A First Fest of International Wines at the 2014 Victoria Wine Festival

I love wine, and I’ve had my fair share of it. I know what I like — nuanced, and not overly “muscular” cab sauvs and shiraz, and a elegant pinot noir has always done the trick for me — but, truth be told, outside of that, I don’t know a ton about wine. I’m not great at detecting tannins, and the complex and hazy rhetoric of grapes, vineyards, and aging processes have always just, well, confused me. This is a bit of a confession, then. Provided you haven’t completely written me off as a philistine of culinary culture, I implore you to read on. 

When Editor in Chief Gary Hynes offered me a ticket to the EAT sponsored Victoria Wine Festival, I was enthusiastic; absolutely I would love to sample a wide range of wines! Absolutely I would love to spend my afternoon in the beautiful Parkside Hotel and, most certainly, I would love to attend the Wine Seminar with Yalumba wine communicator Jane Ferrari. I think by the time I hit “send” to confirm my attendance, about 1 minute had passed since Gary’s message. Surely, this was a no-brainer.


But then, the dawning thought hit me: “I don’t know a damn thing about wine.” Sure sure, I can purchase wine with a bit more elegance than a “label buyer,” but not by much. Me, sitting in a room with Jane Ferrari? A seminar? Would I be called on to speak? Would I be expected to contribute witty wine banter? What if I mispronounced something? The anxiety built, and built, and this was but three minutes after sending the message. It was, to be sure, a rough week.

Jane Ferrari

Yalumba Wine Communicator Jane Ferrari reading EAT

Thankfully, my anxieties were put to ease as soon as the festival began. For me, the day began with the tasting seminar. Feeling like a big shot, I was escorted to the Parkside Hotel penthouse, which provided an absolutely gorgeous view of downtown and the Parliament Buildings (all, fittingly enough, drenched in chilly fall rain).

Yalumba Wine Communicator Jane Ferrari headed the seminar, and did so with an impressively charming balance of humility, humor, and — my god — expertise like you would not believe. She created a lovely relaxed vibe in the room, and deftly talked the group of about 35 people through eight Yalumba selections. Highlights, for myself, included the Y Series Viognier (very fresh, with a strong apricot aroma) and “The Scribbler” a cabernet sauvignon & shiraz blend (dynamic: very smoky, very dark, but elegantly balanced — not too heavy or muscular). For a much more informed and nuanced investigation of the wines on offer, check out Treve Ring’s great article on Yalumba.

Following the seminar, I met up with fellow EAT contributor Holly Brooke to check out the public wine tasting. With live music and free eats from Discovery Coffee (Cold brewed coffee! Old-fashioned donuts!), and Fig Mediterranean Deli (Hummus! A really great feta dip!) among others, there were plenty of tasty treats to garlic up and/or cleanse one’s palette.


The wine selections were just a bit daunting — where to begin, with over two hundred selections? Holly and I decided to restrict our sampling to Prosecco and chardonnay. Highlights? The Cantina Montelliana Treviso was easily the best Prosecco we tried. Crisp, dry, refreshingly complex, along with lovely aromas of pear, it’s an absolutely steal for $20 a bottle. Also excellent was the Louis Jadot Bourgogne Chardonnay Couvent des Jacobins ($29.99). It was nothing short of top drawer—aromatic with elements of citrus, crisp on the palate, yet surprisingly rounded.

With an emphasis on “building the knowledge of the average wine consumer,” the Victoria Wine Festival is an event that, I think, in many ways was directed at someone like myself. Full disclosure: it was my first wine event, and my first wine-tasting and, truth be told, I couldn’t have asked for a better event. Everyone I encountered—whether wine communicators, reps, or fellow festival-ees—were extremely friendly and welcoming. It was great, too, to have the Vancouver Island Sommelier Association on-hand to help first-timers to get a better sense of, well, how to taste and drink wine. They did a fine job, I should note, of boosting my wine/palate ego.

While, in some sense, the event left me with the all-to-clear realization that “there is still much to learn,” I nonetheless came away from the event not only having found some great new selections to choose from, but also the newly acquired knowledge that wine festivals, indeed, are not all that intimidating. Wine, in general, can be a bit of a daunting sub-culture to approach; the language can be hazy and difficult to make sense of, and — honestly — borderline academic in its sophistication. Of course, anyone can learn, and it’s good to see events like the Victoria Wine Festival helping make the complex realm of wine just that much more accessible.

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Originally from Calgary, Alberta, Jonathan Johnson reached the silvery West Coast in 2009. In 2014 he completed his MA in English at the University of Victoria, and is a contributor for EAT Magazine. In addition to his publishing ...

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