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Winnipeg Wine Festival, Day 1

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And so begins the week of madness that is the Winnipeg Wine Festival. Well, it's madness for me anyway - last year I managed to taste nearly 200 wines in a week. I'm actually hoping to come in a little lower this year - take it easy on my palate a bit - and just try to enjoy the events a bit rather than "power taste".

Last night's Wines of Canada VQA Tasting at Tavern United downtown was a sold out success. Last year the event was inside, but this year was on the rooftop patio, which was a great move. There was a lot more space and the weather was good (although it got a bit chilly when the sun crept behinds the new Manitoba Hydro building).

Some highlights of the whites tasted included the Angel's Gate 2007 Gewurztraminer, Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery "Ogopogo's Lair" Pinot Grigio, Cave Spring 2006 Estate Bottled Riesling, and the Pelee Island 2006 Gewurztraminer Reserve. Memorable reds included the Jackston-Triggs Okanagan 2005 Meritage and the Sandhill 2006 Merlot - winemaker (and former Winnipegger) Howard Soon was even on hand for a bit. He's in town for the Winnipeg Wine Festival, as he is almost every year, and his Canad Inns Dinner in the Vineyard has long been sold out.

From a downtown rooftop, I made my way to Bellissimo Restaurant and Lounge for another sold out event - Joe's Italian Wine Night. The name pretty much says it all, and the Joe in question was 92 CITI FM's Joe Aiello. Wine stations were scattered throughout the restaurant and lounge, and food pairings (both hot and cold) were offered at nearby stations. An Italian sausage-laden pasta and gnocchi in a gorgonzola and pecan cream sauce were among the highlights of the food... but really, I didn't try one dish that I didn't like (as I find is often the case with Bellissimo). Note to self: take more notes on the food!

Wine highlights included the Mionetto "Il" Prosecco (an off-dry sparkling wine), the Masi 2007 Masianico (a white blend of Pinot Grigio and Verduzzo) and the Pasqua 2005 Le Soraie Veronese (a big, rustic red).

Tonight's the Hola Chile event at the Assiniboine Park Conservatory - a very convenient seven-minute walk from my house. I'm looking forward to meeting back up with some of the producers and export managers that I met in Chile this past November.

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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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