An extensive wine list can be intimidating for the amateur oenophile.
It's tough enough just knowing how to pronounce a given label, let alone having each of its terroir-specific characteristics committed to memory.
"No one wants to sound like an idiot," a local wine rep rightly told me recently, and it's that reluctance that keeps many casual wine drinkers from turning their part-time hobby into a full-blown passion.
Thankfully, Whistlerites won't have to venture too far from home this November to beef up on their vino knowledge with DJ Kearney, one of the Canada's leading wine educators, offering a world-class certification course through the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) at Cornucopia.
"WSET courses are the global standard in wine education — no matter where you are, or end up throughout the world, WSET certification is recognized, and you can continue studies if you choose. This is a unique opportunity not only to take the course(s) in Whistler (and not have to commute to the city!), but also learn from one of the finest educators in the business," said Araxi's award-winning sommelier Samantha Rahn, in an email.
Kearney, the lead WSET instructor at Vancouver's Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, has trained hundreds of professional sommeliers and will lead two courses in Whistler during the premier food and wine festival. (Kearney was unavailable for comment, instead choosing to sip fine wines in Portugal. Rough life.)
The first course, WSET Level 1, which runs Nov. 5 and 6, is meant for the serious wine lover or hospitality professional. Students will spend two days picking up the basics of wine and tasting techniques, which they can then put to the test at Cornucopia's signature tasting event, Cellar Door, which is included in the registration cost along with all study materials and a set of wine glasses.
The Level 2 class, running from Nov. 9 to 11, takes students even further with a rigorous three-day curriculum that tackles key wine regions and varietals — and, to tantalize prospective students even further, also offers the chance to sample over three dozen of the world's best wines. Registration also grants access to three of Cornucopia's educational seminars.
Building the educational component of Cornucopia with courses like this has been a key element in turning the festival into one of the industry's must-attend dates, said WSET event director Kelly Hand.
"It's really important to the festival to offer leading edge information on what's happening in the food and beverage industries. It is part of the fun of it all, but it's what will continue to hold Cornucopia as one of the top festivals in B.C.," she said. "The educational part of the festival is a real meeting of the minds with the top-notch calibre we have here, and also bringing in people who are doing interesting things in their region."
The deadline for registration in the Level 2 course is Friday, Oct. 2. Students must register for the Level 1 class by Oct. 30.
For more information or to register, visit www.whistlercornucopia.com/wset.