Column: California wines, here we come

The Vancouver International Wine Festival opened this week. The eight-day extravaganza is Canada’s biggest wine show with 54 events, 1450 wines from 16 countries and 160 wineries.

The festival had humble origins when it began in 1979 with only one winery, Robert Mondavi from the Napa Valley in California. This year the theme region is once again, California. On Monday, I was at Joey’s downtown for a media launch and on deck were five delicious wines from the Golden State.

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I began the tasting with a 2016 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Fumé Blanc ($23.99). Robert Mondavi coined the name as an alternative to Sauvignon Blanc because it had some oak aging unlike most Sauvignon Blancs. It also added some intrigue to the name.

If you’re at the Wine Festival, visit the Mondavi booth and enjoy a sip of the Fumé. It’s a great aperitif, vibrant and fruity, which cleanses your palate in an enjoyable way. Great acid, minerality, citrus and herbs mean it’s a perfect food wine. I enjoyed it with Joey’s delicious sushi and gyosas.

Next was an elegant Davis Bynum West River Vineyard 2015 Chardonnay ($30.99 only from the Festival Store) from the Russian River of Sonoma. If you like oak in your Chardonnay but want to enjoy the fruit, this is the Chard for you.  Toasted hazelnuts, brioche, and lemon with peaches, tangerine and crisp acidity make for a full-bodied luscious wine.

Third was the Kendall Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Rosé ($20.49 only at the Festival Store). If you plan on tasting whites and reds at the festival, consider having some rosés as a transition.

I loved the pink colour and the bright fruit. It is mainly Pinot Noir and Syrah with fruity bouquet and flavour of grapefruit, watermelon, and apricot.

Switching to reds, I was impressed with the Ridge 2015 Geyserville Zinfandel ($69.99). 2015 was the 50th anniversary of the first bottling of this Zin. The 2015 has a majority of Zinfandel, but there is a decent amount of Carignane and Petite Syrah to add complexity. A rich dark mix of fruit that displays black fruit, licorice, herbs, spices and oak with a lengthy finish.

Finally, another classic red from the Wine State: Freemark Abbey 2014 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($52.99). The winery was established by one of the first female grape growers in Napa.

I loved the powerful bouquet of cassis and slightly charred oak. It has a rich flavour with of black fruit. Very approachable now but has the acidity and tannins to develop further. Decanter magazine awarded it 95 points, which indicates the high quality of this Cab.

All five of these wines are available at the Wine Fest store this weekend.

Eric Hanson is a Richmond wine educator.

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