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2013 in Review
Jan 01, 2014
2013 year in review, winediva, winescoresA Snapshot
It’s no longer cool to say you’re busy, not for busyness sake anyway.
So, let me say that 2013 was a hard-working year, filled with wine (of course), food, travel and awesome encounters.

The fact that I'm getting this out in early 2014 tells it best.

First of all, I’m a hockey fan, so the fact that we finally had a season start in January was a huge relief. I’d run into Sidney Crosby in Scottsdale in December 2012 as Phoenix Coyotes captain, Shane Doan pulled up in his truck to pick The Kid up. Together, they were heading to the airport on their way to New York with other NHLers to try and get the party started. I wished him luck, but at the time it wasn’t quite enough. It took longer than expected, right down to the deadline, but we got hockey back.
But that’s an aside.

JanuaryWineDiva 2013 recap

January is the month I roll out my annual budget bottles list. It’s the time of the year when we’re feeling bloated and poor, so a list of wines under $17 seems to hit the sweet spot.
The work I do for my own sites, WineDiva.ca and WineScores.ca is ongoing and takes up the vast majority of my time. My sites are mine, built to my specifications and designed as I want to see them – and they are a full-time job. 
The content is all mine as well. I don’t charge for content, as some wine review sites are now doing.

After discovering some my content had been pilfered and posted by another Canadian wine writer, on her own website (her site charges for its content) I had to take some steps to stop the ongoing theft of my content, which is never pleasant.
In retrospect, that hiccup gave me the opportunity to be forthright with readers, who may not fully understand what I, as a wine writer and reviewer actually do, and how I do it. So, I wrote an article (here), full-disclosure, on how I review wines - basically, how it all works.Vines Magazine, Daenna Van Mulligen, Francois Lurton, Winedica 2013 recap
I contribute to two Canadian magazines, Vines and TASTE (on a consistent basis), so I’m generally under deadline for one or the other. I’m fortunate to work with both publications. My editor at Vines, Christopher Waters, is not only the hardest working man in wine (IMHO) but also the most humble. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been working with him and contributing to Canada's best wine magazine for the past six years.
The team at TASTE Magazine is incredibly energetic and curious and the magazine continues to get better and better. I’ve been writing for TASTE for about five years now and more and more I hear from consumers how much they love TASTE - the recipes, photography and the articles. Early last January I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Skinner, chef and co-owner of The Acorn restaurant on Main Street, in Vancouver and bar star Evelyn Chick (Blue Water Café) for the Spring 2013 issue.
►Both articles appear here (p.86/p.74).
The Vancouver International Wine Festival or VIWF (we were all having a problem with dropping the Playhouse bit after its demise in 2012) held its annual media launch in mid-January. The tasting was held at the new, west coast cozy Forage restaurant, in the Listel Hotel. It treated bloggers, radio, television and print media to taste a selection of great California wines, which would be showcased at the end of February event.
California was the theme region for 2013, a perfect opportunity for California to shine, especially as B.C consumers were falling back in love with wines from the sunshine state. 
Additional articles you may be interested in:
Vines Magazine, December 2012/January 2013 - Francois Lurton Family Values (p.20) (unlinked article)

