Dispatch From the Vancouver International Wine Festival

VIWF flight
VIWF flight

All photos by Christine Campbell.  I recently had the opportunity to attend the 37thVancouver International Wine Festival. The VIWF runs for 8 days with over 170 wineries and 1,750+ wines represented, and each year focuses on a wine region of the world and a grape variety.

Gonzalez Byass
Gonzalez Byass

This year was Australia and Shiraz. Wow - did ‘Savour Australia’ ever put on a good show! The tasting room was welcoming with a fun, relaxed vibe. A few standout wines for me were Serafino Wines of McLaren Vale Sorrento Dry Grown Grenache 2012 as well as Pirramimma Winery Shiraz Reserve, also from McLaren Vale. From Adelaide Hills, I was taken with Shaw + Smith’s entire lineup which included Sauvignon Blanc 2014, ‘M3’ Chardonnay 2013, Pinot Noir 2013 and Shiraz 2013.

I had some great opportunities to attend trade events and consumer seminars and my two standout favorites were both legends of generations of winemaking. These included ‘The Sherry Revolution’ with Vicky González -Gordon and Daenna Van Mulligen presenting and ‘Montes – 25 Years and Beyond’ with winemaker Aurelio Montes Jr.

‘The Sherry Revolution’ held a packed room of Sherry lovers who had the opportunity to sample five wines from González Byass. Located in Jerez, which is where historians believe the name ‘Sherry’ was derived from, González Byass has been making wine for over 175 years. Though Sherry is primarily made up of three grape varieties – Palomino, Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel, González Byass is unique in that it does not use Moscatel in their winemaking.

It is the only winery to have Pedro Ximenez planted in Jerez Superior – the area of Jerez nown for its albariza soil. This soil type is high in chalk content, thereby enabling it to retain moisture, which is of utmost importance in a dry, hot climate.

The tasting started off with Tio Pepe (Uncle John) Fino where flavors of burnt almond and salty brine are abundant. This wine is exceptionally dry with a great balance of that flor/yeasty taste and smell.

Daenna Van Mulligen and Vicky González-Gordon
Daenna Van Mulligen and Vicky González-Gordon

Next was Del Duque V.O.R.S. Amontillado. This wine started life as a Fino and when the cap of flor above it dies, tiny pinholes naturally appear, letting in oxygen, which creates a flavor profile of nuts, wood and and a slight (pleasant!) varnish aroma. It is the foot of the bridge from dry to sweet wine, with a very, long full bodied finish.

Apostoles V.O.R.S. Palo Cortado was my favorite of the flight. González-Gordon said that this wine was a ‘happy accident’ because it was intended to be a Fino, but didn't develop enough flor, so it aged as an Oloroso. It has a delicate nose and rings in at 18% ABV. This wine, made from Palomino grapes has Pedro Ximenez added to it, delivering an off dry wine with notes of caramel, fig and toffee. Stunning.

Matusalem V.O.R.S Cream is an Oloroso style with 75% Palomino grapes and 25% PX. It's made with no flor contact, exhibiting a full on oxidative profile of nuts, coffee and toffee. This 30-year-old wine is even OK to keep in your fridge opened!

Aurelio Montes Jr
Aurelio Montes Jr

Noe V.O.R.S. is 100% Pedro Ximenez wine, made from the precious amount of liquid produced from the dried grapes. It is dense and incredibly sweet. This is not just a dessert wine – it is dessert! Try it served slightly chilled.

Tasting these wines gave me no pause to consider that ‘World Sherry Day’ is now ‘World Sherry Week’ – clearly, the Sherry revolution is here!

Moving on to the presentation put on by Aurelio Montes Jr., not only did he bring 11 wines for us to try, but also shared with the audience his passion for his wines, his land, the Chilean people and the environment that truly made him shine.

Located in the Colchagua Valley, Chile, Montes has been making wine for over 25 years with huge success. They have recently developed a Sustainable Dry Farming program whereby they use 65% less water, which is equal to a year’s water supply for 20,000 people. Impressive to say the least!

But how was the wine?

Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 was the star of the Alpha flight. 1999 was one of Chile’s best ever winegrowing years due to a rainy winter, a mild spring and temperate summer, resulting in an elegant and complex wine. This had notes of cedar and cassis with a hint of tobacco. Delicious.

Montes Alpha 2010 is a special wine for Montes Jr. This was the year Chile experienced the 3rd biggest earthquake in the world, which happened 2 weeks prior to harvest. The wine is a true survivor. It's intense and alive with passion, with flavors of cigar box, chocolate and blackberry.

Montes Alpha M 2011 is a wine with which to sit back, relax and enjoy life. This wine is made from hand picked and hand selected grapes and was aged in new French oak for 18 months, then aged another 2 years in bottle. This excellent and complex wine has an incredibly long finish.

Montes Folly 2011 is made up of 100% Syrah, Montes Jr. wanted to make a wine to ‘rock and roll’ with – it was a crazy idea that turned out very well. With silky tannins and a big blue and black fruit profile with whiffs of chocolate – this wine does indeed rock!

Montes Purple Angel 2012 is 92% Carmenère and 8% Petit Verdot. Made with only the best grapes from two exceptional parcels of vineyard, this is one complex, first class wine. Balanced and elegant, it has flavors of plum, strawberries, and cherries along with cinnamon, coffee and nutmeg. Divine.

Somehow, Montes Jr. kept the presentation to the hour and half allotted time and I never felt rushed through the flight. An outstanding winemaking family, rich with passion, talent and a clear vision, it is easy to understand the popularity of their wines.