The 2011 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival is fast approaching: dates are March 28 through April 3 at the Vancouver Convention Centre East. The 33 rd annual wine fest features 177 participating wineries from 15 countries, pouring more than 1,650 different wines.
The theme country for 2011 is Spain, home to the largest area of vine under cultivation in the world. But, more importantly, you should know Spanish wine yields remain uncommonly low. That means Spanish producers are more about quality than volume and as Martha used to say, that's a good thing. There will also be a global focus on fortified wines led by sherry, port and madeira from Spain and Portugal but there will be others examples from France, Australia, North and South America and South Africa.
The event I'm most looking forward to, and it's not just because I'm hosting it, is Meet Your Match, a speed dating format involving the biggest names, and wines, at the festival. The event delivers a fresh twist on the very stale, sit-down wine seminar.
Here's how it works. Each of the 11 winery principals will man one side of a six-foot table while a group of six or seven consumers will gather on the other. The clutch of wine nuts will have about seven minutes to spend with each producer to hear their story, ask questions and taste one truly memorable wine before the dating bell rings to tell them they must move on to the next wine.
It's an amazing experience for most anyone who's never had a chance to meet one-on-one with what I would describe as inspirational and visionary wine types. Believe me, you will not be disappointed. What follows is a brief description of the principals and the wine they will pour at the event plus a bargain pick from the same producer that you can buy today in B.C. wine stores.
Alvaro Palacios 2007 Finca Dofi, Priorat, Spain $95 will be presented by owner/winemaker Alvaro Palacios. The wine comes from Alvaro's original Priorat vineyard and is a blend of garnacha, cabernet, and syrah. Expect power and finesse in the glass with a sense of place and style. Clearly among the best wines of Priorat. Bargain pick: Pétalos 2007, Bierzo, Castilla-Leon, Spain $33
Stefano Leone, long-time international export director and right-hand man for Piero Antinori, will pour Guado al Tasso Bolgheri Superiore 2007, Tuscany Italy $94 . Tenuta Guado al Tasso is about some 80 kilometres southwest of Florence near the medieval town of Bolgheri. The 65/30/5 blend is a mix of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah. Bargain pick: Guado al Tasso Il Bruciato 2007, Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy $35
Marc Kent, winemaker and co-owner at Boekenhoutskloof, South Africa, is pouring his The Journeyman Franschhoek 2005 $100 . It's a cabernet franc-based blend and reputed to be one of the best young red blends of the Cape. Kent has been working on the red wine since the 2001 but the 2005 is the first release and sports 20 percent each of merlot and cabernet sauvignon all from the Boekenhoutskloof Franschhoek Valley estate. Bargain pick: Boekenhoutskloof The Wolftrap 2009, Western Cape, South Africa $15
David Guimaraens, chief winemaker at Fonseca Guimaraens, will pour Quinta do Panascal Single Vineyard Vintage Port 2001 $70 . Panascal is a highly regarded vineyard in the Tavora Valley. Fonseca has made the single-quinta port from purchased grapes for decades before buying the site in 1978. Drink all winter. Bargain pick: Fonseca Bin No 27 N/V Fine Reserve Port, Douro Valley, Portugal $23.
Louis Moreau, proprietor/winemaker of Domaine Louis Moreau in Chablis France will pour his Louis Moreau "Les Clos" Grand Cru Chablis 2008 $80 . Les Clos is among the most renowned of the seven Grands Cru Chablis sites. This is a powerful white wine with finesse. Bargain pick: Domaine Christian Moreau Chablis 1er Cru Vaillon 2008 Chablis, Burgundy, France $40
Local wine legend, Anthony von Mandl, proprietor of Mission Hill Family Estate and CEO of Mark Anthony Brands, will pour his top-flight, Euro-styled, chardonnay, the Mission Hill Family Estate Perpetua Chardonnay 2008 $40 from the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. Bargain Pick: Mission Hill Pinot Noir Five Vineyards 2009, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada $20
Cristiano Van Zeller, proprietor, will be pouring his much lauded Quinta do Vale Dona Maria N/V Unfiltered Reserve Port Lote º08 $100 , a wine produced from grapes of a single vineyard that has been in family hands for over a century. It is bottled unfined and unfiltered, as his personal reserve, from wines that were vinified by foot treading in old granite stone "lagares" or shallow, open-top concrete tanks. Bargain pick: Quinta Vale D. Maria Douro Vinho Tinto 2007, Rio Torto, Douro Valley, Portugal $45.
California chief winemaker Rick Sayre will present his Rodney Strong Rockaway Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 $100 from Sonoma County. Established in 1994, Rockaway is planted mostly to cabernet sauvignon and merlot, but includes all five of the classic Bordeaux varieties. Rising to 750 feet above sea level, the style is elegant and, to some degree, Bordelais in nature. Bargain pick: Rodney Strong Chardonnay 2009
Sonoma County, California, United States $21
Rupert Symington, a joint managing director of Symington Family Symington Estates, is pouring Graham's 2007 Vintage Port $106. A classic offering from an exceptional year in the Douro, Graham's has produced a stunning wine with power, weight, complexity and balance that will age forever. Bargain pick: Graham's Late Bottled Vintage Port 2005, Douro Valley, Portugal $28
Winemaker David Patterson will pour the Tantalus Vineyards Riesling 2009 $25 to showcase the unique terroir of Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley. Expect a juicy, refreshing style riesling loaded with zesty melon, apple and guava fruit. Bargain pick: Tantalus Juveniles Pinot Noir 2008, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia $18
Last, but hardly least, is Telmo Rodriguez, winemaker and proprietor and a modern day Spanish wine evangelist. Rodriguez will present his Matallana 2006, Ribero del Duero $145 . Matallana is made from a bunch of individual vineyard plots, all on different types of soils, planted to old vines. Maceration is by foot and fermentation in open wooden vats. Crazy good. Bargain pick: Telmo Rodriguez Basa Rueda Blanco 2009, Castilla-Leon, Spain $19.
For tickets to Meet your Match, call the Vancouver Playhouse at 604-873-3311.
Anthony Gismondi is a globetrotting wine writer who makes his home in West Vancouver, British Columbia. For more of his thoughts on wine log onto www.gismondionwine.com .