I traversed the world of wine in one day… and in one room. Yesterday at Vancouver’s International Wine Festival hundreds of people from the industry, enthusiasts and consumers alike came out in droves to sample the worldly goods. This year’s focus was California, particularly their Chardonnays. One of the first wines I tried was Stag’s Leap 2011 Chardonnay, $37.99. It was what I have come to expect from Californian Chardonnays: nice oak character, honeysuckle followed by more tropical flavors such as orange peel and pineapple. The reds, predominantly Cabernet Sauvignons, were full in body and had beautiful flavor profiles but lacked the structured tannins I tend to favor. They were ready to drink now or over the next few years. I tried a varied range: Clos Du Bois 2008 Marlstone Cabernet Sauvignon, $49.99; Robert Mondavi 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, $149.99; Hahn 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, $21.99.
I spent a great deal of time in among the French wineries, starting with Pol Roger. I now admit that may have been a mistake because no other Champagnes could ever live up to the ones I tried at that table: Cuvée de Reserve Brut NV, $65.99; and the even more unbelievably delicious Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 2000, $199.99. An honorable mention, however, was the Champagne Thienot Brut, $64.99. When I eventually moved on to the reds of France, I found the structured tannins I was searching for. Chateau Bernadotte 2009, $49.99 – a blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon made for a solid red with a slightly more fruity profile than what is more traditional for Bordeaux. The most amazing red of the day for me was the Cotes de Castillon Clos de I’ Eglise 2005, $45. It is a 2005 and could age easily another 10 to 15 years. It had the traditional flavor profile of Bordeaux: earthy minerality with cassis and licorice.
With quick trips to Chile, Spain, Argentina, and Italy, I now fully empathize with the everyday consumer from British Columbia. Due to BC’s high cost of production, it is unlikely that we will be able to produce a stellar red for under $13 such as a few I tried from these regions. I do not want to discourage purchasing locally and supporting our farmers, but if budget is an issue then I suppose it’s forgivable.
After this whirlwind tour, I finished off with home base. British Columbia understandably had mostly the big players in attendance: Mission Hill, Cedar Creek, Vincor (Nk’Mip, Inniskillin, See Ya Later, Sumac as Black Sage, and Jackson Triggs was absent), and Andrew Peller (Sandhill and Red Rooster). I was happy to see a couple of smaller ones (shout out to Meyer, Fort Berens, and Perseus). This was my first international festival, so I used it as a way to avoid cellar palate and also see if what British Columbia produces can stand up to the best of the rest. I think BC has come a long way and will continue to produce excellent wines. I think BC is still trying to decide who we want to be like when we should be focusing on what we do best. We aren’t France, we aren’t Australia, or California. We have a cooler climate and a taste all our own. That being said, I can also see a similarity in quality to measure up to international standards from many wineries from all over BC. We likely will never have the amount of production to become a main player in the wine world, but as almost 80% of the wine produced in BC is consumed in BC, I think we can keep this secret to ourselves.