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Fred UnLEEshed: Feb. 21, 2017

Fred Lee drinks up the Bacchanalia Gala, the Wine Awards and the Science of Cocktails

A GOOD YEAR: As usual, the Bacchanalia Gala kicked off this year’s 39th Vancouver International Wine Festival. More than 380 guests attended the posh dinner and auction held at Hotel Vancouver. For the third consecutive year, Jana Maclagan handled the chairing duties, as well as adding auctioneer to her list of responsibilities, a first for the socialite. More than ably selling premium bottles of Chateau Petrus, Chateau Margeaux and Chateau Mouton Rothchild to the wine-satiated crowd, Maclagan’s prowess at the podium helped uncork a reported $280,000 for Christopher Gaze’s Bard on the Beach Shakespeare festival, beneficiary of the annual tipple fest, which this year celebrated the wines of Canada to mark the country’s 150th birthday.

WINE TOAST: Yours truly emceed the Wine Awards held near the conclusion of the 10-day Wine Festival. Winemakers, sommeliers, restaurateurs, food and wine media and industry insiders convened at the Convention Centre for the luncheon luau that annually recognizes the province’s best wine lists, as well as pays tribute to this year’s Sommelier and Spirited Industry Professional of the Year recipients. Restaurants achieving platinum status this year included Blue Water Café, Burdock & Co., Chambar, Hawksworth and CinCin. The latter’s Shane Taylor was named 2017 Sommelier of the Year, while B.C. wine pioneer Harry McWatters received the festival’s highest honour for his contributions to the wine sector over the past five decades. Upon learning of his award at the luncheon, a nearly speechless McWatters said, “I’m humbled, I’m honoured, and very proud of all our producers and merchants for making Canada a great wine producing country.”

COCKTAIL PARTY: The city’s finest bar stars once again gathered at Science World for the sophomore running of the organization’s Science of Cocktails soiree. Exploring the art and science of mixology, celebrated barkeeps such as Lauren Mote, Grant Sceney and Sabrine Dhaliwal helped transform the iconic geodesic dome into the largest cocktail laboratory for one special night. More than 30 bar stations were set up for drink enthusiasts to sip and savour bespoke cocktails artfully crafted and paired with culinary delights created by some of the city’s celebrated eateries and caterers. A party with a purpose, the evening of drink and food — hosted by newly appointed CEO Dr. Scott Sampson — generated $240,000 for Science World’s Field Trip Bursary Program, an initiative which provides students from underserved schools the opportunity to access the interactive centre of innovation and creativity.