Society: While glasses were raised at the Playhouse Wine Festival’s Bacchanalia Gala, it would be curtains for BC’s regional theatre company…

Fred Lee | May 2012

Photos by Joshua McVeity

(L) Wine Committee Chair Lawrence Burr and (R) Artistic Director Max Reimer

The centrepiece of the Playhouse Wine Festival—and one of the most anticipated galas in the city—the Bacchanalia Gala attracted nearly 400 wine enthusiasts to the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver recently. A must–attend affair for serious wine collectors, the 34th running provided an opportunity for oenophiles to enhance their wine cellar. Curated by wine committee chair Lawrence Burr and sponsored by Goldcorp, the auction and five-course dinner paired with ten wines was fronted by four-time event chair Vicki Prince-Wright and incoming chair Brenda McAllister.

CBC anchor Gloria Macarenko and food and wine scribe Sid Cross hosted the black-tie extravaganza, the crown jewel of the week-long wine festival. At $500 per head, the evening began with a sparkling wine reception before guests were seated for a repast prepared by the hotel’s chef de cuisine Joseph Schaeffer. Wines from theme-country Chile were among the bottles uncorked.

Among the notables in attendance were Wine Festival Director Harry Hertscheg, Tinhorn Creek’s Sandra Oldfield, Sandhill’s iconic winemaker Howard Soon, Rodney Strong, Sonoma winemaker Rick Sayre, Caymus Vineyards owner Chuck Wagner and—from Chile—Montes Winery chairman Aurelio Montes and Emiliana winemaker Alvaro Espinoza.

The spirited live auction, together with a silent auction, accounted for over half of the evening’s proceeds. The auction offered rare, valuable and unusual wines donated by some of the world’s top winemakers and private collectors. The auctions also included unique culinary packages featuring chefs and sommeliers from the West Coast’s top restaurants. Sponsorships, cash donations and a raffle also helped organizers raise over $250,000 for the regional theatre company.

Despite the haul from the wine festival soiree, it was not enough to save the venerable theatre company. Several weeks later, Playhouse board chair Jeff Schultz announced they would wind down operations after 49 seasons due to an insurmountable debt. A crushing million dollars in the red meant that it was curtain time for the Playhouse, 15 full-time employees and a reported 200 contractors.

Hours after the announcement, the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival issued a release assuring the public and grape enthusiasts the festival would still carry on.

“The Wine Festival is a separate society and will continue to stage one of the city’s premier festivals with our industry partners,” said Wine Festival board chair Randy Kaardal. “We look forward to hosting a successful and vibrant Festival for our patrons in 2013.”

The Playhouse Wine Festival is produced by the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival Society and operates the Festival independently, with its own staff, operations and offices. Since its inception in 1979, the Festival has raised over $7.2 million.

For 2013, it was announced the Festival’s Theme Region will be California and its Global Focus will be Chardonnay.





Image 1- (L) Wine Committee Chair Lawrence Burr, (R) Artistic Director Max Reimer


Image 2- (L) CBC’s- Gloria Macarencko, (R) Festival Director Harry Hertscheg


Image 3- (L) Incoming Gala Chair Brenda Mcallister, (R) Chair Vicki Prince-Wright


Image 4- Atmosphere shot