Vancouver International Wine Festival

Wine lovers unite.  The International Wine Festival is back!

Outside JOEY (Bentall One) at launch party.

Enjoy an amazing selection of world class wines from May 16-22, 2022 at the Vancouver Convention Centre and other venues around the city. See link below for tickets and more info.

Photo: John Moe

Feeling worldly? Not only will you be able to sample wines from all over the world, you can buy your favourite wines at the onsite BC Liquor Store and bottle check them throughout the tasting session.  Then pick them up when you’re ready to leave or have your purchases sent to your nearest store.  How very convenient of them.

Of course remember never to wine and drive. The festival is providing a free Compass ticket on the way out to take local transport or have someone pick you up.  Because let’s face it, even if you taste and spit you’re probably going to be sipping enough to affect you.  I’m a bit of a lightweight when it comes to drinking wine and tend to get lightheaded very easily.  But I enjoy a lovely glass of wine and a bottle (or two) with friends on occasion so at an event like this you can sample several varietals you might otherwise never get to try.

our greeter upon entry
She was pouring this really nice bubbly

The festival kicked off with a VanWineFest media launch party at JOEY on Burrard.  I met some very nice people.

With Christine Blanchette.

Christine is the Host + Producer of  “The Closing Act” (conducting in-depth interviews with musicians, songwriters, producers and CEOS in the industry) on Arts + Entertainment Channel and “Run with It” (a monthly show on running, fitness and nutrition interviewing experts and celebrities who work out or follow a healthy lifestyle) on Healthy Living Network.  We have a few things in common being that she’s half Irish, is from Quebec and she’s also a runner. But I’m not in the same running league because she runs Marathons including the elite Boston Marathon. I’ve run 3 half Marathons and said that’s enough. I admire anyone who runs full marathons as it’s hard on your body and well; a longer run than I have the stamina for.  But getting back to our mutual friend JOEY

Not only was there a selection of delicious participating festival wines, also yummy globally-inspired snacks from executive chef Matthew Stowe.  The sliders (both meat + vegetarian) were excellent, along with surprisingly delicious sushi (I say that because I never expected them to serve sushi) and the tastiest dips like hummus and even guacamole – something for everyone.JOEY restaurants are a premium casual family-owned chain created by Jeff Fuller and looking to expand throughout North America.  I cannot believe that this was my first time here even though they’ve been around for quite some time. I was impressed by the quality of food and the extensive cocktail list looks tempting – for another time.

2022 countdown presented by VIWF Executive Director Harry Hertscheg (L),  Bard on the Beach Artistic Director Christopher Gaze (R) and Group Sommelier Jason Yamasaki (middle).

It’s exciting that events like this are opening up again.  It’s also a bit overwhelming because there’s all of a sudden so much going on other than wine tasting…in dining, music, art shows, theatre…

After a long hiatus it’s enjoyable to be able to get out there even if we have to ease ourselves into the social scene. Although I must admit as much as I like going to these social events I’m also pretty comfortable being a homebody.  How about you?

Cheers!

How to Buy Tickets

https://joeyrestaurants.com/

JOEY Espresso Martini – for another time

 

 

 

 

Wines of Portugal

Good Wine Makes a World of Difference

The next best thing to physically being in Portugal is discovering the wines of Portugal.  Lucky me; I was able to attend a grand tasting the other day at the Coast Plaza hotel in Vancouver.  Always a pleasure to discover unfamiliar and delicious tasting wines and meet nice new people.

I’ve tried wines from Portugal before but most of the ones at the “Wines of Portugal” tasting are not yet available for purchase in Canada (or elsewhere in North America for that matter).

I didn’t realize their scope of native grape varieties are so plentiful – 250 different kinds to be exact! 

The prized and distinct grapes are considered a national treasure and have been savoured by generations of Portuguese wine lovers.  Wine drinkers elsewhere in the world will discover fresh new flavours when they sample.

Here are some fun facts:

Portugal is home of the first Demarcated and Regulated wine region in the world – The Douro Valley, now a Unesco World Heritage site.

The Portuguese were the first to bring European wines to the Americas and to Asia.

