By David Stansfield
Most wine festivals take the same approach: 1. Pick a region. 2. Assemble a room of folding tables and sales agents pouring a cross-section of that place’s wines. 3. Get lit. While it’s a good way to get to know a place and its wines —the good, the bad, and the boring—it can also be a bit of a slog.
Top Drop tries something different. The city’s annual wine (and beer and cider) festival ditches the broad focus for something more specific: just the good shit. In the world of wine right now, that means wines made by people who care in places that matter. Or, as the folks behind Top Drop describe it: terroir and craft.
The focus on wines produced through good farming and thoughtful winemaking makes Top Drop Vancouver’s most exciting wine festival for real wine lovers. These are not the wines that clutter up the shelves of your local BC Liquor Store. This is a curated collection of rare and special wines that also happen to be crazy delicious. And there’s a room full of them. It’s a wine nerd’s wet dream.
While the line-up of wines at Top Drop’s main event is all killer, no filler, there is a handful that I’m particularly jazzed about. Here are my top five top drops at Top Drop.
Begin and end your tasting with bubbles. Trust me. It’s what the pros do. Bella’s may be the best in the room. Owner Jay Drysdale only makes sparkling wines. What’s more, each one features just one variety from one vineyard. Try the two Gamays: one from Westbank, the other from Naramata. Both filled with pure fruit and tiny bubbles.
Since mountain wines are currently where it’s at, the wines of Le Soula fit the bill. They’re grown in the foothills of the Pyrénées in France’s Fenouillèdes region in vineyards as high as 1300 metres above sea level. It’s a wild place to grow wine. The ‘Le Soula’ White leans into the wildness with a rich-yet-fresh blend of a handful of biodynamically grown varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache Blanc and Malvoisie de Roussillon.
It’s always smart to take a flashy wine out for a spin at a tasting. Pretend this is your normal. Just casually sipping opulent Pinot Noir from a pedigreed estate in Oregon like “So what?” Be careful though. Wine like this tight and generous estate-grown Pinot from Angela Estate could be habit forming.
A wine festival is a time to drink outside your comfort zone. Seek out the strange and unusual. Don’t write off entire categories of wine because you just “like what you like.” That’s lame. What’s not lame is the catalogue of natural wines of La Stoppa. (Natural wines are thing about which wine people have opinions) Funky and alive, the Macchiona, a high acid low tannin blend of Bonarda and Barbera, is particularly thrilling.
Alphabetically this is the last wine in the Top Drop catalogue. If you drink your way through every wine at the tasting in order (which I recommend) this is where you finish. Dry-farmed (ie: no irrigation, which is nuts) old vines Carignan mixed with a splash of Cinsault from Chile’s coastal Maule region, this wine is thick and intense with incredible concentration and a finish that you’ll mull over for days..
All this to say that tickets are now available for Top Drop’s grand tasting (called The Main Event) for the very reasonable (and sort of hilarious) price of $69.
When: Thursday, September 8, 2016; 7 to 9:30 pm
Where: Roundhouse in Yaletown (Pacific Blvd. at Davie St.).
Tickets: $69, available online.
David Stansfield began his wine career as a teenage cellar hand twenty years ago. Today, he’s an independent sommelier, the Wine Director at Vancouver Urban Winery, and co-host of the popular Sunday School wine school.