The day is upon us — the wait for Cornucopia, Whistler’s
five-day celebration of wine and food, is finally over, and the festivities
But for those among us who aren’t quite confident enough to
label themselves wine aficionados, an event like Cornucopia can seem slightly
intimidating — there are a lot of strange, unpronounceable words bandied
about, and strange practices take place at tasting events (people actually spit
the wine into buckets?! Doesn’t seem very sophisticated, does it?)
But rest assured, organizers have taken lots of steps to ensure
that food and wine lovers at every level of interest and expertise will have an
opportunity to take part in seminars and tastings to help cultivate their
interest and knowledge.
Jo Hyland is event administrator for Watermark Communications
Inc., the company running the Cornucopia celebrations this year.
“That was one of the things that Watermark took into
consideration when we took over the events. We definitely want to keep that
high-end aspect, and we want to keep pushing the limits in that category, but
then we also want to make Cornucopia more accessible to everybody,” she said.
Hyland stresses that there’s no reason to be scared off by the
big-ticket parties and the like — there are lots of chances to enjoy wine
and food while you learn.
A new seminar, Best Buys ($40), on Sunday morning sees a
star-studded panel of wine industry experts (Anthony Gismondi, Rhys Pender,
Mark Taylor and David Scholefield) offering their take on the very best bang
for your buck available at the local wine store, exploring different varietals
and price points.
“Not everyone wants to go out and spend $100 on a bottle of
wine,” said Hyland, “especially when they don’t necessarily know what they’re
going to be buying.”
Another new offering taking place at the same time on Sunday is
Building Your Wine Cellar ($60). Presented by Sid Cross, John Clerides and Paul
Wagner, this seminar touches on just about everything you need to know to start
your own cellar of just about every size; where and how to build it, what to
put in it, and how to manage it.
“That, again, is for anybody,” Hyland explained. “It’s from
beginner, intermediate to somebody that really knows a lot about wine, but
hasn’t really started their collection yet… it’s for people who are actually
starting to think about making an investment in wine, or people that just want
to start out with… a case or two of wine, and how they should store it.”
Hyland also recommends that wine world newbies check out the
Viking Stage Series events ($10 to $25), which see chefs preparing Indian
cuisine, B.C.-based product, seafood, cheese, chocolate and other food items,
and pairing each with the appropriate wines.
“That’s another good one for attendees to come and see sort of
what are the basic principles of pairing your food and wine,” she explained.
“That’s another good place for beginners to start, because a lot of wine is
enjoyed with food.”
By Sunday, you should be ready to take part in one or more of
the six Mini Tasting Series ($35), which touch on everything from sweet wines
to Syrah vs. Shiraz. You will (hopefully) have had a few days to hone your
palate and find out which wines you actually enjoy by attending Crush! or the
Regional Walkabout tastings, and which you would actually want to learn more
“They focus more on particular varieties, so you’re not going
into a seminar with 10 completely different wines in front of you,” she said,
adding that like types of wines are being compared by region, year and other
Tickets are still available to most events and seminars, and
can be purchased online at
Speaking of wine, I finally had an occasion to pop a bottle of
Fresita that I had longingly been staring at for the past few weeks.
You see, this new, Chilean sparkling wine is infused with
handpicked strawberries from the region. Yes, that’s right — strawberry
wine. I knew it was going to be an extremely sweet treat, and was holding off
for an occasion where I could share it with friends. So, on All Hallow’s Eve, I
chilled the bottle, poured liberal glasses of the bubbly red beverage and added
10 ml of rum to create their suggested Chili Libre cocktail (though I simply
called it “blood” when I handed it to people).
This fruit-flavoured concoction heralded back to our long, hot summer and the trays of strawberries aplenty that come along with the season, just before the snow starts to fly.