A Week of Western Wines

The past week in Vancouver saw both California and Naramata winemakers on a brief stop to present and promote their latest stars. It’s tough to make your way around a jam-packed hotel ballroom and get to know all that’s there, alas, I managed to narrow in on a few wines definitely worth mentioning. Tough days, indeed, tasting all these wines…

First up, the 30th Annual Canadian Tour of the California Wine Fair, put on by the California Wines in Canada association. This is a great event to hit each time it swings through town, usually each spring and again in the fall. You get to taste some stunning wines, a lot of which are not yet available in BC and some of which are on the very pricey side, so it’s great to be able to indulge while meeting some of the wines’ masterful makers.

The best tactic in my opinion at such an event is to have a tactic. There is no hope you can taste everything. I am heading down to the Russian River area in northern Sonoma County in May so I tried to zone in on a few wineries I could follow up with a visit.

If I listed and described all the wines I tasted or the winemakers or agents I met and enjoyed some time with, we’d be here all day, plus there is no way any one person can retain a wine overload list in a blog post, so here’s just one from Cali to put to memory:

Alexander Valley Vineyards:
Before getting to the wines, lovely people. Just lovely. I had a great time tasting and learning about some of the wines and the winemaking with John Wetzel, one of the family partners of the Wetzel Family Estate. What a difference it makes when you can taste the wines with one of the key players of the business. I’m very much looking forward to making a visit to their tasting room down south, which is nicely situated in the heart of the their winery, and getting into those infamous caves!
Known For: Sin Zinfandel. Check out their clever marketing on the “Wicked Weekend: 3-Pack of Zins” – Temptation, Sin and Redemption: crowd-pleasing zins.
Must Try: Gewurz! This is a grape not typically grown in this region but these guys have a beautiful crisp and spicy Gewurztraminer, sourcing the grapes from the Mendocino’s Potter Valley. The fruit is there, the spice, florals and minerality – a well balanced wine. They nailed it.

Vancouver was the first stop on this month-long tour as it makes its way across the country, ending in St. John’s and Halifax in mid May. Check out the full schedule and details on the calwine site.

And onto BC and the Naramata Bench…

Being from Vancouver, I am more and more familiar with the wines (and the faces!) of the infamous Naramata Bench in the Okanagan Valley, BC’s interior wine region. There have been some awesome wines that have come out of this region: Tantalus Riesling being one of my top favourites; Poplar Grove’s Pinot Gris is a big crowd-pleaser as well. It was doable to try everything in the room, but I have a small list of favourites that I’d recommend you get your hands on.

Winner of the Day: Van Westen Vineyards 2008 Viognier

Pretty stunning. This wine has the fruit right there to match the acidity and the viscosity is what you would expect from a viognier. There were only 120 cases produced, so good luck finding it, but keep an eye on this producer for this varietal. They knock it out of the park.

And better yet, I heard you can sit around their kitchen table and taste it with them when you pay them a visit – now that is personal treatment!

Also Enjoyed:
Township 7 Rosé – one of the few who succeeded in producing a typical southern French style rosé. You could polish this one off in one sitting quite easily on a hot summer day.
Therapy Vineyards 2009 Freudian Sip Proprietary blend ($19) – again, suited for patio time. The same could be said for their 2008 Pink Freud ($20). Chill these two crisp wines, sit back and soak in the sun!

I guess those last few picks means it’s that time of year again… next post: rosé all the way!

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