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By Leeann Froese

Do you know Rhône Valley wines?

It turns out, I know less than I thought.

Thankfully, at a trade event earlier in September at Vancouver’s Maenam restaurant, Michelle Bouffard, president of the local chapter of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (CAPS), hosted and presented a discovery workshop and tasting, to help bring some Rhône knowledge back to the forefront.


40 industry professionals: sommeliers, retailers, and media representatives alike, were joined by representatives of the Rhône Valley, Laure Vaissermann and Virginie Charlier, marketing and communication director of Inter-Rhône. Upon arrival to the event, each guest cracked open a fortune cookie, and inside was the name of one of five teams named after a few of the region’s famous varietals: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Marsanne and Roussanne. Once randomly teamed up we tasted 12 wines from the Rhône Valley during a blind taste test. Our goal was to guess the appellations or varietals as part of an interactive challenge under the evocative theme “So you think you know Rhône?”

It turns out, I do not.

I was on Team Grenache, with notable trade #winelover -s including Noel Hollet, Rachel von Sturmer, Iain Philip, Ron Wilson, and Si Man Lee. I was impressed by the tasting ability and knowledge at my table, although the table discussion revealed that my team members, like me, were also not 100% confident.


Created from a range of 21 different varietals, Rhône Valley Wine wines are renowned for their depth and distinctiveness. The reds range from round and fruit forward, to full bodied and structured; the whites are floral and fruity or full bodied and deep, and there are dry rose wines as well, that range from fresh and bright to spicy.

It’s all about the blend; and while there are many varietals, for example, most blended reds are a combination of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. The wines’ blends and flavour profiles depend on what area or village they are from and the related terroir, as well as the laws from each area as it relates to how much % of varietal is allowed in each blend.

Once we heard from Michelle about the regions, blends and laws, we blind tasted and were quizzed, with our answers submitted electronically and then displayed on a screen for all to see. I was not doing well at all, and my teammates were doing only slightly better.

I did OK on identifying the building blocks of the wines; identifying the acid, alcohol and tannin characteristics, but that is where my success ended…

Luckily the results were collected and posted by team, so no one saw that I only got a few of the questions right. I am sure that I brought my team’s score down, and here I publicly apologize to them!

Where I really fell down was aligning the wine characters to their origin. Related: I have a lot of dusting off of my WSET notes to do!

Even seasoned experts can still learn something new about Rhône Valley Wines,” said Michelle Bouffard.

I wasn’t alone; there seemed to be collective groans in the room each time an answer was revealed. The fact that so many of us got responses incorrect provided a great chance to discuss why – for example why Ventoux in the foothills offers wines so different from the full-bodied and round Gigondas wines from further south.

Some other teams did much better, voting as a group and doing very well. Congratulations to Team Marsanne on earning bragging rights!

Bouffard adds “The region’s diverse appellations, soil types and flagship varietals make it a key wine region. What really turns heads are the wines’ versatility, as they pair wonderfully with a wide range of dishes, such as Maenam’s Asian specialties.”


After the tasting and quiz was done and the whole room seemed collectively deflated, our moods were revived by the chance to taste these wines again and openly discuss, this time knowing what we are reaching for, and also now accompanied by hand-passed bites from chef Angus An.


  • Ranks 2nd among French AOC vineyards in terms of volume;
  • 388 million bottles sold in 2015;
  • Over 50% of total production is certified organic;
  • 1 bottle of Rhône Valley Wines AOC is enjoyed worldwide every 12 seconds;
  • Over 10 years, the volume of Rhône Valley Wines exports to Canada has increased by 41%;
  • In 2015, 11% (in volume) of French table wines in Canada is from Rhone Valley Wines. An overall 20% increase in BC sales of Rhone Valley Wines during 2015 to 2016.

Disclosure: As a member of CAPS BC, I was an invited guest at this event, and I thank Rhône Valley Wines for the chance to taste and learn. For more information on Rhône Valley Wines, visit


Meet Tammy Kwan #withTownHall

By Leeann Froese Every week for the past couple of years it has been our pleasure to introduce people we encounter and then capture #withTownHall!

This does not mean that we have hired someone new and added them to Town Hall Brands; rather we just connect with so many amazing people that we want to expand networks and introduce them to you, and you to them. This week #withTownHall, we introduce you to Tammy Kwan.

