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Tour the world of wine at Top Drop

Vancouver wine festival offering two satellite events in Whistler



Top Drop Vancouver is coming to Whistler to showcase a diverse lineup of winemakers hailing from three continents.

Top Drop is a two-day trade and consumer event that shines a light on "sustainably farmed, handcrafted wines offering a distinct sense of place," and for the second year in a row, is offering a pair of satellite events in Whistler that will appeal to both industry professionals and the wine-loving public.

"For such a small town, we're very curious about our wine culture and our food, and I think that's why the guys at Top Drop Vancouver looked here for their satellite event," noted wine pro Eric Blouin of Taste Whistler. The five wineries taking part — Altos Las Hormigas from Argentina; Washington's Hedges Family Estate; Justin Vineyards in California; Langmeil Winery from Australia and B.C.'s own Terravista Vineyards out of Naramata Beach — represent several distinct wine regions with their own unique terroir and farming principles. But they also share some qualities that appealed to festival organizers, Blouin said.

"The basic idea of Top Drop is to get a gathering of wine producers that are not necessarily giants and don't have necessarily huge marketing budgets but that are actually doing things right," he said. "We didn't want any winemaking trickery."

The first event is a trade seminar at Christine's on Blackcomb that invites food and wine professionals to sample some of the festival's most exciting wines and meet with the representatives from each winery in a fun, casual setting. It's scheduled for Sept. 7 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

"We're using the same format we did last year, which is a kind of a tasting walkabout/speed dating event involving all five producers," Blouin explained. "It's a format we used last year and we realized having smaller groups face to face with the producer is less intimidating for people to ask questions."

The second event is a Winemakers Dinner at Alta Bistro that is open to the public and will feature seven courses paired with nine different wines.

"We wanted to let the wines speak, so we're keeping the dishes really focused — three or four components maximum, and they're going to be epic components," said Alta Bistro co-owner Eric Griffith.

Some of the "epic" ingredients on Executive Chef Nick Cassettari's menu include fresh B.C. oysters, smoky boudin noir (blood sausage) and succulent Alberta Wagyu beef.

Griffith's interest was piqued when he first saw the list of wines that would be included in the dinner, and said diners will likely get to sample the kind of top-shelf vintages they've never experienced before.

"It'll be interesting to taste these wines side by side in comparison to their counterpart from a different region. For instance, Pasa Robles, Calif. will be pitted against the Uco Valley in Mendoza, Argentina. And those two places are producing top-quality, full-bodied red table wines, and it'll be interesting to see how the different wine regions, climates and grapes interact to produce a different style," he said. "But I also think they will complement each other well because there are differences I think people will find satisfying to the palate."

Principals from each winery will also be there, offering guests a hands-on education in wine tasting in a relaxed setting.

"We're getting to showcase some really unique producers in a great context. But also the mandate of this whole idea is to make it very accessible to everyone," said Griffith. "If you manage to plop yourself down beside one of the principals that are there, you've got a pretty fascinating ear to sit beside."

The Winemakers Dinner is set for Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $99 plus tax and gratuity. For reservations, contact Alta Bistro at 604-932-2582 or


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