The Accidental Palate

After nearly ten wonderful years of editing Northwest Palate magazine in Portland OR, I've handed over the reins and am now enjoying the leisurely (not!), ever-changing (and then some) life of a freelance bon vivant. Hope you enjoy these posts, and if you want to reach me, contact ajabine (at) yahoo (dot) com. Cheers! Angie Jabine

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Guest Post: Taste B.C!

This post comes courtesy of Mireille Sauvé, a Vancouver, B.C.-based wine writer and proprietor of The Wine Umbrella consulting firm. To reach her, email Thanks, Mireille!

Whew! I just got in from a walking tour of the entire province of British Columbia and are my feet sore! Okay, so I didn’t tour the province physically, but rather it was a virtual tour through B.C.’s bounty of food and wine at the first annual Taste B.C. event held at Vancouver’s Hyatt Regency Hotel.

I didn’t know about this event until about a month ago when I walked into a Liberty wine store. I saw this vibrant painting on a postcard with the heading “Taste B.C.” and, thinking that sounded right up my alley, I picked up the card. In chatting with the store clerk, I learned that this event would have been titled “Liberty Wine Merchants’ 14th Annual B.C. Wine and Oyster Festival,” were it not for some problems that had occurred with the oysters in the past. (I didn’t ask for the sordid details as I find that oyster stories in general usually fall into the category of “over-sharing.”)

So, what is now the first annual Taste B.C. event turned out to be just delightful, and I personally applaud the change of name, as along with it came format changes in the event itself. You see, I have attended the Oyster Festival in years past and, as much fun as it was on a consistent basis, there was always a horrendously long lineup for the oysters and, let’s face it, there are only so many wines that you can drink with oysters without feeling like you’ve bitten into the foil lid of a sardine can. Add to that the fact that B.C. moves more and more into the red-wine-making scene with every vintage, and I say it was high time for a change.

This year’s event featured everything made in B.C. that you’d want to put in your mouth. From fruit juice to sake, from crackers to meatballs, from beer to wine, this festival was in every way a celebration of all things edible in B.C.

Highlights included Artisan Sakemaker at Granville Island and its absolutely memorable Junmai Ginjo Nawa Genhu (I don’t speak much Japanese so I hope I’ve got this right). The brew’s sweet nose smelled of scented brown rice and the sake offered a clean texture with white peach and licorice on the palate. All this made right here in Vancouver, and for only $25 a split–I can’t wait to get on my gumboots and pop over for a tour of this place.

There were a few restaurants at Taste B.C., too, but with very small food bites. My favorites were the Fanny Bay oysters from Rodney’s Oyster House and Rogers’ Chocolates’ spicy Fire Bars. I liked the sunchoke pannacotta with albacore tartare that FigMint made, too, but it was a real challenge to find a suitable wine to drink with it, as the food’s umami flavor altered nearly every dry wine to taste sweet. I ended up enjoying it with Quails’ Gate’s 2006 Chenin Blanc, so all was well on my palate at the end of the search.

Being the wino that I am, I visited more than my share of wine booths at the event, too, and here are a few wines that really stood out:

Little Straw Vineyards 2006 Old Vines Auxerrois. A distinct kumquat aroma is what lured me into this wine. Sourced from 30-year-old vines, the concentration of fruit in this wine is superb. Floral aromas wrap around white peach and nectarine flavours while that kumquat acidity carried through the length of the palate. Delicious and a mere $15cdn a bottle–how’s that for the perfect apéritif!

Dunham and Froese Pinot Blanc. A full body is what struck me most about this wine, then it dawned on me: it tastes like Alsace! So rarely do we see good Alsatian Pinot Blanc in this neck of the woods that I nearly forgot what it tasted like–and here I was tasting a fine example, only it was from B.C! Excellent weight supported flavors of white peach and chalky flint with a charming white peppery spice at the finish. A mere $16cdn is what they were asking for this gem of a wine.

Tantalus 2006 Riesling. It sells for $20 a bottle and what a deal! Bracing acidity complements an abundance of orchard fruit flavors while a mineral quality to the wine reminds me of the riesling grape, making this a very food-friendly wine that screams of B.C.’s terroir.

Golden Mile Cellars 2006 5th Element Red. An almost completely traditional blend of Bordeaux varietals. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc combine to make this wine, with a bit of Syrah thrown in for good measure (that’s what I like about winemaker Michael Bartier – he’s not confined by tradition). The wine is full-bodied and complex with flavors of cocoa, black cherry, and vanilla supported by vigorous tannins. I’ll add this one to my cellar at $35cdn a bottle.

Of course, I couldn’t leave the tasting without visiting the winery that everyone was talking about as “the most expensive” at the tasting–Blackwood Lane. I tasted the flagship wine, the 2004 Alliance. At $54cdn a bottle, I have to concede that it was well worth it–a Bordeaux blend featuring a full body, good structure and complexity, and rich dark fruit flavors backed with a hint of anise.

While visiting Blackwood Lane’s booth, I noticed some packaging that I really liked on their Pinot Noir blend so I asked what the name meant. “Vicuña Roja,” as it turns out, translates to mean “A Fine Red Llama.” Isn’t it funny what some people will name their wine? --Mireille Sauvé


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great overview of what were some of my favourite picks at the event. I tried both the Golden Mile Element 5 Red and the Blackwood Lane Alliance - two big reds that I'd like to drink more of now, but I wonder what their cellaring potential might be longer-term?

11:34 PM  
Blogger wendy said...

Well I'm so not surprised the Tantalus Riesling was showing well Mireille! I love their riesling, and still think it is the best in BC. Wish I could have been there for the event,it sounds wonderful. A pinot blend?? You are making me nervous......or was it gris, blanc...
I'd love to try the Alsace style Pinot blanc you were referring to, sounds yummy. Well, I'll be enjoying a taste of BC soon enough, see you at Playhouse my friend. Great Article....Thank-you

4:10 AM  
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3:32 AM  

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