The 12th Winnipeg Wine Festival has once again come and gone, and by all accounts was a huge success. From the Media Grape Stomp that kicked off the fest to the last pour of Saturday night's public tastings, hundreds of wines were sampled by more than 7,000 attendees over the course of 10 days.
Theme regions Argentina and New Zealand were very well-represented. Many winemakers and winery reps were on hand at the "Big Sky Party" ancillary event at the beautiful Qualico Family Centre, and stuck around to be part of the theme region section of the main public tastings last weekend. Between pouring and describing their wines, I overheard many talking enthusiastically about the remarkable turnout of Winnipeg wine lovers.
In the New Zealand camp, there was plenty of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris being sampled, with a healthy helping of Pinot Noir for those who prefer reds. Argentine producers brought some of their best Malbec to the show, while showing what they can do with white wine grapes like Torrontes as well.
Big or small, new or old, this year's sold-out ancillary events didn't fail to engage enthused wine drinkers. The Metropolitan Entertainment Centre (across Donald from the MTS Centre) was a picturesque addition to the mix -- a stellar venue for the bustling VQA event. On the smaller side of the coin, Segovia Tapas Bar & Restaurant hosted an intimate Spanish food and wine tasting that featured only seven wines but included a suggested food pairing with each. I think there's room for more small-scale events of this nature in the years to come.
The Thursday night gala dinner did more than its part in bringing in money for Special Olympics Manitoba, the main benefactor of the Winnipeg Wine Festival. One member of the organizing committee told me the dinner's silent and live auctions brought in around $100,000 alone -- by comparison, last year's gala auctions raked in $60,000.
Meanwhile, ticket sales outpaced last year's sales from the outset -- every ancillary event and both evening public tastings sold out, and the Saturday matinee public tasting was busier than I've ever seen.
So while the final tally may not be in, it's a sure bet the fest made more money for Special Olympics Manitoba this year than in any previous year. Last year's fest topped out at around $300,000 raised (the highest amount to date), and a similar result this year would put the total money raised for Special Olympics Manitoba over the $2.5 million mark. Congrats.
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The Friday morning industry breakfast provided some valuable insight into the state of wine sales at Liquor Marts in Manitoba, as well as emerging trends in our market. I'm still poring over the info provided and transcribing what the MLLC reported at the breakfast, and will have some of the more interesting notes and numbers in the weeks to come. Interestingly, while the following year's theme region is usually unveiled at the breakfast, there was no mention of it this time around -- it's not expected to be revealed until June.
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If you were at the festival and enjoyed a wine that was available solely at the show, you may still have a chance to pick up that new favourite. While many of these exclusive wines sold out at the on-site store, anything left over is available after the show at the Grant Park Liquor Mart. Quantities are obviously limited, so move fast if you want to stock up.
FAMILIA STORTINI 2012 "ETC." TORRONTES (Famatina Valley, Argentina -- $14.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)
This regularly available Argentine white should be purchased in large quantities for patio sipping. Spice, tropical fruit, tangerine and floral notes are intense on the nose -- almost Muscat-like -- and those fresh fruit flavours pack a big punch on the light-plus bodied palate. It's fermented dry, but the generous tropical/orange flavours almost impart a hint of sweetness. Excellent. 90/100
UMANI RONCHI 2007 C�MARO (Conero Riserva, Italy -- $27.57, Liquor Marts and beyond)
This Italian red (also regularly available as opposed to wine fest-only) is made from the Montepulciano grape in the Marches region -- if Italy is boot-shaped, this wine comes from the calf. Blackberry, cocoa, raspberry and black tea notes on the nose piqued my interest; on the full-bodied palate these came through in spades. A mild spice component courtesy of time in oak and light tannins added to the chewy, rich texture of this red, and despite its age the C�maro seemed youthful and fresh. 91/100
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