FebruaryWineDiva 2013 recap, WineDiva 9 years 2013

9th Birthday!
The most important thing about February is it celebrates not only the birth of my baby, WineDiva.ca but her sibling, WineScores.ca, which came to fruition four years later. 
In 2013, February marked WineDiva’s ninth year and propelled it into its 10th.
I think of my sites as my children, I nurture them and watch them grow, they demand my constant attention and I’m always trying to protect them.
For the past five years I’d been a judge for the VIWF wine list awards (I stepped down later in 2013).
My fellow judges and I would spend a significant amount of time (generally over the course of four to six weeks)
visiting participating restaurants, undercover, to observe the staff, their knowledge of wine, wine service, wine lists and even the glassware. Our goal was to create a level of great wine service and knowledge in BC by giving constructive feedback to the restaurants who were vying for bronze, silver, gold and rare platinums at the awards ceremony lunch, held during the upcoming wine festival. I believe our hard work payed off. Although not all restaurants are happy with the results, having unbiased feedback from a team of knowledgeable judges (restaurant owners, sommeliers, wine educators and wine writers) is worth its weight in gold.winediva recap 2013
The results of our visits and all of our judges meetings (filled with discussions, disagreements and joyful discoveries) wrapped on the second week of the month so that the winners and plaques could all be prepared and delivered on March 1st.
As February rolled on, there were some great visits by historic wine producers, Max Ferdinand Richter from the Mosel in Germany, Mastroberardino from Campania in Italy and the newer but soon to be iconic Tenuta Argentiera in Bolgheri, Italy.
►Read about them here.
The Vancouver International Wine Festival 2013 started off with a delicious bang at Joey Wine Bar on February 25th.
The annual media event launches the week-long event and gets our mouths watering for a whirlwind of wine tasting, education, dinners, lunches, wine drinking along with a bucketful of camaraderie.  There were a lot of highlights.
Lunch with the charming and very traditional Walter Schug at Diva at the Met reacquainted me with his fantastic winediva 2013 recap, Daenna Van Mulligen, Randy Ullom
Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. The week included a delightful dinner at CinCin with some acquaintances, Jon Priest of Etude in Carneros and Christophe Paubert from Stags’ Leap in Napa and another at La Terrazza with Charlie Wagner (Wagner Family of Wine) maker of Mer Soleil Chardonnays and the new Conundrum Red.
I wrote about Charlie's father, Chuck Wagner (Caymus) and his brother, Joe  (maker of Belle Glos), in Vines Magazine, here.
Terry David Mulligan and I have been working together for more than seven years on his radio show, the Tasting Room Radio. We were back in the International Festival tasting room on Thursday afternoon with headphones on, interviewing a wonderful lineup of winemakers and principals from around the wine world including Mark Kent (Boekenhoutskloof, South Africa), Randy Ullom (photo with me at right: I wrote about Randy and the legacy of Kendall-Jackson of California in the Vines August 2013 issue), Nathalie Bonhomme (Spain) and Charlie Wagner (Wagner Family Wines, California) to name just a few.

Additional articles you may be interested in:
Game day wine & snack pairings


Old World charm & pairing vegetarian food with wine
In March, the Consortium of Brunello di Montalcino (Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino) visited Vancouver, putting on an outstanding seminar and walk around tasting called the Brunello di Montalcino World Experience.
The tasting tour led us through some of the fantastic Sangiovese-based (aka Brunello) wines from the region around picturesque town of Montalcino in romantic Tuscany. These wines offer riper and plusher versions (bolder and darker fruit characters) of this noble grape than those in nearby Chianti - but they are a bit harder to find.TASTE Magazine, Daenna Van Mulligen, Acorn Restayrant, Bouchard Pere & Fils, WineDiva 2013 recap
The tasting brought back some fantastic memories of my tour in 2008 and a thirst to return.


Mid-March gave way to a stunning dinner at The Acorn restaurant, where Chef Brian Skinner (►I wrote about in TASTE Magazine for Spring 2013 p.86) prepared magical vegetarian partnerships with the wines of Clos du Soleil, from the Clos du Soleil, winediva 2013 recap, The Acorn restaurantSimilkameen Valley. The omnivores enjoying the wine-paired dinner didn't miss the meat or fish at all!
►Reviews of Clos du Soleil wines here

The always anticipated arrival of Luc Bouchard, representing the historic Bouchard Pere & Fils from Beaune in Burgundy, offerd us a rare look at some of the world's finest wines. It's a fortunate experience to taste such wines and I understand the bulk of the population who reads won't have the same opportunity. But I plead with you, if ever given the opportunity to taste the voluptuous, elegant and concentrated Chardonnay, Chavalier~Montrachet Grand Cru, please do.
►I wrote about Bouchard Pere & Fils and the wines I tasted, here

