Cheers

    [photo:1349447204226]I recently was invited to join my food blogger friend Bosco to attend the 34th annual Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival which was held at the Convention Centre downtown. I have to admit that I am not a wine connoisseur and know very little about the types of wines other than I like to have a glass or two with my meals. I was especially looking forward to the opportunity to be amongst enthusiasts and to see what it is that makes everyone swoon when it comes to drinking wine. Held over the course of three evenings, it is touted as North America's largest consumer event and is a sell out well before the event begins. This year, the "Global Focus" was on Cabernet with over 185 different Cabernets to sample as well as introducing the wines of Chile as a "Regional Theme." Armed with our media passes, Bosco and I were able to bypass the long queues of people waiting to get in. We arrived so early that most of the exhibitors were just setting up. Bosco and I had a quick stroll around to determine which countries and wineries we were hoping to sample. It can be a little bit intimidating as you approach a table, however, all the exhibitors and wineries are there to introduce their pride and joy and are very helpful. [photo:1349592735126]Not knowing where to begin, I headed straight to a familiar wine section, our very own BC wines. I came across the winery I had visited one summer in the Okanagan called Nk'Mip (pronounced in-ka-meep), one of North America's first Aboriginal owned and operated winery. I remember touring the winery and enjoying a lovely lunch in the outdoor patio of Nk' Mip that offered Aboriginal-inspired cuisine. The friendly gentlemen at the Nk' Mip booth poured me a sip or two of a lovely ice cold Riesling. Yes, just a sip or two. It was delicious, fruity and not too sweet. At the wine festival there are some unwritten rules, one of them being to sip and spit the wine your wine sample. I did notice little buckets or 'spittoons' placed strategically around the festival as well as tables of water. It is suggested for you to rinse your palette before sampling another wine. As a general rule, wine minglers stick with one type of wine and move from table to table having a sip or two. I really did not see anyone spit out excess wine. It hardly appears ladylike and does seem such a waste. However, for the serious wine connoisseurs working their way round the many tables, I can see how it can be a problem with over consumption. [photo:1349592786409] [photo:1349592894053]It is very interesting to sample the wines and have the experts tell you about the grapes and the wine making process and what to taste for when sipping. To be honest, I wouldn't have noticed any of the flavours in particular unless they were specifically pointed out to me. Everything affects the taste of wine, from the grapes, to the type of soil, the season and the time of year it was produced. All very mindboggling! As far as my untrained palette is concerned, wine is wine! However, it was fun and interesting to try and sip out vanilla or even granite in the wines. I was too embarrassed to ask exactly what "Granite" was, because I was thinking of the granite rock, but the wine tasted good anyway. So whatever the "Granite" was in the wine, it's working! Round and round the room we went, stopping at tables here and there, talking to vineyard owners and sampling a variety of wines. All makes for a happy and light headed evening, especially for my friend, Bosco, who confesses to being a light drinker. This really cracked me up, two "newbie" wine connoisseurs and one of them is a light drinker! No wonder they tell you to pace yourself and stick with just one type of wine. Fortunately, there were a few food stations where you could take a break from wine tasting and enjoy some artisanal breads, cheeses and chocolates. Wine or not, the food line-up was the longest! [photo:1349592943594] Towards the end of the evening, having sampled countless glasses of wines, I feel I have only just brushed the surface of this multimillion dollar industry. My palette is none the wiser, however, I feel quite confidant to say that I have narrowed down my wine preferences to Rieslings and the totally unpronounceable to me, Gewürztraminer, which is a sweet white wine. As an added bonus this year, a liquor store was included to the wine festival so that consumers could have a chance to purchase some of the wines that they sampled earlier in the evening. The Wine Festival is a huge success and is always a sellout. If you missed it this year, you can still visit our very own wine country in B.C. I feel that we are lucky to have our very own wineries in the interiors of B.C. This brings me back to my trip to the Okanagan one summer. The Okanagan is considered the wine country of B.C. with countless wineries dotted along the Okanagan Valley. There are so many wineries, one has to plan ahead to decide which ones to visit. My family and I spent one week camping in the Okanagan. We decided to visit two to three wineries a day, just driving along and pulling into whichever one caught our fancy. Depending on how much wine you sampled and how long you stayed at the wineries, two or three wineries are the maximum per day. Some of the bigger more popular wineries are also famous for their restaurants and in the summer it can be quite difficult to get a table. [photo:1349593006099] When all is said and done, I don't know anyone who doesn't enjoy a glass of wine or two. For myself, I have to sheepishly confess to enjoying cocktails, especially the happy hour pre-dinner variety. I love the idea of cocktails before dinner. I love champagne cocktails for breakfast, mint juleps on hot sunny days and a hot toddy for cold winter nights. I love the different concoctions, the flavours and the many types of glasses the colourful drinks come in. Now I will have to find out if there are any cocktail festivals and try to rope my drinking friend Bosco to come with me.