Friday, March 2, 2012

Playhouse Festival - Day 2

Feeling a tad overwhelmed at the moment, I am. The second day of the Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival's International Tasting Room is now behind me and, while I'm still standing, it's exceedingly clear that, par for the course, I'm going to run out of time
before I run out of wineries, wines and personalities to take in.

It's not like I slacked off with my "swirl, sniff & sip" or anything, but I didn't accomplish nearly as many winery visits as I'd hoped to. Despite the best of intentions, I've yet to taste a single Spanish wine and my Italian efforts are sadly lacking.

Looking back on the day's notes, I think I can safely say that my focus of the day - as inadvertent as it might have been - was "icon" wines. My picks for Favourites of the Day certainly reflect the higher end of the spectrum of wines being presented at the Festival. Just reflecting on the following wines leaves me gobsmacked:

- 2008 Seña (Aconcagua Valley - Chile)(a $100 cool climate Cab)
- 2008 Stag's Leap - SLV Estate Napa Cabernet (California)
- 2006 Château Ste. Michelle - Col Solare (Red Mountain - Washington State)
- 2008 Prats + Symington Chryseia (Douro - Portugal)(a mere $85 - for a Portugese table wine none-the-less) and
- 2006 Jacob's Creek - Johann Shiraz/Cabernet Sauv (Barossa/Coonawarra - Australia)

I didn't get the pricing on the SLV or Col Solare since they were both "under the table" pours and my guess is that they're in the "If you need to ask the price, you can't afford it" category. The seemingly bargain priced wine of the bunch was the Johann at $70. I don't always find that winery icons live up to the billing but these ones sure did.

If you hadn't noticed, there's a lot Cab in them there favourite wines. I'm not nearly the Cab fiend that Boo is, but I guess a surfeit of Cab makes some sense given that Cabernet is this year's "global focus" at the Festival.

Next topic on my daily round up is the Most Intriguing Wine/Winery that I encountered. I made a special effort not to miss El Porvenir de los Andes because I know that Ricardo and Lucila, of Patagonia Imports, have some real winners in their portfolio. "El Porvenir de los Andes" translates as "the Future of the Andes" and this new, family run boutique winery is located in the Salta region of northern Argentina. I've heard a bit about Salta and the Cafayate sub-region - particularly when we were visiting Mendoza a couple of years back - but I can't say that I'm aware of many Salta wines available in the Vancouver market.

Salta is home to some of the highest altitude vineyards in the world. Owner and proprietor, Lucia Romero, was a joy to talk with about their vineyards at 5,700 feet above sea level and how that elevation sees large diurnal swings in the daily temperatures. Those swings, in turn, allow for higher acidity levels in the grapes despite the heat of the day. If Lucia's smooth Cab and bright Torrontés wines are indicative of Salta. I want to find some more. With a production of only 12,500 cases, it's wonderful that a small winery like this would make the effort to attend the Playhouse Festival. A big "thank you" is definitely in order.

I could easily have picked Lucia as my Most Engaging Winery Principal of the day, but with Brian and Ros Lynn of Australia's Majella I got two thoroughly "engaging" folks for the price of one. Brian is a larger-than-life Aussie bloke. It's not often that I'll attend one of these tasting events and the winery rep will loudly admonish me for thinking about spitting out his wine. I first encountered the couple when I was only two or three wines into the tasting and it only seemed prudent to spit at this point - despite the fact that I adored the Sparkling Shiraz. As I looked to the bucket, Brian jokingly let out that I was "to chug that Shiraz back." There was to be no spitting allowed. How stereotypically Aussie.

That comment quickly grew into a discussion of the Coonawarra and a promise of some travel tips since Boo and I are scheduled to drive through the region when we hit Oz later in April. Unfortunately for us, Brian is going to be out of the country when we hit the region, but an exchange of cards led to a "we'll be sure to tell the gang to expect you and to do you right."

Majella has a limited production of about 25,000 cases but it has been a long-time attendee at the Festival. I asked Brian why they keep gracing us with his presence and he replied "Simply because of people like you." I turned to his wife, Ros, and said, "Silver tongued devil isn't he?" She said that's pretty much how he snagged her. There was an additional mention of persistence but there were plenty of chuckles all around.

"Engaging" barely scratches the surface.

As for a Best New Find of the day, I think a shout out to Ontario's Tawse Winery and its 2010 Riesling is due. I've previously pointed out, in this blog, that very few Ontario wines ever make it out to BC. Same country. Different world - or so it would seem. Indeed, as an example, there are 15 countries and 180 wineries presenting wines at the Festival but Tawse is the only participant from Ontario. I find that fact to be rather sad, but at least Tawse is one of the best. Named by Wine Access magazine as Canadian Winery of the Year for the last two years running, this is the first time I've tried any Tawse wines. It's nice to know that my first taste is of their Gold Medal winning Riesling. I'm going to look forward to adding this bottle to The List down the road.

But that tops off the recap for the day. Sadly, there's only one more day to go.

Having attended the Festival for a many of its 34 years, you'd think that, by now, I'd have arrived at a level of comfort with the fact that I'm never going to get to visit all the wineries and try all the wines that tweaked my interest in the Festival Program. I took a look at the program and realized I've got my work cut out for myself on tomorrow's final International Tasting Room. I've already identified at least twenty wineries that I had on my "don't miss" list at the start of the Festival.

Wish me luck!

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