JUST when you thought B.C.'s archaic liquor laws were edging closer to normality, things become curiouser and curiouser.
At least it appears that way. Almost like Alice in Wonderland, B.C.'s Liquor Control and Licensing Branch seems to live in a world of its own, ignoring its mandate to act in the interest of the public good.
How can we come to any other conclusion, following the branch's decision to deny the Belfry Theatre permission to hold its annual fine wine auction for charity?
The now-cancelled auction, an event that is standard practice for many non-profits, has been an important fundraiser for the Victoria theatre company, which has not had any problems getting a Special Occasion License in the past.
The very purpose of fine wine auctions is to offer people the chance to bid on rare and hard to find wines or unusual formats, often as not from collectors' cellars. The practice has been going on for decades, so it's strange indeed that the licensing branch should choose to flex its muscle at this particular time.
Furthermore, the notion that only wines purchased from B.C. Liquor stores may be auctioned is downright ludicrous, and you can be sure that the individual who issued this ruling is well aware of that.
For the BCLCB to "test the waters" and drop hints that it might choose to reverse its ruling further smacks of abuse of authority in this instance, as the chill towards non-profits and charities is now widespread with the implied threat from all-powerful inspectors that they may at any time choose to deny a licence, or worse, shut down an event in progress.
The actions of the BCLCB are not restricted to this case alone. In recent months there have been other reports of over-enthusiastic enforcement pertaining to special occasion licences.
As to why, your guess is as good as mine. But somebody, starting with the minister responsible, needs to answer for this unacceptable form of bureaucratic bullying, and fix the problem at hand to enable legitimate charity fine wine auctions to continue as they have for years.
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Looming fast is A Taste of Sonoma County (Sutton Place Hotel, Nov 14, 6: 309 p.m.), which features more than 25 wineries and principals from Sonoma pouring their latest tastes.
Top names include Ferrari-Carano, Kendall Jackson, Kunde, Rodney Strong, Foppiano, Schug and many more. Expect a laidback and fun evening, with some intriguing wine auction packages all in support of Arts Umbrella. Tix $65.
Also not to be missed, a choice of two winemakers dinners following a reception with the winemakers Brix Restaurant and George Ultra Lounge, Nov. 13. ($150) Best act fast if you want tickets to either event: artsumbrella.com/wine
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El Porvenir Laborum Torrontes 2011
With its high-altitude plantings ringed by rugged mountain vistas and cactus lined trails, Argentina's Cafayate, in the Calchaquies Valleys (about three hours drive south of Salta, near the Bolivian border) is gaining a richly deserved rep for a wide range of wines. The low rainfall, often windy conditions and lack of humidity are ideal for vinifera such as Torrontes. This elevated offering yields floral and chalky/ stony hints on top, before a firmly structured and focused palate of stonefruit and citrus, with a lingering close. Takes Torrontes to a new level (90 pts.) Everything Wine $22.99
Also highly rated (91 pts), San Pedro de Yacochuya Torrontés 2011, from Finca Yacochuya. Not yet in this market, though it should be.