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Day One: 2013 Vancouver International Wine Festival

Drive + Hotel + Wine Reception + Review: Blasted Church 2010 Cabernet Merlot

Monday, 25 February, I rose early for the 360 mile drive to Canada. I had been invited to attend the 35th Vancouver International Wine Festival in the lovely city of Vancouver, British Columbia.

I was out the door and driving by 7:15 am. This was not my first visit to Vancouver. My first visit was in 1973, I was eleven years old. We lived in Seattle, so that drive took only two hours. Over the years I've visited Vancouver many more times. Although I've seen the city transformed over four decades, it remains one of my favorite cities in the world. For me, it's up there with London and San Francisco. I was eager to return.

The drive was mostly uneventful; I stopped in Ellensburg and Bellingham for gas. A bad snow storm on Snoqualmie Pass made me grateful for purchasing Winter tires in January. The border crossing at Blaine went smooth and took no more than ten minutes in the queue.

* Tip 1:
If you are going to visit Canada, you must have a Passport with you.
“ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: For temporary visits to Canada for less than 180 days, a visa is not required for U.S. citizens in most cases.”
Bureau of Consular Affairs U.S. Department of State for the specifics.

Check-in Riviera Hotel

My destination was downtown Vancouver. Many of the International Wine Festival venues were either at the Vancouver Convention Centre, or nearby the downtown area. So I selected a downtown hotel within walking distance of most of the venues - The Riviera Hotel. The first event was to begin at 4:00 pm, I arrived at my hotel at 2:00 pm.

The Riviera is not a fancy hotel. It is a bit tired and worn. For my needs it worked out well. When I arrived I was told that my room had been upgraded to a suite. Cool. I had brought a week of supplies with me; clothes, jackets, shoes, camera, laptop, iPad, etc. It took several trips up the small, rattling elevator to get everything up to my 9th floor room.

Photos: Riviera Hotel room details.

One of the reasons I selected the Riviera Hotel, besides the great rate, was that rooms include a full kitchen. My suite had a bedroom, living room with sofa, two chairs, coffee table, a credenza supporting a 42” LED T.V., kitchen with full-size fridge, stove with oven, sink, cabinets stocked with dishes and flatware, coffee maker and pots and pans. As well as a dining table with 2 chairs and a chandelier. Windows wrapped the living area, presenting a good view of the buildings and street below. Oh, and the bathroom had a large bathtub, which I used. Not too shabby. With the Riviera Hotel my home base, I spent a comfortable week in Vancouver.

Riviera Hotel - 1431 Robson Street, free parking, enter parking from Robson Street, park in back.

* Tip 2:
There are three bridges into Downtown Vancouver: Cambie Street Bridge, Granville Street Bridge and Burrard Street Bridge. Make sure you know which bridge takes you to the area you are visiting. Traffic, construction, no-turn zones and one way streets will make you thankful you checked. I took the Burrard Street bridge to get to my hotel.

* Tip 3:
My hotel reservation I booked on – I found the hotel I wanted to stay by searching on search by location and price. Then read the customer reviews to avoid surprises. I'm still grinning at the great rate I was able to find and no surprises.

* Tip 4:
It rains in Vancouver. Not just the light drizzle in Seattle, but real, heavy, soak you to the bone rain. Bring a good rain jacket and an umbrella. One of the most valuable items I brought was my umbrella.

Photo: Vancouver International Wine Festival Reception.

Festival Reception at JOEY Bentall One Wine Room

The first event I attended was the 4:00 pm reception for the Vancouver International Wine Festival at JOEY Bentall One Wine Room. This was the first of many walking excursions in downtown Vancouver.

Photo: Christopher Gaze OBC. 

The Vancouver International Wine Festival was officially opened by Christopher Gaze OBC, Founding Artistic Director, Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival. The Reception was a wonderful introduction to some of the wines showcased at the Wine Festival. I was impressed by the professional staff of JOEY Bentall One Wine Room (very attentive, clean glasses provided for each wine, great food).

Photo: Wine and Wine Stewards.

The wines I enjoyed at the reception were:
  • Australia: Josef Chromy, Brut Sparkling NV.
    Very appropriate choice when greeted at the door.
  • New Zealand: The Ned, 2012 Sauvignon Blanc.
    I brought a bottle home for later review.
  • France: Les Halos De Jupiter, Cotes du Rhone, Phillippe-Cambie.
    This could be habit forming.
  • California: TRIM, 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon.
    Broad shoulders, needed food.
  • British Columbia: Painted Rock, 2010 Syrah.
    Would enjoy sampling more of this BC wine.

Photos: JOEY Bentall One Wine Room.

JOEY Bentall One Wine Room
address: 507 Burrard Street, Vancouver, BC
phone: 604-915-5639
Regional Manager: Kent Strom
Regional Chef: Jason Koningen
hours: Mon-Thurs 11am-Midnight

After the reception, I walked back to my hotel, dumped my camera bag in the room and headed down to the Liquor store and Safeway. Both stores are an easy three block walk downhill from the Riviera. For dinner I selected the Blasted Church 2010 Cabernet Merlot, and a thick-cut rib-eye steak. I also purchased odds and ends to stock my hotel fridge and cabinets. Yes, I cooked dinner in my room, dinner was grand.

Photo: Blasted Church 2010 Cabernet Merlot with in room dinner.

Review: Blasted Church Vineyard 2010 Cabernet Merlot

Tasting notes: Blackberry and cranberry on the nose with a lower note of earth and candy.
Cherry with blackberry on the palate, good mouth feel, smooth with a high note of violets on the finish mid-palate and lightly grippy on the gums. Easy drinking wine with a medium-short finish. Was just as tasty on the second day. Recommended. Pair with tender, slow-roasted meat, pasta in red sauce and Spanish tapas.
VQA: Okanagan Valley
ABV 13.5%
Closure: Screw cap
Paid: $26 Canadian
Blasted Church Vineyards:
378 Parsons Road, Okanagan Falls, B.C., V0H 1R5

Photo: View from my room of Robson Street. Not quiet.

I should mention that if you stay downtown, above Robson Street as I did, you will discover it is noisy at night. Not just the noise of traffic, but the noise of revelers carousing into the night will go on until early morning. I did not mind. I like the noise of the city.

By Wednesday my feet were sore and swollen (ooh, that full-size bathtub was appreciated) by Friday I had my walking legs and feet back. Vancouver is a wonderful walking city.

Next up is Day Two... I interview some Vancouver locals.

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