Love these labels

Portugal has the highest density of native grape varieties in the world.

*Jancis Robinson, in a 13 year tasting, ranked Portuguese red wines the highest.

*(British wine critic, journalist and wine writer. Jancis currently writes a weekly column for the Financial Times, and writes for her website JancisRobinson.com, updated daily. She also provides advice for the wine cellar of Queen Elizabeth II).

Portugal was elected for the 3rd consecutive year as “Best Destination in the World” by the World Travel Awards and in total won 39 awards.

The wine region of Lisbon was considered by Wine Enthusiast one of the “10 Best Wine Travel Destinations 2019.

Forbes magazine elected the best wines of 2019 and in its list there are 3 Portuguese wines in the first 12 places.

And of course there’s the PORT:

In Portugal you can even buy Port in convenient size cans.

It’s important to not drink too much on an empty stomach. 

Don’t ask me how I know this

 Luckily the room had plenty of tasty appies to choose from.


For wine enthusiasts this was an excellent event.

DISCOVER:

https://winesofportugal.com/en/portuguese-wines/wine-styles/

Photos: d. king

Vancouver’s California Wine Tour

Soaking up the Sunshine indoors

Who would’ve thought that someone could experience all the wine regions in California under one roof?  I just came back from an extraordinary wine tasting trip right here in Vancouver at the Hyatt Regency Hotel downtown.

About The California Wine Experience!

Other regions not shown: Sonoma, Lodi + Central Coast (including Monterey +Santa Barbara).

California Wines and the Consul General of the US, D. Brent Hardt, invited us to take an exploratory trip to California Wine Country and discover the many vintners and wineries of the Golden State.  

For wine lovers this was an educational, immersive walk-around tasting event that showcased more than 400 wines from the Golden State.

Coppola Vineyards – we learned a few fun facts on the history of film & winemaking.

Bonterra wines are all Organic and also reasonably priced – win win!

During the three hour experience, we sampled wines from many regions and appellations and met with winery representatives to learn more about what makes their wines so special.  A sample below:

he he…..good thing!

I hope they do this every year!

Photos/Videos: d. king

More Canadian Dates:

 

 

Side Dish for Easter / Passover

ZUCCHINI GRATIN WITH YELLOW SQUASH

Hasn’t it been a minute since I’ve posted a recipe?  Seems my cooking skills have taken a little vacay and I’m slowly getting back to the kitchen.  Easter/Passover has crept up on us and if you’re looking for a tasty side dish that most people (unless someone has an allergy or aversion to zucchini or squash – I don’t know anyone who does) will enjoy – this is it!  This one is too easy and delicious to pass up.

And who doesn’t love a good casserole?

Zucchini Gratin with Yellow Squash is a luscious creamy cheesy medley of zucchini, yellow squash, onions and garlic. It is quick and easy to prepare.  It will make a summer squash lover out of you!  OK, it’s not quite summer yet but  despite the name you may find yellow zucchini in most markets year round.  If you cannot find it you can always substitute for winter squash like Butternut or Acorn which is readily available year round. By the way, did you know that zucchini is a summer squash? Yup!

In addition, yellow squash and zucchini are good sources of vitamins A and C, potassium and fiber, as well.

This delectable Zucchini Gratin takes about 15 minutes of your devoted time and then it is in the oven for an additional 15-20 minutes making it very doable for a weeknight meal or holiday side dish. This recipe will bring out a passion for zucchini and squash that you never knew you had!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 onion thinly sliced
  • 1 small zucchini sliced in rounds 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick (please see notes)
  • 1 small yellow squash sliced in rounds 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick (please see notes)
  • 2 large cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 cup shredded smoked gouda

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  2. Melt butter in oven proof skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until the edges start to brown approximately 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for additional 1 minute. Add cream and simmer until bubbly and starting to thicken. Slowly stir in parmesan. Add zucchini and yellow squash and cook an additional 4-5 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle with smoked gouda and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is golden brown.
NOTES

The zucchini used for this recipe was on the smaller side. Some zucchini are much larger. For those I would double the cream and the Parmesan. The large zucchini are sometimes a little tougher and may require additional simmering and/or baking time.

