Sunday sees the first ancillary events of the Winnipeg Wine Festival get underway - all week, wine tastings will be happening in venues across the city leading up to next weekend's main public tastings. And while the fest has become the city's biggest wine-related annual event, there are a few things you might not know about the Winnipeg Wine Festival...
-- The Winnipeg Wine Festival is one of the country's largest events of its kind. Modelled to a great deal after the 34-year-old Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, our fest has grown to become the second-largest wine event in Canada (behind Vancouver's), with more than 6,000 people attending the ancillary events, gala dinner and public tastings.
-- The Winnipeg Wine Festival is a great place to meet the people who make the wines you enjoy. When you hit the weekend public tastings, be sure to check out the name tag of the person pouring you a sample -- you may just be talking to a winemaker. This is especially true in the theme region section, as these wineries are keen to make an impression on wine drinkers in Manitoba. With Ontario and British Columbia sharing theme region duties this year, expect to see many winemakers from our own fantastic wineries come through town to help promote wines made in our own backyard.
-- The Winnipeg Wine Festival is one of the most highly regarded events of its kind in Canada. As the theme regions change from year to year, so too does the influx of export managers, sales directors, proprietors and winemakers. Many, however, enjoy our festival so much that they've now added it to their annual list of regular stops, regardless of whether or not their region is being featured.
-- The Winnipeg Wine Festival is the biggest single fundraiser for Special Olympics Manitoba. The fest brings in more than $200,000 annually for Special Olympics Manitoba through the course of the week, and last year passed the $2-million mark for funds raised. Many of the people passing out glasses, programs, etc. are Special Olympics Manitoba volunteers -- so don't be afraid to thank them on your way in.
-- While the Winnipeg Wine Festival's weekend public tasting is a great place to sip wine and have a pile of fun, it's also an opportunity to learn. There's not a lot of elbow room on Friday or Saturday night, but the matinee tasting on Saturday afternoon provides the chance to try the same wines without the throngs of people -- and it's $5 cheaper. Fun fact: a few years back when the movie You Kill Me was being filmed here, Sir Ben Kingsley showed up at the Saturday matinee tasting.
Montezovo 2009 Ripasso Valpolicella (Valpolicella, Italy -- about $20, private wine stores)
Raisin, ripe plum, blackberry, anise, leather and spice make for quite the nose on this Italian red. Ripe and chewy, the Montezovo brings dense dark fruit on the palate, with a great spice and raisin note running throughout. Tannins are light but the acidity is fairly pronounced. As a result, it's a great food wine. In fact, I first tried this wine at Pizzeria Gusto with their Ryall pizza, a fantastic combination. I picked this up at the newly renovated De Luca's Fine Wines. 89/100
Castillo de Monséran 2010 Garnacha (Cari±ena, Spain -- $10.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)
In the past this wine has been a fantastic value, and the 2010 vintage is no exception. As Garnacha often tends to do, this red brings big grapey, strawberry and plum notes, with light cinnamon and leather aromas thrown in, to boot. Medium-bodied and juicy, the Castillo de Monséran delivers plum, raisin, blueberry, and grape candy flavours with very light tannin. Drink this great value red with burgers -- chilled for 15 minutes if you like. 87/100
Los Cowboys 2010 Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina -- $13.95, Liquor Marts and beyond)
Plum, blackberry, dark chocolate and light herbal notes show well on the nose of this fair-trade Argentine Malbec. It's a medium-plus bodied red that offers plum jam, blueberry, vanilla, milk chocolate and blackberry flavours on the palate. Tannins are light and unobtrusive, and there's just a touch of acidity here. Drink now. 85/100
Little Black Dress 2009 Pinot Noir (California, United States -- $12.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)
Perfume, cherry and raspberry are hardly atypical for pinot noir, but here you don't get any of the earthy, woodsy nuances you might elsewhere. This light-bodied red is certainly packed with ripe red berries. In fact, it's almost a bit sweet. It's a simple, juicy Pinot Noir that might be a good point of entry for those looking to enter the dark and perilous world of pinot noir. 84/100