Tammy Kwan, writer, Georgia Straight 01

Tammy is one smart cookie. She is a staff writer for the Vancouver weekly paper the Georgia Straight, and her qualifications include a master degree in journalism from the University of Hong Kong, and she also graduated from the University of British Columbia (UBC) with a bachelor in arts degree with a major in history– specializing in Imperial China and Pre-Modern Europe.

In the Georgia Straight, Tammy writes about food, drink, events, and the delicious things that happen in and around Vancouver. in any given week she can be found checking out the latest place for a hamburger, lemonade, or ice cream, or sharing news about this weekend's festivals.

This means Tammy is out in the community a lot; you never know when you might bump into her.

With all she does, will you help us welcome Tammy as our featured person #withTownHall this week?

Leave a comment below – or go give this post a like or share on Facebook or Twitter

Meet Lindsay William-Ross #withTownHall

By Leeann Froese It’s a new week to introduce you to one of the fabulous personalities in the world #withTownHall!

This does not mean they work as part of our team, or are our client (although sometimes they are).

We just interact with so many amazing people that we want to expand networks and introduce them to you, and you to them. This week #withTownHall, we introduce you to Lindsay William-Ross.

Lindsay William-Ross, VancityBuzz 01The lovely Lindsay is a foodie and senior editor at VancityBuzz and her first published piece was in 1980 in The Province; her letter to Santa Claus. If you love Vancity Buzz and its food section that's because of Lindsay! She currently runs the food section.

Although Lindsay grew up in Vancouver a fourth generation Vancouverite, she spent two decades in Los Angeles. During her time in LA, Lindsay was the editor-in-chief of the city's top blog, she earned her master's degree, attended culinary school, and put her master's to good use as a professor.

Town Hall is lucky to work with Lindsay collaboratively because of our foodie clients Well Seasoned: A Gourmet Food Store, the Chefs' Table Society of BC and all our winery PR clients. Lindsay has attended events Town Hall has hosted and been part of the Travel Media Association of Canada's (TMAC) events to help writers and media learn more about what an editor looks for.

We can't thank Lindsay enough for her support of our clients and we appreciate her love of the city and food.

With all of that said about Lindsay, will you please help us give a big hello to her?

Leave a comment below – or go give this post a like or share on Facebook or Twitter

Meet Dianne Chow #withTownHall

By Leeann Froese Well its a new week to bring you an amazing person to meet #withTownHall!

If you are new to reading this blog or new to our company – we want you to know that we are proud that we have a big network, and we are continually meeting new and interesting personalities.

We want to make the world smaller by introducing people to each other - so sometimes our people #withTownHall are part of our team, sometimes they are clients, and sometimes, like this week, they are just cool people we want to introduce to the world.

This week #withTownHall, we are rolling in on #featurefriday to introduce you to a fabulous blogger and socialite, Dianne Chow.

Dianne Chow, founder, Fabulously Frugal in Vancouver 02Dianne founded her blog Fabulously Frugal in Vancouver in order to help other frugal fashionistas, foodies and #winelovers living and struggling to save in Vancouver.

She proves that you can enjoy the finer things in life in Vancouver while maintaining a budget by sourcing out the best deals without sacrificing quality for quantity.

She owes her frugal mindset to her successful parents who built success from humble beginnings and never forget where they came from.

If you are itching for the hottest deals in fashion, food, wine and events you'll be sure to find it on her website or scrolling through her Twitter feed.

Not only does Dianne have a passion for saving money, but is also a published poet, an established copywriter, a skilled photographer, and a former editor-in-chief.

That being said, she knows that it's okay to splurge once and a while and keeps you up to date on all things fabulous as well.

Will you help us say hi and welcome Dianne to #withTownHall?

Leave a comment below – or go give this post a like or share on Facebook or Twitter

Serendipity Winery & DinnerPartyYVR are the perfect pairing

serendipity dpyvrOn Saturday, April 9, 2016, Serendipity Winery will support the charitable DinnerPartyYVR (#DPYVR) for the fourth consecutive year. The Naramata winery is generously donating their BC VQA wine to simultaneously-hosted dinner parties across Vancouver with over 500 anticipated home cooks and diners. 100% of ticket sales from each dinner is donated to a charity of the hobby chefs’ choice. To date, Serendipity has helped participating hobby chefs raise more than $30,000 for charities across BC. Founded in 2013, DinnerPartyYVR has connected hundreds of hobby chefs, diners, charities, and partners around dinner tables across Vancouver for great conservations, marvellous meals, and a whole lot of fun. This year, more hobby chefs than ever will be invited to host dinner parties in their homes while raising funds for their favourite charity. 100% of ticket sales are donated. After dinner, everyone gathers to celebrate at an after party featuring live entertainment, treats and more opportunities to mix and mingle with new friends and charity representatives.

