Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

The adventures of The Grape Nut - 2008

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Happy Saturday, everyone.* Summer's always a busy time of the year for The Grape Nut, and I'm currently prepping to head off to Germany for a week with some other wine writers. I've been to Germany twice, but never specifically in a wine-related capacity. The first time was in high school (a St. James institute which closed its doors last summer) with our concert band. As you can imagine, scores of Canadian teenagers that are suddenly of legal drinking age isn't pretty.My second trip was in 1999 when I played drums in a local band. We travelled through Germany, with quick stops in Austria, the Czech Republic, and France's Alsace region. By this time I was working in the local wine industry, so it pains me to think that I never took the time to visit wineries or drink much wine there. I did, however, get to try many regional German beers - after every show, the promoter would typically load a milk crate-like container into our van, full of half-litre bottles of the local brew. When I got home a month later, I brought home a shameful spare tire as, uh, "carry-on."I'll be the first to admit that I often overlook German wines, so it'll be a good opportunity to connect with the Riesling-heavy European producer. I'll also be interested to see what German producers are doing with other varietals; many typically produce Pinot Gris (aka Grauburgunder), Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder) and Pinot Noir (Spatburgunder), but some are starting to plant Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and other common varietals.Providing I have access to "das Internet", I'll be updating on a daily (or at least regular) basis on what's shaking along the beautiful Rhine river.It looks like I'll be stopping in Calgary for a couple of days to participate as a judge in Wine Access' International Value Wine Awards. I participated for the first time last year, and learned a tremendous amount about wine judging, blind tasting, and how to trash your palate by tasting 500ish wines in a week. Good times!A Chilean adventure seems to be in the cards as well, but not until November. Winnipeg will be going into a deep-freeze while Chile will be heading into summer. Sounds like perfect timing to me.* The tributes continue to pour in for Robert Mondavi, who died May 16. Check out this hour-long radio tribute here (it's the third selection down, under "What's Cookin' on Wine"). There are some fond remembrances here, here, and here (among many others) as well.

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About Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

When he wasn't bashing on a drum kit in local punk rock bands, Ben spent the mid '90s hucking cases of wine around to pay for two English degrees. Now he's the Winnipeg Free Press wine columnist and blogger.

The extent of Ben's wine experience in the mid-90s was memories of accidentally leaving a bottle of White Zinfandel in the freezer overnight, and the ensuing mess he was left with. Between 1996 and 2005 Ben absorbed all he could about wine while working at wine shops to pay for school. Meanwhile, he was churning out papers for his BA and MA in English (from the Universities of Winnipeg and Manitoba, respectively).

Ben became the Winnipeg Free Press' weekly wine columnist in 2005, and two years later joined Wine Access magazine as a contributor, a member of their national tasting panel and a judge at the Canadian Wine Awards and International Value Wine Awards until the magazine closed up shop in 2013.

In 2013 Ben joined the Winnipeg Free Press as a copy/web editor.

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