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Cornucopia of wine knowledge is Nov. 7-8-9 Free tasting plus low-cost seminars for food pros By Chris Woodall Whistler's first food and wine celebration won't all be fun and games, but a chance for hospitality employees to get in on the act with a free wine tasting and two low-cost seminars. These are the first steps of what organizers hope will be a full-fledged hotel-restaurant curriculum during the three-day West Coast food and wine festival that takes place all over Whistler, Nov. 7-9, with local chefs, visiting winemakers and internationally-recognized restaurateurs leading seminars and hosting winemaker dinners. Educational seminars, round-table discussions and guided tastings will help restaurant and bar servers develop an enhanced knowledge and appreciation of service and sales techniques, to keep Whistler servers at the top of their profession. "The ultimate goal is to ensure a consistent standard of wine knowledge and serving acumen among service staff and management resort-wide," says Cornucopia festival co-ordinator Dana Samu. "This will enhance Whistler's appeal to the seasoned and discriminating international travellers we attract," Samu says. "With Cornucopia scheduled to take place every November, when most restaurants are doing the majority of their hiring and training for the coming ski season, the timing couldn't be better." This year the Industry Program features the Jackson Triggs Icewine and Dessert Welcome Reception at the Garibaldi Lift Company restaurant at 1 p.m., Friday, Nov. 7, followed at 4 p.m. by a 50-winery trade tasting at Chateau Whistler. Both events are free and open to all individuals in the hospitality industry, but you must pre-register by calling 938-2772 by Monday, Nov. 3. No showing up at the door unannounced, Samu insists. Participating wineries are coming from B.C., Washington, Oregon and California. Two seminars for serving professionals at the Whistler Conference Centre on Nov. 8 are Resort Wine Sales, from 2 to 3:30 p.m., and A Server's Guide to B.C. Wines, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 for the first seminar and $10 for the later seminar. There is a limit to 50 people for Resort Wine Sales, and just 30 for A Server's Guide, so that the instruction stays personal and effective, Samu says. Tickets are available at the Whistler Activity Centre in the Conference Centre, or by calling 932-2394 to charge by phone. "The wine sales training course is led by ex-Whistlerite Paul Martin to teach servers in a resort environment everything they need to know to sell wines effectively and with confidence," Samu says. The Server's Guide course is taught by wine educator Mark Davidson, founder of the Vancouver Wine Academy and sommelier at the Beach Side Café. "This course will cover the basics for everyone from the neophyte server to the most seasoned veteran," Samu says. Topics include how to taste wine, how to successfully pair wine with food, and how to appreciate the nuances of B.C.'s wines. For the general public, Crush kicks off the Cornucopia festival with a gala Nov. 7 at the Chateau Whistler, featuring more than 150 wines to sample. The rest of the festival offers — literally — a cornucopia of seminars on a basket-full of food and imbibing topics, as well as winemakers dinners Nov. 8 and a Sunday in Sonoma brunch Nov. 9. Weekend packages are available at TicketMaster. Individual event tickets can be snapped up at the Whistler Activity Centre in the conference centre.