November 14, 2013 Features & Images » Feature Story

The new spirit of Cornucopia 

click to flip through (7) Photos by Dave Humphreys
  • Photos by Dave Humphreys

With the first snow in the valley and the amber and red of the fall leaves blowing throughout the resort it's time to hunker down for the winter, and with that comes an almost ancient desire to think about, enjoy and stock up on the food and drink we most love.

Whistler's Cornucopia festival is the perfect venue to embrace those desires — especially this year, as it expands to an 11-day format and adds in new elements, which reflect an expansion in the experiences people want to have when it comes to all things edible.

The 2013 festival is full of culinary adventures, wine tasting seminars, health and wellness workshops, dinners and dazzling after-parties. Heaven on earth.

Cornucopia is the ultimate fall festival for food and drink lovers. It attracts sommeliers, chefs, food experts and fun lovers from around the province and beyond. It offers experiences for the connoisseur, but also the dabbler, and it also keeps Whistler locals entertained during the traditionally quiet season before the mountains open for skiing and snowboarding.

Event organizers are expecting over 10,000 additional visitors to flood into the village during Cornucopia this year.

"Traditionally Cornucopia has attracted regional visitors," says event director Sue Eckersley.

"However, now that we have expanded to a longer festival, we are starting to pique people's interest from farther away. Quite a few more people from the U.S. have bought tickets this year. We plan on building up our reputation and then hopefully that will translate into attracting more international guests.

"This year we are expecting 5,000 people in the first weekend, about 3,000 for the second weekend and the rest mid-week."

The additional festival days were tacked on to make room for a new health and wellness series called Nourish, which focuses on sustainable food and lifestyle choices. Also new this year, the festival is set to launch a beer, wine, cider and food event called POURED which takes place this Saturday Nov.16. In addition there will be new party events at Garfinkel's and Buffalo Bill's Bar & Grill, as well as a tequila seminar and traditional Mexican dishes served up at the Mexican Corner restaurant's new locaton in the village.

Heading into the second weekend of Cornucopia, wine connoisseurs, winemakers and wine drinkers will be flooding the streets of Whistler. Among them will be the multitalented sommelier Barbara Philip who, along with her sommelier husband Ian Philip of Barbariain Wine Consulting, will be leading a food and wine seminar Nov.16 called the Barbariain Pizza Party. The seminar will look at the basics of food, and wine pairing and dig into how to identify what types of wines go with particular foods — using pizza as an example.

Philip has earned her black belt in wine. Not only is she is the first person in Western Canada to have earned the designation Master of Wine, she is also the only woman in Canada to be crowned Master of Wine. Needless to say she knows a thing or two about wine pairing.

"Wine and food pairing is subjective and there aren't hard and fast rules — matching should be a pleasure," she says.

"(But) if you're completely lost there are rules of thumb. One of the most important things is you don't want the weight of the food to overpower the wine, or vice versa. If you have a rich salmon like a sockeye, try pairing that with a medium bodied wine. If you have a high alcohol, rich wine then the delicacy of the food might be lost. It's all about balance."

Philip will also be leading The Next Big Thing – Wine Seminar on Saturday, which will focus on historical wine trends and expected trends to surface in 2014.

Similar to fashion trends, wine trends are constantly evolving, making it nearly impossible to stay ahead of the pack — unless you're the portfolio manager for BC Liquor Stores, as Philip is. She has a say in every single bottle of wine found on B.C. liquor store shelves. Consequentially, she plays a large role in establishing wine trends in B.C., although she doesn't just pluck trends out of thin air, it's actually a complicated process.

"B.C. consumers actually create and lead the trends," explains Philip.

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