AprilArgentina, winediva 2013 recap


If it's April, it must be Argentina.
Roughly three and a half years after my first trip to Argentina, I found myself on back on a plane (well multiple planes), hopping my way down to Buenos Aires. I was fortunate to have more time in the fantastic city and therefore was able to see more, by foot and by car. 
I visited San Juan and the home of the historical Graffigna and the much newer Bodegas Callia. While in town I tasted wines from a several more local estates such as Casa Montes and Bodegas Merced del Estero.
►Read more about it here.
In addition, I put together a run down on the regions, the varieties (Malbec and More) and the new, more modern
cuisine I encountered.
►Read more here.Argentina, Daenna Van Mulligen, Winediva 2013 recap

Mendoza was next up. Visits were numerous and I tasted dozens and dozens of wines from an assortment of wineries such as: Bodega Norton, Pulenta Estate, Catena Zapata, Cantinian, Alpamanta and Clos de Chacras, Andeluna, Atamisque, Familia Zuccardi and more. I was able to explore Tupungato in the Uco Valley, Luján de Cuyo, Chacras and Maipu.
►Read Argentina part 2, Mendoza here.

Finally, after a 12-hour overnight bus ride from Mendoza city (which included some midnight excitement in the form police arresting a man sitting 4 feet away from me) I arrived in Neuquén, in Patagonia. I was extremely excited to be visiting the Vineyards at the End of the World.
►Read about Patagonia, Familia Schroeder, Del Fin del Mundo and Noemia, here.
Argentina cusine, winediva 2013 recap
Photos of Argentina

An annual event, New Zealand Wine generally rolls into town in late April or early May. New Zealand Wine works in conjunction with the consulate of New Zealand to put together an impressive spread of food, products from New Zealand and (of course) wine. The daytime trade tasting slides into an evening event, which allows consumers a taste of what this fantastic country offers.
►To give you an idea, I wrote an Introduction to New Zealand after my return a couple of years ago. 
Vines Magazine, Vikram Vij, Daenna Van Mulligen, Winediva2013 recap
Additional articles you may be interested in:
Vines Magazine: Modern Indian - Vikram's Choice. Vikram Vij of Vij's in Vancouver. One of my most frequented restaurants and one of Vancouver's elite.
Vines Magazine: Hunter Pride - A Family's Great White Hope. The historic Tyrrell family of the Hunter Valley. (unlinked article)
TASTE Magazine: Spring 2013 - The Acorn Restaurant, Chef and co-owner, Brian Skinner (p.86); BarStar Evelyn Chick, Blue Water Cafe (p.72)
►Get to know more about: Pinot Noir; Cabernet Sauvignon; Cabernet Franc


A month of Tuscany.
Italy in the spring continued to impress trade and media in Vancouver - specifically Tuscany. A follow up to the Consozio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino visit in March, the Consozio del Vino Chianti Classico left an impression and gave us all a look at the update guidelines of the region and the new Gran Selezione.
►I wrote, Getting to Know Chianti Classico - more about it here, to make it clearer.

Chianti Classico, winediva 2013 recapIf that wasn't enough Tuscany for you (can you ever have enough Tuscany?) the highly regarded Franco Bernabei came to town.
As one of Italy's most knowledgeable and respected winemakers, chemists and viticulturists, it was a treat to meet him and taste through a selection of wines he makes with the Italian-based Empson & Co.
►He is passionate about tradition and it's worth a look here at what he has accomplished.

Last but not least, Mazzei was established a jaw-dropping 600 years ago - in 1435. What may be even more unbelievable is that fact that it is still in the family - the 25th generation is gearing up.
►After a fantastic dinner at Q4 on Broadway, I wrote about the wonderful wines of Mazzei, here
►Photos of my dinner at Q4 and Mazzei wines can be viewed, here

I'd never say no to Cakebread. Having visited the winery a few years back for dinner I was excited to have a chance to catch up on what was happening with the Cakebread family. Dennis Cakebread brought his wines, a great sense of humour and shared both during a delicious lunch at Hawksworth Restaurant.
►Read my article on Cakebread and the stoneboat piano, winediva 2013 recapwines, here.

