The Grape Nut

with Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

Email Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

  • A pile of wine info, brought to you by the letter P

    It's been a busy couple of weeks over here in my little wine world; last week I met with Vancouver-based Peter Lindenlaub of California's Caymus/Belle Glos wines out of California. We tasted through the latter winery's incredible portfolio of Pinot Noir, which more than made up for the hit-and-miss Chilean Pinot Noirs I tasted for last weekend's column. More on these elegant Pinots very soon.
  • (Hops and) malt stop*

    You can almost smell the roasted malt and hops in the air - that's right, the Flatlander's Beer Festival is here once again. The dinner takes place tonight at Bergmann's on Lombard - I'll be updating my Twitter page with pictures and descriptions of the courses and the beer from my table, technology and common courtesy permitting.

  • Brew and Gold

    Labour Day weekend! Whether you're heading to the cottage for some last-minute relaxation or hunkering down in front of the television for the Bomber game, make sure to put away those white pants.

  • Booze Brother coming to town

    I mentioned in a recent column that Dan Aykroyd is coming to Manitoba, and I've now got some of the details regarding where he'll be and when. Catch Elwood Blues (I prefer to think of him as Dr. Ray Stantz from Ghostbusters) at the Grant Park Liquor Mart on Saturday, September 11 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Brandonites can see Mr. Aykroyd the next day at the Liquor Mart at 10th and Victoria from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m..

  • Technology at your table/fall fests

    Does the future of the wine list reside in the iPad? Some restaurants think so - they have been working at converting their wine lists to electronic format, then handing the customer a pre-loaded version of the touchscreen device for their perusal. While the above-linked article doesn't look so favourably upon the whole experience, it does point out some of the benefits of digitized wine lists. In addition to considering the aesthetics and functionality of an iPad-based wine list, for example, inventory could automatically be updated as a customer picks a wine.

  • Brew patriot love

    Just a quick post - the good news is that most Liquor Marts in Manitoba are open (cityplace and Steinbach being the exceptions), all keeping store hours of noon until 6 p.m. (except Dauphin, which is open from 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. - Countryfest, dont'cha know). Most private wine stores, beer vendors and licensed establishments will be open, although I'd recommend calling ahead just to be sure - they may be on holiday hours.

  • Int'l Value Wine Awards — the finals

    I'll keep this update brief — I think a couple of days away from the Wine Access International Value Wine Awards will give me a chance to reflect on the event as a whole and will provide some perspective. Suffice to say that the event has been impeccably organized — 1200 wines were poured over the course of the last five days, about a quarter of which crossed this pooped palate.

  • IVWAs, Day 3: bring on the finals

    Today wrapped up the preliminary rounds of Wine Access' International Value Wine Awards, meaning the behind-the-scenes folk are tabulating the scores and preparing new flights for the judges of the final rounds (of which I am one) as I type this. We managed to get through six sets of wine by lunchtime, meaning I had the afternoon to myself. 

  • Wine Access IVWAs, Day 2

    Another day, another 70 or so wines tasted for Wine Access' International Value Wine Awards. We went through eight flights today - five before lunch and three after - once again figuring out which wines go through to the final rounds and which are weeded out.

  • International Value Wine Awards, Day One

    I'm currently in Calgary, acting as a judge for Wine Access' International Value Wine Awards. The goal is to find the best wines under $25 from around the world; this is done by tasting hundreds of wines blind (ie. we don't know what wines they are when they come out - all we know is the grape variety/blend). I'm lucky that this time around I'm joined by another Winnipegger, Banville & Jones senior instructor and buyer Gary Hewitt. There are other ex-Winnipeggers here too, but I'll save that for another instalment.

  • Your weekend wine forecast

    OK, let's start with a wee bit of self-promotion... if you're not doing anything tonight, pop by Aqua Books, where yours truly will be one of the guests on Kelly Hughes Live!

  • Battles, bottles and beyond

    Well, things seem to have cooled down enough 'round these parts since my last post. Unbelievable - forty comments!

  • Chef Bagshaw finds a new home

    In typical Winnipeg word-through-the-grapevine news, I found out last night that former Pizzeria Gusto chef Scott Bagshaw has found new digs. Sounding relaxed and upbeat after being at the centre of last week's veritable gong show of news, rumours, etc., Bagshaw confirmed today that he'll be taking over the kitchen at Resto Gare in a couple weeks' time.

  • Buying booze this weekend, etc.

    The long weekend is almost upon us, so I thought I'd do an in-depth roundup of Liquor Mart/private wine store/etc. hours of operation:
  • Wine festival's ancillary schedule - a global affair

    OK, so in yesterday's blog post I said I was going to get less list-y and more opinionated, but that will have to wait, as I've got your first look at the Winnipeg Wine Festival's ancillary events. It'll be public knowledge any day now - word is they're just finalizing the online ticketing system, but in the meantime I've been given the green light to let you know what to expect...

  • The Grape Nut v2.0

    Quick hit while I wait for the final details of the Winnipeg Wine Festival's ancillary events to be posted - I have a rough list but am waiting on a few events to be confirmed.

  • Booze news you can use

    As the city starts to thaw out, the wine world starts to heat up with more tastings, wine dinners, wine education and more. So far, 2010 has been a very low-key year for me wine-wise, with very few winemakers, export managers, etc. stopping in town since Christmas.

  • Hog lines, pigskins and wine - oh my!

    I just finished next weekend's column, which deals with Canadian wine (specifically from BC) and the Winter Olympics. And yes, if you're looking for Valentine's Day wine recommendations, I'll have them in this space as we get closer to the big day.

  • Going, going, gone

    Happy New Year, wine drinkers of Winnipeg. Try anything good over the holidays? Any wine-related resolutions out there?

  • Late to the Beaujolais ball

    It seems like I always start these blog spots with apologies, so I'll just skip it and say I was sick with both a chest cold and a regular cold, both my kids were/are sick, and so I've been out of commission for a spell - at least on the wine tasting front.

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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