Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival

March 29th, 2007

One of the biggest events of its kind with over 1,500 wines scheduled to be served. The International Festival Tasting, which runs from 7:00 to 10:00 pm March 29, 30 and 31 at the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre, is the highlight of a week-long extravaganza of wine tastings, dinners and seminars running from March 26 to April 1. Australia will be the featured nation along with 16 other countries at this informative, yet festive celebration of the world of wine.

For a complete list of participating wineries, events and information on purchasing tickets, go to

Not All Wine Competitions Are Created Equal

March 26th, 2007

It’s no secret why winemakers enter competitions. Besides seeing how they match up with other wineries, the luxury of stamping a bottle with a gold medal or a 90+ score can catch a consumer’s eye and boost sales without having to say another word.

nullBut which competitions winemakers choose – and there are plenty available – is a different story. And because most people are savvy enough to know that an “outstanding” recommendation from Wine Press Northwest carries more weight than a best in show award from Podunk, USA, wineries need to be somewhat selective about when and where they enter competitions.

Wade Wolfe of Prosser, Washington’s Thurston Wolfe Winery uses a set of criteria that I think many winemakers follow. He first anticipates how well his wine will fit into each event’s categories, avoiding those that lump a wide variety of styles into one where the competition is uneven and meaningless. He also looks at the region where the event is held, making sure it’s in a market where his wines can be distributed.

Also a factor is the evaluation technique and the number of judges. Wolfe notes that for some events, “…there is a single reviewer and the wines are not tasted blind. (We’re) less likely to submit to these because of the potential biases of the reviewer.”

Many events now post the backgrounds of judges in addition to their award winners on the web. This can give you a feel for the types of wines entered in the competition as well as possible preferences in the judges’ tastes.

The bottom line is that all levels of recognition are not created equal. So do a little research and be discriminating when you purchase that next bottle of award-winning wine.

Pinot Blanc a Nice Alternative to Chardonnay

March 19th, 2007

If you’ve never tried pinot blanc why not consider giving it a taste? It’s generally a medium to full bodied white wine with high acidity and flavor characteristics that range from citrus to apple to vanilla.

The grape is grown in France, Germany, Austria and Italy (where it’s referred to as pinot bianco) and to a lesser extent in North American locations including California and Eastern British Columbia.

Although it’s only available in small quantities locally, it’s worth searching out as a nice alternative to Chardonnay. Serve it chilled and you’ll find that it pairs up well with a variety of green salads, mild cheeses, salmon and foods served with heavy cream sauces.

Here are a couple of pinot blancs that I’ve tried as of late and think you might enjoy:

Sumac Ridge Vineyards 2005 Reserve Pinot Blanc (about $12): This wine is full of light citrus and green apple flavors, balanced by a slightly vanilla finish and touches of oak. If you’re unable to find Sumac Ridge wines at local grocers, they can be purchased at British Columbia liquor stores that carry the Vintner’s Quality Alliance (VQA) designation.

Lucien Albrecht 2005 Pinot Blanc (about $13): Everything about this French wine seems to be slightly understated – in a good way. The aroma is faintly herbaceous with hints of fresh apple followed by gentle flavors of sweet clover and honeydew melon. Even the wine’s acid is fairly subdued, and the resulting finish is slightly crisp and dry. I purchased my bottle at the Haggen Fairhaven Market store.

Gateway Wines Gives Bellingham Wine Lovers Even More Choices

March 12th, 2007

Is there ever such a thing as having too many wines to choose from? I don’t think so, and the choices for local wine lovers just got better with the recent opening of Gateway Wines in downtown Bellingham.

Owner Mike Peterson, who also owns Bellingham’s DuJour Bistro and The Vines wine shop, opened Gateway Wines to compliment and augment the wines offered in his other store. He’s done this by placing an emphasis on a much broader range of wines, from higher-end, harder to find wines to well-priced values for everyday drinking.

To say that the cozy shop is stocked in wall-to-wall wines is no understatement since it features dozens of columns of bottles in wall-mounted display racks. Wines are arranged by country, rather than varietal, with a nice domestic selection from Washington and California and international choices from France, Spain, Italy, Germany and Australia.

An example of what I found on a recent visit included the 2002 Red Table Wine from Washington’s Quilceda Creek Vintners – priced in the $50 to $60 a bottle range at some locations, but available at Gateway for only $34.30.

Also on hand is a selection of new releases from Whatcom County’s Dakota Creek Winery. I really enjoyed their 2005 Merlot ($19.60 a bottle), which is full of subtle dark fruit flavors, good acidity and hints of pie spice on the finish. This is a fine first effort from Winemaker Ken Peck and only available in very small quantities.

Gateway Wines is located at 202 East Holly Street, Suite 111 behind the downtown Bob’s Burgers & Brew and is currently open 11:30 am to 7:00 pm Tuesday to Saturday with hours on Mondays to be determined. Phone 676-6284 for more information.

Wine Class at BTC

March 10th, 2007

2:30 to 4:30 pm – Wines from Walla Walla. Learn more about wines made from the Walla Walla appellation and by winemakers from this Washington grape growing region. A must-attend class for the serious red wine drinker! Click on the Wine Classes Page for more information.

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