Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Random Festival Thoughts - A Quick Look Back

Another Playhouse Wine Fest has come and gone. My participation this year was pretty much limited to the big International Tasting Room and to my favourite (repeat) seminar - Meet Your Match (as regaled somewhat in my last post). The Festival can be overwhelming - at least for me - and it'll take a bit of time to process all the experiences. To get things started, though, I figured I'd throw out a few random thoughts that popped into my head over the weekend.

1) It's not necessarily the most expensive wines that will be your favourites or excite your palate. Domaine de la Solitude, from the Rhone, may have been serving the most expensive foursome of wines in the room. Their four Châteauneuf-du-Pape's were priced at $50, $100, $129 and $250. I adored the 2001 Cuvée Barberini and had to beg forgiveness from Boo when I bought a bottle of the $129 beauty. However, at almost twice the price, the 2001 Cuvée Reserve Secrète didn't tweak my interest in the least.

2) Despite all the hoopla I see and read about wineries embracing their historical roots and experimenting with tradition and varietals that are little known outside the home region, the varietal choices being served up at the Festival got to be a tad monotonous. I don't really need to try a new Cabernet coming out of Verona. I thoroughly enjoy tasting and learning about varietals that I've never heard of before - maybe one that the winemaker's great-grandmother used to grow and make wine in the basement with decades ago. Homogeneity and monotony are not the buzzwords I get excited about.

3) I need to practice my spitting. I manage to avoid the embarrassing - and messy - splashback easily enough, but it would be something to be able to hit the bucket from a foot or more away. I was at one table when the winemaker I was chatting with heartily greeted a friend in the business and introduced him as "the best spitter in the business." Is that a badge of courage or what?

4) I don't think I'll ever understand why such a large proportion of people need to come across as knowing more about wine than they actually do. Learning something new is meant to be an integral aspect of the Playhouse Festival and a big part of its mandate is to try and excite more and more people about and introduce them to wine. It's okay to say "I know absolutely nothing about this or that." They might fool their friends with faux or meaningless phrases - but only if those friends know nothing themselves.

5) Finally, I'm rather "hoo-hum" about next year's themes. Where's the excitement in naming California as the Theme Region or Chardonnay as the Global Focus? I'm hardly an "ABC-er" (Anything But Chardonnay), but I'm no enthusiast either. As for California, I don't have any problem with it as the region, but Vancouver already has two annual California Wine Fairs. I don't know that we'll see all that much variation in the line up of participating wineries or wines. Plus, California was the Theme Region just back in 2004. I'd prefer a novel choice like Washington/Oregon or even Ontario. What's with only two wineries from each of Washington and Oregon at this year's Festival - and a lonely one from Ontario? Is there no effort being made to attract them or is there something more sinister behind it?

So, another Festival over and done - that is except for the wines that I picked up. Boo let me off the "No Buy Leash" for the weekend and there's no way I wasn't taking advantage of that. At least, we'll be able to enjoy the wines for some time to come.

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