Original Recipe + Photo taken from: smalltownwoman.com

 

 

 

 

Wine Wednesday: Golden Grapes

What’s in a Name?

Golden Grapes, a popular Palm Springs wine festival returned (after a long hiatus) on December 4th, 2021, to celebrate the best of small-lot, organic, bio-dynamic, sustainable wineries throughout California.  Tickets sold out fast.  The event was hosted by two well known local hangouts; Ace Hotel & Swim Club  and Dead or Alive Bar + Shop – both within walking distance to where I live lucky for me.

I have to say I was both surprised and disappointed to discover how little supply of organic wines are available for purchase in any of the local grocery stores here; even “Total Wine” the big wine supplier in Palm Desert.  This was really my main intention for attending the event…to discover fine tasting, organic California wines. That plus the fact this fest is known among industry insiders as a winemaker’s favorite wine festival.

Even though it was small in size, it was still overwhelming since I was not at all familiar with any of the wineries featured.  In actuality, it was hit and miss for me.  As with choosing films at a film festival, the movie title (or wine label here) is what first garners my attention.  After that, I hope the film (wine) lives up to my expectations.  Many times it does not.  All in all I enjoyed this outing on a beautiful afternoon with great views. I was able to pace myself and keep it classy, enjoy small bites in between tastings while people-watching.  My dog enjoyed it too especially when I shared some of my cheese with her.

It was fun to meet the winemakers and taste the Golden State’s distinct and diverse bounty of grape varietal, style, and terroir, from Shasta to Mendocino, Sonoma to the Sierras, down the Central Coast, all the way to San Diego – and everywhere in between.

How it Began:

Palm Springs Wine Fest was founded in 2018 by Dead or Alive owner, and locally-born-&-raised wine merchant, Christine Soto, as a platform to uplift and evangelize small producers and their conscientiously-farmed and crafted wines within the greater desert community. The inaugural PSWF was also held in December 2018 at Ace Hotel & Swim Club, bringing together over 30 winemakers of California’s new-guard to pour their fresh, honestly-made juice for the wine-loving assemblage – and the rest is history.

oh yeah; there was beer too.

The $75 admission included unlimited tastings (although they recommend you keep it classy but you know how that can go), small bites, and expert insights from the winemakers such as:

Ashes & Diamonds, Broc Cellars, Las Jaras, Scribe Winery, Ruth Lewandowski, Hoxie Spritzer, Inconnu, Nomadica, Minus Tide Wines, Forlorn Hope, Roark Wine Company, En Cavale, Iruai, Ardure Wines, Augur Wine Co, Carboniste, Los Chuchaquis, Stirm Wine Co, Field Recordings, Fine Disregard, Lo-Fi Wines, Penville Wine, Thee & Thou, Raft Wines, Little Trouble Wines, Rootdown Cellars, Es Okay, Cole Ranch, Roark Wine Company, Woods Beer & Wine Co, Origin Wine, Two Shepherds and more.

From where I drank

If you love wine and want to experience something unusual and unique, I suggest getting tickets early next year.

Later that evening…

I attended the Bouschet Christmas Party (one of my favorite places for curated wine and tastings, small bites, PS Air Bar) and met a few new friends.

I met Anna Rexia – a flight attendant and entertainer for PS Air Bar.

LINKS:

https://www.deadoralivebarandshop.com/

https://www.bouschet.com/

Homepage

 

Raising the Bar

Bar Cecil (pronounced sessel) is a homage to Cecil Beaton, a renaissance man who was equal parts rebel and aristocrat, an artist who lived between classical charm and new world rebellion, a provocateur, an Expressionist, and an aesthete who incorporated many mediums to create a style all his own.

THIS is how we like it!

Diane Keaton was a walk in the other night.  Guess she was just looking for a good bar.

Cindy Crawford was there for dinner next night.  The place is a draw…for good reason.

We met John (one of the owners) who very kindly gifted my friend and me some very cool swag.  Lucky us.

