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Hog lines, pigskins and wine - oh my!

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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.

But there are sports to be watched before that - what to drink?

Scotties Tournament of Hearts: The Canadian women's curling championships wrap up this weekend, and Jennifer Jones' Team Canada rink will for sure be in the mix (a tiebreaker today will determine whether Manitoba's Jill Thurston and squad will advance).

The Scotties is a quintessential Canadian event that deserves a stalwart Canadian wine - an Ontario Riesling or Pinot Noir, or a BC Pinot Blanc or Merlot. I'm not saying either of those teams are going to win the Scotties, but their provinces sure make good wines.

Super Bowl XLIV: Sunday's the big one - the New Orleans Saints against the Indianapolis Colts. The beer companies are shelling out big bucks to get viewers' attention during the game via clever ads - will any wine companies step up and do the same? We'll have to wait for the days following the game to track down the ads online, as many of them don't make it to air in Canada.

If you're watching the game but beer ain't your thing, try a wine that will do well with whatever it is you're snacking on. Try a California Zinfandel (a red one, not the blush) if your spread includes any of the following: nachos, wings, pizza, chips. For a white, a Viognier will do the trick. Don't forget about the stellar pairing of bubbly and potato chips - if you're going to have one of 'em on hand, might as well get the other.

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Around town:

- If you'd like to get a sneak peak at which wineries will be at the 2010 Winnipeg Wine Festival, there's a PDF you can see here. The Gala Dinner and public tasting info is up, but the ancillary events remain under wraps for the time being. Don't forget - this year's theme country is Australia.

- The third annual For the Love of Grapes Festival goes down February 12-14 at St. Vital Shopping Centre. The six stand-alone Independent Specialty Wine Stores of Manitoba will be on hand to sample wines and, if the setup is the same as last year, sell you the wines sampled on-site. Admission is free, and sampling tickets are $0.50, with most wines costing either one or two tickets.

Check out St. Vital's Centre Court during the following hours:
Friday, February 12: 1:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Saturday February 13: 12:00 p.m. - 5:30p.m.
Sunday, February 14: 12:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.

- G. J. Andrews Food and Wine Shoppe is hosting "An Evening with Masi Estates" on Thursday, March 18 at the Western Canada Aviation Museum - the theme for the night is "Upscale Italian". A limited number of tickets are still available at $89.98 (per person, all inclusive) by contacting the shop at 487-7300.

- Banville & Jones has long offered the International Sommelier Guild (ISG) courses, and they have now added the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) to their arsenal of wine education. Like the ISG courses, the WSET program is a fairly intensive set of educational levels for those really wanting to push their knowledge of all things wine. Restaurant and hotel types, wine agents and such looking for accreditation often pursue the ISG diploma or the WSET certification. For now, Banville & Jones offers levels 1 and 2 - both relatively entry-level programs. Head wine educator Gary Hewitt informed me that they have plans to introduce Level 3 to our market, but that the diploma program is far from coming to Winnipeg. Check their website for details.

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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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