Playhouse 2011 – EAT’s favourite DRINKs


I was fortunate to be able to fully immerse myself in the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival last week. I cleared my calendar months in advance, booked a hotel in downtown Vancouver for the week, and jumped in. Seminars, dinners, minglers, tastings, vintage tastings, lunches, grazings, trade events, media events…

Over the past 33 years, the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival has grown into one of the top wine festivals worldwide. Let’s just look at the numbers alone: 1650 wines, 176 wineries, 15 countries, 62 events, and over 25,000 attendees. Though the feet were a little sore at weeks’ end (mental note: insoles), the palate was going strong, and the mind was spinning with new wines, regions and producers. I emerged on the other side of Playhouse with a much greater sense of Spain’s traditions and sense of place. There’s a pulsating vein of honour, pride and authenticity – both in the wines and the people. I also developed an even deeper love for fortified wines, and have a renewed purpose to make these special wines less of a rarity and more a part of everyday life. Since I’ve been home, I’ve already worked through a bottle of Gonzales Byass Oloroso, so I’m off to a good start.

Here are my top Playhouse Wine Festival 2011 picks. The list is Spain-heavy, since I spent most of the week focused there, but I did break away to taste the rest of the world from time to time. While some of the wines listed below may not be available here yet, keep an eye out for the producers in your local store. *indicates private liquor stores only.

# 1 Wine

Really hard call between my #1 and #2 pick, as both are equally worthy contenders. Both from this year’s theme region of Spain, both are rare and exceptional examples of wine, and both I have added to my personal ‘desert-island cellar list’.

Cavas Pares Balta
Gratavinum 2πr 2007
Priorat DOCa, Spain
$47  +378489*

Hailing from the and ruggedly breathtaking and ancient Priorato region, This artisanal, handcrafted red wine is as otherworldly as its landscape. The blend is made up of 60% Garnacha, 25% Samso (Carinena), with the balance Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, and is aged for 12 months in French and Hungarian oak. What comes across is much more than that – what you taste is the terroir (terruno). Stony, crumbly slate, the dusty, dark fruit. The physical texture of this aromatic and spicy, concentrated and powerful red is outstanding.

#2 Wine

González Byass
Apóstoles Very Old Palo Cortado VORS
Jerez DO, Spain
$40 for 375ml +983858

This sherry is a minimum of 30 years old, and in reality, much older (the Solera was begun in 1862 with the visit of Queen Isabella to Jerez. Intense, lengthy and complex marmalade, earth and walnut richness. Incredible length and lasting impression.

And now, my best of the rest:




Alvaro Palacios
Descendientes de Jose Palacio Petalos 2008, Bierzo DO
$33.00 +879221


Bodegas Hidalgo
Hidalgo La Gitana Pastrana Manzanilla Pasada, Manzanilla Sanlúcar de Barrameda DO
$22 for 375ml


Bodegas Abanico
Los Colmillos 2008, Toro DO
$55.00 +894196*


Axial Vinos
Otto Bestué Finca Santa Sabina 2008, Somontano DO
$30.00  +not yet available


Miguel Torres
Celeste 2008, Ribera del Duero DO
$25  +384040


Ramón Bilbao Vinos y Viñedos
Mar de Frades Albariño 2010, DO Rias Baixas
$45.00 +157511*


Telmo Rodriguez
Gaba do Xil Red 2009, Cigales DO
$24.00  +624353*


Segura Viudas
Vintage Brut 2007, Penedes DO
$20.00 +394064*


Bodegas Olivares
Olivares Rose 2010, Jumilla DO
$13.00 +803841*


Gonzáles Byass
Néctar, Pedro Ximénez Dulce, Jerez DO
$25 for 375ml  +not yet available




Josef Chromy
Pinot Noir 2009, Tasmania
$30.00 +142588


Buller Wines
Fine Old Muscat, Rutherglen
$37.00 +457267*




Meyer Family Vineyards
Micro Cuvee Chardonnay McLean Creek Road 2009, Okanagan Valley, BC
$65.00 *private liquor stores or winery


Tantalus Vineyards
Old Vine Riesling 2008, Okanagan Valley BC
$30.00 *private liquor stores or winery




Miguel Torres
Manso de Velasco 2007, Curico Valley
$45 +576868*




Champagne Deutz
Brut Classic NV, Champagne AC
$65.00  +56358*


Steinert Grand Cru Gewurztraminer 2007, Alsace AC
$34.00  +615898




Voyage Pinot Noir 2008, Marlborough
Not yet available




Blandy’s Madiera
15 Year Old Malmsey
$78.00 +920108*



The theme region for 2012 is CHILE, and the global focus is Cabernet(s). Clear your calendars – I’ll see you there.

Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival 2012

Feb 27-March 4, 2012


Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade.\r\n\r\nIn addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for ...

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