Vancouver B.C. International Wine Festival

May 23, 2023

Puget Sound

Getting There is Half the Fun.

Amtrak Cascades lets you cruise hassle-free and easily, with two trains daily from Eugene, Oregon, to Vancouver, British Columbia. What are the highlights? Missing both the traffic on I-5 and the long border-crossing wait makes the train a great choice! However, the main delight is the beautiful views from Seattle to Canada. If you are going northbound, grab a seat on the left side of the train, and your trip begins with views of Puget Sound, the ferries traveling across the Sound, and the Olympic Mountains. You will get similar views as you continue north when you pass the ferry docks in Mukilteo and Edmonds.

Before you reach Bellingham, WA, you will see vast stretches of scenic farmland, and in the spring, you might get lucky and see the colorful tulip fields. Just before Bellingham, you get views of Bellingham Bay. I bet if you had some binoculars, you would see some seals sitting on Chuckanut Rock.

 Puget Sound

The train ride takes about four hours, and you will arrive refreshed at the Vancouver, BC, train station. Then walk across the street to take SkyTrain, and ten minutes later, you will arrive at the downtown waterfront. On this trip, that is my destination - the wine festival.

vancouver Wine Festival

Vancouver International Wine Festival

I attended this year's festival, which has 44 years under its belt. Each year there is a country or regional theme; this year, the focus was on South America. One of the highlights was the International Tastings, which featured 147 wineries representing 17 countries.

Vancouver Wine Festival

There were numerous detailed seminars to attend, and many included wine tastings. The Southern Exposure seminar focused on South America's major wine regions. Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein led the talk, and his detailed PowerPoint presentation was fascinating. The discussion and wine tasting began at 9:30 am, but no one seemed unduly fazed by this early morning wine tasting.

 Wine tasting at Vancouver Wine Festival

Defining The Root OF BC Terroir was a very informative afternoon seminar. This masterclass featured 11 British Columbia wines and 11 panelists who went into great detail. One of the wines I enjoyed was the Chronos Cab Franc by Time Family of Wines. Winemaker Lynzee Schatz discussed the excellent tannin structure. I also enjoyed the Grand Vin 2012 from Osoyoos Larose Estate. Winemaker Michael Kullmann focuses on Bordeaux blends, and this one had close to 50% merlot along with cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. Very nice structure.

Christa-Lee McWatters

After the presentation, I talked with Christa-Lee McWatters, the general manager of Time Family of Wines. The McWatters Collection is also part of the Time Family of Wines. Harry McWatters, also known as the grandfather of the modern BC wine industry, is the namesake of this family legacy collection. Harry's daughter Christa-Lee is now the general manager. Unfortunately, Harry passed away several years ago.

Christa-Lee has spent many years working with the family winery. Before that, she gained extensive experience in the British Columbia wine industry, including as an Okanagan College Wine Sales Certificate Program instructor.

After our visit, I had a chance to talk with winemaker Michael Kullmann of Osoyoos Larose Estate. We chatted briefly about climate change. Michael is a firm believer in staying with the current varieties. He really likes Merlot. Michael thought it was best to look at changing rootstocks to adapt to the warmer climate. Changing the rootstocks involves grafting, which helps the vines thrive even under climate change conditions. There are many other things to do in the vineyard to deal with climate change. Of course, we could have talked for a long time about this.

After another fun wine festival, I returned home on the Amtrak Cascades. One more decision needed to be made. Should I sit on the right-hand side and enjoy the views of the water or sit on the left side for the vista of Mt. Baker near Bellingham? I voted for the water view again.


Photo credits: Vancouver Wine Festival (image 5), Time Family (image 6)