Bar Cecil is a love letter to Beaton’s vision of life and art: a celebration of what’s good, of eliminating that which is only pomp, and in the process creating memories through food, drink and hospitality. Bar Cecil is for those who follow the beat to their own drum, horn or whatever inspires them to create, to be individuals, and to embrace diversity. – taken from their website.

https://barcecil.com/

YES: we shall!

Wine Wednesday: Spadefoot Toad Series

What is Spadefoot Toad you ask?  Aside from being a round amphibian creature with short legs and protruding eyes…it’s one of my favourite red wine!

If you’re a wine lover you must check out these three recently released spectacular, highly anticipated new labels from the coveted Spadefoot Series at Summerhill Pyramid Winery.

Keeping it in the family; Ezra Cipes (second generation) is extremely proud to present these wines, made in partnership with grape grower Ron Firman at his idyllic Spadefoot Toad Vineyard in Oliver, BC, along with the legendary Canadian artist and activist Robert Bateman, who has drafted an original illustration specially for the labels. Ten percent of the proceeds from each bottle sold supports the Bateman Foundation’s work to nurture the next generation of conservationists.

Robert Bateman “Ocean Rhapsody” Orca Painting

Spadefoot wines are made entirely from organic grapes grown lovingly at Ron Firman’s Spadefoot Toad Vineyard in Oliver, BC. Ron tends his small acreage as if it were a garden, carefully applying compost to each individual vine and creating habitat for the at-risk Great Basin Spadefoot Toads to breed for natural pest control.
 
Ron grows pristine grapes that give concentrated, age-worthy wines that truly reflect the care he takes in his vineyard. Each single-vineyard bottling is a special expression of the south facing slope on which his vines are cultivated.
 
If you are searching for the perfect wines to enjoy over cool autumn evenings or to stow away in your cellar for future sipping, look no further! These three distinct bottlings are exploding with flavour and intensity that will only deepen with time.

2016 Spadefoot Toad Syrah
Bold, dark and smooth with notes of blackberry, soft leather, ripe raspberry and black pepper. Forty-seven months of neutral oak aging brings a whisper of vanilla and spice. Firm, gripping tannins and bright acidity buttress the concentrated fruit flavours, providing excellent structure for long term cellaring.
 
2017 Spadefoot Toad Sangiovese
2017 was a true vin de garde vintage here in the Okanagan. This unique take on a classic Tuscan variety is seductive and velvety, with a juicy core of candied cherry and fresh blueberry notes and whispers of tomato leaf, vanilla cola and baking spices. Exceptional fruit concentration balanced with vibrant freshness!
 
2018 Spadefoot Toad Sangiovese
Succulent and finessed. A clean, classic vintage with a long and steady growing season resulted in this elegant, medium-bodied Sangiovese. Red and blue fruits dominate the nose, carry through the palate, and are deepened by heady notes of clove and potting soil. Intense and full of soul… perfect for the changing seasons.uan etched, branded wine decanter to show off these wines at their very best.

To date this has been one of my favourites

2014 Spadefoot Toad Syrah

Elegant small lot, single-vineyard expression.  Available here:

https://www.summerhill.bc.ca/product/2014-Spadefoot-Toad-Syrah?pageID=75B3C5AF-E336-E1D7-D4C6-86C645A2D12B&sortBy=DisplayOrder&maxRows=24&&productListName=Shop%20Wine&position=12

Wine Wednesday: Vin Van

WINE events | VANCOUVER BC

Inclusive and approachable evenings centered around a love of wine.

Introducing

Vin Van is a pop-up wine company run by two friends, neighbours and wine obsessives: Jo & Steph.
Hailing from different sides of the Atlantic, they were on the same page when it came to what was missing from the food and drink culture in Vancouver, and decided to try something of their own.

“We run a weekly wine bar on Wednesday’s at Dock Lunch, a wine focused supper club series in unexpected locations throughout the city, as well as bespoke private and corporate events.

These events are about sharing our combined mix of influences of good wine and food in unpretentious, approachable environments.

Inspired by the wine bars of Europe, our wine bar evenings aim to be casual, inclusive and never pretentious. We bring in new wines every week so there’ll always be something surprising to sip on!”

