This Friday I embarked on a vinous journey like never before at FireRock Lounge’s exclusive event, “Rare Wines of Europe.”
Few insiders know this hidden gem as FireRock Lounge is literally tucked away in a small, cozy corner of the Westin Resort & Spa. Fewer still know that FireRock is part of Gibbon’s Hospitality Group – who are better known for après-ski party locations like Longhorn Saloon, Buffalo Bills, and Moe Joe’s – than for their esteemed wine events.
Yet during Cornucopia, Whistler’s Celebration of Wine and Food, FireRock Lounge treated guests to some rare wines from Europe indeed.
Scott Serfas, Wine Director and Curator of the Rare Wines of Europe Event
Spearheading the wine list transformation is Scott Serfas, Gibbon’s dedicated wine director for the past two years. Serfas has curated a selection that breaks expectations. The wine list, accessible via QR code through any of the Gibbon’s Group establishments, boasts an impressive array of small artisan, high-quality wine producers.
Setting this list apart is Serfas’s commitment to demystifying the world of wines for customers AND staff.
What do I mean?
Insightful descriptions accompany each bottle, ensuring that even the least wine-savvy among us can appreciate and savour these rare gems.
Furthermore, Scott and I convene alongside other local wine directors about every two weeks for blind wine tastings, ensuring our palates stay sharp.
However, during this particular event at Cornucopia, Scott expanded the experience by inviting wine talent from Vancouver to pour and engage. Below are the tasting notes from some exceptional rare wines of Europe from the event.
Tasting Notes from Rare Wines of Europe
Vincent Pinard 'Cuvee Flores' Sancerre, France $62
The Pinard is certified biodynamic and represents Sauvignon Blanc at its most elegant expression. They use indigenous yeasts and, uniquely to the area, ageing in large wooden vats for 7-9 months. This is not your ‘chunky and funky’ natural wine; the Pinards use their own volcanic sulphur from the property to stabilize them – making this a rare wine of Europe, indeed!
The wine unveils gooseberry, grass and dragonfruit that round out in your mouth. Textbook racy acidity supplies the mouthwatering appeal and the flavours linger indefinitely. Drink now or hold for 2 years.
Veyder-Malberg 'Liebedich' Grüner Veltliner 2020 $53
One of the things I love about my job is that I get to be familiar with lesser-known grapes and I LOVE Grüner Veltliner! If you haven’t tried a Grüner from Austria, do it!
And fittingly enough, this wine is called ‘Liebedich’ which in German means ‘Love you!’
On the nose, experience a mineral-driven journey with hints of green apples and
vinaigrette. While most tasters may identify ‘white pepper,’ I find it evokes alluring aromas of leftover turkey dinner and endive. The wine is textured on the palate, and medium-weighted. More charm lies in its reserved 12% alcohol. Make sure to revel in its enduring length.
Amazing Wine Personalities at the Rare Wines of Europe Event
Scott arranged for some great wine personalities to pour for us.
Meet the locally renowned Rasoul Salehi, celebrated as the Director of Sales and Marketing for sister wineries Le Vieux Pin and LaStella in the picturesque Okanagan Valley. Rasoul graciously shared with us the Veyder-Malberg Gruner Veltliner and the Fürst Erste Lage Spatburgunder.
Also at the event was Peter Rae, a prominent figure in the BC wine scene. Peter has a rich background in premium wine importing from companies like International Cellars and Trialto and now serves as a managing partner at Olivier Brands. Apologies, Peter, for my less-than-ideal photos that didn’t quite capture your essence – so I didn’t include them.
Rafael Palacios 'Louro' Godello, Valdeorras, Spain 2021 $52
This is the best version I’ve ever had of this lesser-known Spanish grape, Godello. The wine has had some beautiful handling in new oak barrels and lees stirring. Aromas of toast, vanilla crème brûlèe, and macintosh red apples are rounded with almonds. It’s a powerful wine in a medium frame that is balanced by high, mouthwatering acidity – all leading to a medium finish.
Immediately as I tasted it, I was wondering if these grapes are planted at high elevations. And yes, they are! – which is why the wine is so bloody, thirst quenching! This is an organic wine using indigenous yeasts. Cheers to that!
Drink now or hold for 5 years.
Rudolf Fürst 'Bürgstadter Berg' Spätburgunder Erste Lage, Franken, Germany 2017 $109
Spätburgunder is the long, German word for Pinot Noir and Erste Lage means premier cru – Fürst is one of the best estates in the country.
This vineyard is located WAY north. It means that the region has some of the longest daylight hours so that the grapes gain full fruit ripeness but it all comes with searingly high acid. To taper the acid, Fürst interestingly empties all the barrels back into tanks and redistributes them to chill it down – every 3 months.
The result is a pale ruby wine that is still fairly austere and needs more time to reveal itself. On the nose there’s light strawberry fields, and a blood-iron minerality. The quality of the wine is absolutely evident on the palate in the way the flavours meld with the length of the acid.
This wine will reward patience – either decant vigourously or cellar for another 8 years.
90 points - but expected to go up with time or with a ton of aeration
Génot-Boulanger 'Vielles Vignes' Pommard, Burgundy, France 2019 $121
A certified biodynamic triumph hailing from the heartland of ‘terroir’ in Burgundy. The label proudly bears the village name ‘Pommard’, signifying 100% Pinot Noir.
Perfumed strawberries and cherries lift from the glass intertwined with notes of dill weed and light sandlewood oak. It’s silky medium frame unfolds with earthy, savoury, and herbaceous notes culminating in a long finish. Still just a baby, this wine needs time before the silky texture of the wine is revealed
89 Points - but expected to go up with time or aeration
Mentridana 'El Mentridano' Gredos Garnacha, Mentrida DO, Spain $52
Oh what joy this Grenache (Garnacha) brings!
Experience a burst of crunchy, vibrant red fruits, accompanied by a hint of herbaceousness and a delightful herbal complexity. This wine is a true flavour explosion! Despite its robust 14% alcohol content, it maintains a refreshing and light-on-its-feet character.
87 Points - Drink now while fresh!
Pecchenno 'Bricco Ravera' Langhe (Nebbiolo), Piedmont, Italy 2019 $57
I love the marketing of this wine label – it truly represents the traditional mandate of the Pecchenno winery.
A delicate pale ruby hue reveals aromas of softly expressed red fruits with a medium-minus intensity. Having matured for two years in large neutral French oak barrels, subtle rubber notes and earthy undertones contribute a nuanced complexity. With medium tannins, this wine presents a fresh and inviting profile, ready for immediate enjoyment.
87 points – Drink now or hold for 2 years
With Whistler reigning as the top ski mountain in North America, even après-ski havens like Longhorn Saloon cater to the most discerning wine enthusiasts. When you venture to the resort in November, explore the Cornucopia events scattered throughout town. Don’t miss the Rare Wines of Europe curated by Wine Director Scott Serfas at the FireRock Lounge. This exceptional showcase features Fürst Spatburgunder from Germany, Génot-Boulanger ‘Vielles Vignes’ Pommard from Burgundy, Pinard Sancerre from France, and barrel-aged Godello from Spain. Experience the fusion of tradition and innovation with biodynamic wines and producers like Pinard, who craft their own sulphur. Rare Wines of Europe and the wine list at FireRock Lounge is an undiscovered gem in the heart of Whistler!
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