What: DinnerPartyYVR (#DPYVR)

When: Saturday, April 9, 2016

Dinner: 6:00 - 8:00 pm with over 500 anticipated home cooks and diners

After Party: 8:30 - 11:00 pm @ location TBD

Tickets are on sale now at There you can search the various dinners and locations and buy tickets, which will move quickly. Every year to date has sold out in advance, so don’t delay.

“We’re thrilled to again be supporting DinnerPartyYVR,” says Judy Kingston, owner of Serendipity Winery. “It’s a wonderful experience meeting all the hobby chefs and pairing one of our wines to suit their meal. Giving back to the community is what we’re all about.”

Follow along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest updates.

serendipity dpyvr 2

Vancouver Canadians Run for a Cause This Season

We are back - with our fifth annual $5-run initiative  Suggested Tweet:

Back again in #YVR! For every run @VanCanadians game, @TownHallBrands pledges $5 to C's Foundation. Cheer on the C's #withTownHall.


The News:

[Vancouver, British Columbia] The start of baseball season with the Vancouver Canadians not only marks a great traditional Vancouver experience at the Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium, but also a tradition of annual giving-back to the Vancouver Canadians Baseball Foundation (VCBF) for Town Hall Brands, a Vancouver-based marketing agency.

Returning for its fifth consecutive year, Leeann Froese and Andrew von Rosen, co-owners of Town Hall Brands, are back again with the $5-run initiative (watch the video!) in which Town Hall donates $5 to the Foundation for every run scored by the Vancouver Canadians this season. To date, nearly $10, 000 have been raised and 50 children have received support to play baseball through the Vancouver Canadians Baseball Foundation and Town Hall Brands since, the beginning of the initiative in 2011.


"We've worked with Vancouver Canadians for more than a decade. As soon as the Foundation launched, we knew it would be important for us to be a part of it," shares von Rosen.

As longtime baseball fans and supporters of the Foundation, von Rosen and Froese started the $5-run initiative to support the VCBF's work in providing local children in need with the opportunity to play baseball through a summer mini league. For many children, this translates into an experience of discovery, teamwork and most importantly, lifetime friendships to enhance their daily lives.

"We're parents, too. We want to lead other children in a healthy and active lifestyle, as much as we want for our child. Being able to put a child on a diamond with a smile on their face is an incredibly valuable experience for both the child and us. Not to mention, it helps to build community," says Froese.

Whether you're a sports fan or not, the Town Hall Team invites you to join in cheering on the C's to score more runs and add even more to the $5-initiative to support our community.

For game schedule for Vancouver Canadians, please visit:


Master The Public Wine Tasting Like a Boss: 7 Tips for the Vancouver International Wine Festival

  by Leeann Froese


The Wine World Is Here So says the tagline, for the upcoming Vancouver International Wine Festival. And given our 17 years of involvement in the wine industry, of course we are involved too! Canada’s premier wine festival runs from February 24 to March 2 at the Vancouver Convention Centre and other venues across the city. The spotlight is on France as the 2014 theme country, with a global focus on Bubbly wines. The festival will feature 178 wineries from 14 countries, attracting 23,000 participants to 54 events over eight days. For full program details, visit

#withTownHall – our firm’s involvement Our Town Hall team will be attending various events throughout the festival, and we have two winery clients that are exhibiting: Haywire, and Summerhill Pyramid Winery. Both will have amazing VQA wines and bubbles you HAVE to try! We will also be onsite in the festival tasting room representing the BC Hospitality Foundation. If we see you in the room, we are happy to take you over to these tables.

Also, we have recently been doing some behind-the scenes work with Wines of France. They return as theme country for the 2014 festival, with 52 wineries representing France’s diverse wine regions: Alsace, Beaujolais, Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Champagne, Loire, Rhône, South of France and Southwest France. All 52 wineries will be highlighted in the France Bon Appétit section of the tasting room, grouped by region, with three regional tasting stations—Alsace, Rhône and the Languedoc-Roussillon—providing guided flights and showcasing their unique wine styles.


When you read the amazing, free tasting booklet you receive when you attend the festival tasting, you will see the section on France, which our design team had the pleasure of doing the design and layout for. (Speaking of, there are numerous other printed materials, invitations, and tasting booklets that will find their way into festival goers hands at various events, all created by our design team.)

