Decadent discoveries at the Fraser Valley Cork and Keg Festival
BC's top wine representatives at the Fraser Valley Cork and Keg festival introduced a dangerous trio of reds and an unexpectedly delicious bit of fizz destined to become your new obsessions of the season.
What should I expect from a beer and wine festival? Never having been to one, I had a multitude of images in my head as I ascended the escalator of the Coast Hotel and Convention center in Langley.
I imagined mascots, girls in tiny shorts giving out shots...What I saw as I stepped into the hall was exactly the opposite but just as enjoyable, even if there was no giant dancing wine bottle to entice me.
The second annual Fraser Valley Cork and Keg festival brought out an impressive selection of wine agencies from all across the province, showcasing their prize products and new developments.
An approachable and enthusiastic lot, the representatives spent the afternoon filling glasses and answering increasingly drunken questions about the wines they were promoting.
Initially the crowd was sedate, but as glasses were repeatedly filled by the vendors the language became less ‘sommelier-esque.' Approximately an hour into the event I noticed the flowery adjectives decreasing and more and more of the previously composed were making weaving, giggly trips to the restroom. I have to admit, the more I sampled the more likely I was to just lick my lips and label the wines as ‘nice.'
Like Cosmos and Bellinis, I’ve always considered white wine to be a quintessential girl drink best left for the ‘chick lit’ crowd. When Beth Doran of Authentic Wine and Spirit Merchants offered me a Moscato, I wrinkled my arrogant little nose. She was insistent, sympathizing with my dislike of whites but stressing that this one was different.
Australia's Yellow Tail winery has managed to produce a moscato that is almost nothing like its syrupy counterparts. It is certainly sweet with notes of peach, crushed green grapes and as the Yellow Tail folks describe it, flower petals. Although it sounds like it should be a perfume, it tastes light enough that the flavours mingle rather than overwhelm. This may be in part due to a light carbonation known as ‘frizzante.' It doesn’t explode on the tongue with bubbles like a proscecco might, but rather it’s a pleasant tickle that gives what might otherwise be a wine cooler sweetness a very pleasant edge.
Although the season for white wine patio afternoons is rapidly leaving us, I imagine the Yellow Tail Moscato will be a welcome addition to holiday dinners. Either that, or it would make a perfect accompaniment to welcome private moments and cold turkey sandwiches layered with warm Brie and a smear of cranberry.
The Yellow Tail Moscato arrives in BC in mid October and will only be available at select wine merchants throughout Vancouver.
Alexander Vineyards – Zinfandel Trio
In a room filled with sedate displays and polite but distant experts, Roberto Roberti of Purple Valley Imports was magnetic. His enthusiasm when explaining his agency’s extensive line bordered on passion, convincing me to try his unique trio of zinfandels with hardly a struggle.
Like Moscato, I have avoided Zinfandel for years. An early taste of it had reminded me a bit too much of the lingering acid of bad red wine and a night spent pooled on tiles somewhere. Apparently all it took was Roberti and his brooding Zins from Alexander Vineyards to erase what seems to have been an erroneous first impression.
Ranging in depth of flavour and complexity, the Alexander vineyard series ‘begins’ with an easy drinking, lighter Zinfandel called ‘Temptation Zin.'
Voted the top ‘Hot Date Wine’ of 2011 by the masterminds at the NBC Today show, this is the gentlest of the series. Although still round and full flavoured, the berry accord shared by all three is brighter and crisper in Temptation. A tiny bit bitter at the finish, it huddles some orange and strawberry flavours beneath the predominant rich jam-like taste. I wouldn’t think of it as a sexy wine, however, and I certainly wouldn’t haul it out for a hot date. A hot, bloody steak -- that would work very nicely with it indeed.
The second in the series marks the gradual increase in depth as the wines start to evolve. A touch more expensive than the crowd pleasing Temptation, Sin Zin replaces the optimistic brightness of the first with a more complex, woody feel. With notes of smoke, cedar and bramble, Sin Zin lingers on the palate for longer and warms the mouth with spice as opposed to jam.
It’s definitely a headier flavour and whereas Temptation screamed for a steak, I found Sin Zin confidently demanding something gamier. If eaten with lamb or even duck served with a gingery fruit compote I can imagine it might taste a little something like autumn embers nestled in the back of your throat.
Redemption Zin rounds out the series in a very big, very bold, very sexy way. Repeated receiver of top marks by wine critics world wide, Redemption forces the berry tones of its siblings into the back row and showcases some amazing, woody flavours. It’s an aggressive wine combining tones of walnuts, spices, and raisin- something like a deep and dangerous Christmas pudding. Kathy Lee should stick to her boxes of Naked Grape because I don’t think it’s food that I would pair this wine with. This is a drunken, voluptuous evening stretched out on a fur coat. This is Monica Bellucci in a bottle.
All three of the mythic zinfandels are currently available at select lower mainland wine merchants.
I must’ve sampled at least a hundred different wines at this year’s festival. I imagine it was quite a bit as I found myself sitting in front of a slot machine once the event had concluded, numbly pressing the ‘bet one’ button and thinking of what I would consider to be the real revelations of the afternoon. It’s a testament to the quality of the Yellow Tail and Alexander Vineyard’s Zin series that I not only remembered them once the sparkles faded, but can still recall the pleasure of drinking them almost a week later.
Even if you detest Moscato or shudder when you smell Zin these wines have to be tried before you past judgment. You never know…they might be gateway wines to whole new interests. Come to think of it, since that first sip of Moscato I’ve been strangely drawn to the Oprah’s book club selections at my local Chapters. I doubt there’s a connection.