As we head into fall and thoughts turn to harvest and the bounty of amazing ingredients it brings, so too does our attention come back around to wine after a sun-soaked summer of beer... speaking for myself, at least.
First and foremost, ManyFest returns this week, and while there will be loads of things to see and do over the course of the weekend, it's the Taste of Downtown Wine Festival that's most pertinent to this space. Five of the Independent Specialty Wine Stores of Manitoba -- Kenaston Wine Market, Fenton's Wine Merchants, De Luca Fine Wines, La Boutique Del Vino and Banville & Jones -- have joined together once again to give ManyFesters a chance to swirl and sip in Memorial Park.
Admission to the wine fest is free, and tickets for sampling are $1 each, with proceeds going to Winnipeg Harvest. Like last year, each participating store will have its own booth. There will also be a "premium wines" booth featuring wines from all five stores.
Wines are available in small sample-sized or larger three-ounce portions, with the former starting at one ticket per sample at each of the five store booths.
There looks to be a solid lineup of wines being poured, with a particularly healthy selection of wines from Italy, Australia, Argentina and Chile.
My advice is to start with a three-ounce pour of some nice bubbly at the premium booth to cleanse the palate -- the Charles Mignon, J Dumangin or Aubry Champagnes are all being poured and would do the trick. A three-ounce pour at the premium booth will get you a souvenir glass you can use to sample wines throughout the area, rather than the smaller plastic sampling cups.
The Taste of Downtown Wine Festival runs Friday and Saturday from noon until 11 p.m., and Sunday from noon until 6 p.m. I'll have many tasting notes to follow.
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Last week, the Free Press's restaurant critic Marion Warhaft wrote a glowing review of South Osborne's Deseo Bistro, awarding the Spanish-inspired resto (a deserving) four-and-a-half stars. By the sounds of things, they're pulling out all the stops for an upcoming dinner with Kenaston Wine Market.
The Bordeaux: Food & Wine event takes place Wednesday, Sept. 19, and will feature four French-inspired courses (plus reception and dessert) paired with wines from the Bordeaux region. Frog legs, duck schnitzel, beef cheek Bourguignon and rabbit confit are among items to be matched with white Bordeaux, Sauternes and a couple of reds. Tickets are $75 including taxes and gratuity, and are available by calling 204-488-9463 or 204-452-2561.
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Manitoba Liquor Marts have unveiled their full slate of fall wine/beer/spirits education courses, and they look pretty solid. Split between the Madison Square and (brand new) Grant Park education centres, the courses run the gamut, including Wine & Cheese Canadian Style (Oct. 17); New World vs Old World Wines (Oct. 18); Having Fun With Scotch (Oct. 25); Cheese Wars: Wine vs Beer (Dec. 5); and more. Check out www.liquormartsonline.com for locations, prices and times.
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Ageless crooner Tony Bennett spent a couple of hours at Promenade Café and Wine following his recent Centennial Concert Hall show.
"He was very pleasant and a class act," said Promenade on their Facebook page, adding he enjoyed the Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio and the Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc. Sounds about right for a hot August night. Oops... wrong crooner.
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SPECK BROS. 2011 SIBLING RIVALRY PINK (Niagara Peninsula, Ontario -- $13.95 , Liquor Marts and beyond)
This Cabernet/Gamay/Merlot blend is deep pink in colour, with strawberry, raspberry candy and watermelon aromas on the nose. It's a shade off-dry, with bright red strawberry flavours as well as raspberry candy and juicy cherry notes on the light-plus bodied palate. Drink well-chilled with light cheeses. 87/100
MÁS AMOR 2010 ROSADO (Catalunya, Spain -- $15.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)
A blend of Carignan and Garnacha, this Spanish rosé is medium pink in colour, with tart raspberry, mineral and rhubarb aromas. It's a dry rosé, with firm raspberry and strawberry flavours as well as chalky mineral and cherry skin flavours. This pink wine would do well with poached salmon or hors d'oeuvres. 86/100
BERLUCCHI '61 BRUT ROSÉ (Franciacorta, Italy -- $28.28, Liquor Marts and beyond)
A 50-50 Pinot Noir/Chardonnay split -- much in the spirit of French Champagne -- this bubbly is pale pink in colour, with bright doughy notes and raspberry, mineral and watermelon aromas. It's a dry, crisp bubbly, with lemon, tart strawberry, green apple and toasty, doughy flavours that show all the elegance of French Champagne at half the price. 91/100
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