Get Your Tickets Dinners with international vine stars at some of Vancouver’s best restaurants, seminars with wine experts, access to the Acura International Festival Tasting Room and other exciting events are available. All ticket sales support VanWineFest’s charitable partner, Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival. Tickets may be purchased online at, in person at 305-456 West Broadway, or by phoning the box office at 604-873-3311 or toll-free at 1-877-321-3121.

Behave Yourself - 7 Tips to Master the Tasting Like a Boss

With the Vancouver International Wine Festival coming up in week, there are many of you that are going to put on your finest, head on downtown, and get ready to taste as many wines as you can... well let me stop you right there! There are certain rules, how-tos, and etiquette that you should know before you encounter a wine tasting. So, let me walk you through how to taste wine, from when you arrive at the convention center all the way through until the end of the night… check out these seven tips to keep in mind so you can take on the tasting room with confidence:

1. Before You Go Make sure that you have eaten something substantial before you even head to the tasting. Alcohol is absorbed more slowly on a full stomach than an empty one, and you want to make sure that you are prepared for the tasting that lies ahead.

2. What to Wear? Anything goes when it comes to these tastings but let's just keep in mind that the room this tasting is taking place in contains 178 wineries, and is a large room to navigate. You're going to be on your feet for a while, so this is not the time to wear your Manolos; this is the time to wear something a little bit more practical a lot more comfortable on your feet.


Also keep in mind that you may be bumped into by other people or there might be some splashes that happen; this is a wine tasting event after all, so we do not recommend that you wear something very light in color or something that you're going to be super disappointed by if you get splashes of wine stain on it. We suggest darker clothing here and something that is not made in a fabric that is too precious.


3. Don't Stink! Don't wear perfume, or smoke a cigarette and go into the tasting room. Tasting wine is an olfactory and sensory experience; you want to keep things as neutral as possible. There's nothing more sensitive to a winemaker who is trying to check the aromas of his wines to make sure that they have traveled soundly all the way from France, than to have you step up to his table and overpower his nose with your stinky eau de whatever. Wear deodorant, but not stinky deodorant; you don't want to smell like BO either, because again, crowded room, lots of people…

3. One Glass, Many Wines When you enter the room you will be greeted and handed a wine glass. This is your glass to use for the entire tasting, so hang on to it; don't set it down and lose it. If you are concerned about flavours of wine mixing from one tasting into the next, each table has a convenient pitcher of water on it. which you can rinse your class out with between tastings.

5. Spit or Swallow? Now let's talk tasting. When you're approaching the winemaker or the representative from the winery they will pour a small amount of wine into your glass; this is when you are to take a step back from the table to let the person waiting patiently behind you have access to the same precious liquid. At this time you take that wine, put it in your mouth swish it around to taste it, and then spit it out into the provided spit bucket.

Spit? Did I say 'spit'? That seems like sacrilege to many, but let's just understand that you are being poured a tasting pour. (You're not going to get a full glass of wine and it's not proper etiquette to ask for more wine, because the expectation is that you're going to swish and spit out this wine like a responsible wine taster).  You might find as you taste along that some of this juice is just too delicious to spit out, so you may want to enjoy one or two samples that you actually drink, but trust me, if you start drinking every single wine you taste, you'll be blotto before you even make it through the first few tables, and that is going to ruin the experience for you, as well as everyone around you.

Also, on the note of tasting, to make sure that your palate doesn't become fatigued it's also a good idea to spit; and I would not suggest that you chew gum or breath mints during the wine tasting because they will alter the taste of the wine.

6. Offer Positive Feedback If you have an opinion on the wine that is less than positive, please keep it to yourself although if you really enjoy it please do let the winery (who is putting at least a year of effort into that bottle in front of you) know how you enjoy having them visit us from however far away they've come, and that you like tasting their wine.

7. Take the Experience Home Now we've covered spitting and how you should try not to get tipsy at the wine tasting (or ‘sloshed’, as Ali from our team likes to say), but I leave the most important tip for now: at the end of all this tasting, make sure that you have a designated driver, or transit, or cab, so you get home safely.

Lastly, as you're leaving the tasting room, make sure that you pick up something in the onsite store on the way out. Many special bottles that are not regularly available in stores are available for a limited time for the festival, right there in the tasting room. Grab something special and re-live your tasting experience again later at home.

Are you planning to attend? Come back to this post and tell us how you enjoyed your festival experience.

Or talk to us about it on Facebook or Twitter.