In addition, general manager and family member Tim Martiniuk from Stoneboat Vineyards in the South Okanagan, came to town with his family's wines. He introduced me to their new sparkling wine called Piano and new chief winemaker, Alison Moyes.
►See my reviews for Stoneboat Vineyards wines, here


On a roll.
Italy came in like a storm in the spring and didn't let up until June when the best of the best, the Gambero Rosso came to town in a rare event, brining their Tre Bicchieri World Tour to Vancouver. Tre Bicchieri means three glasses and refers to the best wines in Italy. Participating producers can be awarded one, two or three glasses in the annual Gambero Rosso wine guide. Being awarded the Tre Bicchieri is gold - you can take it to the bank. These wines represent the top tier and icon wines of Italy. There were a lot of thirsty people in room and WineDiva 2013 recap, TIME estate winery, Harry McWattersnone of them went home disappointed. 

It was also a lovely reminder of a sultry evening in Rome several years ago when I dined on wood-fire oven pizza rooftop at the Gambero Rosso building at the end of a tour of Umbria, Marche and Tuscany.

At the core of the BC wine industry is Harry McWatters. He established Sumac Ridge in 1980 (later sold to Vincor) and planted vines in a fallow site on the Black Sage Bench in 1992 - now the most prestigious vineyard land in British Columbia (you could argue, Canada). For his 46th vintage he established TIME Estate Winery and launched the wines at Brix, in Yaletown. Alsace, France, WineDova 2013 recap
►Read more here.
►Photos of my lunch at Brix with Harry McWatters and TIME Estate wines can be viewed here

I spent the second weekend of June at BC Place Stadium, hosting the stage for EAT!Vancouver, as I have for 10 straight years. It's always been a blast to meet my readers and folks who want to learn more about wine. I figure I've met and talked about wine to 4500 people in my years at the food & wine event, but it's time to move on. 
I will miss the Grapes & Hops stage and my fellow presenters, none more than Rick Mohibir from Just Here for the Beer.

I ended the month on a glorious tour in France, which included Alsace and Burgundy.
It was my first visit to the fairytale land of Alsace. It is as beautiful and idyllic as people say. Although unable to mention all of the fantastic producers I visited while there (Domaine Ostertag, Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss, Domaine Trimbach, Domaine Jean-Baptiste Adam and the unforgettable Domaines Schlumberger as well as all the additional domaine wines I tasted) I was able to convey the feeling in Vines Magazine.
►The Vines December 2013/January 2014 issue offers 5 pages of glorious pictures and well as my thoughts on Alsace -  food, wine and tourism. Pick it up!Alsace, France, Daenna Van Mulligen, winediva 2013 recap

In a return visit to Burgundy (I was last  there in 2010) I was able to visit individual producers and spent an amazing morning with Master of Wine Jean~Francois Renaud, who lives in Burgundy and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the region. Jean-Francois led me through vineyards in Puligny~Montrachet from the base of the slopes to the tops, discovering the soils, the expositions and what makes Burgundy so incredibly unique. If that wasn't enough, I also had visits to Domaine Faively, Domaine Comte Senard in Pommard, the wondrous cellars of Bouchard Pere & Fils, and pent an inspirational morning at the Mercurey-based Domaines Devillard tasting their numerous labels (and learning about their new luxury vineyard rental homes ). In addition, I visited a  tiny and very quaint family winery in the village of Meursault, Domaine Sylvain Dussort and dined with the Dussort family and their good friend, ex-pat American and winemaker,  Alex Gambal, at the hottest France, Burgundy, Saint Aubin, winediva 2013 recapnew dining spot in Burgundy, Auprès du Clocher, in the village of Pommard. 

►Photos of my trip to Alsace and Burgundy can be viewed, here

Additional articles you may be interested in:
TASTE Magazine summer 2013, winediva 2013 recap► TASTE Magazine Summer 2013 - I wrote about South Africa's Shining Varieties (p.56), BarStar Cooper Tardivel at Hawksworth (p.72) and L'Abbatoir in Gastwon (p. 62)
►Read the articles here
►Because I get asked about pairing vegetarian food with wine quite frequently, I put together an article called Don't Panic to explain how easy it really is. Read it here

July & August

Ah summer...
Summer is a notoriously quiet time for most of us in wine, generally even for those in the vineyard. There are not a lot of visiting winemakers or producers and few if any tastings. I look at the summer as a chance to catch up on what's been overlooked in the madness of previous months.

