Canadian festival to feature Charles Smith Wines, Leighton

By on December 23, 2014
The 2015 Vancouver International Wine Judging will bring more than 170 wineries from 14 countries together Feb. 20-March 1.

The 2015 Vancouver International Wine Judging will bring more than 170 wineries from 14 countries together Feb. 20-March 1. (Photo by Andrew Chin Photography/Courtesy of Vancouver International Wine Festival)

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Washington winemaker Brennon Leighton of Charles Smith Wines will be among the winemakers featured in two seminars later this winter at the 37th annual Vancouver International Wine Festival.

The 2015 edition will be staged Feb. 28-March 1 at Vancouver Convention Centre and recruit 170 wineries from 14 countries as it raises money for the Bard on the Beach Theatre Society. During the festival’s first 34 years, it donated more than $8 million to the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Co., which closed in 2012.

Each year, the Vancouver festival spotlights one county and a single variety. In 2015, Australia will be the featured country, represented by 55 wineries, and Syrah takes center stage. An estimated 25,000 attendees will have their chance at about 1,800 wines during the course of 53 events.

Leighton to represent Charles Smith Wines

Charles Smith Wines is in Walla Walla, Washington.

Charles Smith is no longer just a bombastic guy from Walla Walla with big hair – he oversees the third-largest wine company in Washington. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

Leighton is scheduled to be a part of two Vancouver seminars — All About Syrah on Feb. 26 and 25 Under $25 on Feb. 28. He grew up as a surfer in Santa Cruz, Calif., and worked in restaurants before he began his rise in the wine industry as an assistant winemaker for Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville. He later turned EFESTE into one of Woodinville’s cult wineries before being hired by Smith in 2012 to take the lead on the Chardonnay-focused SIXTO program.

Recently, he also launched the eponymous B. Leighton Wines project, which includes a 2012 Olsen Brothers Vineyard Syrah as well as small lots of Grenache and Petit Verdot from the Yakima Valley site.

The only other Pacific Northwest winery scheduled to take part in a seminar is Laughing Stock Vineyards in Penticton, B.C. The Naramata Bench property will be represented by winemaker/owner David Enns and his viticulturalist/wife Cynthia. They launched the winery in 2003 after successful careers in finance. They will present the first seminar of the festival — A Decade of Portfolio on Feb. 24 — and join Leighton with All About Syrah.

“What makes VanWineFest special is that every table at the tastings is hosted by a winemaker or other senior winery personality who can share their stories in person at the wine festival,” Executive Director Harry Hertscheg said in a news release. “We’ve always welcomed global vine stars to headline events to give their perspective and insights on the richly-fascinating world of wine, and this year is no exception.”

B.C., Washington wines in minority at Vancouver festival

There are more than 250 wineries in British Columbia, but only 28 are scheduled to participate in the 2015 Vancouver International Wine Festival — Artisan SakeMaker at Granville Island, Backyard Vineyards and Winery, Black Hills Estate Winery, Cassini Cellars, CedarCreek Estate Winery, Culmina Family Estate Winery, 8th Generation Vineyard, Haywire, Inniskillin Okanagan Estate, Intersection Winery, LA FRENZ Winery, Laughing Stock Vineyards, Nk’Mip Cellars, Noble Ridge Vineyard & Winery, Osoyoos Larose, Painted Rock Estate Winery, Poplar Grove Winery, Quails’ Gate Winery, Red Rooster Winery, Road 13 Vineyards, Sage Hills Organic Estate Vineyard & Winery, Sandhill, See Ya Later Ranch, Summerhill Pyramid Winery, TIME Estate Winery, Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, Unsworth Vineyards and Wild Goose Vineyards and Winery.

The United States will be represented at the festival by 21 wineries, but just two are from Washington — Charles Smith and Columbia Crest.

The Bacchanalia Gala Dinner and Auction opens the festival on Friday, Feb. 20, at The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. Festival partner offers free admission to one of four tastings (an $89 value) to festivalgoers who book a downtown hotel while the offer lasts.

Tickets are on sale for a few events until Dec. 31 while supplies last. Tickets for the seminar programs and all public events go on sale at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 6. All trade events go on sale at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 27.

About Eric Degerman

Eric Degerman is the president and CEO of Great Northwest Wine. He is a journalist with more than 30 years of daily newspaper experience and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest with Andy Perdue and served as its managing editor for 15 years. He is a frequent wine judge along the West Coast and contributor to Pacific Northwest Golfer magazine, the region's longest-running golf publication.

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