Food & Drink » Anthony Gismondi on Wine

California here we come, right back where we started from

An expert's guide to the Vancouver International Wine Fest

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This year's theme region features the return of California and the global focus is on chardonnay — you can expect scores of the favourite varietal from around the world to be poured throughout the tasting room. In all, organizers expect 175 wineries from 15 countries to pour more than 1,800 wines and 30,000 bottles to some 25,000 participants.

To get you headed in the right direction, I thought I would share a list of 12 "don't miss" California wines at this year's event that you can find in government stores. Just in case you can't make it to the big show. After that, you're on your own.

1. Benziger Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California $30

2. Bonterra Vineyards 2011 Organic Chardonnay, Mendocino, California $19

3. Bonterra Vineyards 2010 Organic Zinfandel, Mendocino, California $20

4. Cameron Hughes Lot 313 Field Blend, California $20

5. Chateau St Jean 2010 Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California $20

6. Fess Parker 2011 Parker Station Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, California $20

7. Fetzer Vineyards 2011 Zinfandel, Mendocino County, California $15

8. Gloria Ferrer N/V Brut Sparkling Wine, Sonoma County, California $28

9. Kendall-Jackson 2010 Avant Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California $20

10. Louis M Martini 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California $30

11. Michael David Winery 2010 7 Deadly Zins, California $25

12. Sterling Vineyards 2009 Merlot, Napa Valley, California $29

Finally, if you are attending the festival here are some classic dos and don'ts from a 35-year veteran.

If you can't decide what to wear inside the tasting room, fear not. This is Vancouver, so everything under the sun goes, which can make people watching as much a part of the evening as tasting. With so much wine being swirled about, dark colours could be a smart choice, especially if you are heading out to eat after the show. Wear comfortable shoes or not, as is seemingly the case in recent years, but be forewarned: traversing the huge new convention centre is akin to an Olympic event. 

DON'T forget your smartphone or a pen or pencils, if you remember how they work, to make notes and keep track of favourites and pricing.

DO feel free to use the spit buckets located at either end of the tasting booth, it's a sure sign you are a pro and the only way you can make it through the evening. If you feel a bit self-conscious about spitting in public, practice in the shower. It's very empowering.

DON'T stand within splash range of the spit buckets, it's a sure sign you are an amateur. 

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