In mid-July I attended my last Vancouver International Wine Festival planning committee meeting. After year two of my five year stint, the VIWF mandated that a committee member could only sit for three years. The good news, I got five and I had fun doing it.

Quails' Gate, winediva 2013 recap, Okanagan ValleyInniskillin's soft spoken winemaker, Sandor Mayer visited Vancouver and hosted his first ever wine lunch with a few media at the slick new The Wine Bar (TWB) at Provence in Yaletown. Mayer celebrated his 20th year as winemaker for Inniskillin in 2013.
►Read more here

Later in July I drove up to Kelowna for a few hot and beautiful days to visit some wineries I'd not been to for a while. There's great stuff happening in the Okanagan and I was able to meet with some old friends and now new, to see exactly what was up. 
I visited Quails' Gate for lunch on the Old Vines Patio just before the new winemaker Nikki Callaway started, then scooted around the corner to visit the new (I'd never tried any of their wines, before this trip) Volcanic Hills. Next up. I sat down with Ezra and Gabe Cipes at Summerhill Pyramid Winery for an enlightening dinner on the patio at the Sunset Organic Bistro.
CedarCreek, Visa INfinate Dinner, winediva 2013 recapThe next morning had me visiting Tantalus and winemaker David Patterson (he had judged with me a year previously at InterVin - the International Wine Awards). From there I made my way, meandering up Spiers Road to Spierhead Winery above Kelowna and later to dinner on the lawns of Cedar Creek with roughly 60 others for a delightful Visa Infinite Dinner prepared by Vancouver chef, David Hawksworth.
►Read about these visits and the wines I tasted, here
►The photographs from these wineries and these events can be viewed, here

Summerhill pyramid winery, Kelowna, Okanagan Valley, winediva 2013 recapFor the past five years, come August, I get on a plane, fly to Hamilton then drive to Niagara where the InterVin International Wine Awards are held at White Oaks Resort. InterVin is associated with Vines Magazine, which I'd been contributing to for more than six years.
My editor, Christopher Waters is the head judge and this year we added three additional judges to keep up with the growing amount of wine submissions. Although each of us tastes what seems to be a daunting amount of wine over three days it's extremely well managed. Each panel of three judges consist of a winemaker, a sommelier (working in the winediva 2013 recap, Intervin international wine awards, Vines Magazineindustry) and a media person, such as myself. Even though I received my sommelier diploma more than a dozen years ago, I don't actively work as one so I don't refer to myself as a sommelier anymore.
Work hard and play hard, we always have fun at the end of the day.  I look forward to seeing my fellow judges and tasting some great Niagara wines, each summer.

►See the judges here (I apologize for the old picture of me).
►See the 2013 winners here
►View some photographs from InterVin, here

winediva 2013 recap, Intervin international wine awards, Vines Magazine, Randy Ullom, Kendall-JacksonOnce per year I go off the grid. No wifi, no cellular (even if I wanted it) and no vines. It generally happens in August or September and does not include a blow dryer, any stilettos or lip gloss. It does involve rubber boots, a big lens, a sailboat and if I'm lucky a lot of grizzlies, black bears, whales, orca, wolves and any other form of wildlife.

