Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Taste of Victoria: The Main Event

Part One: Vancouver Island Wine

Imagine! Over 52 tables set up offering wine and food from Vancouver Island and the mainland. It was an exciting opportunity to sample a wide variety of different products and talk to the producers.

I am extremely grateful to Kathy McAree, Travel With Taste and event organizer, for giving me tickets to The Main Event, the grand opening of Taste, Victoria’s second annual Festival of Food and Wine. Congratulations, Kathy. The event was well organized, beautifully laid out, and I had a great time.

It wasn’t possible for me to sample all the wines or to talk to all the producers, so I focused on Vancouver Island wineries. I learned a great deal – here’s just a brief overview.

Ortega – the Island Wine
Jane Ellmann, Muse Winery, describes Ortega as “patio wine – summer in a glass.” It’s also known as the Island Wine as this is one of the few areas where it is grown.

Ortega is a dry, fruity white wine. I really enjoyed it and would like to compare the Ortega wines from other Vancouver Island vineyards.

Pinot Gris – with a Difference
There is an added twist to Pinot Gris from Island wineries as it is often a light pink from a short contact with the grape skins. I enjoyed a bottle from Rocky Creek.

Pinot Noir – Averill Creek
Andy Johnston, the owner of Averill Creek Vineyard, boasts that they make the best Pinot Noir in Canada. I certainly enjoyed a sample of their 2008 Pinot Noir. The vineyard is located near Duncan in the Cowichan Valley, which Johnston describes as a warm, protected microclimate that is perfect for growing Pinot Noir.

92 tons of estate grapes are aged for 11 months in 2-4 year old French oak barriques to produce a complex wine with a subtle, unobtrusive oak flavour.

Brut – Crisp, Sparkling Wines
Champagne from France, Cava from Spain, and Prosecco from Italy. But now we can add Brut Naturel from Vancouver Island wineries to the list of great dry, sparkling wines. It was a complete surprise for me to taste some great locally-produced sparkling wines. One of my favourites was Celebration Brut from Starling Lane Winery, which will be released in October 2010. The wine is bottle-fermented from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes grown on their Saanich Peninsula Vineyard.

Another one that I enjoyed was the 2007 Brut Naturel from Venturi Schulze Vineyards. I’ve also heard rave reviews for their balsamic vinegar.

There is an abundance of blackberries on Vancouver Island so it’s not surprising that many wineries offer a blackberry wine or port. Rocky Creek Winery has a very nice Wild Blackberry wine. It has a good fruity flavour and isn’t overly sweet.

Many of the Island wineries offer a blackberry port or dessert wine. One that I have tasted and enjoyed is Cherry Point Vineyards’ Solera Blackberry.

Organic Wine - Mistaken Identity
I enjoyed tasting some of the wines from Mistaken Identity, a certified organic winery on Salt Spring Island. Cliff Broetz, the owner, says that they started growing grapes in 2003 and opened their doors two years ago with the 2008 vintage. Their website states that care of the land and care in the process are the starting points in their product delivery.

I particularly enjoyed their Abbondante Bianco, an estate-blend white wine. It was clean, crisp and dry with a rosy tinge.

Great Artwork
Another Salt Spring Island vineyard offers great artwork along with great wine. The labels for Salt Spring Vineyards are designed by Brandever Strategy Inc. of Vancouver, BC. They work with a number of wineries and specialty food stores on their brands.

Here’s what they have to say about their design work for Salt Spring Vineyards: “Salt Spring Island is a rather fascinating island off of the coast of British Columbia. Known for its eclecticism, hippies, sheep, wild salmon, organic farming, rusty old VW’s, and hand-painted gumboots. Its Haight &; Ashbury meets Green Acres. When we took on the challenge of designing an identity for an upstart winery on Salt Spring, we knew exactly what to do. We created a barely clad, flying goddess, Eartha, wearing gumboots. As she flies overhead, she gifts the land below with hearty edibles. We also stirred-in just about every iconic image of the island we could think of – right down to the free-range eggs.”

The Main Event - Part Two: Food and Spirits

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