Story by Adrian Brijbassi
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Peter Saturno sips the aromatic broth surrounding the piece of his sablefish and marvels at the experience. Saturno is the proprietor of Longview Vineyard, an Australian winery in the Adelaide Hills region. He has arrived in British Columbia this week for the Vancouver Wine Festival, an event that refreshingly indulges the public’s appetite for great food and great drink.
“Not many wine fairs do this sort of thing,” Saturno says while dining at Maenam. “I think it’s wonderful that you get the chance to see how restaurants pair the wines and see customers enjoy the full experience.”
The 2014 festival, which uncorked on Monday and wraps up on Sunday, will attract an estimated 23,000 attendees. More than 780 wines from 177 wineries and 14 countries will be available for tasting and purchasing. As with most wine festivals, there is a massive industry gathering. But much occurs beyond the Vancouver Convention Centre, where winery representatives like Saturno will mingle with others in the trade and members of the public who stop by their booths. Outstanding restaurants are hosting events, many of them themed around countries as chefs and sommeliers take advantage of having some of the best wines in the world touring through the city. So, while vineyards come to town with the goal of partnering with wine resellers who can help get their bottles into the hands of Canadians, restaurant-goers can enjoy a week of tremendous fine dining that stands out among every other week in the city.
The 54 events include the Tuesday night affair at Maenam that showcased chef Angus An’s Thai cuisine with Saturno’s wines.
“You have some of the best Asian food in the world in Vancouver,” says Saturno, clearly enjoying the fact that his wines have been paired with An’s bold cuisine. Maenam has elevated Thai food in Vancouver. An, who worked with the famed Aussie chef David Thompson at Nahm in England, fuses French cooking techniques with traditional ingredients and British Columbia’s wealth of seafood and meat products. On any night, dining here is a joy, even more so when the wines are the calibre of Longview’s. Most rieslings would not cut it against An’s grilled scallops, which includes a spicy green mango salad, but Longview’s Iron Knob excels. The best pairing of the night occurs when a Boat Shed Nebbiolo Rose is matched with the flavourful pork belly, cooked sous-vide and in coconut juice.
Currently, only the excellent Devil’s Elbow Cabernet Sauvignon is available in BC Liquor Stores, but Saturno is eager for more Longview bottles reach the hands of consumers. I hope they do. Not only are the wines great, but Longview is doing some cool things in Australia, including an annual street art competition on the grounds of the vineyard. “People who drink wine have changed and the industry needs to realize that. It’s not about formality. People who grew up listening to hip-hop are now wine consumers and it’s about doing things that they’re interested in, in what I’m interested in,” says Saturno.
After a couple of down years, the Australian wine industry is looking to rebound. Next year, the nation will be the theme country at the Vancouver Wine Festival, which means more opportunities for wineries from Down Under to showcase their products to resellers. Kevin Lamb of the Australian Trade Commission says, “British Columbia is where Australian wines first started to take off in North America. Before the rest of Canada or the United States caught on, BC was the first and the market here has maintained over the years. So, it’s important for our wine industry to be here.”
MORE ABOUT THE 2014 VANCOUVER WINE FESTIVAL
Dates: February 24-March 2
Festival Program: Click here for the full event listing. Dinners occur at numerous restaurants, with wines from around the world featured. Many events are already sold out. The theme country for 2014 is France.
International Festival Tasting Tickets: The Vancouver Convention Centre will host three days of tastings from Thursday-Saturday. Tickets cost $89 on Thursday and Friday nights and $68 on Saturday afternoon.
Contact: To inquire about tickets, telephone 604-873-3311 or 877-321-3121 (toll free).
MORE ABOUT MAENAM
Location: 1938 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver, BC
Menu Price Range: Chef’s Menu (five courses) costs just $32.50 per person and a Royal Thai Dinner (nine courses, served family style) costs $47.50 per person. A la carte options range from $15-$28 for dinner entrees. Click here for full menu.
You Must Order: It’s not on the regular menu, but the Crab and Betal Leave Wrap is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. The sweetness of the crab is complemented, not overpowered, by An’s spicy touch. He knows just when he’s added enough and this dish really exemplifies that skill.
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