After each year's Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival I vow to attend more events the following year and in 2011 I find myself making this pledge yet again. It sneaks up on me and then is gone in a flash leaving me in its wake with nothing but notes collected from the trade tasting.
The focus of this site is the fabulous homegrown wines we produce in Canada and thus my notes reflect this focus. The festival provides the rare treat of tasting Canadian wines in a global context and I believe they fare extremely well when compared to the rest of the world. "Value" is relative and a subject for another story but the quality and character of Canadian wines fares very well.
Herder Winery and Vineyards
Owners Sharon and Lawrence Herder were on hand to showcase their wines at the only wine festival they pour at. A sneak peak at the upcoming 2008 Josephine was the main attraction - their old-world leaning, complex and textured Meritage blend. It won't be released until October for good reason as the wine shows great promise but was tasting very young and is not yet ready for market. Also on offer was a new entry-level 2009 Chardonnay (as opposed to their $35 Twin Benches Chardonnay not yet released), a 2008 Syrah with a lovely nose and a 2008 Merlot which was surprisingly powerful. www.herder.ca/
Mission Hill Estate Winery
Mission Hill was pouring their legacy series wines (the big boys) alongside a new Reserve-level Viognier. The Viognier was of the tart and crisp variety rather than the richly-textured version that is so popular in BC these days. The legacy series wines are fronted by the showpiece of their portfolio, the 2007 Oculus which has recently garnered a lot of praise (including 95pts from James Suckling). Is it as good as folks say? Well, having tasted it only once at a festival it's hard for me to say in detail or truly pass judgement... but it just might be the best Oculus yet! www.missionhillwinery.com/
The Vincor partnered winery were pouring their excellent entry-level 2007 Petales d'Osoyoos blend and three vintages of the namesake Osoyoos Larose "Grande Vin". The 2006 is aging well showing firm tannins. The much-lauded 2007 has a gorgeous nose but is still quite youthful and needs more time in the bottle to mellow. The 2008 won't be released until the fall and shows the green tannins of a less than ideal ripening vintage. www.osoyooslarose.com/
Painted Rock Estate Winery
Proprietor John Skinner was pouring wines from his up-coming 2008 releases and their 2009 Chardonnay which was released last fall. The star of the line-up is the new 2008 Red Icon which has subsequently been released just this week due, in part, to industry feedback at the trade tasting. Half as much Red Icon was produced in 2008 as their inaugural release in 2007 due to self-imposed low yields in response to the tricky 2008 growing season. Also, no Cabernet Sauvignon was used in the Red Icon blend in 2008 which should mean more of the single varietal release will be available this year. www.paintedrock.ca/
Quails' Gate Estate Winery
Quails' Gate were pouring a couple of their recently released 2010 whites: the excellent and very crisp Chenin Blanc and the juicy and fresh Gewurztraminer. The two Stewart Family Reserve wines (a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir) were fantastic: structured and expertly oaked. Especially the Pinot whose texture and refinement impressed me greatly. www.quailsgate.com/
Sperling was pouring their entire line-up of wines except their most popular and successful wine "Market White" which is a blend of aromatic varietals. The whole line-up, a Riesling, an Old Vines Riesling, Pinot gris and Gewurztraminer were mostly quite low in alcohol and high in residual sugar. www.sperlingvineyards.com/
Wayne Gretzky Estate Wines
Sadly, only three Ontario wineries made it to the festival. Henry of Pelham was showcasing their decent entry-level "Sibling Rivalry" red and white blends and Pillitteri was showcasing their icewines. The Wayne Gretzky Estate Wines impressed me the most with a succulent Sauvignon Blanc, an easy-drinking Riesling and a fabulous, low-alcohol Cabernet-Merlot "Estate Series" blend. Hopefully, we will see more of these surprisingly good wines out west. http://www.gretzkyestateswines.com/
A few other wines of note:
Tantalus have released their newest addition to their small line-up: the 2009 Chardonnay. Priced at $30 it enters the stiff competitive world of BC top-end Chards... and fares well. Cool, crisp, mineral and well balanced. A nice addition to the fray.
The 2010 Small Lot Viognier from Sandhill seems to be a return to the more tart territory of the award winning 2008 vintage after the 2009 version charmed us with its hot-vintage-richness.
Hester Creek have been through a recent brand updating exercise and have two new proprietary blends (a white and a red) called "Character" which seem poised to take on the well-priced and fellow Golden Mile Bench "Honest John's" products from Road 13 Vineyards.