OU – EST

Wine Wednesday: Here’s the Thing

The SMALL LOT FIVE- little hidden gems; BIG on taste.

vinAmité Cellars: Hiding in plain sight

Photo: d. king

“vin-ah-mee-tay” – meaning: harmony, friendship, meeting of minds of family and friends.

The word “vin” in French means wine

The word “Amite” is an old fashioned word going back to Medieval times,

Meaning friendship and balance in life.

Photo: d. king

Photo: d. king

Here we sampled a few whites with names like “Chanson d’amour” which alone was enough to make us want to buy a bottle or two.  Followed by a  single red varietal Petit Verdot and a few blends with charming names like “Compass” and “Hidden Corner.”  

We were tipped off to make sure to order the charcuterie cone (yes; it’s a cone, not a board.) And it was Fab!

This hand-crafted family estate vineyard makes small quantity wines with character and taste that are true to each grape varietal and honor the history of the wine and the winemakers’ special touch. 

The vineyard is well over two decades old, yet each wine is carefully crafted to the tastes of modern life. The wines are enjoyable and easy drinking.  With $15 tasting fee you get a crystal Riedel wine glass – lightly inscribed with their name on the glass.  Very classy.

Photo: d. king

Fairview Cellars

Photo: d. king

We no sooner pulled up to this boutique style winery when we were eagerly greeted by a very friendly golden retriever.  A nice start to another favorful and flavourful tasting.

The 10 acre property located adjacent to the first green of the Fairview Mountain Golf Course was purchased by Bill Eggert in 1989.  After development of the water system the vineyard was started in 1993. 

I can’t remember what Margeaux bought but I ended up with a bottle called Bucket O’ Blood – a white wine it is not.  It wasn’t open for tasting however a table of six ordered a full bottle and raved about how good it was.  They said every time they go to the winery they order the same bottle. Sold!

Photo: d. king

http://www.fairviewcellars.ca/fairviewcellars.ca/Welcome.html

Second Chapter

We skipped straight to the Second Chapter.  This is certainly a unique winery that produces no more than 4,000 cases featuring truly local wines inside a funky building made out of two 40 x 8 sea cans.

Apparently it’s a trend. Guess you can refer to it as a cannery. I’ll blog more on the home can craze separately because I was fascinated by them and have been checking out some amazing examples – you wouldn’t even know what they were…if you didn’t already know what they are.  But getting back to wine…

Our firecracker pourer Dianne Gibson @diannegibsongirl entertained us with stories and she happens to also design amazing corsets and costumes.  She was a riot. The wine was good but it would have been a totally different experience had she not been there.  Let’s just say she made it better.  I would go back just to see her again.  Ok; let’s not forget who I am – to also drink wine.

River Stone

River Stone is a small, family owned and operated winery located on a small knoll in the middle of the valley, just south of the well-recognized McIntyre Bluff and just north of Oliver.

Photo: d. king

The day we arrived they were in the middle of a private tasting on their gorgeous outdoor garden setting.

https://www.riverstoneestatewinery.ca/

Here’s the Thing Winery:

I saved the best for last; literally.

One more thing: I clearly make no apologies for drinking gorgeous wine. Photo: d. king

See the idyllic farmhouse in the distance?  That’s the winery. It may be yellow in color (even though in this photo it looks to be white) but the entire site is truly ‘green’. You won’t see any wires running to their buildings because they’re 100% off the grid!

Photo: d. king

The place wasn’t even open when we arrived on the drive out.  They were in the midst of getting set up and their computer was down so we went for a walk for half an hour then came back to be first in line. Margeaux already left for her drive back to Castlegar so I did a mid morning round on my own. Don’t worry; my boyfriend was the designated driver.

Let me be clear that as a rule I never drink wine before noon.  Normally not even before 5:00 pm.  5:01 is when I start.  What a surprise.  Fabulous wines.  I bought one of each and called Margeaux to tell her she missed a good tasting. Margeaux; having FOMO (fear of missing out – I didn’t even know what the letters meant until just recently so don’t feel bad), ended up ordering a case with the four bottles I sampled.

We have our wine map for next time.  Only 40 more to go!  

Cheers everyone!