Epicurious 

Wine makers at Cornucopia turn dinner into an experience

There's great food and there's great wine and there's great conversation, and when the three mix, long-lasting memories are created. Cornucopia's wine makers dinner tradition consistently creates legendary dinner parties and this year promises to be no different with six dinners scheduled over the course of the Cornucopia weekend.

Brenton Smith, the general manager of La Bocca, has been involved in a few winemakers' dinner events in the past and says the people who attend get a special chance to glimpse into the wine industry.

"It is a great opportunity for patrons to get more involved with the wine making process and learning lifestyle stories from the winemakers themselves," he says. He recalls one wine maker at a past event sharing a fascinating story of checking every hour through the night at that critical time when the ice wine grapes were nearly ready for harvest.

This year, La Bocca is teaming up with Hester Creek Winery. Executive chef Chris Winter will feature seasonal ingredients from Vancouver Island to the Okanagan Valley to go with the award-winning Hester Creek Wines on offer for the evening. The La Bocca event is being dubbed A Taste of B.C.

The Hester Creek wines will be served with seasonal ingredients from Vancouver Island to the Okanagan Valley prepared by Winter and his team. Tickets for the La Bocca event are $117.

The dinner at his restaurant is already very close to being sold out.

Three wine makers dinners are planned for Friday (Nov. 11) and another three for the following night.

The Bearfoot Bistro and the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre are teaming up to offer cocktails and dinner at the First Nations attraction on Blackcomb Way. Tickets are $285 and the Bistro promises to present some of the world's finest wines with dinner created by executive chef Melissa Craig.

That same evening Araxi will celebrate its 30th anniversary with what the restaurant is calling Icons of the Wine World. Araxi plans to unveil its most ambitious Big Guns Winemakers' Dinner yet.

Araxi executive chef James Walt will feature eight courses with wine from one of the world's foremost wine regions accompanying each course. Tickets for the Araxi anniversary celebration are selling for $250.

Chef Scott Dolbee and his staff at Sidecut in the Four Seasons Resort will feature John Skinner's Painted Rock wines from the Okanagan. The ticket price is $195. For those who can't make the event on Friday, Dolbee and his staff will do it all again the next night.

The Fairmont Chateau Whistler has a long-standing relationship with the wine maker dinner concept. According to the hotel's director of food and beverage, the Chateau hosts two such dinners each year. Sarah Wark explains that her hotel hosts one dinner each year during Cornucopia then holds another in the spring or summer.

"The most important part is the winery that you are working with," says Wark. "For it to be a success (we) need to have the winery as excited and passionate about this event as we are."

The last five events at the Fairmont featured Okanagan wines and the local focus continues this year with wines from Burrowing Owl Winery.

"Once you have chosen your winery and picked the wine then the kitchen does its magic and prepares the menu to match the wine," Wark says.

According to Wark, it truly is an experience when the wine and the food arrive at the shared tablesĀ and the guests set their eyes on the perfectly prepared offerings.

"There is so much to learn from the winemaker, chef and the pairing of each course," she says. "What I love the most about our winemakers' dinners is that we sit everyone at long tables and you get to meet lots of great people and talk about the food and wine pairings and what everyone thought of them. It is interesting to see how each course is its own event from the wine maker and chef speaking about the food and wine to the guest eating the course and tasting the wine and then you get to do it all over again."

Five courses will be served at the Chateau's $160 a plate, sold-out dinner on Nov.12. Burrowing Owl Proprietor Chris Wyse and Winemaker Bertus Albertyn will be on hand along with the hotel's executive chef, Vincent Stufano, to offer stories of how the wine and the food come together.

Says Wark, winemakers' dinner are "a journey."

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