Additional articles you may be interested in:
Vines Magazine August/September issue. Lasting Legacy - Jackson Family Wines and Chief Winemaker, Randy Ullom (unlinked article)



Freshman week - back to school.
It seems no matter how much down time I may get and how much I mentally prepare for the whirlwind, which starts in September, I'm always shocked (like jumping into an ice bath) by how much is happening. I've learned to pace myself over the years. As much as I'd like to attend every event and taste every wine there is no possible way for me to cover it all, be it on the radio, my own websites or in print media. I like to cover (write about) as much as I can and I hate it when stuff gets lost in the shuffle.
Basically, it's non-stop from September 1 to December 1.
Gonzalez Byass sherry, winediva 2013 recapIn early September I boarded a very small plane to Oliver, in the Okanagan Valley with a few other journalists from the United States and Canada. Our destination, Tinhorn Creek Winery (right). I always look forward to a visit with CEO and winemaker, Sandra Oldfield, who is humble and witty as hell.
►I wrote about my visit to Tinhorn Creek here
►Read my reviews of Tinhorn Creek's wines

It's not often enough I get to do a sit-down sherry tasting. The opportunity presented itself in September in the form of Gonzalez Byass, the nearly 200-year-old family producer from Spain. Winemaker Antonio Flores was delayed due to a Tohu Marlborough Pinot Noir, winediva 2013 recapmissed flight, but sales manager and engaging sherry ambassador , Christopher Canale-Parola stepped up and did a fantastic presentation that would convert anyone to sherry. He was preaching to the converted, but it was an engaging lunch paired with some pretty fantastic Tio Pepe, Leonor, Croft, Noe, Nutty Solera and Lepanto Brandy at Water Street Cafe all the same.
Next time, I would like to taste sherry in Jerez, Spain.

On my first trip to Argentina, in late 2009, I arrived in Mendoza after 18 hours in transit and found myself at the stunning, new Finca Decero about an hour later. Since then, winemaker, Marcos Fernandez and I sat down for lunch at Cru (no longer) a couple of years ago and I wrote about him then as well as about my visit while in Argentina. They are single vineyard estate wines from the Remolinos Vineyard in Agrelo, Mendoza. The wines have evolved in the past few years, a gentler hand with oak and much more finesse. The prices for these premium wines are still very attractive and the wines are very broad, plush and tasty - you may want to check out their interesting Petit Verdot. We had lunch at the chic Black + Blue, which I wrote about here ►on page 98 in TASTE Magazine.

Bouchard pere & Fils, Luc Bouchard, winediva 2013 recap, Le ParisienLuc Bouchard returned to Vancouver in September. It was like seeing an old friend for the third time in one year. We tasted through a selection of wines available in our market and enjoyed lunch at Le Parisien on Denman Street.
►Read what I wrote earlier in 2013 about Bouchard Pere & Fils, here.

It had been a number of years since I had seen Kiwi, James Wheeler of Tohu. Wheeler is part Maori and the Tohu winery is set in the beautiful Awatere Valley in Marlborough, on New Zealand's South Island.  I missed visiting Tohu, when I was there in 2011 so I was pleased to revisit some of the pristine wines Wheeler brought with him, while we dined at the cozy Campagnolo on Main Street.
Standouts included two Pinot Gris, the fresh entry level Kono 2012 and the richer Aronui Pinot Gris  2012(this new label was launched earlier in 2013), the 2013 Tohu Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc and 2013 Kono Sauvignon Blanc and the fantastic juicy Tohu Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012 and the Tohu Rore Reserve 2012 Pinot Noir.

Painted Rock, winediva 2013 recap, skaha lake, pentictonWhat a first impression! I've been tasting the wines of Painted Rock above Skaha Lake in Penticton for several years. I had heard about the beautiful site the vineyards and winery were  built upon, by John Skinner and the Skinner family, but had never viewed it myself. In mid-September I flew up to Painted Rock for the grand opening of their new stunning new visitor center. It was a beautiful day for the event and the crowd of friends, family, Okanagan vintners and media enjoyed the views and hospitality.
►Read what I wrote, here.

