With neither of us being very enthusiastic about Valentine’s Day, Matt and I decided to do something a little different this year. Instead of the typical dozen roses and cheesy three course meal, we thought we would do something out of the box. So, last weekend we headed over to the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre to check out the 2013 Vancouver International Wine Festival’s tasting room. The festival featured 175 different wineries from across the globe, sampling almost 800 different wines. While many of the bottles presented were the meat and bread of the wineries, others offered some unique and rare varietals to expand the horizons of festival goers.
So, how did it work? Basically, you were given a wine glass at the door that became an appendage for the remainder of the evening. The wineries were arranged by region in booths. At each booth, there were approximately four different wines to sample. The booths were manned by a senior member of the winery who poured your tasters. You could ask to try a certain bottle, or for their suggestion. Beware though, because if you try all four varieties at one station, it’s the equivalent of downing an entire glass of wine in less than three minutes. And with 174 wineries still left to go, pacing yourself is key.
To assist in maintaining a certain level of sobriety amongst the festival goers, there were also booths which supplied some sustenance. My personal favourites were the artisan cheese-maker and chocolatier stations, for which I was a repeat offender (surprise). The line-ups for the Nesters Market snack station were the longest of any, including the most prestigious wineries. People stuffed their faces with hummus, cheese, deli meats, and desserts all in an effort to sop up the booze that was quickly filling their stomachs. Another hit was the full espresso bar manned by Caffe Umbria, which provided some delicious espresso macchiatos. This added caffeine hit, however, could have been the downfall of a few of the festival attendees. As my dad likes to say, there’s nothing worse than a wide awake drunk.
The beloved cheese station
The night lasted three hours (and they made sure you made a swift exit at precisely 10pm); nonetheless, there were some dangerously inebriated people by 7:30pm. One fancily dressed 60-something year old woman with a glassy look in her eyes was being supported around the room by her husband at no later than 8pm. Barely able to walk at that time, we saw her after the tasting room closed about to fall face first if anyone let go. Indeed, the most drunk people in attendance were surprisingly not the younger crowd as I would have expected, but rather those over the age of 50. People-watching was half of the evening’s entertainment. There were your typical wine connoisseurs, tasting each varietal and spitting it out (sacrilege!) so that they would not cloud their palate with too much sauce. There were many young people, like us, having fun and learning a bit along the way. My personal favourites were the over-50 single women, working on divorce number 3, over-tanned, under-dressed, lipstick smeared and on the prowl for their next victim.
Although this year’s regional focus was California and the varietal focus was Chardonnay, I was beyond pleased to see that they were highlighting New Zealand wines as well. Tried and true stalwarts of mine are the Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs. Having enjoyed Marisco Vineyard’s The Ned before, I happily headed over to their booth to see what they were offering. I was delighted to hear that they were exhibiting The King’s Favour, a refined and complex cousin of their other Sauvignon Blanc. With aromas of lime, grapefruit, lemongrass, and passionfruit, and an undertone of minerality, this was my best-loved discovery of the evening.
Look who I found: my lovely and gorgeous cousin Christine!
An evening of wine, cheese, chocolate, espresso, and watching cougars hunt their prey: what could be better? I will certainly be in attendance next year!
PS: I just found out that I won another cooking class at The Dirty Apron! What to do next… Thai? Indian? French? So many choices!