Whistler is overflowing with some of the world's foremost wine experts. Wine educators, consultants, worshippers, tasters and writers are here to share their knowledge during Cornucopia.
There are a few things average wine consumers need to know about these experts before settling in to participate in their seminars, or listen to their talks during the annual celebration of humankind's favourite grape byproduct.
First, anyone with the letters MW after their name is a Master of Wine. Apparently, there are only 297 Masters of Wine in the world. These are people who "demonstrated, by way of rigorous examination, a thorough knowledge of all aspects of wine and an ability to communicate that knowledge clearly."
This is according to the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW), which was formed in London back in 1955.
Two people with the MW designation will be in Whistler for Cornucopia — Barbara Philip and Rhys Pender. A third, DJ Kearney, is working toward getting her M and her W.
Philip is a Portfolio Manager for the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch and she's the only female Master of Wine in Canada. Listeners to the CBC Radio One afternoon show from Vancouver called On The Coast will recognize her name and her voice as a regular wine columnist on the program.
She is responsible for the European wine selections in BC Liquor Stores. In addition to that she works with her husband in a venture called Barbariain Wine Consulting. Philip also writes for Decanter magazine and Time Out Vancouver.
Pender has a wine school called Wine Plus+ and a 1.6-hectare (four-acre) vineyard in Cawston, B.C. (a very little place near Keremeos in the south Similkameen Valley). He's the youngest Master of Wine in Canada. When he isn't growing grapes or teaching about wine he judges, writes about wine and offers consulting services.
Barbara Philip will be accompanied by her husband Iain, who sports the letters AIWS after his name. These letters are a reference to the Institute of Wines and Spirits (IWS). Mr. Philip teaches Wine and Spirit Education Trust programs at the Art Institute of Vancouver and other locations. The IWS is based in Scotland and has a mission similar to the IMW.
A Certified Specialist of Spirits (CSS) will also be in Whistler during Cornucopia. Paul Watkins is a CSS who has working experience at Dundarave Wine Cellar, the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts and O'Doul's Restaurant and Bar. He now teaches independently providing staff training or consulting services for places like the Wickaninnish Inn, the Listel Hotel, The Vancouver Club and La Brasserie Restaurant.
He is also the sales director for The Seacove Group, a company that imports craft wines and spirits into western Canada.
The other experts expected in Whistler this week for Cornucopia don't have letter designations behind their names but this doesn't make them any less integral to the festival.
Christopher Waters, Sid Cross, Deanna Van Mulligen, Kurtis Kolt, Michelle Bouffard, Tom Firth, Michaela Morris and Keith Nicholson will all be here. All these experts plus DJ Kearney have multiple talents related to the wine industry and these personalities are consultants, writers, speakers, educators, sommeliers and wine competition judges.
Kolt, for example, was named Sommelier of the Year at the 2010 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival and by Vancouver Magazine for his work at Gastown's Salt Tasting Room.
Kearny has all the usual culinary credentials plus one that really stands out. Along with working towards getting her Master of Wine designation she has a background in geology. When it comes to wine geography she knows her stuff.
Certified Sommelier and former Bearfoot Bistro team member Keith Nicholson will be back in Whistler. He brings his passion for champagne. In 2009 he became the first Canadian Officer of the Confrerie de Champagne deVenoge.
Van Mulligen is a wine webmaster with two websites. Her first was WineDiva.ca and her second creation was WineScores.ca, where wine enthusiasts go to see her wine ratings and reviews. Of note at WineScores.ca, Van Mulligen's readers have rated the 2011 Fort Berens Pinot Noir Rose the number two overall wine behind a 2009 from Spain. The Fort Berens product is rated top overall amongst the Rose wines rated by the website readers.
Cross is the only Canadian to be inducted as a Membre d'Honneur of the L'Academie du vin de Bordeaux and was named The Gourmet of the Year by The Society of Bacchus America. He was inducted into the BC Restaurant Association Hall of Fame as a Friend of the Industry in 2009.
Waters is coming to us from Brock University where he teaches wine appreciation classes.
These are just some of the experts travelling from near and far to celebrate Cornucopia with us. Add to the list wine makers, distributors and other industry players who are here to share their knowledge, promote their products and most importantly, kick back, have some fun and sip a little vino in Whistler for a few days.