The Grape Nut

with Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

Email Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

  • What gets brewing behind the scenes

    Despite some fairly sketchy driving conditions — at least within the city — I bundled myself up Thursday morning and made my way out to Lockport to serve as a steward at the first annual Half Pints Pro/Am Challenge.

  • Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé

    OK, so the Beaujolais Nouveau has landed and it's out there for sale now. Every year on the third Thursday in November, these wines are released to the public, with increasingly dwindling fanfare. As the quality of the wines has plateaued and the prices have continued to rise, there's been little reason to get overly excited about the wines. You can read more about my thoughts on Gamay/Beaujolais here.

  • Attention hop-heads

    If you have a hydrometer or a carboy in your basement, chances are you've made your own beer before — heck, you may consider yourself somewhat of a budding brewmaster.

  • Saying goodbye to the 100-point scale

    I've been thinking a lot about the way I review wines as of late — specifically, about how I score them, and whether I should be using the 100-point scale or not.

  • Remembering Peter Lehmann

    Since there's only so much physical real estate in the 49.8 section of the Winnipeg Free Press, I figured I'd share some of the great stories I got about the late Peter Lehmann, who passed away last month, in this corner of the paper's website...

  • Manitoba wine laws ahead of the curve

    It was on June 28 last year that Bill C-311, a private member's bill introduced by Conservative MP Dan Albas, finally changed the laws so that it was no longer illegal for Canadians to ship or carry wine across provincial borders.

  • Q&A: Wes Pearson, Dodgy Bros.

    In reviewing my email interview with Wes Pearson, a former Winnipegger now making wine in the McLaren Vale under the Dodgy Bros. label, I realized I had a lot of good stuff that couldn't possibly fit in the dead-tree version of the Winnipeg Free Press.

  • Sour beer, Chardonnay and a little bit of science class

    Other than sherry, sour beer has been the toughest category for me to truly embrace/"get into" in all my years tasting grown-up beverages. (Well, schnapps might be up there too but that has more to do with a bad experience in Germany on a high-school band trip.) It took a while but I've come to embrace Spanish fortified wines as better-quality options became available in our market.

  • Best of what's left from the fest

    While my initial plan was to write about many more of the wines brought in special for the Winnipeg Wine Festival, a quick trip to the Grant Park Liquor Mart (where all the leftovers landed) Thursday revealed many of the wines have already flown out the door.

  • Best of the fest, part 1

    How many wines did I try at the 2013 Winnipeg Wine Festival? From the opening ancillary event to the end of the Saturday matinee tasting, I figure about 200. And while I can't possibly talk about all of them in great detail, I did pick a few of my favourites.

  • Canadian sommelier makes history

    Véronique Rivest has made wine-related history, becoming the first woman and the first Canadian to land on the podium at the 14th Contest of the Best Sommelier of the World, held over the past few days in Tokyo, Japan. Rivest was the runner-up at the contest, besting an impressive collection of palates from around the world.

  • Local breweries on a roll

    If we can't have grape wineries here in Manitoba, we should at least be thankful we've got some decent breweries in our 'hood (although we could always use more). Both Fort Garry Brewing Co. and Half Pints Brewing Co. have new brews out there worth trying — especially if you're after alternatives to mainstream, uninspired beer...

  • Are you Manitoba's best wine taster?

    Have a nose for discerning certain grapes in a wine? Is your palate is pretty fine-tuned to where a wine comes from and when it was made? Not sure, and want to put your senses to the test? Think you've got what it takes to taste wine with (or like) the pros? Then the First Annual Manitoba Wine-Tasting Championships should be right up your alley.

  • Vinho Verde: The white wine you should be drinking

  • Wine clubs — the gift that keeps on giving

    I get a fair bit of PR-type emails (and the occasional bit of snail mail) from wineries and wine associations, much of which I read with passing interest before deleting. But last week I got an email from Nova Scotia's Benjamin Bridge winery that piqued my interest, in that it was sent to me and tailored to the Manitoba market.

  • Beaujolais Nouveau — comme ci, comme ça

    Every year on the third Thursday in November, Beaujolais Nouveau is released. It's a tradition that was invented by négociants in the region to promote wines from Beaujolais as well as to offload some of their more ordinary juice.

  • California, final entry: Zinned out

    Saturday morning in San Francisco was the ZAP trade tasting. ZAP stands for Zinfandel Advocates and Producers, and is a festival devoted solely to the grape.

  • California, days 4 and 5

    So when I last wrote it was Thursday morning and we had yet to hit our first winery. I've made plenty of stops between then and now - in fact, the rest of my traveling companions have gone home, while I'm staying an extra day to explore San Francisco and see Wilco tonight at the Warfield. Thanks to a crazy schedule that often left us with barely enough time to check in to our hotel before dinner, it seems I've got some catching up to do. So, in a nutshell:

  • California, Day Three: meeting the Mondavi matriarch

    Day three, and yet again I’m up before 6 a.m. – which would be a huge problem if it weren’t for the fact that I’m going to bed at 10 every night. Shift those times over to the Central Time Zone and it’s though I never left home. But it’s amazing how much you can get done in the morning – I’m more of a writing-at-night kinda guy, but working in the morning means there’s a finite time; you have to stop, because the bus is going to head to the next winery without you, so you need to get it done.

  • California, Day 2: From Livermore to Napa

    Well, once again I find myself up way too early, drinking mediocre hotel room coffee, so I might as well sum up what we did yesterday here in California.

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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