I get this email “Sonya this is FAB!!” from Jen Maier, founder of UrbanMoms. She’s a HUGE fan of Wolf Blass Chardonnays. I read on… it’s an invitation for an exclusive and intimate dinner with Wolfgang Blass, founder of the award-winning Wolf Blass Wines during the Toronto International Film Festival. Wolf Blass Wines is one of the official sponsors of TIFF.
Mr. Blass is an icon in the wine world. He’s entertaining, charming and has earned his place on centre stage. Passion is beyond words when he speaks about wine and other aspects of his life. And he’s clear about life…enjoy it and savour it.
Wolfie (yes, I actually started calling him that after my first glass) was here with his incredible team to host the Wolf Blass 2012 Luxury Release Collection dinner. The invitation was extended to top wine journalists as well as leading sommeliers at some of this city’s finest restaurants. To say that I was intimidated was an understatement.
You see, I would never claim to be a wine expert especially in this room filled with the most knowledgeable people in the industry, but I’ve been fortunate enough to have travelled and experienced a few of the great wine regions this world has to offer. From these experiences I’ve built an appreciation for wine and I know what I like. And that was the “breaking the ice” point for me and Wolfie, we both agreed that everyone should just enjoy what they like.
So, we were seated for dinner. And yes…thank you beautiful publicist for seating me next to Mr. Blass! GULP. The first glass from the luxury release was presented — thank you server! The 2011 Gold Label Riesling (Clare Valley/Eden Valley) was wonderfully fresh and light with hints of citrus. Definitely something I’d like to have again!
Immediately Wolfie warms up the room with chats about how much he loves cooler weather and enjoys his trips to Canada. Being a lover of winter sports he was yearning to experience a real hockey game and see how passionate the fans are here but, alas, it wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. Wrong time of year and, well, you know.
As the second luxury wine was poured, a flavourful 2011 Gold Label Chardonnay (Adelaide Hills), I ask him about the company’s sponsorship with TIFF. With Canada being Wolf Blass‘ second largest market worldwide they feel it’s important to maintain presence through cultural and entertainment affiliations. “We need to continue our relationships and raise awareness of our brand at cultural and arts events like this as it’s known to be important to our consumers in the present and future,” said Blass.
As the third course came around Wolfie examined the rare duck breast entree that was placed before us. “A little raw don’t you think?” he asked as the rest of us devours every tender morsel with the wild Ontario blueberry sauce. It was accompanied by the highly acclaimed 2010 Grey Label Cabernet Shiraz (Langhorne Creek). By the way, the Grey Label Cabernet Shiraz was the very first wine to bear the Wolf Blass name.
He mentioned that he’s very predictable when it comes to food. Blass enjoys Thai, Chinese and Italian foods. And if you asked him which of his wines he prefers, well, he loves them all of course, but he does favour the Grey Label Shiraz from the southern Australian region and he has a sweet spot for Rieslings. In case you wanted to know, Wolfie doesn’t drink beer.
As the evening progressed I thought I needed to wave the white flag over my glass but there was mention that the award-winning 1998 Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon (Barossa Valley) was not to be missed. This full-bodied and deliciously sexy wine did not disappoint. I tweeted under the table to my husband, “This is incredible…can we get some?” I’m not generally a fan of red wines but this one was smooth and had won me over.
Our final glass from the night’s spectacular collection was revealed – the 2008 Platinum Label Shiraz (Barossa Valley). This deliciously vibrant and velvety wine was accompanied with a flight of aged Ontario cheddars.
So, what does luxury mean to Mr. Blass? “Luxury should not be confused with elitism from my point-of-view,” says Blass. “But it is something that is extraordinary and something special. When you talk luxury, quality has to be an important factor, in which case it’s critical in our industry. You must have the quality to stand behind your product.”
Wolfie loves being with the people. He’s not just the face behind the label but he mentions that he loves his job. “The best part of my job is to be affiliated and associated with happy people,” said Blass. “The quality is important to maintain and keep success going. You must take care of them….like silverware. Standards must be kept high to see people enjoy and be happy.”
Wolf Blass Wines is an official sponsor of TIFF, so, I had to ask him about his favourite movies and movie stars. He said he was a romantic movie lover and mentioned that he loved Elizabeth Taylor “She was a real cracker,” he said. But as he matures (his words), he’s more interested in anything to do about World War II and the history that surrounds it in films, books or from watching the History Channel.
At his vibrant age of 78 it’s clear that he sees life as worth living to the fullest and experience has everything to do with it. Wolfie is symbolic of what his brand represents. He’s natural, honest, and very comfortable to be around. Mr. Blass is also quite impressive…like his wines.
And I wanted to share his best quote of the night in reference to whether or not a wine should be enjoyed now or later….
“Sure, but wine is like a girlfriend…why would you wait 5 years before you had sex?”