Thoughts on the Winnipeg Wine Festival

May 11, 2006

First of all, I did not have the pleasure of enjoying the wine festival as an attendee. I worked (incognito of course) at a booth, which gave me a different perspective on the festival. From my vantage point, things went very well. It was packed and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Apparently the event raised over $200,000 for the Special Olympics.

Anyways, a few thoughts…

  • There were a lot of great questions and a lot of people who really knew their wines. My favourite question was from the guy who walked right up and said that he liked his steaks done between blue and rare. He liked a big red with his steaks, just not a jammy Shiraz. So which one of the wines I was pouring would fulfill his needs? We tried him on the Thorne-Clarke Shotfire Ridge Quartage. He didn’t mind it, but felt that it was too jammy for his steaks. But I made him very happy when I poured a glass of the Nederberg Private Bin Cabernet Sauvignon (2001) for him.
  • Incidentally, the Nederberg wines went over very well that night (both the Cab and the equally tasty Sauvignon Blanc). People raved about them, and had lots of good things to say about South African wines in general.
  • Based on a scientifically inaccurate sample of everybody who spoke to me, it’s apparent that when most people hear the word Syrah, they expect that you are pouring a Shiraz. While the Snoqualmie Syrah (from Washington State) is excellent, it is a faithful disciple of the French-style Syrahs, with no jam and not a lot of fruit to be found. I tried to talk to as many people as I could about the difference, but it didn’t go over as well as I had hoped. However, it’s a great wine, and for under $20 is an excellent value as well. Try it at your next BBQ. I’m looking forward to enjoying it with a nice grilled Manitoba lamb sirloin.
  • More people of my generation are enjoying wine than ever before. I ran into a lot of friends and co-workers there, people I didn’t expect to see at a wine festival. And that made me very happy, because I think my generation gets a bad rap for not being into wine. The number of twenty and thirty-somethings at the festival gave me great hope for the future of wine.
  • But…some people clearly just come to the festival to drink as much as possible. For $35, it’s an easier way of doing a pub crawl. I should have expected it, but I was still a little surprised as the night drew to a close and the drinkers tried to maximize their $35.
  • People like rose wines, but they are always surprised when it turns out to be as bone-dry as we promised. I think I won over a lot of converts that night by pouring an excellent Spanish rose (Castillo de Jumilla Monastrell Rose).
  • Brunello di Montalcinos are excellent wines. But they need time to open up and even a seven-year old Brunello can be a little too tight for a palate expecting more fruit. I loved it though, and it reinforces my desire to explore Italian wines.
  • California Pinot Noir goes well anywhere, anytime and any place. We opened the Rochioli Russian River Valley Pinot Noir (2004) right at 9:00 and immediately had a lineup at the booth. I was surprised by the passion of the Pinot-loving crowd.
  • Greek wines are very tasty. We poured a couple of interesting Greek wines and they went over really well. The red (‘Laloudi’ Mavraki-Agiorgitiko-Cabernet) was very complex with lots of interesting flavours, and was a hit. Not as many people went for the white (‘Laloudi’ Moschofilero), but those who tried it loved it.

My favourite wine of the night? Since I didn’t leave the booth once, my choices were limited. But I loved the Saint M. Riesling from Dr. Loosen and Chateau Saint-Michelle. The Nederbergs were excellent, as was the Snoqualmie Syrah. And the two sips of Rochioli that I tried were darn near perfect too. But I was happiest with my bottle of lukewarm water. It was really hot in the Convention Centre and I made the mistake of wearing a black suit. The only benefit was that nobody noticed when I spilled wine on myself…


  1. Rumour has it the Spanish pink stuff was a favourite of one Sir Ben Kingsley…

  2. I guess that would answer the eternal question “what would Gandhi drink?”.

    And I hear there is photographic evidence of this too…

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