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Sep. 3 - Delicious Long Weekend Drinking ~ All but one under $20!

Aug. 27 - A new way of coding drinkability ~ And getting the best out of that bottle

Aug. 20 - The "New" Vintages Catalogue

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Apr. 9 - Don't be screwed by a bad cork ~ Screwcaps are the answer

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Mar. 26 - Canada's #1 Wine Festival 27th ~ Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival

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Mar. 19 - German Classics for Easter

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Mar. 12 - Ontario's Vinous Peaks ~ Great quality directly from the wineries!

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Mar. 5 - Today at Vintages ~ Chardonnays starting at $8.95!

Mar. 5 - Bottle of the Week
Cynar - A One-of-a-Kind Aperitif

Feb. 26 - Cuvée Throws a Curve Ball at Ontario's Best

Feb. 19 - A Vintages Jackpot for Shiraz Fans ~ But Slim Pinot Noir Pickings

Feb. 19 - Bottle of the Week
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Feb. 12 - The Apple of my Heart ~ Calvados to the Rescue

Feb. 12 - Bottle of the Week
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Feb. 5 - Uncovering the Best Classics Red

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Jan. 22  - Frisky Whisky for Robbie Burns Revellers

Jan. 15  - Pinotage Perfection ~ Exploring South Africa's Sole Indigenous Grape

Jan. 8  - Gems from Chile ~ Be selective in today's Vintages Release

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Canada's #1 Wine Festival 27th
Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival

© Michael Vaughan 2005

National Post Weekly Wine & Spirits Columnist
Saturday, March 26, 2005


All listings are automatically linked to the LCBO database)
If there is a product that interests you, just click on the name below and you will instantaneously connected with the LCBO database. The product will appear in blue and all you have to do is click on the name again and then the next screen will provide details along with the store search. Just click on store search. The number of bottles in each store is updated nightly. Call the store first to see if stock still remains (each store phone number is listed).

I am wrapping up five days of seemingly endless tastings at the 27th annual Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, which ended last Sunday. Festival activist Betty Verkuil asks me: “How come you don’t cover our event back east?” I reply that I’m actually helping them out as all the events completely sell out! “Do you really want Torontonians filling up the spots reserved for enthusiastic Vancouverites?” I ask. 

Of course, it is unlikely that many Torontonians would bother making the trip. They smugly think that TO has Canada’s biggest and best wine events – demonstrating that ignorance is bliss. Let me shatter this Hogtown illusion - there isn’t a better-organized, in-depth wine festival in Canada than the weeklong fundraiser for the Playhouse Theatre Company.

Consider that it features 49 events, serves over 1,100 wines (700+ in the International Festival Tasting Room alone) from 174 wineries representing 17 countries (to see the list of wineries click here; to see the wines presented click here). Of course, why would a self-respecting Torontonian want to visit Vancouver where the trees are in full blossom and daffodils and tulips the order of the day, when one can enjoy our everlasting ice and snow?

This year’s Playhouse theme region was South Africa and 31 wineries were pouring 124 wines in a special “Discover South Africa” section. The seminars were the stuff dreams are made of and included extended panels of professionals each of whom addressed the wines being presented.

For trade buyers, the event is a shopper’s paradise. There are two trade days when restaurateurs can meet the winemakers. Better yet, the BC liquor board waived the 50% deposit required for all private licensee orders during the Festival. They also waived all taxes on the extensive Nederburg fundraising wine auction! Indeed, I was surprised to find BC liquor board buyers proactively prowling the floor looking for great buys! Of course, all 700+ wines on show were available for consumers to buy, many at great prices, right at the show itself.

Alas, I didn’t see anyone from the LCBO at the show, which is too bad because they might have learned a thing or two! LCBO buyers, for instance, might have rediscovered the delicious, well-priced (under $14) Bodegas Castano 2003 Hecula - a Spanish red, which hasn’t been seen in Vintages for much too long!

One of the great things about the Playhouse is the quality and enthusiasm of attendees, which reflects the wines on display. How often will you ever see a German winemaker, in this case Rainer Lingenfelder, dolling out small amounts (25 microlitres to be exact with the help of a medical syringe) of his stunningly delicious Lingenfelder 2003 Scheurebe Trokenbeerenauslese Goldberg, which retails for $298 per half bottle? Here is a luscious dessert wine that is actually worth the $23.84 per ounce price tag! If Burgundy was on your mind, you could drift past Louis Latour stand for a small fix of Louis Latour 2002 Corton Charlemagne. Great stuff!

Another great thing about the Playhouse is that you can actually smell the wine. Unlike Toronto’s wine shows (consumer and trade alike), there is no penetrating odour of deep fat fryers! And despite being an all-you-can-drink event, there is an amazing level of restraint. The sheer lack of clutter is also refreshing – all “booths” are essentially the same, featuring just four wines each.

As for the best buys, there were so many that it is hard to know where to begin. I was struck by the juicy fruit flavours of many recent BC releases. Especially pleasing was Sumac Ridge Private Reserve 2003 Gewurztraminer (142893), a delicious Easter wine for only $12.95 with spicy, gently honeyed, ripe melon lychee flavours. While available in many LCBO stores (to check availability click here), it is perplexing that Canada’s # 1 best buy Gewurz has never been listed in the LCBO Price Book. It is one of those invisible LCBO “destination” wines, which never appears anywhere making it virtually impossible for anyone to know that they exist. Search the LCBO website under “destination” and nothing about these wines/stores appears. Unfortunately, my LCBO request for an updated list of wines in this programme went unanswered.

Given the enthusiasm (may we say chauvinism?) of BC buyers, few Ontario wineries dare present their wares. It was refreshing to see Charles Pillitteri working the floor with his cedary, ripe, lemon meringue flavoured Pillitteri 2002 Barrel Aged Chardonnay (349175) - my winery-only best buy selection at a mere $18.

Today is the last day sale for some 213 General List LTO/AirMiles offers. From Australia, Goundrey 2002 Cabernet/Merlot (585653) at $11.95 (reduced from $13.95) would be a tasty Easter treat with its juicy, ready-to-enjoy, ripe blackberry-cherry flavours. Full sale details are available on my website (click here to see the combined LTO/AirMiles list). National Post readers wishing for a free download of our March edition of Vintage Assessments may use the npreader password for access. Happy Easter!

2001-2002-2003-2004-2005 Tasting Note Database
Our tasting note database from December 31, 2000 to January 2005, covers every Vintages release product for the past 48 months. There are more than 8,000 notes in the database data. Just enter the name of the product, supplier name or CSPC number. Or you can search by type of wine, country of origin, even wine agent! Nothing could be easier. Also you can get information on the agent by clicking on the agent’s name, as well as current LCBO store inventory by clicking on "Check LCBO Availability", which will automatically tell you the number of bottles at LCBO as of last night.

To use our Tasting Notes Database: click here

** For All Visitors **
Vintages April 2005 Release

To see the complete list of upcoming
186 products click here (sorted by date of release). It includes the number of cases, which wines were presented by the LCBO, our agent ID for every product,
as well as, the
In Store D
iscoveries” for April.
You can also see it sorted by agent
click here  

Copyright Food & Beverage Testing Institute of Canada 2005
Prior written permission is required for any form of reproduction
 (electronic or other wise) and or quotation.
Contact Michael Vaughan at