I’m still recovering from
Cornucopia, Whistler’s food and wine celebration that wrapped up last weekend.
The village-wide party is officially a decade old and, in this writer’s
opinion, it’s now the best wine party in the country.
This is not a weekend for
the staid, buttoned-down wine sipper, nor is it particularly suited to those
who require a normal, daily ration of sleep. Just ask the folks at Bearfoot
Bistro, who spent most of the week deconstructing the restaurant in preparation
for Masquerave and its hundreds of party-goers that ran Friday night right
through to sunrise Saturday, before putting it all back together in time to
host an extraordinary formal dinner party and tasting for 100 on Saturday
With little if any voice
left, Whistler bad-boy Bacchus Andre Saint-Jacques greeted a sold-out dinner
crowd with his sabre and magnums of Pommery Cuvée Louise. His diners would be
the first, and likely the last, to experience three vertical tastings involving
Pommery Cuvée Louise,
Chateau Beaucastel Roussanne Vieilles Vignes,
Chateau Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape
and, the rarest of the rare,
Hommage de Beaucastel.
It’s not easy to outshine
such wines but chef Melissa Craig managed to do it most of the night.
Highlights included an exquisite weathervane scallop and water chestnut with
several vintages of Champagne Pommery Cuvée Louise and, even more notably, an
immaculate Kobe beef dish done three ways: a scampi tartar, braised short rib,
and tenderloin paired with 2004, 1989 and 1981 Chateau Beaucastel Châteauneuf
The Cornucopia seminars
also saw some real excitement. At the Telus Conference Centre, the second
The Battle of the Sexes
was a Saturday afternoon thriller. The 90-minute,
double-blind tasting, which pitted the men against the women, was a see-saw
battle that went down to the last wine.
In all, eight wines were
served “double blind” and the effort put forth by both panels — with
plenty of help from the audience — was impressive to say the least. By
the end of the tasting the men’s panel, led by consultant/educator Mark
Davidson along with sommelier/manager Sebastien Le Goff of Lumiere, Raffaele
Boscaini of Masi (Italy) and writer Bruce Stephen of
, narrowly defeated a
strong panel of women that included Michelle Bouffard and Michaela Morris of
, sommelier and Master of Wine
candidate Barb Phillip, and Peller Estates winemaker Stephanie Leinemann.
Wine Guys and Their
featured another large
audience that came to taste an eclectic mix of wines presented by an equally
eclectic group of presenters. The good news is you can buy almost all of the
Seminar maven and
sommelier instructor DJ Kearney pitched the
Masi 2005 Masianco $17
, a Venetian pinot grigio/verduzzo blend of
floral, mineral-scented fruit offering a ripe mix of butter, honey, mineral and
warm lemon oil.
Bruce Stephen of
Kendall-Jackson 2005 Sauvignon Blanc $19
from California. It delivers bright, clean, modern
flavours with a mineral, seawater undercurrent. Think mussels with this one.
Educator Mark Davidson of
VinFX Wine Communications served up two bargain reds. From B.C. he extolled the
virtues of the just-released
Nk’Mip Cellars 2005 Pinot Noir $19
with its balanced, ripe strawberry fruit
streaked with leafy, spicy, vanilla, compost flavours. And from Spain his
choice was the
Castillo de Monseran 2005 Garnacha $10
workhorse, hamburger red that represents
contributor and taster Stuart Tobe suggested we
drink the sublime
Burgans Albariño Rías Baixas 2005
. With all its juicy green apple, honey,
mineral, melon skin and peach flavours it can match just about any food type.
Tobe also brought along the sturdy
Doña Paula Estate 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon
from Mendoza, Argentina
with its cassis jam, peppery, blackberry, licorice and tobacco flavours.
Restaurateur Mark Taylor
of Cru Restaurant in Vancouver pitched another fabulous bottle of Argentine
Catena Malbec 2003 $26
The textures are soft and rich, and the flavours are a mix of black cherry and
plums with a twist of orange and garrigue.
We finished with a bargain
red from Antinori’s burgeoning southern Italian project that I brought along.
Neprica 2004 $13
Puglia. The blend is a mix of
bernet, hence the Neprica moniker, and the flavour is fun.
Licorice, prunes, and black fruit all wrapped in a warm, round, earthy inviting
style make it irresistible for the price.
Friday night, Jack
Evrensel and his team at Araxi celebrated 25 years in the village with a
memorable evening of food and wine. If I had to pick a favourite course that
night it was the truffle ricotta gnocchi with white Alba truffles and Pecorino
tartufo with a sublime bottle of Louis Jadot 1999 Clos St. Jacques Pinot Noir.
Araxi is offering a
fabulous dining deal from Nov. 3 through Dec. 10. The Dine and Unwind Menu is a
four-course dinner deal for only $45 plus taxes and gratuity. Now that’s a
As usual there wasn’t much
down time during Cornucopia, but I did manage to drop by Après to check out
chef Eric Vernice’s new winter menu. Vernice gets my vote as the top chef in
the village, but you’ll need a reservation to find out. The popular bistro is
always packed. Après is the intellectual home of food and wine in Whistler, but
you can experience bites of it from the bar area at very reasonable prices.
Quattro was my last stop,
where Antonio Corsi and his team specialize in relaxed but always elegant
dining. When you’re seeking comfort but you don’t want to compromise on
quality, Quattro is the place to head. Pasta is a science here, the wine list
is bible. Warm, friendly, inviting and affordable. Need I say more?
Anthony Gismondi is a
globetrotting wine writer who makes his home in West Vancouver, British
Columbia. For more of his thoughts on wine log onto www.gismondionwine.com