by Lauren Mote
Sometimes one can feel almost too lucky – an afternoon of prancing around a grand ballroom at the Pan Pacific Hotel here at Canada Place in Vancouver – we have nothing in our hands, except an ISO tasting glass and a handful of business cards. Welcome to the Trade Tasting at Vancouver’s International Playhouse Wine Festival – Innovation by Tradition – Vino Italiano!
To take the afternoon off work to peruse some of the oldest, most famous and most expensive wineries makes more sense in 2008 rather than calling in sick to go visit Robert Mondavi Winery in 1979, the only winery to participate in the festival. Showcasing 1600 wines from 176 wineries, in 16 countries, within 60 events, over 7 days, with an expected 25000 attendees – now that’s a bigger attraction then 1979, apologies Mr. Mondavi. My wine enthusiast colleague, Stephanie Bandreth, accompanies me in a series of 2 ounce portions.
What makes this colosseum of vintners less then simple to tackle today? Well, the more tastings one does, the more lost one will become – the only common sequence that the vintner’s booths seem to have is the location of their spittoons – one on either side. In the wine world, using a spittoon correctly, from great distances away, amongst a crowd of people, and emerging dry without dribble – this is the olympic event. Other then your complimentary map of exhibitors, you’re on your own…
The restaurant, wine and retail industries flock… each individual or group having their own ideas of “what’s worth waiting for”. I run into a friend, the Beverage Manager at the Beach House in West Vancouver, Phillippe Reigh, he’s poking around the Pommery exhibit, anxiously waiting for them to crack open a bottle of Cuvee Louise 1996 for sampling.
Personal preference and strategy proves that Stephanie and I will tackle this day like a long dinner – start at the light and dry, finish with the rich and heavy.
Our first stop is the German Estate Wines stall – Weisser Burgunder Classic 2005 – 100% pinot blanc – Rappenhof estate (Rheinhesen – the largest of the 13 German quality wine producing regions) – extremely dry; followed by Munsterer Kapellenberg Reisling Kabinett 2006 – Kruger-Rumpf estate (Nahe River). We finish this German experience with my favourite, Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler estate, Bernkasteler Badstube Reisling Spatlese 2006 – only 700 cases made, and a 93 point from the Wine Spectator – “where citrus and slate commingle…”.
Somehow, we find ourselves at an exhibit where Alsatian wines compete with their previously consumed German counterparts – Lucien Albrecht Vineyard – we sample the Pinot Gris 2006, only available for a sample at this show – not for sale anywhere. Lastly, the Gewurztraminer Alsace Reserve 2006 – rose, lychee, honey and grapefruit peel on the finish – I celebrate this exquisite vineyard by taking home a bottle of 2006 Reisling.
Moving speedily along to sparkling wines, we move through Cantina Breganze Extra Dry Non-Vintage Prosecco (Italy); Codornui Non-Vintage Pinot Noir Rose (Spain); Francis Ford Coppola “Sofia Blanc de Blanc” Sparkling (California); G.H. Mumm Corton Rouge Non-Vintage (Champagne); Lanson Gold Label Brut 1997 (Champagne); Mionetto Il Moscato Frizzante Non-Vintage (Italy); Pierre Sparr Cremant d’Alsace Brut Non-Vintage (Alsace, France); Pommery Pink Pop Non-Vintage (Champagne); Sumac Ridge “Stellar’s Jay” Brut 2004 (Okanagan).
We move through the crowd,… running into several industry people, at least 5 people I worked with at Lumiere, including an invitation to visit David Tremblay, a sommelier (previously of Lumiere) at the Dream Wines Suite (22nd Floor after the tasting ends).
After three hours of sampling everything in Italy, and I mean everything… from unfiltered Sangiovese to Bolla Amarone, the winner of 2004’s best Amarone, to an undesirable viognier in southern Italy, we decided to start thinking about “after the tasting” – I mean, one couldn’t help but fly over to the Chateau de Beaucastel tasting just for some inspiration. We were made fun of by the Rhone Valley giants for grabbing the best one first… but at this stage in the game, it’s hard to go through a systematic approach to tasting wine with 4 entry level and second entry wines before the 1998 Chateau de Beaucastel.
To even remember your own name, let alone walking with bundles of winery paperwork and business cards, OH and your tasting glass – now that’s a triumph. What’s worse? And I would like to remind you – by worse, I mean better – we must get to the trade tasting “boutique”, make our purchases, carry those too, scoot to the 22nd floor, make some headway, and then and ONLY then will we be in a ripe frame of mind to attend our 3rd last Wine and Spirit Educational Trust class on “spirits” – including, but not limited to Cognac, Sherry, Port, Vodka, Gin, Scotch, etc…
The night draws to a close. I keep awareness by eating granola bars, and drinking water. I saunter home with two bags of greatness. A bag with the 2004 Bolla Amarone and a 2005 Coteaux-du-Ventoux; and the second bag featuring a 2006 Lucien Albrecht Reisling from Alsace and all of my paperwork – plus tasting glasses from school.
What a delicious life I lead. Scrumptious and educational. And the best part is being able to recount the events by writing this story. It’s as if reliving it again and again.