►View photos of Gonzalez Byass, Tohu, Bouchard Pere & Fils, Finca Decero, Painted Rockhere

Taste Magazine, winediva 2013 recapAdditional articles you may be interested in: 
My Secrets to Wine & Food Pairings
TASTE Magazine Fall 2013 - Argentina's Wine Evolution (p22); Barstar Gez McAlpine, Keefer Bar (p78); La Pentola de la Quercia and Chef Lucais Syme (p62)
Become a Better Wine Taster



The hermit comes out of her shell to take on Chile.
I became a bit of a hermit in October.
Lake Sonoma winery, winediva 2013 recapThis is the time the deadlines for my annual TOP 100 ($20 or less 89+ points) and TOP 50 ($20 and more 90+ points) arrive. That means any wines, which are to be tasted and reviewed for these lists arrive, generally all at once.
It's quite the undertaking and my concentration needs to be on these lists. Read how I review wines, full disclosure, ► here.

Saying that, I did attend a lunch (much anticipated) with the co-owners of the brand-spanking-new, Lake Sonoma Winery. Tony Stewart (proprietor of Quails' Gate in the Okanagan Valley) and Napa Valley's Dan Zepponi. The duo had worked together previously on the Napa Valley Plume project and wanted to expand. In August of 2013 they found a historic 62 acre estate, which was established in 1863 and purchased it. The name remained (Lake Sonoma Winery was established in 1977), the label was redesigned but still manages to look classic. They wanted to keep the name Sonoma in the name as a reference to its location and to pay homage to the region - as it turns out there are only three brands with the word "Sonoma" on their labels. The wines have been kept at a very reasonable price to drive interest and the wines are both fresh and flavorful.
Lupo restaurant and vinoteca, Lake Sonoma, winediva 2013 recapThe 2012 Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($24+ private stores) is tropical and buttery but nicely balanced and fresh enough to pair wonderfully with Lupo Restaurant & Vinoteca's heirloom tomato and burrata salad (right). Perfect with sage and squash ravioli, the Dry Creek 2010 Zinfandel ($25 BCLDB) offered sweet summer berries, mocha, vanilla and baking spice and came from grapes the winery purchased. The 2010 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($27 BCLDB) presented currents, leather and plum cake with hints of dried mint, coffee and savoury flavours in the mouth - a match with hearty mushroom risotto.

Chile, Santa Rita, winediva 2013 recap, pergola vines, petite sirah, bougainvilleThen came Chile.
Despite being in the thick of things in October I was excited to be heading down to Chile after being away for five years. My invitation came from Santa Rita in Alto Jahuel, just 45 kilometers outside of Santiago (right). The event was a celebration of the release of their newest wine, Bougainville Petite Sirah, one they hope will become as highly sought as their iconic Casa Real Cabernet Sauvignon.
Before the actual release party, Santa Rita did an amazing job of touring us through their vineyards in Casablanca, Leyda Valley, Apalta and the new Chile, empanadas, vina del mar, winediva 2013 recapPumanque site, also in Colchagua. I was geeking out over soil types, vine training and vineyard management.
►A complete look at my visit to Santa Rita can be found in the February 2014 issue of Vines Magazine, out soon.

In addition, I visited four other wineries not associated with Santa Rita. The fantastic Matetic in San Antonio, the white castle on the hillside in Casablanca called Vina Indomita (a great place for lunch) and I checked out the all natural (made in clay vessels) wines at De Martino in Maipo. Vina Tarapaca (bless them) took me in at the last minute
and as in 2008 I stayed at the historic
mansion on the 1874 established, Isla de Maipo
estate (right). Tarapaca, winediva 2013 recap, ChileI was fortunate to taste through the Tarapaca wines again with winemaker Edward Flaherty (the California native just celebrated his 20th year in Chile) and the artful and elegant Pinot Noirs from  sister winery, Vina Leyda.
Flaherty visited Vancouver in late November and was able to join Terry David Mulligan and I on a segment on The Tasting Room Radio from West Restaurant on Granville Street.


