There is so much hype around the winemaker dinners, after-parties and Crush! showings at Cornucopia that often the workshops are forgotten — as your hand slams down on the snooze button of your blaring alarm.
This year’s lineup on Saturday, Nov. 10 and Sunday, Nov. 11 at the Telus Conference Centre gives festival-goers reason to stumble out of bed for a stiff coffee a little earlier than they might like.
One of those don’t-hit-the-snooze-button reasons is the Cornucopia Mini Tasting Series on Saturday and Sunday. Instead of focusing on varietals, like organizers have done at past events, this year the focus is on themes such as organic wines; Italy, classic and funky; Rhone; Cool Climate Chile; Wordly Whites and Spanish Whites.
The one hour sessions give guests a quick wine fix, educate them on one particular wine region and then have them moving onto the next activity. The short and sweet approach is popular, with almost half of the sessions already sold out.
Other returning session favourites didn’t need any tinkering.
The Battle of the Sexes duke ’em out wine tasting with men in one corner and females in the other returns on the Saturday. Fighting panelists such as DJ Kearney, David Scholefield and Pique columnist Anthony Gismondi will duke it out to entertain participants while they taste along.
Ever get puzzled what to serve with a spicy pad Thai or Japanese miso dish? Asian Persuasion with Scholefield and Nathan Fong will get diners past the easy cold beer or sake choice and pair them up with wines that complement an Asian meal.
Not every occasion demands a big-gun wine from the cellar, so Scholefield and Christopher Perry will present a wine lineup that is great for everyday consumption in Big Guns, Little Sisters, on the Sunday.
Probably the longest running seminar is the 6th Annual Rare Wines, on Sunday with Scholefield and Perry. The two lads have chosen 10 killer wines, each an icon in its own right. This exclusive tasting is presented in ISO stemware.
So what’s new?
The Regional Walkabout Tastings with Washington and California Wines on Saturday and Sunday. You won’t find these wines at Crush! This is an exclusive gathering of boutique wineries selected by the California and Washington Wine Commissions. Many of the small wineries only produce one varietal and therefore couldn’t be considered for the Crush! showcase, so they got a party all to themselves.
Some of the Washington wines showcased include Badger Mountain, Camaraderie Cellars, Columbia winery, J.Bookwalter, Kestrel, Matthews Estate and Whitman Cellars. Select California wineries include 337 Wines, Bonterra Vineyards, Clay Station Vineyard, Laurel Glen Winery, Rutherford Wine Company, Sterling Vineyards and Wente Family Estates.
The Viking Series seminars are perfect for festival-goers on a budget. Admission to sessions on coffee, chocolate and the slow food movement is by a $10 donation to the Whistler Arts Council.
The Viking Series: Taking the Slow Road Home, on Sunday, is presented by Don Genova and Nathan Fong. Genova recently returned from studying food at the Slow-Food inspired University of Gastronomic Sciences near Parma, Italy, while Fong will show audiences how to put the “slow” Italian twist on local dishes.
The slow food philosophy also eats its way into the Artisans’ Market at the Westin Resort and Spa. The market, presented by Slow Food Whistler and the Westin Resort, is an incredible showcase of artisan products from ranches, farms and waters in the region. The Artisans’ Market is a must-visit on the Cornucopia agenda. The community gathering puts browsers in touch with everything from local jewelry and artwork to specialty chocolates and health products. Admission is free. Sample tickets can be purchased for $1 and there will be a variety of foods and beverages to try. The market also hosts an insane raffle of artisan products held every hour, with funds benefiting Slow Food Whistler.
So get organized. Balance out your after-party, Crush! and winemaker schedule with a little higher learning — sign up for the Viking Series Coffee Talk: Humane Beans for Human Beings on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at the Telus Conference Centre for an inspiring, caffeinated start.
For more information on Cornucopia events, visit whistlercornucopia.com.