Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival Challenge Part Two
Photos courtesy Kevin Freeman and Cassandra Anderton
In Part One, I reviewed the Fetzer Appetizer Challenge and then had Cassandra Anderton, a food and wine writer, add her thoughts about the event. Similarly in Part Two, I will provide my commentary on the Trade Tasting Event at the festival combined with Cassandra’s strategies she employed to get through the room smartly.
The Second Challenge:
When I arrived for day two of the 2007 Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival I was again unsure of what I would be in for. The hub of the trade tasting is based in one large venue inside the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre. This event caters to wine buyers and industry professionals from various hotels, restaurants and liquor stores, as well as wine media. They are free to wander the room and sample all the wines.
The event hall was packed with table after table of the world’s finest wine, winemakers and agents. They were all gathering around the various samples smelling, swirling, tasting, and then spitting. I happened to notice a veteran wine and food writer contemplating a fine specimen of a red varietal and asked for her for some tips. Her quick summary was invaluable, “spit and drink a lot of water”.
After navigating through the crowd and feeling rather overwhelmed with the many choices, I was pleased to see a winery I was familiar with. I approached the Jackson Triggs booth where Brad Jones and one of their winemakers - Derek Kontkanen guided me through several of the wines, reviewing different practices employed in and out of the vineyard. I then moved onto the Australian side of the room and was given a lesson on Clare Valley Riesling from Skillogalee’s Dave Palmer and wine agents, Vino Allegro’s Vicky Ainley and Quinn Diepold. I finally felt I had garnered some understanding of these wines.
All of this learning and walking was making me hungry. My dietary restrictions limit my snacking, but I was pleased to see plain bread, cheese and gluten free pepperoni that I could sample and enjoy. Then it was on to some of that prescribed water and a bit of rest.
From Kevin’s experience it’s obvious that the festival can be a bit overwhelming. Even a more seasoned wine lover in any tasting room can feel like an out of control shopper on Boxing Day. However, the smart shopper knows that a little planning is needed to avoid buying all of the shoes without a matching dress. Similar planning must be pursued at any wine tasting.
The Playhouse Trade Tasting offers the opportunity to sample in a somewhat more controlled environment than the evening consumer tasting. Winemakers and wine representatives are eager to show off their products and sometimes even have that extra special bottle under the table that won’t reappear at night. The Thursday tasting (there is also a Friday tasting) is the first big tasting event of the festival, so there’s a certain vibrancy in the air.
I’d recommend starting weeks before. The wineries are listed on the Vancouver Playhouse website. Go online and determine which you are most interested in, or pick a theme. Remember, trying to sample everything would be overwhelming. This year the wine festival country of choice was Australia and the grape varietal Riesling. Concentrating on these areas gave me the time to explore the wines that I was interested in and I always plan on trying something special at the end of my day - I hit the Port or sake table.
Once you’ve made your plan be sure to show up prepared. Wear comfortable shoes and dark clothing to avoid the red wine stain dilemma. Bring a pen, note pad, business cards for those connections you’ll make, a tote bag for collecting those pamphlets and wine notes. But don’t get too serious, this is about learning, sipping and tasting. You won’t be required to write an exam on the way out.
At the wine booths be sure to spit and dump out any wine that you don’t need in a tasting sample, thus you’ll make it through the afternoon without needing a lie-down and you’ll actually remember what you tasted. Sip water in between tastings and ask pertinent questions; find out the exact region the wine is from, the winery’s history, vineyard practices and vinification techniques. Remember, people love to talk about their wines and how their products were made.
Once the event is over you may want to buy some wine from the on site store as some of the wines you tried will only be available at the festival. After you are done you should go for a coffee or even a beer, because your palate will be ready for something different. Then relax and start planning for your next wine event. Remember, a little planning does indeed go a long way.
by Kevin Freeman and Cassandra Anderton
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