winediva annual TOP 100
Lists, Big Guns and drinking in Whistler.
I continued to taste and review wines throughout November until the release of my annual  TOP 100 ($20 or less 89+ points) and TOP 50 ($20 and more 90+ points) lists. While doing so I'm also calculating upcoming lists of reviews for sparkling wines, gift wines and wines to pair with holiday dinners. It's a bit like juggling but I've been doing these lists for seven years and I like to think I get better at managing my time although the whirlwind that was 2013 made that an eensie bit more challenging. 
November means Cornucopia.
Each year for the past, oh, seven or eight years, I've attended Whistler's Celebration of Food & Wine. I started as a panelist and then five years ago hosted my first seminar, Bubble-icious. Bubble-icious returned this year for its fifth year and is still a highly attended event, but who doesn't love bubbles? No one I know. winediva annual TOP 50 2013
I usually do two or three seminars and this year was no exception. Saturday I hosted a morning seminar called Don't Judge a Grape by its Colour, a tasting of Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from around the world. I asked friend and bon vivant, Sid Cross to join me because I don't know anyone else who knows more about Pinot Noir and Chardonnay than Sid. On Saturday afternoon the room overflowed with eager attendees who came to hear me talk about Argentina and taste a pretty fantastic selection of Argentine wines (beyond Malbec). I get pretty thrilled to see people engaged in a seminar I host then leave happy and with even a single piece of information they didn't know before they walked in.

What is a visit to Whistler without a visit to Araxi? I always anticipate both the Big Guns dinner (held on the Friday night of Cornucopia) or Bubbles and the Sea (Saturday night's annual late night sparkling party, which sadly was not held this year).
Araxi Big Guns Dinner 2013, winediva 2013 recap, Cornucopia WhistlerThe Big Guns dinner (right) was just as fantastic as ever. Terry David Mulligan and I enjoyed a sublime multi-course meal by Chef James Walt with wines paired by VIWF Sommelier of the Year, Samantha Rahn.
The night is always one of the most enjoyable of the year!

►View the photos of Araxi's Big Guns dinner and Cornucopia seminars here
One last producer visited before the rush of the holiday season began and that was Beatrice Landini, winemaker at Fattorio Viticcio in Greve, Chianti in Tuscany. Beatrice studied winemaking in Bordeaux, graduated in 2011 at age 27 and joined her father on the estate winery he purchased in he 1960s. It is a 35-hectare site that produces 300,000 bottles per year.
Beatrice Landini, Bere, Vitticio, Cin Cin, winediva 2013 recapBeatrice hosted a dinner at Cin Cin (I wrote about Cin Cin and Chef Andrew Richardson, pg. 98 in TASTE Magazine, here) and brought her fantastic wines: I Greppi Greppicante DOC, 2008, I Greppi Greppicaia Bolgheri Superiore 2007, Viticcio Chianti Classico DOCG 2010 and entry level Vitticcio Bere IGT 2011. If you're ever in Chianti you may want to check out their Taste Magazine, Daenna Van Mulligen, Robert h Holl-Allen, Michel Jacob, Le Crocodile, winediva 2013 recapagritourismo, farmhouse apartments. I know I would.

Additional articles you may be interested in:
Vines Magazine December 2013/January 2014 - The Eternal - Drinking In the Charms of Alsace (unlinked) p.33
TASTE Magazine Winter 2013 - Le Crocodile celebrates 30 Years, an interview with chef and owner Michel Jacob (p.96); BarStar Robert 'H' Holl-Allen (p.56)



winediva recap 2013It's a wrap!
Like July and August, December is a quieter month with producers staying close to home and tastings rare. But the work continues as my sites are still producing lists such as my annual Gift Giving Guide, Bubbles and 12 Days of Christmas and I'm writing articles for print media that will appear in 2014.
But there's also a sense that I can relax a bit, my days are focused on my laptop rather than being out interviewing and maneuvering through the city to tastings and events. 
Great Gifts for the Food & Wine Lover
It's also a time to reflect on the past year, what has changed what has stayed the same and most of all what I've learned in my travels and tastings.
Mine is a good job - one I love and cannot imagine not doing. It's also a lot more work than people think it is, which makes me chuckle each time someone tells me they want my job. 

In fact, reflecting on this recap of 2013 it was a pretty impressive year!
After tasting close to 2500 wines and being on 26 different planes on three continents I still have a my taste buds, a liver and a healthy respect for wine and all it entails.

 Here's to 2014 and 10 years of WineDiva! Bring it on!

~Daenna Van Mulligen
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