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Wine festival's ancillary schedule - a global affair

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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 week's events start off on Sunday, April 25 from 2:00 - 5:00 p.m. with World of Wine at Provence Bistro at the Niakwa Golf and Country Club, which will feature a variety of wines in a walkabout format. Tickets will be $75.

The next night features two events - one new and one a returning favourite from last year. The former is a "Tango for your taste buds" at Hermano's Restaurant and Wine Bar (179 Bannatyne). The night will feature a four-course steak dinner. The repeat offender is Joe's Italian Wine Night at Bellissimo Restaurant (877 Waverley), a walkabout wine and food pairing hosted by 92 Citi FM's Joe Aiello (a really nice guy). Each event will be $60.

No dinners on Tuesday night - rather, two more returning events from previous years. The Wines of Canada VQA tasting happens from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. at Tavern United downtown, and is a paltry $20. Similarly wallet-friendly is the Wines From Spain: Grape Stomp, which will be moving back inside Blaze Bistro at the Delta Hotel. Watch local celebs stomp grapes with Special Olympics athletes - it's a great time. $25.

Wednesday night is action-packed, with three events happening around town. The Escape to Italy tasting will feature new wines from three Italian wineries paired with some Italian dishes. I don't think this is a dinner, but I could be wrong. The event happens at The Food Studio (3200 Roblin Blvd.), and tickets will be $55.

It seems last year's dinner featuring Sandhill Winery's Senior Winemaker (and former Manitoban) Howard Soon was such a success that he's coming back again - only this time he'll be joined by Hillebrand/Trius winemaker Daryl Brooker. This six-course meal featuring two GREAT guys will feature many of these Canadian wineries' best products. The venue is Terrace Fifty-Five Food and Wine (in the Pavilion at Assiniboine Park), and tickets will be $150.

Wednesday is also the first chance for festival-goers to get in the Aussie state of mind (Australia is the theme country this year). The Aussie Barbie at The Current Restaurant & Lounge at Inn at the Forks will feature food and wine from Down Under. [yellowtail] did an Aussie barbecue-type event here two years ago, and the patio afforded guests the chance to sample Aussie food in the late evening sun. I expect this event to be similar, albeit with a wider variety of wineries on hand. Tickets will be $35.

If you were looking solely at the ancillary events, you'd be hard-pressed to guess the theme country for the Winnipeg Wine Festival - in fact, there are more Italian and Canadian events (two each) than there are Aussie events leading up to the Gala Dinner and main weekend of tasting. Having said that, the Aussies will be well-represented at both, with all the dinner's wines coming from Australia and the Aussie wineries occupying the space Chile did last year at the Winnipeg Convention Centre's tastings.

I guess I would have expected that there would have been more Aussie-related events leading up to the weekend tastings, if for no other reason that there will be a whole bunch of winemakers and export managers in town from Down Under. So fo comparison's sake I checked out the list of events at this year's Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, the fest after which Winnipeg's was modeled. Their theme country this year is Argentina and, like our fest, there's no real slant toward Argentine wine in the ancillary events. Hm.

Follow me on Twitter: www.twitter.com/thegrapenut

Be sure to check back at the Winnipeg Wine Festival's website for ticket info and times for all events.

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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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