Ontario’s Star Whites
Wednesday, February 15, 9:30-11 a.m.

Recap by Debbie Trenholm, Savvy Company

Chardonnays and Rieslings rule!  With over 160 wineries throughout Ontario, most craft wines using these 2 grape varieties. In this tasting, we found out first hand why these grape varieties dominate Ontario vineyards.  What an opportunity to taste back-to-back 5 of the finest Ontario Rieslings – easing into it with 10% alcohol with striking differences of aromas & tastes.  Then followed by 6 Chardonnays – all impressive international acclaim & award. Notably, Rosehall Run JCR Chardonnay that was named as one of the top 100 Chardonnays of the World and Norman Hardie’s Chardonnay that was recently heralded at a Wine Spectator tasting. Then doubled back to show the versatility of with a classic finish: Inniskillin Riesling Icewine.

“I’m still learning the difference of Niagara’s sub-appelations,” humbly confessed winemaker Thomas Bachelder as he shares in the backstory of the Domaine Queylus Traditional Chardonnay 2013. Thomas and the other winemakers in the room reminded us that the wine industry in Ontario is making impressive wines, yet is still a relatively new wine region that the terroir and climate is always challenging winemakers.

This Masterclass was a room full of first time Ontario wine tasters. Interesting choice of panelist was UK wine writer Jamie Goode who gave his international viewpoint & most of all validation of Canadian wines throughout the festival. He gave a nod to all of the wines scoring them 90+ points.

Moderator: Christopher Waters
Panelists: Thomas Bachelder, Janet Dorozynski, Jamie Goode, John Szabo MS, Harald Thiel

There’s No Place Like BC
Wednesday, February 15, 11:15 a.m.-12:45 p.m.

Recap by Debbie Trenholm, Savvy Company

Being from Ontario, I went to Vancouver Wine Festival with an eagerness to taste as many BC wines and learn how the wine industry has flourished since my last visit.  This Masterclass certainly launched me right into my quest.  A tasting of 12 wines showcased the diversity and quality of BC wines.  With these teaser tastings, I started a list in my notebook of wineries that I definitely want to visit during the International Tasting Room later on this week.

Starting with a sparkling, then cruised through the top grape varieties grown in this region, it was a remarkable tasting trip of Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Merlot & Syrah.  We were reminded that in 1990 there were 17 wineries in BC, now there are 275 wineries with over 10,000 acres of vineyard.  The spotlight shone on pioneers – Quail’s Gate, Sandhill, Popular Grove & Osoyoos Larose – and with every sip, we noticed how the time has helped them progressed in quality.  Then, was introduced to new names that peaked my interest.

Bartier Bros. intrigued me with their Cabernet Franc full of red berries and spices.  This winery repeatedly came up in conversation throughout the festival. It is no wonder that their Gewurztraminer was classy enough to be paired with Gold Medal Plates 2017 grand prize winner.

I was also enamoured by Tantalus Vineyards whose Chardonnay was stunning. Meyer Family Vineyards was new to me and their MacLaren Creek Chardonnay 2014 simply had one word written in my tasting notes: WOW!  Winemaker Chris Carson further impressed me with his stories of exporting his wines to Marks and Spencer in England and “And now Norway too”.  With remarkable feats like this, BC wines are certainly being discovered around the world.  The grand finale of this tasting tour was the powerful Syrah by C.C. Jentsch Cellars.

The handful of wines featured in this Masterclass reminded me that I need to plan another trip to BC wine country…soon!

Moderator: Rhys Pender MW
Panelists: Michael Bartier, Nikki Callaway, Chris Carson, David Paterson, Chris Turyk

Poised for Pinot
Wednesday, February 15, 2-3:30 p.m.

Recap by Debbie Trenholm, Savvy Company

I have been told by winemakers that making a stellar Pinot Noir is the pinnacle of success. In Ontario, there is Pinot Noir grown in all of the regions – Prince Edward County, Niagara & Pelee Island North Shore.  The winemakers highlighted in this Masterclass were ready to WOW with their creations.  A quick show of hands, exhibited that it was the first time for most in the room to enjoy Ontario Pinots.  The continuous ooohs and aaahs – including from me – showed that these Pinots impressed.

In my tasting notes, I repeatedly jotted down the words “Well Integrated & Refined”.  Trying these fine Pinot Noirs side-by-side provided a learning experience like no other.  The diversity of the different styles was noted as well.  Winemakers further enhanced the wine tasting experience by chiming in with insight about the challenges with the “heart break” grape. Thomas Bachelder explain that he made two very different wines – for Domaine Queylus and his namesake label – with grapes grown from two different vineyards in Niagara that have dramatically different soil compositions. Keith Tyer, winemaker at Closson Chase in Prince Edward County shared, “In the summer, when it is 25-30C, the limestone rocks in my vineyard are so hot that you can’t hold them.”  Pinot Noir is not just any red wine, the significance of soil and climate to make a fine Pinot was stressed.

Whether you prefer a lean Pinot Noir with light tannins or one that is loaded with depth and warm spices, the dozen that were showcased in this tasting showed the full diversity of styles. And prices too – I was amazed that the Pelee Island Winery Pinot Noir Reserve 2014 was under $20…a steal.  The other featured wines ranged from $25-$50 and were worth every drop.

Moderator: John Szabo MS
Panelists: Craig McDonald, Eugene Mlynczyk, Harald Thiel, Keith Tyers, Christopher Waters

BC: Diversity & Purity
Wednesday, February 15, 3:45-5:15 p.m.

