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Pique's guide to Cornucopia 2012

What you need to know to maximize Whistler's fall celebration of wine, food and drink



We've been waiting a full year and now the fall festival we call Cornucopia is back.

Cornucopia returns with wine tasting, cocktail events, chef's dinners, parties and seminars.

The festival continues through to Sunday, Nov. 11 offering something for every budget from the Whistler Chef's Challenge today in the Whistler Conference Centre Grand Foyer to the $150 a ticket High Roller event at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler or the $155 Bubbles + Oceans event at Araxi.

The festival this year has grown to a five-day festival from a four-day festival last year.

Jess Smith of Watermark, the company producing the event, says this is significant as event organizers look to pull Cornucopia out to a ten-day event in 2013.

The director of partnerships with Tourism Whistler (TW), Breton Murphy, says we should expect to see more participation from the beer and spirits sector in 2013.

"We think we're going do more of a hops and scotch weekend to start with," says Smith, "and then do more of a wine tasting weekend because it is just too much of an ask to get these wineries to do two weekends."

The vision is to split things up with a beer and liquor weekend, special restaurant dinners during the week and then wrap it up with a wine tasting weekend. Of course, the successful seminars and the events in the foyer of the conference centre will return.

Murphy says festival visitors this year will see hints of where things are going next year. The "drink component" of things has been elevated for this year with new events like Eau de Vie at the Four Seasons and the marTEAni event planned for the Fairmont Chateau Whistler or the Butcher and Brewmaster at the Dubh Linn Gate.

"Cornucopia represents a festival that is really truly indigenous to the resort," says Murphy. "It's a reflection of what we offer in terms of food and wine and the culinary scene. The cocktail scene in the last couple of years here has really exploded. It's quite hot and we've got some fantastic mixologists doing really neat things working with chefs."

He notes that it just makes sense at a time when Whistler has rooms available and while bars and restaurants also have numbers of seats and stools that traditionally sit empty while the resort residents find themselves constantly checking the forecast and watching the snowline when the clouds part long enough to give a glimpse up to the mountain summits.

"It is always about showcasing what's special about Whistler," says Murphy.

What happens this year will really be a glimpse into the expanded fall festival on the horizon for next year.

"This is all what we foresee a year out," says Smith. "We're definitely honing in and we'll work it out as we go along."

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