile. 

With the Naramata Bench being such a small patch of earth, I expected the characteristics of wine varietals to be similar.  I couldn’t have been more wrong or more thrilled. 

The colors, nose, body and flavors are widely distinct from one to the next. My surprise widened at the realization that these wines are good. Damn good, with few exceptions. 


Vancouver Tasting Playoffs Round 2

Stay tuned for a write up of the next round of Vancouver tasting – France and Portugal – coming soon!

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 Follow her on Twitter or Google Plus.