Recap by Debbie Trenholm, Savvy Company

“The pursuit of elegance is paying off”, proudly states John Skinner – owner of BC’s Painted Rock Winery. And elegance is definitely the key word in my tasting notes during this Masterclass.  Two wines of each of the main grape varieties – sparkling, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syarh – to show the talent of the winemaking pool in BC as well as the variance of terroirs from cool climate to deserts.  Corks popped as we were treated to glasses of bubbly from cult-like Ella by Maverick Estate Winery contrasted by one of the first sparkling wines of the Okanagan – Summerhill Pyramid Winery’s Ariel from the vintage of 1998 that was made using the classic French Champagne recipe using 59% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay and 1% Pinot Meunier. What a treat.

Checkmate Artisanal Winery showcased their Queen Taken Chardonnay from vines that were planted in 1975 – the oldest in BC. Outstanding and well crafted elegantly oaked that created flavours of toasted coconut.  The tête à tête tasting of Pinot Noirs from Spierhead Winery and Foxtrot Vineyards – both from the Okanagan Valley showed that BC too crafts stunning wines on the same calibre as the featured Ontario winemakers from the Passionate for Pinot tasting earlier in the day.  And anyone who says that Canada can’t make red wines hasn’t tried the Painted Rock Estate Syrah that punctuated this tasting.  Deep, intense in colour and taste with a lingering of smoke & fresh ground pepper that will make you sing O Canada! with pride.

Moderator: Treve Ring
Panelists: Jamie Goode, Pedro Parra, Rhys Pender MW

Canada Coast to Coast
Thursday, February 16, 9:30-11:30 a.m.

Recap by Debbie Trenholm, Savvy Company

This is a mini-history lesson of the making of the Canadian wine industry.  The star-studded panelists have been writing & commenting on the industry as their wine writing careers have grown too.  Let’s make that exploded.  Did you know that in a 30 year span, over 670 wineries from coast to coast have opened their doors?  165 in Ontario and 275 in BC.  That figure has probably grown since this event report has been posted.  Primarily in Ontario, BC and Nova Scotia, grapes are found to being grown in Newfoundland, PEI, Quebec, Manitoba and in BC.

“Every wine has an address that tells a great story”, states panelist Anthony Gismondi. “This will become important as the wine industry grows.”  Anthony reminds us that “We are finding our own way.  We are defining our own style.”

The diversity of styles and the talent of the winemakers across our country, it is easy to advocate that Canada is on the tipping point of the wine world.  In fact, “When I was back home in Australia, folks were asking about wine jobs in #BCWine. It’s considered the place where you can put your skillset to work,” shares Craig McDonald. “BC is seen as a young, exciting wine making region

The tasting tour kicked off with sparkling wines – from each of the provinces – then Rieslings, Chardonnays, and red wines that will want you to stand up and sing ‘O Canada’.

Moderators: John Szabo MS and Rhys Pender MW
Panelists: Anthony Gismondi, Moira Peters, Christopher Waters

From Ground Up
Friday, February 17, 9:30-11:15 a.m.

Recap by Valerie Stride, The Demystified Vine

Rhys Pender thanked the crowd for showing up so early on the Friday morning seminar “From Ground Up” at the Vancouver Convention Centre as part of the yearly International Wine Festival that takes place here in the city. The focus: the Golden Mile Bench – British Columbia’s first sub-appellation which was created in 2015.

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Moderators: Anthony Gismondi and Rhys Pender MW

Heartbreak & Backache
Friday, February 17, 9:30-11:15 a.m.

Recap by Karl Kliparchuk, MyWinePal.com

In this seminar at the Vancouver International Wine Festival we had a panel of distinguished wine makers and hands-on owners share their stories and insights on Riesling and Pinot Noir, two notorious cool-climate grapes famed for breaking backs in the vineyard and hearts in the winery. These individuals talked about the challenges in the Okanagan Valley, Niagara Peninsula, and Mosel Valley growing grapes, going organic and much more.

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Part 2

Moderator: Mark Shipway
Panelists: Tobias Busch, Ann Sperling, David Paterson, Harald Thiel, Pedro Parra

Celebrating California Cabs
Friday, February 17, 5:15-6:45 p.m.

Recap by Karl Kliparchuk, MyWinePal.com

Cabernet Sauvignon is the “King” in California. In our Celebrating California Cabs seminar we had a chance to experience the “Dream Vintages” of 2012, 2013 and 2014. And as you will see, I have rated all these wines very highly.  When you have wines of such quality, it is more a matter of style that you prefer.  The winery principals noted that 2011 was their last difficult vintage.

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Moderator: Anthony Gismondi

Trans Canada Tasting
Saturday, February 18, 5:15-6:45 p.m.

Recap by Karl Kliparchuk, MyWinePal.com

Did you know that there are 671 wineries in Canada, as of Feb 2017?  There are 276 wineries in BC.  There is grape wine being produced in BC, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia.  As part of the Vancouver International Wine Festival, wineries from across Canada were invited to attend, and to celebrate our 150th birthday as a country.  Bringing together some of the wineries at the Festival, it was logical to have a Trans Canada wine tasting. The seminar that I attended at the Festival was hosted by Canada’s first Master Sommelier, John Szabo, and western Canada’s first Master of Wine, Barbara Philip.  We had wines from BC, Ontario and Nova Scotia to sample at the seminar, along with these interesting panelists, some from the wineries and other wine writers to talk about the wines.

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Moderators: John Szabo MS, Barbara Philip MW
Panelists: Nikki Callaway, Jamie Goode, Roland Kruger, Moira Peters, Keith Tyers