Vancouver International Wine Festival – Round 3

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It seems that life often gets in the way of the most well intentioned of plans. Thus it is that I finally attend to finishing my tasting notes for the Vancouver International Wine Festival. In this final installment of the Wine Fest Series I traverse the world to provide notes on wines from all the (other) global regions of the world. Italy may have been the focus of the festival, but there were certainly many other fantastic entries. So let’s go globetrotting…

United States

Domaine Drouhin (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2006: Classic burgundian style with intense new world fruit. Strawberry and earth. Solid, but somewhat simple for the price.
Very Good+ – $60

Domain Drouhin (Oregon) “Laurene” Pinot Noir 2006: Now this is Pinot Noir. Lush, structured, lengthy, intensity of light berry fruits. This was like drinking a Strawberry Rhubarb barnyard poured over minerally earth. This was simply fantastic and shows why Oregon is well on its way to becoming the Burgundy of the New World.
Excellent+ – $75

Ridge Santa Cruz Mountain Estate Chardonnay 2005: This is what New World white should taste like. Explosive nose of hazlenuts and tropical fruits. An absolutely intense palate with similar flavours that develops into an outstanding finish. Even though the flavours were fantastic, what really stood out with this wine was its mouthfeel. It was like drinking liquid cashmere. This was the best white I tasted at the show.
Excellent+ – $55

Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel 2005: This zin had great purity of fruit and while it wasn’t quite as in your face as the Lytton springs, I actually preferred it for its softness and texture. Tasty stuff.
Very Good+ – $50

Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel 2005: I’ve tasted this zin before and was not a huge fan. While I enjoyed this, it was a tad too peppery and briary for me. Blackberry dominates the palate. I like my wines a little more refined and a little less monster. Still, this is great if you like the style.
Very Good – $50

Ridge Santa Cruz Cabernet Sauvignon: Oak and Eucalyptus abound on the nose and palate with this one. The moderate tannins bring the mid-palate into a nice finish that lingers, but I found the flavours a little boring to be honest. Very well made, however.
Very Good – $?

Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon 2004: I’m not sure what I said to get the president of Ridge to pull this from underneath the table, but damn was I happy. The Monte Bello is a renowned Cabernet from Napa, one that was used in the famous Paris Tasting that saw a Californian Cabernet (from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars) beat the best of Bordeaux in a blind tasting. This wine was incredibly smooth and consistent and had a beautiful mocha nose. While the fruit wasn’t over the top or overly complex, the simplicity of the blackberry-black current flavours coupled really well with the mocha in a wine that simply had an outstanding structure. Still, I would not pay full price for this – it’s just too damned overpriced. Great wine, though.
Excellent – $180


Majella “The Malleea” 2003: Majella is a fantastic producer from the Coonawara region in Australia that makes beautiful blends. This special blend is their top of the line wine and while it was tasty, I just didn’t love it. The nose was heavy on the eucalyptus, which I find prevalent in a lot of Australian Cab Sauv’s or Cab based blends. The red and dark berry fruits were mild, but pleasant and the finish was decent. But this didn’t blow me away.
Very Good – $90

Peter Lehman “Stonewall” Shiraz 2002: This Shiraz is quite renowned in Australia and I was pretty excited to give this a taste. I have to say, though, that while good the hype has raised the price of this wine a tad too high. Again I tasted mocha-mint and cassis, like many a Cab. And, while I appreciate that this cab was all about structure and balance I must say that I tend to like my wines earthier or brighter.
Very Good – ~$80

Plantagenet “Great Southern” Shiraz 2005: I tend to like Plantagenet, and I also find Western Australian wines to be a unique break from the hordes of Barossa Shiraz’s that proliferate the Australian eisle at the local wine stores. This had a nose of cherry which developed into a tasty palate of cherry, plum and pepper. This is good value and very drinkable.
Very Good – $35

Turkey Flat Shiraz 2005: I didn’t take too many notes on this one. But this is one of my favourite Australian Shiraz’s. Year in and year out these guys producer some great Barossa Shiraz that is a cut well above the norm. I don’t have any official tasting notes except that I rated this as:
Excellent – $50

