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Let red ribbons be your guide

Every year, within weeks, Crush!, the signature wine tasting event at Cornucopia sells out.
Toasting Two Tastings Crush!, Cornucopia's grand gala tasting, has grown to two nights on Friday, Nov. 9 and Saturday, Nov. 10 at the Telus Conference Centre. Photo by Nicole Fitzgerald.

Every year, within weeks, Crush!, the signature wine tasting event at Cornucopia sells out.

Tourism Whistler officials decided to expand the event to two nights this year, giving wine aficionados two chances at an evening of swishing and swirling wine more than 75 wineries and sampling foods from 15 restaurants at the Telus Conference Centre.

Tickets are available for the Friday, Nov. 9 affair, while tickets are almost sold out for the Saturday, Nov. 10 evening.

With only a little over two hours to make the rounds of 75 different wineries, it’s easy to become overwhelmed.

If you don’t have the luck of keeping company with one of the sommeliers or fine dining service staff from around town, let the red ribbons be your guide.

Every year, organizers invite Crush! winery participants to submit one wine from their portfolio to be blind tasted by a panel of Cornucopia judges. A Top 25 list of winners is chosen, each marked with a red ribbon.

Julian Scholefield, who organizes the Crush! showing every year, helped narrow the Top 25 list down even further by highlighting some of the more unique winners — some of them weren’t even wines at all.

Sake made the Top 25 list.

Crush! guests will get a chance to sample 1994 Masukagami Special Junmai, an all-rice premium sake brewed by a prominent Japanese Sake brewery located in Kamo City of Niigata Prefecture, where Japan's best sake rice is grown.

“It’s something interesting for people to go and try,” Scholefield said. “It’s an aged sake that has been described as aromatic and complex.”

Another anti-grape-vine Top 25 choice is the Okanagan Spirits Poire William Eau De Vie.

“It’s a distilled product and it’s fabulous,” Scholefield said. “It has lots of pear aromas in it… It is usually drunk plain, like brandy. They make grappa as well.”

Bubbles, such as the Mumm Napa Brut Prestige and Lanson Brut Rose Champagne, were also recognized. The Mumm Napa brut may be $35 less than the Lanson, but both earned high compliments from the judges. The Mumm Napa sparking wine was described as stylish, while the Lanson Champagne more classic.

Straight-up wines took up most of the list, including the Top 25 winner of this year’s new category, Wine of the Year, the 2005 Paul Dolan Zinfandel.

“This literally blew the socks off our tasters,” Scholefield said. “Judges were so impressed by the wine and at $19 a bottle, it’s an incredible value. This was chosen over bottles triple the price. We really wanted to highlight it.”

So if the crowd around the Paul Dolan table at Crush! is too thick to get through, head over to the Long Shadows table and sample the 2004 Pedestal Merlot.

“It’s the fist time they’ve been involved in the festival,” Scholefield said. “The projects brought on different winemakers to make the best product they can out of Washington grapes. International winemakers are all apart of the project.”

Make the most of your Crush! experience by looking for the red ribbons, using the program guide to chart out a quick game plan and most importantly, by taking the opportunity to talk with the winemakers themselves.

“It’s an excellent opportunity to ask a lot of questions about how wine is made,” Scholefield said. “They are there for you to help you out. There are no dumb questions.”

Advance $100 tickets are available by visiting