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Licence to kill at Cornucopia - The show keeps rolling despite some bonehead licensing rules

The Bearfoot Bistro never opened its doors last weekend, leaving fine wine diners with one less dinner option, and perhaps more importantly Cornucopia without its signature, late-night, wine and food rave.

Many attendees I spoke with last week lamented the loss of the often risqué, over-the-top Masquerave. It appears “bad-boy” manager Andre St. Jacques couldn’t come to a satisfactory agreement with either liquor licensing or Tourism Whistler both of whom wanted the event reined in and toned down, or as it happened, completely shut down.

St. Jacques was not the only target of liquor licensing inspectors at Cornucopia. Members of the trade who attended the Friday afternoon trade day tasting in search of new wines and a little education were handed 24 paper tasting tickets that were to be exchanged with the wineries for each glass of wine tasted.

When I asked what the reasoning was behind the tickets, sheepish-looking Cornucopia representatives said liquor licensing had imposed the ticket system quota without any consultation or explanation. I ran out of tickets after the first four booths/wineries and actually considered leaving the event. Fortunately, ill-conceived regulations seldom gain traction with sensible citizens and obtaining further samples to complete my work was not a problem.

Memo to liquor licensing: we don’t drink wine; we sip it and spit it. In 25 years of tasting (and spitting) at trade and public events, I have never been so insulted. One can only wonder what other bonehead rules will be in play when the Olympics get underway in Whistler.

That said, there was plenty to celebrate and to discover at the 11 th annual Cornucopia, including several winemaker dinners where fortunately no tasting tickets were issued.

Kendall Jackson winemaker Randy Ullom played to a full house Friday night at Araxi where executive chef James Walt wowed the crowd with a series of stunning dishes. Best food and wine match was Fraser Valley squab served with a trio of Kendall Jackson Highland Estates Cabernet Sauvignons from the 2004 vintage: Hawkeye Mountain Vineyard, Alexander Mountain, Sonoma County; Trace Ridge Vineyard, Knights Valley, Sonoma County; and Napa Mountain Vineyard, Mt. Veeder, Napa Valley.

At the newly crowned “Five Diamond” Four Seasons Resort, (the only resort in Canada to obtain the coveted service award) executive chef Scott Thomas Dolbee of Fifty Two 80 Bistro paired Kobe beef and oxtail cannelloni, French green lentils, bone marrow and braised chard with a delicious Doyenne 2003 Syrah from Washington State.

Not to be outdone, the Fairmont Chateau Whistler pulled out all the stops importing six of its regional “Pacific” chefs to match the amazing wines of Alan Shoup’s Long Shadows Project from Washington. In the cozy Wine Room tucked in behind the Wildflower Cafe, Randy Dunn’s Feather 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon was aptly paired with black pepper-spiced venison prepared by the Hotel Vancouver’s Karen Gin.

At the Telus Conference Centre the third Battle of the Sexes turned into a blowout for the women. The 90-minute, double-blind tasting saw the women nail two out of four wines and generally stomp the men, taking 39 of a possible 48 points. Congratulations to Tinhorn Creek winemaker, Sandra Oldfield, Michelle Bouffard of , educator/sommelier DJ Kearney and wine writer/taster Daenna van Mulligen.

At the always popular Wine Guys and Their Picks, a sold-out tasting room enjoyed an eclectic mix of wines presented by the panel.

Wine diva Daenna van Mulligen brought along Col de' Salici 2005 Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Spumante Extra Dry ($22). The floral, almond skin, red apple, mineral-flavoured breakfast bubbly is available in private wine shops.

Western Living contributor Sid Cross opened Laughing Stock Vineyards 2006 Chardonnay ($25) from Naramata in the Okanagan Valley. Cross raved about its cool style and creamy, leesy, nutty, vanilla, honey, pineapple flavours.

Bruce Stephen ( Vancouver Lifestyles Magazine) praised the La Crema 2005 Pinot Noir ($40) from California’s Sonoma Coast. The Russian River pinot is a rich, supple, hedonistic-style pinot mixing black fruit streaked with bits of barnyard and oak.

Restaurateur Mark Taylor, of Cru Restaurant in Vancouver, offered the crowd six-year-old Apollonio 2001 Copertino Rosso ($20) from Apulia, Italy. The negroamaro red has big licorice, black cherry, plum, floral, smoky coffee flavours that best accompany stew and/or cassoulet.

Sommelier Sebastien Le Geoff of Lumiere and Feenie’s wrapped up the event with a delicious bottle of Kung Fu Girl 2006 Riesling from Washington, complete with its aromatic nose of peach skin and white flowers. Why the name Kung Fu Girl? The winery claims riesling and girls kick ass! Look for it in private wine shops.

My seminar contribution was the Pascal Jolivet 2006 Attitude Sauvignon ($24) made from low-yielding vines in Touraine. Its minerality jumps out of the glass with bits of seaweed and chalk. The style is fresh with delicate notes of smoky mineral, grapefruit, green apple skin citrus and white peach. Perfect for oysters and/or Dungeness crab dishes.


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