Vancouver Wine Fest hits a milestone


Wines from Iberia, including this red from Portugal’s Douro region, were in the spotlight during the 2018 Vancouver International Wine Festival. (Adrian Brijbassi/

Story by Adrian Brijbassi Managing Editor

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — An example of why the Vancouver International Wine Festival is one of the city’s leading annual culinary events took place at Espana. A very good neighbourhood restaurant on Denman Street in the city’s West End, Espana elevated itself during the 40th edition of the wine festival, serving a lavish multi-course dinner paired with vintages from Spanish wineries who were in town for the week. Chef Neil Taylor was clearly stoked for the event as both his Instagram feed and his dishes demonstrated.

The Espana dinner underscored the reasons why the Vancouver Wine Fest has been such a beloved happening for connoisseurs since it debuted in 1979. Beyond the amazing amount of excellent drink it gathers each year, the festival also inspires some of the city’s leading culinary talents during its one-week celebration.


Vancouver Wine Fest executive director Harry Hertscheg launches the 2018 event during the annual Bacchanalia Gala at Fairmont’s Hotel Vancouver. (Adrian Brijbassi/

For 2018, Iberian wines were in the spotlight and that meant Spanish and Portuguese cuisine were featured as well. At Espana, a tapas restaurant, the fit was superb and Taylor provided a sensational meal that included: Wild Mushroom Fidoa with shaved black truffles and truffle aioli, which was paired with a 2015 Tridente Prieto Picudo, an elegant red wine from the Castilla y Leon region of northwest Spain; and Grilled Iberico Pork that was fabulously tender and complemented with delicate flavours of apple and celeriac puree, and a roast garlic and parsley sauce. It was matched with a serving of Bluegray’s 2015 Priorato Tinto, a flavourful red.

The other wines were brilliant, too. Honoro Vera’s 2017 Rosé is made with tempranillo grapes, resulting in a wine that is both easy to drink and distinct. Restaurants with summer patios would do well to add this bottle to their offerings. A more traditional tempranillo, El Grand Bonhomme, produced in the south of Spain by namesake winemaker Natalie Bonhomme of Montreal, was among the bold red wines presented on the evening.


Humboldt squid at Beach Bay Cafe was served with crispy chickpeas and paired with fine Italian wine during the Vancouver Wine Festival. (Adrian Brijbassi/

The wine fest dinners were held at restaurants in different areas of the city. Joining Espana on the West End as hosts for 2018 was Beach Bay Cafe, where chef Michael Winning paired meat and seafood dishes with vintages from the south of Italy. Winemaker Feudi di San Gregorio showcased the complex and elegant grapes of the region. The 2012 Serpico Irpinia Aglianico, a rich red wine with lots of complexity, was among the dynamic bottles poured.

Nearly all of the 51 events for the 40th edition of the festival were sold out and $1 million was raised for the Bard on the Beach theatre production and education programs.

More Vancouver Culinary News

Bauhaus Expands to Toronto: It’s rare to see fine restaurants in Canada opening locations provinces away. Vancouver’s Bauhaus is undertaking that kind of exciting project as it announced plans to expand to Toronto, where it plans to launch in the city’s Fashion District in 2019. Owner Uwe Boll debuted Bauhaus in 2015 with a focus on high-end German cuisine and excellent wines. The restaurant doesn’t get the accolades it deserves in Vancouver but should find fans in Toronto, whose culinary diners are used to diverse flavours and are likely to embrace modern European cuisine. Boll also plans to open a restaurant on China’s Ocean Flower Island, where a massive resort facility is being built.

Coquille Opens in Gastown: You would think Vancouver would be replete with fine seafood restaurants. Unlike San Francisco, though, Canada’s west-coast metropolis has been thin for many years on decadent seafood and shellfish fare. Coquille Fine Seafood, operated by chefs from L’Abattoir and Royal Dinette, joins Boulevard, Blue Water Grill and Ancora as leaders in the space. At Coquille, the oyster bar is a draw and so is the Burrata ($17), served with white anchovy and caponata on sourdough. The highlight of a recent meal was the Glazed Petrale Sole ($34), stuffed with mushrooms and black truffle to give this dish from the sea an earthy texture. The wine list is spare but high quality, too. Coquille is already a hot spot and buzz should continue as the weather warms up and more diners flock to Gastown. 

Adrian is the editor of and He also edited "Inspired Cooking", a nutrition-focused cookbook featuring 20 of Canada's leading chefs and in support of the cancer-fighting charity, InspireHealth. "Inspired Cooking" was created in honour of Adrian's late wife and co-founder, Julia Pelish, who passed away of brain cancer in 2016. Adrian has won numerous awards for his travel writing, travel photography, and fiction, and has visited more than 55 countries. He is a former editor at the Toronto Star and New York Newsday, and was the social media and advocacy manager for Destination Canada. His articles have frequently appeared in the Huffington Post, Globe & Mail, and other major publications. He has appeared on national and local broadcasts, talking about travel, sports, creative writing and journalism. In 2019, he launched Trippzy, a travel-trivia app developed to educate consumers about destinations around the world.

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