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Several studies in recent years have found a link between moderate wine consumption and good health. In Whistler and Pemberton there is more than a link, there is a direct connection.

From January through March this year, Select Wine Merchants of Vancouver is teaming with Baron Philippe de Rothschild to donate 50 cents from the sale of every bottle of Rothschild products in Whistler and Pemberton to the Whistler Health Care Foundation.

The donations will be made regardless of whether the sale is in a participating restaurant or a liquor store. Restaurants that sell Rothschild products are also invited to match the 50 cent/bottle donation. Look for the poster in restaurant windows.

The campaign, called The Art of Giving, is organized by Werner Schonberger’s Select Wine Merchants. Schonberger is a long-time supporter of charities in Whistler, including the Whistler Health Care Foundation, through the Mouton Cadet Spring Festival. The festival, which celebrated its 20 th anniversary last spring, is changing formats this year. The ski portion of the festival will be continued with a guess-your-time ski race on Whistler Mountain that is open to all. A grand finale mountaintop barbecue with prizes will be held on Sunday, April 27.

Meanwhile, consider the health benefits of Baron Philippe de Rothschild products, which include Mouton Cadet red and white, Mouton Cadet Reserve, Rothschild Sauvignon Blanc, Rothschild Chardonnay, Rothschild Merlot, Rothschild Cabernet Sauvignon, Pomerol, St. Emilion, Medoc, Paullac and Escudo Rojo.

The Westin Resort and Spa is also helping out the Whistler Health Care Foundation, with the hotel’s Christmas gingerbread competition netting the foundation nearly $1,500.

Visitors to the hotel, along with hotel staff, created 20 gingerbread houses over the holidays. Guests and visitors then donated to the creation of their choice, with a chance to win a return two-night stay at the Westin. Alexa Thomson of North Vancouver won the prize.

Neal Harkins creation received the most donations, followed by Jessica Braidwood’s house. Naomi Salmond was third. The top three builders received cash prizes of $250, $150 and $50 respectively.

"We were thrilled to again be the recipient of Westin’s annual gingerbread competition," said Marnie Simon, chair of the Whistler Health Care Foundation. "It is such a fun event and a unique way to incorporate the hotel’s Christmas lobby decorations into a fundraising endeavour."

Dining Out for Life

Dining Out for Life returns Thursday, March 13 this year.

On that day, participating restaurants in Whistler, the Lower Mainland, and cities across North America will donate 25 per cent of their food sales to AIDS-related charities. In Vancouver, those charities have been Friends For Life and A Loving Spoonful.

Participating Whistler restaurants include Araxi Restaurant, BBK’s Pub, Chef Bernard’s Café and Christine’s on Blackcomb.

If you only dine out once in March make it Thursday, March 13. Order a bottle of Mouton Cadet with your dinner for a truly healthy meal.

2002 a good year

Last year was a notable one for the B.C. wine industry.

In addition to garnering a bunch of awards for their wines, B.C. winemakers enjoyed a warm, dry summer and fall in 2002, which should produce some excellent wines.

And lots of them.

The 2002 grape crop harvest in B.C. was 15,500 tons, more than 1,000 tons above the 2001 total of 14,137. In 2000 B.C. grape growers produced 10,022 tons.

"On the whole, it has been one of the best years for our industry," said Dawn Antle, marketing manager of the British Columbia Wine Institutue.

The quest for the super-banana

With many of the world’s banana crops seriously affected by strains of fungus and pests, the Intenernational Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain is attempting to map the banana genome to create a strain that can resist these growing threats.

According to Belgian scientist Dr. Emile Frison, an expert on bananas, the sterile and seedless variety which we eat could disappear within a decade if the INIBP can’t develop disease- and pest-resistant varieties.

While the bananas we eat are endangered from Panama disease caused by soil fungus, Black Sigatoka (another fungus) and pests, there are varieties of wild bananas that have been able to resist exposure. Frison wants to isolate the traits in these bananas that make that possible and genetically implant them in the bananas we eat.

Uganda, the second-largest producer of bananas in the world, has lost 40 per cent of this year’s crop to disease and pests. In Brazil, another leading producer, the figure could by 75 per cent.

The banana is a staple in many countries, and helps to feed more than 400 million people.

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