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A cornucopia of wine and food

Eighth annual festival celebrates something that may become as important to Whistler as snow

It’s easy to understand how Whistler has come to earn world-wide recognition for its ski slopes, golf courses and rugged, natural setting but the modern-day tourist demands a complex mix of activities when travelling and increasingly in British Columbia that means paying attention to food and wine.

In Whistler it’s already year eight for the region’s prime culinary endeavour, Cornucopia, and the late autumn getaway first designed to bridge the gap between the end of the golf and hiking activities and the beginning of the ski season has taken on a life of its own. The four-day series of tastings, dinners and seminars gets underway Thursday, Nov. 11 and will run through the weekend of Nov. 14.

Cornucopia may be aimed at major North American markets but it presents a terrific opportunity for locals to discover the world of food and wine especially as it relates to Whistler.

What follows is an insider’s guide to some of the events that in this writer’s opinion offer both value and entertainment and frankly provide locals with a terrific opportunity to learn more about a subject that could be as important to your well being as the depth of snow on the hills in the coming years. Unless otherwise mentioned all events take place at the Telus Conference Centre at Whistler.

Don’t miss the House Party Thursday, Nov. 11 from 7 to 9:30 p.m. A $35 ticket gets you in the door to experience the delicious food of Vancouver-based Memphis Blues Barbeque House. You can hang with visiting vintners and seminar presenters while you sip on syrah or sauvignon blanc and nibble on a pulled-pork sandwich. Craft brewers will be also be in attendance for anyone requiring a palate adjuster.

One of the more useful tasting seminars, Varietal I.D. Boot Camp, will run twice: Friday, Nov. 12 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and Saturday, Nov. 13 from 10:15 to 11:45 a.m. The $45 tastings will be led by engaging sommelier instructor DJ Kearney and visiting wine wise-guy Joshua Wesson. The plan is to take away a shopping list of inexpensive high quality varietal wines that will help you expand your taste horizons. Do the names grüner veltliner, albariño or vermentino mean anything to you?

If you are trying to lose weight or you simply like to drink well-balanced wine you can skip Friday lunch and attend A Tour of New World Meritage with Vancouver wine merchants John Clerides and Michelle Bouffard joined by winemakers Ian Sutherland (Poplar Grove), Rick Small (Woodward Canyon) and Jay Soloff (DeLille Vineyards). The plan is discover just how well New World blends stack up against traditional Old World styles. Tickets are $45 and as mentioned the tasting spans the Friday, Nov. 12 lunch hour from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.

Perhaps the best deal for consumers is the chance to attend the Trade Tasting Friday, Nov. 12 from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the conference centre. A $60 advance ticket gets you into Cornucopia’s Trade Tasting where the food and especially the wine selection is a solid notch above the evening public event – and it tends to be a lot less crowded. Best of all event proceeds benefit the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE).

Crush

the gala tasting runs Friday evening, Nov. 12, from 8 to 10:30 p.m. and tickets are $95. If you want to get in early a VIP ticket ($125) allows you to enter the room at 7 p.m. to meet with the festival’s top presenters and sip champagne and nibble on oysters and pick up some insider info on which wines to taste first. Organizers are expecting over 15 of Whistler’s finest restaurants to join some 75 vintners inside the tasting room.

If you have to work Friday you might consider Bubbles Jazz and the Deep Blue — After Crush. Araxi Restaurant, Oyster Bar & Lounge will host a late night bash featuring oysters, shellfish and seafood samplings mingled with champagne, chilled martinis, and sparkling wines from around the globe. Add in some live jazz and you have the recipe for a cool late night event.

Early risers will enjoy Chef’s Trip to the Farm , Saturday morning (9 to noon). Fairmont Chateau Whistler executive chef Vincent Stufano and North Arm Farm owner Jordan Sturdy will lead the food adventure that takes you 25 minutes north of Whistler to the farming community of Pemberton. The Sturdy North Arm Farm is home to fresh, organic produce that you will transform at the on-site country kitchen into a healthy, home-style farm-meal – Pemberton style.

Grape Beginnings with educator Mark Davidson takes place Saturday morning from 9:30 to noon. The popular seminar is designed for the novice wine enthusiast and includes a series of wines that will be used to get you tasting like the pros. Tickets are $45.

Vancouver-based wine writer Memory Walsh and a panel of chefs and sommeliers will participate in Colour Blind Wines a tasting session that explores the question of food and wine rules and whether the colour of food or wine has any relevance when it comes pairing them together. The tasting runs Saturday from Noon to 1:30 p.m.; tickets are $45.

Finally yours truly hosts Wine Guys and Their Secret Picks ($45) from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. If you’ve ever wondered what the pros drink when they are out of the public spotlight or when they are at home, or how they read a wine list, drop by for 90 minutes of insider information with Wine Access Executive Editor Anthony Gismondi and a panel of Cornucopia "wine elite" including Joshua Wesson and David Hulley.

Tickets for all events can be purchased on an individual basis, subject to availability, from the Whistler Activity and Information Centre at 604-938-2769 or visit www.mywhistler.com/cornucopia. To purchase Cornucopia packages or individual tickets please call 1-877-972-7374 or visit www.mywhistler.com/cornucopia

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




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