Expect big Cabs, lush Chards and plenty of sippable surprises from the Golden State
No wine region has had as much support from the Vancouver International Wine Festival as California.
The festival started in 1979 with just one winery, Robert Mondavi from Napa Valley. In the second year, Arrowood Vineyards from Sonoma was the sole winery. But by the fourth year, the festival had come to be called the California Wine Festival, with 45 producers.
The festival’s organizers realized they had come up with a successful format for this charity fundraiser, which has raised $10 million over the years. In 1987, international wineries were added. But California has always remained a strong presence. This year California will once again be the theme region. When the festival begins on February 23, 53 of the 160 participating wineries will be from California.
Since the festival introduced theme regions in 1996, featured wine regions have included Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, New Zealand and Canada. California, however, has been a major participant year in and year out. That is because Canada is one of the biggest export markets for California wine.
The Californians have always worked this market hard, although seldom as hard as this year. The strong American dollar has forced American wine prices up. The unpopularity of the Trump administration has begun to turn off Canadian consumers. And, unlike the 1980s, the quality of British Columbia wines is on par with California.
Is there any reason why we need to buy California wines? Some 53 California wineries will be making their case at this year’s festival, including Robert Mondavi, of course. The festival also has a soft spot for Signorello Estate, owned by West Vancouver resident Ray Signorello. He should have a story to tell about rebuilding a winery destroyed by one of California’s forest fires.
Four to try
Robert Mondavi Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2015 ($39.99) This delicious wine begins with aromas of cassis and black cherry followed by flavours of black cherry, blackberry and vanilla. 91/100
Ravenswood Teldeschi Vineyard Zinfandel 2014 ($42.99) The grapes for this wine come from a legendary vineyard in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma. Inky dark in colour, the wine has aromas and flavours of blueberry, blackberry and black cherry, mingled with vanilla and chocolate. The texture is rich and the finish never ends. 93/100
Meiomi Pinot Noir 2017 ($28.99) Dark and full-bodied, this best-selling wine has aromas and flavours of black cherries and plums mingled with vanilla and spice. The texture is soft and luscious. 90/100
Tom Gore Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($19.99) The wine, which was aged 10 months in barrel, begins with aromas of black cherry, blackberry and cassis mingled with toasty oak. It is generous on the palate with flavours of dark fruit and spice. The tannins are long and the finish lingers. 90/100
The cure for what ails
Here’s a book wine tasters need: Hungover: The Morning After and One Man’s Quest for the Cure, by Canadian writer and actor Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall (Penguin, $20). This hilarious exploration of hangover cures is serious enough to be reviewed by The New York Times, which wrote: “You could profitably crop-dust a cocktail party with the factoids.”