Table scrapes 

Uncorking festival options

Scheduling your Cornucopia weekend used to be a straight up process.

Crush, then after-party one night, winemaker dinner the next, workshops during the day and brunch on Sunday.

Friday night was all about trying to survive four-inch heels for nine-plus hours of trekking between Crush, the Bearfoot Bistro’s Masquerave and Araxi’s Bubbles, Rhythm and Deep Sea after-parties.

Saturday was cramming in as many workshops as your pounding head would permit and then browsing the Westin’s artisan market (in Uggs) as long as your aching feet would permit, with time left over to squeeze into a cocktail dress for a winemaker dinner.

Sunday was left to brunch. Over the last four festivals, I’ve never been able to pace myself to be able to wake up, let alone find room for yet another dining experience.

But this year, break out your cotton stretch pants for breakfast and invest in a two-inch heel. Whistler’s biggest food and wine festival now requires some decision making, with a record four after-parties, two Crush and brunch dates and scattered winemaker dinners throughout the weekend, extending all the way to Monday morning.

Tickets are now on sale for Cornucopia, Whistler’s 11 th annual celebration of food and wine, Nov. 8 to 12 in Whistler.

If you want to, you could sit down to a set-course meal paired with wines every night of the festival.

Elements really gets things rolling early this year with a Thursday night dinner with Pentage winery. Araxi follows on the Friday with Kendall-Jackson digging deep into their cellar for the winery’s 25 th anniversary.

The Mountain Club hosts Best of the Northwest wines and Fifty-Two 80 Bistro brings in DeLille Cellars on the Saturday.

Sunday wields the largest playbill: Après with Albert Bichot, Cinnamon Bear Bar and Grille with See Ya Later Ranch, Ric's Grill with Quails Gate, and The Wine Room in the Fairmont Chateau Whistler with The Longshadow's Project.

While there are fewer restaurants hosting winemaker dinners this year — dinners at Hy’s, Quattro and the Bearfoot Bistro will be missed — the festival hosts more after-parties than ever.

The infamous Masquerave takes a dark night this year. The Hilton is trying to take a cut of the action with the new Arti Gras after-party. The description of body painting and masks with the caution that it may be “even a little bit risqué!” sounds awfully familiar — although the Cajun food fare is new.

The Mountain Club showcases canapés with live jazz, funky house and burlesque dancers, and Ric’s Grill will have a 007 atmosphere with the Casino Royale after-party.

Jack Evrensel’s fourth annual Bubbles, Rhythm and Deep Sea After-Party is class and sophistication all the way from fresh shucked oysters and Doc Fingers’s jazz music to bubbly and fresh-fruit martinis.

Like Bubbles, the Whistler Arts Council’s ARTrageous Party is another return favourite. Artists are the stars of this creative celebration, with a little food and wine on the side.

There are more nights to choose from with the Crush! Gala Grand Tasting hosted over two nights instead of one. After selling out 1,400 Crush tickets six weeks out last year, Tourism Whistler officials added a second event. Friday or Saturday, take your pick at sampling the wares of 15 restaurants and 75 wineries for the festival’s signature event.

Wineries not wielding enough varietals or production to make it into the Crush showcase will be featured during the workshop component of the festival.

New this year, the Mini Tasting Series gets festivalgoers swishing and swirling boutique wineries from select regions, including parts of Italy, the Rhone Region, Worldly Whites, Spanish Whites, Cool Climate Chile, and Organic Wines.

Green thinking works its way into the schedule: In addition to an organic wine tasting, the festival includes the Artisan Market at the Westin, Chef’s Trip to the Farm (already sold out) and Viking Series: Take the Slow Road Home.

New workshops get people excited about wine in innovative ways, such as the Wine Smackdown where moderator David Scholefield will referee a panel of wine experts, each advocating their favourite wine region, while returning sell-out workshops such as the 6 th Annual Rare Wines by Anthony Gismondi and Kasey Wilson get guests sipping on out-of-the-ordinary wines.

So start looking for something larger than an evening bag for this year’s festival. Along with cab fare, a day planner to keep you on course for your busy weekend of open options is a must.

Tickets are now on sale, ranging from $30 for a tasting series to $250 for certain winemaker dinners.

Visit cornucopiawhistler.com for details.

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