Clonakilla “Hilltops” Shiraz 2005: This Rhone style wine is made by a producer obsessed with all things Rhone. Clonakilla has led a mini-revolution in Rhone style wines in Australia and has solidified their reputation with their Shiraz-Viognier (made in the Cote-Rotie style). This shiraz, however, is half the price of that and a fantastic briary, rustic in your face syrah. This is great stuff. What can I say, I love “syrah”.
Excellent – $35 (at festival store), $45 (at Kits Wine Cellar)

Greenock Creek “Alice’s Block” Shiraz 2005: I don’t usually agree with Robert Parker, but this wine, which for the last four years has received ratings between 96 and 98 from Robert Parker lives up to the hype he creates. This has absolutely outstanding purity in the fruit and a very warm dark and red berry palate. What makes this special is that it has a nearly perfect structural development with the berry flavours developing evenly and consistently from the initial sip well into a couple minutes after the final gulp. This is the kind of Shiraz I want to drink all the time.
Excellent+ – $80


Albis 2004: I didn’t get to many Chilean wineries this year, but I am glad I gave this wine a try. This is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Carmenere. The nose was rather barnyardy and earthy while the palate was alive with fruit and mocha flavours. This wine consists of what I like to call silky tanins. Very Very tasty.
Excellent – $? (probably over $50)


Cortes de Cime Chamine Vinho Tinto Alentejano: Wow, that’s a long name. Ok, this baby was the best value wine at the show and is readily available in BCL stores. What else can you ask for? This wine is interestingly made from the Spanish grape Tempranillo, which I believe is also native to certain regions of Portugal, although it goes by another name that I forget. The nose was quite interesting blackberry with a tinge of earth. The palate is best described as eating a piece of toast layered with blackberry jam while sipping on a well brewed coffee. This is great if you like jammy wines.
Excellent – $19!!

Quinta Do Crasto Touriga Nacionale 2005: First off, I have to mention that somehow I stupidly forgot to make notes on the new release of Crasto’s Old Vines Douro, which I remember was in need of a bit of age but was showing great potential. This wine, however, is one of Crasto’s high end jobbies and was absoltely brilliant. The nose was insanely fruit forward, but what got me with this wine was the palate which was full of mushroomy, earthy fruit that blew me away with its uniqueness. I love Portuguese wines and they are unfarily way way too under the radar.
Excellent – $75

Quinta Do Crasto Maria Theresa 2005: This came close to being wine of the show for me. Boasting utterly complex fruit and a finese and elegance rarely seen in wine the Maria Theresa single vineyard Douro had incredible structure, complexity and length. I also inexplicably picked up a bottle of this in the summer for $60 off on some strange manager’s special at a nearby BCL store (I guess no one buys Portugese wine). This is worth the money, even at full price.
Excellent+ – $120

French Wine

Coudoulet Beaucastel 2005: Gamey fruit that is simple but tannic. Didn’t love this, but was ok.
Very Good – $? (around $35?)

Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape 2005: This is one of those legendary wines from the Rhone Valley and also from an outstanding vintage. This was closed and tight. This needs serious time and it was hard for me to assess its qualities at such a young age for such a complex wine. It was dense as hell, though.
Excellent – $90

So this year’s wine festival was an overwhelming event at which I tasted over 100 wines and wrote notes for about half of those (the wines I liked most). This is a whirlwind experience for those who haven’t gone before, but it is well worth the effort. These events give you the opportunity to learn about wine, improve your palate, taste wines side by wide, and chat with some winemakers and other folks in the wine biz. It was a great experience, but a tiring one – evidenced by how long it took me to get all the tasting notes up. So, until next year!

And that’s all she wrote.


  1. Edward
    March 25, 2008

    An excellent summary and terrific tasting notes. I must say your comments on the Australian wines are very perceptive and spot on (at least in my eyes).

  2. Shea
    March 25, 2008

    Thanks for the positive comments! I hope that we keep getting more and more smallish Australian producers here because I think that’s where all the excitement is. A few stores up here just got a bunch of Grosset wines which I hope to try soon.

  3. Edward
    March 26, 2008


    I admire the range of wines you seem to have access too. Surprising they don’t have the Leeuwin over there.

    Grosset are always a must try benchmark for Riesling. 05 is probably the best recent vintage with 07 quite good.

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