Wine Festival 101

It’s the time of year when I start to make plans for wine education and tastings for the year. The number one opportunity for British Columbia based wine lovers to taste a LOT of quality wine is the Vancouver International Wine Festival link . This year will be the 39th edition and I have been fortunate enough to attend the last 30 of those. It has been a superb source to try new wines, learn about production and trends in the more formal sit down events and talk directly with winemakers and winery owners. Each year also has a theme country. The 2017 theme country is Canada. It is a requirement of the event that an owner or winemaker be at the booth for all the public stand up tastings. I feel this has been critical to the ongoing success of the event.



There are a number of lessons I have learned over the years that can make the experience better for you and for other festival attendees.

  • The best opportunity during the festival to taste a lot of wine is the Thursday/Friday/Saturday evening tastings. There is also a Saturday Matinee tasting as well. These are stand up festival style tastings where you are given a glass and each winery has its own table and they will pour you taster size portions of the wines.
  • Have a plan for the 3 hours for the evening tastings. If you are balanced in terms of your interests you might plan on an hour for whites an hour for reds and the balance of your time spent trying sparkling wine, dessert wine and re-tasting your possible favourites.
  • Avoid any application of perfume or aftershave that will interfere with your enjoyment of the wine. This is also a show of respect for your fellow tasters .
  • If you brush your teeth before the event do it without toothpaste as the flavour will persist for quite some time and affect the wine. Also if you are a regular attendee of events like this wait an hour after the event to brush as well. The alcohol softens tooth enamel and can result in diminished enamel thickness. Web MD Article .
  • SPIT ! Don’t be embarrassed to use the provided spit buckets. Practise at home in the bathroom sink if you are self conscious about spitting. You will not survive the three hours if you drink every single sample. I would also suggest not wearing and white during a tasting as spills occasionally occur.
  • Take notes if possible. Bring a notebook with you and take notes. It is very difficult to remember 20 of your favourite wines the next day. If you are not a notebook person use your phone and take pictures of the labels. Your phone is a powerful tool, use it.
  • Be considerate of your fellow attendees, once you have been poured a sample move back so others can have an opportunity. Also be considerate of the wineries pouring their wine. Ask your questions to the winemakers and owners but realize other people would like to do the same. It is also considered rude to go to a table and ask the person pouring to give you only the most expensive wine on the table. A courteous approach is to give them the time to pour you a sample of the entire line up.
  • Buy your wine at the onsite liquor store. Each vendor supplies wine for the tasting and a specific amount for the store. You can buy the wines and pick them up at your nearest LDB store later in the month. Very convenient.
  • Take a Taxi or transit or get a Hotel room downtown and make an evening of it. Do not take the risk; a DUI is not worth it.

Remember Spit Happens, tell your friends, drink great wine and eat great food.


David Lancelot

Napa Valley Old School

Just recently a winemaker friend posted some photos from Napa Valley on Facebook . He said he was there for research but given the nature of his photos I suspect it was just a whole lot of food and drink experiences. It got me thinking about some of the great places to visit there. So I thought I might share some with you.



Mustards Grill  7399 St. Helena Highway, Napa, CA 94558  707.944.2424  Link

This restaurant on St Helena AKA Highway 29 has been around for over 30 years. Still a favourite of mine for its solid no nonsense cuisine ( I don’t think a single pair of tweezers is used in the kitchen) . Cindy Pawlcyn is a pioneer in wine country cuisine and a fantastic cookbook writer as well. The onion rings alone are worth the trip. It has an eclectic USA based wine list with some well chosen International wines added. There are sections called “not so common whites” and “not so common reds” If you are a value shopper you will find something interesting and very well priced. If you like the big dogs they are there in spades… Marcassin,

Sea Smoke, Sine Qua Non, Saxum, Melka , Dalla Valle, Araujo, Colgin, Bond, Harlan and the famous Screaming Eagle . Your credit card will give up before they do.



Gotts Roadside 933 Main Street. St. Helena, CA 94574 707-963-3486 Link

This is the original location for a diner style restaurant called Taylors refresher . It was leased out to the Gott family and later named Gotts Roadside. Think of it as a reverential take on old school diners serving hamburgers and Ahi burgers, salads, French fries and milkshakes, plus seasonal specials like the “Seoul” pork burger with kimchi and the B.L.T with heirloom tomatoes. If you are spending a significant amount of time in Napa Valley you will appreciate the low key flavour packed food as well as the ability to have a quick meal and move on to your next appointment . After all it’s about maximizing the time you spend trying wine.



All Seasons Cafe 1400 Lincoln Avenue Calistoga Ca 94515 707 942 9111 reservations Link

Long time Calistoga restaurant , the All Seasons Cafe was one of the first restaurants in the USA to receive a Wine Spectator Grand Award and the receive consistently great reviews from Yelp , Trip Advisor and Zagat. The wine list has some great older vintages from Napa , mid 90’s Turley single vineyard Zins in the $130 range would be interesting.

Here is your wild card stop for the hardcore foodie.



Rancho Gordo Beans 1924 Yajome St, Napa, CA 94559, USA 707-259-1935 Link

If you are serious about your provisions this is a must stop for beans. Yes I said heirloom beans. Ranch Gordo has been at the cutting edge for the revival of heirloom beans in America. If you make your own Cassoulet or love Central American bean dishes this place will blow your brain. Tons of great quality properly sorted beans for all your culinary needs. Easy to transport and super hard to find in Canada. Open Monday through Saturday

Remember Spit Happens, tell your friends, drink great wine and eat great food.


David Lancelot