Thursday, March 22, 2012

Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival 2012

In February of this year, I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Media Preview of the 2012 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival (

   It was truly an honor to be sitting beside some of the most influential and learned people in the wine industry in Canada including: Sid Cross, DJ Kearney, Mark Shipway, Harry Hertscheg, John Schreiner and about 100 other sommeliers, writers and educators. In short, I was a tad nervous about being such a small fish in a big pool.

   I, of course, had no need to be nervous. BC's wine community is as generous as it is powerful... several hours were spent sniffing, swirling, sipping and spitting, and at the end of it we all felt as if we had come away a little the wiser. My readers must forgive me that I didn't write about this before the Wine Fest, but as many of you know I'm the proud Papa of an 8-month old oenophile. She's the apple of my eye and doesn't she just know it (especially at 3 am when she has nightmares and needs Daddy to sing to her).

   As always, I digress. Let me tell you about the wines~!

2009 Amaral Sauvignon Blanc
$17      89 points
  • from 14 year old vines in the Central Valley DOC, this wine was 100% stainless-steel aged and fermented
  • nose
      moderately intense, youthful, floral notes and young stonefruit
  • palate:   crisp acids with grassy, floral notes - not grassy like NZ gooseberry but more like actually grass/new hay. Very well balanced especially for the price
Vina Santa Carolina
2010 Reserva Sauvignon Blanc
$13     89 points
  • awarded a silver medal at the Concours de Bruxelles, this wine is stunning value for the money
  • nose:   clean, fresh and youthful, a rich and layered floral aromas with exotic fruit such as pineapple
  • palate:   clean, crisp and vibrant, minerality sings in the undercurrants of this easy drinking wine which has lovely balance

2008 Terroir Hunter-Leyda Sauvignon Blanc
$23     92 points

  • grown on alluvial soil with a loamy topsoil, this wine was fermented 100% in stainless steel allowing for maximum expression of terroir (hence the name one imagines)
  • nose:   clean and fresh, the youthful exuberance of floral notes is only matched by the elegant and determined mineral backbone
  • palate:   clean, crisp and vibrant, the palate on this wine mimicks the nose brilliantly with rich and well developed balance, structure and length

Cono Sur
2009 Ocio Pinot Noir
$65     94 Points

  • what a joy and pleasure to drink quality wine made in an environmentally respectful manner; Cono Sur has achieved the highest ratings for lowering carbon emmisions and organic practices in the vineyard
  • carbonic maceration and 14 months of aging in new French oak are two worthy items to note in this world-class Pinot Noir
  • nose:   fully intense and developing Chilean bouquet of dark berry and floral notes, old worn leather, roast beef and warm earth terroir
  • palate:   a young wine just catching it's stride; moderate+ (red currant) acids, moderate+ (slightly grippy and yet velvet smooth) tannins. Stunning structure, balance and length
Emiliana Vineyards
2007 Coyam (Bordeaux blend)
$30     93 points

  • once again, a stunning example of organic practices in the vineyards translating to transparent wine showcasing it's origins, this is also 100% bio-dynamic
  • Wine Access this year gave this wine 93 points as well, and well deserved I say (I ended up sipping this for 3 days at the Festival)
  • maturation: 13 months in 80% French and 20% American barrels
  • nose:   clean, rich and fully intense with tons of Bordeaux style qualities such as sinful dark floral notes washing over tons of dark berries and a rich dark cocoa undercurrant
  • palate:   clean; moderate (raspberry/cassis) acids, moderate+(chalky fine) tannins and a moderate+intense and still developing flavors that are truly in-line with the bouquet. Brilliant structure, balance and length... a steal at $30

Vina Maipo
2008 Gran Devocion Carmenere Syrah
$19     90 Points

  • a gold medal winning wine, Carmenere of course is one of the signature grapes of Chile... not identified in Chile until 1994, the viticulturists thought it to be another varietal and now every winemaker worth their weight in salt is putting their best foot forward when it comes to this grape
  • cultivated on steep slopes of poor, gravelly soil, this wine was aged 14 months in French and American barrels
  • nose: a rich and nuanced balancing act of deep red berries, green bell peppers, dark cocoa and old leather
  • palate: as all great wines should be; the palate mimicks the nose with moderate+(raspberry)acids, moderate+(silty) tannins and a rich mineral background. Very good balance, excellent structure and very good length

2009 Gran Reserva Carmenere
$22    91 points
  • even though Carmen wines is the oldest recognized winery in all of Chile (having been started in 1850), and one of the largest, Carmen is still working diligently at minimizing it's environmental impact through a diversity of initiatives... perhaps I should have written "because they are the oldest"?
  • from the Apalta Valley in the Colchagua, these vines grow on deep red granitic clay soil at high altitude and south facing exposure
  • maturation: 10 months in 100% French oak barrels
  • nose:   clean and fully expressive of an intense minerality, dark cocoa, almost a molasses-like earthiness, sweet green bell peppers
  • palate:   truly in-line with the nose; fully intense (red currant) acids, fully intense (silty) tannins, a fully intense and youthful palate needed 4 or 5 more years to fully come into it's own; rich red berry notes dominate at present. Excellent structure, balance and length

