• Shelley Boettcher

The Vancouver International Wine Festival begins

The real Tom Gore. Mondavi's winemaker. And so, so many more awesome winemakers and winery owners.

The Vancouver International Wine Festival is on now through Mar. 1 in -- you guessed it -- Vancouver, Canada.

One of North America's largest wine festivals, the 41st annual festival features 160 wineries from 16 countries. Each year since the festival began in 1979, it has featured a theme, too, and this year is no exception. Dream Big: California Style will highlight more than 50 wineries from California. Some are well-known in Canada; some, less so. All are worth exploring.

And while you're at it, you'll have a chance to meet some of North America's top winemakers, winery owners, sommeliers, restaurateurs and writers.

Of note: Jon Bonne, author of The New California Wine: A Guide to the Producers and Wines behind a Revolution in Taste. (Pic on the left.)

While tickets for many of the festival events have been sold out for weeks, some last-minute passes are still available.

If you find yourself in Vancouver this week, however, and you can score a ticket or two, here are a few events to check out:

Canada's Place in Key Wine Markets

Wednesday, Feb. 27

9:30-11:45 am

Jon Bonné will moderate a panel discussion on how Canadian wines are perceived outside the country and how they get to market. Panelists include Christine Coletta, Nik Darlington, Janet Dorozynski, Dr. Jamie Goode and Sebastien Le Goff.

Unexpected California

Wednesday, Feb. 27

10 am to noon.

Go beyond Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, and explore California's lesser-known varieties.

Lessons from California

Keynote Speaker Lunch with Jon Bonné

Noon to 1:30 pm

Bonné will present on the new generation of consumers interested in California wines.

Principals Welcome Lunch, presented by JF Hillebrand

Thursday, Feb. 28

11:45 am-1:15 pm

All 160 winery principals will be in attendance at this buffet-style lunch. (That includes members of the Tom Gore team, as well as Robert Mondavi's chief winemaker, Genevieve Janssens; see more below.)

RMW: A Visionary Journey

Thursday, Feb. 28

5:15-6:45 pm

Join Robert Mondavi Winery Chief Winemaker Genevieve Janssens and Master of Wine Mark de Vere on a journey through Napa Valley, including the renowned To Kalon vineyard.

And of course, if you can't make it, you can still find some of the featured wines to taste at home. And Bonne's book, too.

Two wines to find:

Tom Gore Vineyards 2014 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

(Sonoma County, California, USA)

A wickedly delicious Cab that's well-balanced and complex, loaded with dusty, earthy, spicy blackcurrant flavours and toasty, vanilla, dark fruit aromas. Serve with prime rib or steak, naturally. It's showing beautifully now, but you could also cellar it for years to come. About $50.

Robert Mondavi Winery 2015 Oakville Cabernet Franc

(Napa Valley, California, USA)

Yeah, you read that correctly: Cabernet Franc, not Cab Sauv. And it's gorgeous, food-friendly and ready to drink now, with notes of cedar and dark berries. Like the Tom Gore Cab above, it's outstanding now, but I bet it'll still be a beaut in a few years, too. If you only know Mondavi's less-expensive wines in the market, it's time to kick things up a notch. About $70.

#wine #California #VancouverWineFestival