Last night we had a Balasto!

At the Vancouver International Wine Festival 2023 – a world of wine awaits us,  with a focus on South America.

It started with a launch at Joey’s and it’s not over yet.  A few master classes, the festival tasting itself and about last night…

Up the winding staircase a surprise awaits us
Enologist Mele (l) and Sommelier Jen (r) at Hydra, Vancouver.

If you’re a food/wine lover nothing can beat a wine pairing dinner.

And if you’re the adventurous type,  you’ll travel to the ends of the earth to discover a unique wine in a unique location.  That’s what we did last night – me and my new friends sitting  around a round table at Hydra Estiatorio Mediterranean restaurant downtown Vancouver.  And what a magnificent restaurant (more on this later).

Mele & Craig (a wine writer/critic/judge)

Okay, in truth we didn’t travel very far to discover this new finding.  However, someone else did so that she could offer around 97 guests an exceptional 7 course dining extravaganza along with award winning wines from what was considered the Southern Hemisphere’s best kept secret – until now.  I don’t like to give secrets away but I can’t hold it in any longer: I’m telling you it was the Best of Uruguay: from Bodega Garzón.  Who knew?  I certainly did not realize how excellent these wines from Uruguay are and in general I was not even aware of what kind of wines they produced, if any.  Luckily I’m not alone.

Starter: Seared Diver Scallops with yellow pea puree, picked red onion + capers

Having been to Argentina twice I was familiar with Mendoza wine region and Malbec wine.  What a shame that I didn’t travel a little more distance to Uruguay to check this out for myself.  I certainly wouldn’t bypass it next time.  Not after last night!

Each pairing was thoughtfully curated by Hydra’s Executive Chef Brad Scharien (formerly of Italian Kitchen & Coast) to wow guests.  And that he did. It was amazing.

The Menu
Pistachio Cheesecake with blackberry compote, citrus cream.

Former wine maker and enologist Mele Sosa (born in Uruguay and raised in Uruguay and Chile) was our vivacious, charming, funny and knowledgeable host with the most.  She was great with a mic while darting in and around tables explaining about all the fabulous wines we had the privilege of sampling and answering questions.

One of the wines is called Balasto – a 2017 iconic red wine made from Tannat (the national red grape), Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot grapes.  This big, beautiful bold wine was paired with braised short rib stifado (which was a tasty dish of short rib with caramelized pearl onion, confit garlic potato puree + pickled mustard seed).  As you can guess, it was wonderful.  And the whole evening was like one big food and wine fest of its’ very own.

Nice Jugs

A little more about Mele: Mele’s role entails traveling through the United States and Canada, to champion Tannat (she even sang about it), Albariño and other wines produced by Bodega Garzón through media work, trade and distributor training, winemakers dinners and wine events.

After this evening I can say that my new favourite white is called Albariño and my new favourite reds are called Tannat and Balasto (also I love saying these new to me names).  Also I’m quite picky with rosé but I loved their Estate Pinot Noir Rosé de Corte 2021 which was very elegant and expressive – not too sweet, not overly dry – just perfecto!

Here’s a bonus – they’re all available at Legacy liquor store in Olympic Village, Vancouver (link below).

Below is taken from the brochure

About Bodega Garzón; Uruguay:

When Alejandro Bulgheroni and his wife Bettina discovered Garzón, they had a family dream come true: to have the most emblemetic winery of modern viticulture in Uruguay and premium wines with an intense personality and a deep sense of belonging to the land.  With the advice of international enologist Alberto Antonini, they apply their philosophy focused on producing wines that are a true expression of their origins.  Experts on viticulture, environmental care, gastronomy, hospitality and tourism complete a team committed to this unprecedented project.


Hydra: a dining experience without parallel.


Named after the beautiful culinary Greek Island in the Aegean Sea, World Class Chef-driven Hydra Estiatorio Mediterranean  & Bar is a Greek Seafood restaurant.  Hydra applies Greece’s time-honored ingredients with traditional cooking styles, focusing on quality Mediterranean dishes such as vine-ripened tomato salad with flat parsley and feta, alongside exquisitely-tender grilled octopus garnished with lemon juice and olive oil, or lamb chops served straight from the grill with hints of garlic and oregano.

Where to buy Bodega Garzón wines in Vancouver:

Vancouver International Wine Festival (all weekend long) tickets:

Joey’s VIWF Media Launch



Canines & Caftans

What a perfect way to end a near perfect season in Palm Springs.  A Margaritaville Yappy Hour to benefit Animal Samaritans complete with canines, caftans, cocktails, appies, music and water sprinklers surprise!  Some pics:

On a windy day with Layla, Candy + Jennifer

Kiki with Sherri from California Caftans. A lucky winner won one of her colorful silk caftans.

Layla after running through the sprinklers which went off unexpectedly.


PS Classics: Cruisin’ Through The Years

If there’s any city in the world who knows how to throw a classic car parade, it’s Palm Springs.

And for me personally, leaving the city soon, it was an excellent way to end an already amazing season.

Incorporated in April 1938, this year marks the city’s 85th anniversary.

And what better way to celebrate than to lineup 85 classic cars, one representing each year since the city’s incorporation in an attempt to achieve a new world record.

FUN FACT: The Guinness Book of World Records was on hand as no city has ever accomplished the feat of having so many cars marking 85 years in one place! Canadian owned Jim Pattison Group purchased the GWR organization in 2008.  Coincidentally, my sister works for this group owned by Vancouver business magnate, Jim Pattison.

Many famous faces were sitting inside the cars.  These photos are in no particular order.

I met Bill who owns this car – a ’52 MG TD. I think this must be the year that history making supermodel Beverly Johnson was born.
Supermodel Beverly Johnson with her fiancé, Brian Maillian.  Photo: d. king

And then there was Nancy Sinatra as the official celebrity grand marshall for the parade.  It doesn’t get more Palm Springs glamorous than that!

Nancy Sinatra with her daughter Amanda. Photo: d. king
We walked by Peepa’s store window on the way to the event. Vintage Palm Springs Life Magazine with Nancy Sinatra on the cover.

“Our 85th Anniversary Classic Car Parade & Show is sure to go down in the history books,” organizer and founder of Palm Springs Exotic Car Auctions Keith McCormick said. “No other city that I know of has ever had 85 cars representing 85 years all in one place.”

Local Drag Celebrity Bella da Ball
Local Celeb Alison Martino (her dad was Al Martino) in a vintage Rolls Royce

Attendees were encouraged to photograph themselves with the vehicle representing the year they were born.

The Opening Ceremony began at noon in front of the Forever Marilyn statue with Ava Lynn Thuresson, recent contestant on NBC’s “The Voice”, singing the National Anthem. She was amazing.

It ended with an Elton John tribute band in the downtown park.  Kenny Metcalf (as Elton) played piano, sang the classics and was really, really good.

Somehow in all the excitement leading up to the concert I completely forgot about the “dress your pet like your favorite Hollywood celebrity” for the dog costume contest.  Too bad because Layla could’ve gone dressed up as Jane Fonda in Dogarella.

Forever Chic Nelda Linsk from the iconic “Poolside Gossip” photo by Slim Aarons. Photo: d. king
Poolside Gossip by Slim Aarons. In photo – Nelda Linsk (in yellow) who owned the home at the time photo was taken with her friend Helen Kaptur.  Capturing the classic Palm Springs laissez faire lifestyle.
Layla wondering why kids are playing in her water park – here at the Elton John Tribute Concert.

Got to give it up for Palm Springs.  The city sure knows how to throw a party.

Photos: d. king