Vancouver International Wine Festival 2013: Signorello at Blue Water

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The final dinner of the Vancouver Wine Festival was a Sunday night feast at one of Vancouver’s top restaurants. Helmed by Frank Pabst, Blue Water is, of course, best known for its seafood. However, this dinner saw mostly Napa Cabernets paired with a long list of red meat. In attendance were some of the key players in Vancouver’s food and wine media and the Wine Festival itself.

Proprietor Ray Signorello is from San Francisco, but actually grew up in British Columbia. He was previously in commercial real estate and his father was in mining. The two decided to start the winery together in the late 1980’s when the purchase a 100 acre property in Napa.

Getting Started

The food was very good, but I found myself unfortunately underwhelmed by the wines. The best was the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend Seta, which was dense and rich, but also decently balanced and very tasty. It paired superbly with the Big Eye Tuna Nigiri.

The 1995 Hope’s Cuvee Chardonnay was past its prime, but was elevated considerably by the best pairing of the evening: a pan seared sea scallop with crispy pig’s trotter, black pudding, fuji apple, and cider gastrique. The dish was a masterpiece. The wine was classic aged California Cabernet: hazelnuts, honey and baked apple and was, at this point in its development, slightly oxidative.

Wines for Commerce

The Trim, Edge and Fuse Cabernet Sauvignons are some of the top selling California wines in B.C. They are commercially made wine designed to be at a certain price point. Ray Signorello basically said these wines are a marketing exercise and the main philosophy behind them is price. As such, the blend will shift to include, for example, more syrah when the price of Cabernet Sauvignon is too high to make the wine hit its price point for the B.C. market. I did not find them to be very interesting wines. The Fuse has the most complexity, but it would not be my choice for $40.

The Big Boys

Once you get into the Founder’s Reserve and Padrone labels, the wines start getting much more serious. The 1990 Founder’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon still had a fruit driven nose. There was a plummy, slightly stewed flavour in the wine, though at this point the development in bottle also gave the wine an herbal and slightly mineral element. A solid wine, but I do not think it competes at its price point, which I believe is around $100.

The 1997 Padrone was by far the best red on the table. It had an expressive nose with fennel and graphite characteristics. The mid-palate was quite full and the wine possesses a long, complex finish. It is also structured and elegant. However, again I find the price is far too high given what else you can get for $170.

Conclusions

Blue Water serves great food and the dinner was a lot of fun. The Signorello wines are all decent bottles, but none of them truly impressed me. I also think there are far better producers in California for the price point. That doesn’t really matter though, since they are some of the best selling Cabs in B.C.

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