Vina Montes
2010 Limited Selection Cabernet Sauvignon-Carmenere
$18.50   90 points
  • a recent addition to the Chilean winemaking scene (compared to Carmen winery), this estate is a winemakers dream... when they opened in 1988 there were only 14 Chilean wineries exporting. After their first vintage Vina Montes could be said to have single-handed changed the mass mis-conception of Chilean wines: they became internationally renown for Quality.
  • in less then 25 year the winery has grown in production from 7,000 cases to almost 600,000 cases. The winery now states that they will categorically not grow anymore so that they can continue to grow quality over quantity
  • maturation:   70% of the wine was aged for 6 months in 100% American oak
  • nose:   fully intense and youthful aromas of rich red berries, fine cigar smoke, sweet green bell peppers
  • palate:   fully intense and youthful, fully intense (red currant and cranberry) acids, fully intense (silty) tannins, the palate very similar to the nose with very good to excellent balance and structure, medium+ length

 Santa Rita
2008 Medalla Real Cabernet Sauvignon
$20    89 Points
  • this wine comes from approximately 20 miles south of Santiago in the foothills of the Maipo region. The soil is a stony/alluvial mix with a temperature differential of about 20C between day and night in the summer (which is perfect to maintain acidity in the grape)
  • maturation:   two rackings and then 14 months in a combination of first, second and third generation oak barrels
  • nose:   clean; fully intense youthful aromas of red raspberries, currants, young plums, some beefy notes and an elegant light floral finish
  • palate:   clean; fully intense (young blackberry) acids, fully intense (silty and grippy) tannins, fully intense and youthful flavors mimicking the nose. Very good balance, structure and length... hold until 2015 at the earliest

2008 Antiguas Reservas
$22    90 points
  • oh the humor of it all... I'm re-reading my notes from the Playhouse media preview and laughing because I wrote that this wine has "great aging potential". I had no idea. A few weeks later at the Playhouse tasting room, the broker for Cousino-Macul asked if I wanted to try something extra-ordinary... it had a huge brick rim in the glass, soft velvety notes of old cigar boxes, dried blueberries and saskatoons and dried dark florals. It was the 1995 release of this very wine, aging like Bordeaux
  • which makes me laugh again because the founder of Cousino-Macul actually went to Bordeaux (pre-phyloxera) to obtain vine-cuttings to start his vineyard. So really, this Cab Sauv is more Bordeaux (in a way) then Bordeaux is!
  • maturation:   12 months in multiple generation oak barrels after fining and filtration
  • nose:   fully intense; youthful lush red berries, gravelly mineral notes and a light spice finish
  • palate:   fully intense (red currant) acids, fully intense (grippy) tannins, fully intense and youthful flavors mimicking the nose... much more dimension after 8-10 years. Excellent balance, very good structure, long length

Concha y Toro
Marques de Casa Concha 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
$20     91 points
  • Concha y Toro is another bastion of the Chilean winemaking industry. In continual operation since the 1880's, this is also a winery at the forefront of environmental responsibility. Aggressive intiatives include strategic water management among others.
  • this is also a winery that in it's origins recruited leading winemakers and viticulturists from Bordeaux to oversee the transition from New World winery to Old World finesse... that investment has been paying dividends for decades now and shows no signs of stopping
  • maturation:   18 months in French oak barrels
  • nose:   clean; fully intense and developing with rich red raspberries, currants and plums, light herbaceous notes and a stony terroir  minerality
  • palate:   fully intense (blackberry)acids, fully intense (silty) tannins, fully intense and youthful flavors mimicking the nose with particular emphasis on ripening red berries and old leather in the background. Excellent balance and structure, long- length... can drink now but best 2014-2018

and last, but certainly not least...

Vina Chocalan
2009 Gran Reserva Blend
$27    93 points     buy this now~!
  • a vivid blend of 33% Cab Sauv, 29% Syrah, 15% Malbec, 10% Cab Franc, 9% Carmanere, 4% Petit Verdot... this is Bordeaux style blending at it's finest for under $30. I can honestly say that I have never had a more puissant, more stylish, more elegant Bordeaux blend for the money. Ever.
  • maturation:   100% in French oak for 16 months
  • nose:   fully intense and developing layered violets on stony earth, pencil lead in the background and and elegant warmth leading it all'
  • palate:   fully intense (blackberry and raspberry) acids, fully intense (grippy) tannins, fully intense, youthful and developing palate with layers upon layers of the aromas translated to the tongue. Brilliantly executed balance, structure and length; this wine will sing from 2016-2021 and beyond

the Maipo Valley from Santa Rita winery
And so as I stated in the beginning, I was more then a little nervous sitting with my betters at "the grown-ups" table as it were. I had no need to be... everyone was so intensely scrutinizing the brilliantly executed wines that there was no attention left for me (thank the maker). It was educational, it was exhilarating and it was an experience.

   Thank you Wines Of Chile and the Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival: you have illuminated us, and we the hungry masses are grateful~!

As always, I welcome your questions and comments.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

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