Wine Festival fizzes with bubbles and B.C.’s best

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The best selection of premium Champagne and sparkling wine since the turn of the millennium will be on offer at the 2020 Vancouver International Wine Festival during the last week of February, when France is the themed wine region.

“There is a lot of bubble,” says David Hopgood, chair of the festival’s selection committee and a man who knows a lot about sparkling wine. Prior to 2000, he was the Champagne buyer for the Liquor Distribution Branch. For this festival, he and his colleagues have chosen Laurent-Perrier, Piper-Heidsieck, Charles-Heidsieck, Gratien & Meyer and Champagne Taittinger.

Consulting winemaker Olivier Humbrecht MW.

In total, 43 French wineries will attend the festival, including a strong contingent of Rhône producers. There also will be superstar vintners, among them Clovis Taittinger and, from Alsace, Jean Frederick Hugel from Hugel & Fils.

Among the British Columbia wineries, the star is Phantom Creek Estates, making its first appearance at any wine festival, well before its grand opening in April. This is the theatrical Black Sage Road property in which businessman Richter Bai is said to have invested $100 million. The winery’s tasting rooms and restaurant afford stunning views over the South Okanagan. The VIP tasting room is dominated by a glorious Dale Chihuly glass sculpture.

As a destination winery, Phantom Creek is designed to anchor the South Okanagan the way that Mission Hill Family Estate anchors West Kelowna’s wine trail.

Bai has also invested in a strong winemaking team. The white wines are made under the supervision of Olivier Humbrecht MW from a leading Alsace family. The entire Phantom Creek cellar is managed by New Zealand-born winemaker Francis Hutt. The winery’s chief executive officer is Santiago Cilley, a winery executive who has worked with top wineries in California, Chile and Argentina. You can meet these individuals at Phantom Creek’s table at the wine festival and taste some of the finest wines being made now in the Okanagan.

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Three to try

Phantom Creek Riesling 2017

This is a dry Riesling with aromas and flavours of lemon mingled with brioche from having spent 10 months aging on its lees. An intense, age-worthy wine. 93/100 ($30)

Phantom Creek Viognier 2017

This elegant wine has aromas and flavours of orange blossoms and stone fruits around a spine of minerality. 92/100 ($40)

Phantom Creek Becker Vineyard Cuvee 2016

This is a blend of 39% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Franc and 26% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine begins with aromas of black currant and black cherry, leading to flavours of cherry, cassis, coffee and liquorice. 93/100 ($60)

B.C. wine history captured in new book

Luke Whittall’s history of British Columbia wine, Valleys of Wine.

Okanagan writer Luke Whittall’s history of British Columbia wine, Valleys of Wine ($29.95), was released just before Christmas by Whitecap Books. The thorough 384-page soft cover is a long-overdue account of how the B.C. wine industry emerged from Prohibition in the early 1920s to achieve international status with its products. Filled with facts that are surprising—teetotal Premier W.A.C. Bennett once ran a winery—and entertaining, this lively book is a must for lovers of B.C. wine.



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