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Winnipeg Wine Festival wrap-up, etc.

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First of all, a quick note that Liquor Marts are open Saturday and Sunday (regular hours) but closed on Monday, most private wine stores will have regular weekend hours Saturday and Sunday and holiday hours on Monday, and beer vendors... well, who knows - they'll probably be open Monday, at least for holiday hours. After all, the next round of NHL playoffs start on Sunday...

So there's been a bit of a delay in getting my weekend-recap blog up and posted, not the least of which was the need to step away from the wine stuff for a couple of days. After seven consecutive evenings of wine fest-related activities (coming after working my day job), I was a week behind on home/family/email stuff that needed to be dealt with. Ahem. Sorry 'bout that.

Thanks and apologies as well to my wife and my mom – we all went out for Mother’s Day dinner and probably wasn’t the best company after such a crazy week. Special thanks to my wife, who had to pick up an enormous amount of slack with our 2 ½ year-old daughter while I went out and tasted wine every night. Throw in the fact that she’s over eight months pregnant and she seems nearly super-heroic.

So, a final recap...

Last Thursday involved the Winnipeg Wine Festival Gala Dinner. No real breaking news on that front other than regular Master of Ceremonies Rod Black was unavailable, resulting in local personality Jim Ingebritsen filling in admirably.

Eyeballing the crowd at last Friday night's public tasting at the Winnipeg Convention Centre, I’d guess it was about 300 or so short of a sellout.

Interestingly, I’ve always found the Friday night crowd to be pretty well-behaved, while the Saturday night’s tasting usually has a few more people showing up just to take advantage of the all-you-can-sample-for-$40 angle.

I like that fact that the party-ers mingle with the more serious imbibers... typically everyone gets along anyways. That's the great thing about wine - it's such a celebratory drink.

But there's something to be said for the Winnipeg crowds too - I talked to more than one Chilean producer/export manager that commented on the general friendliness of those in attendance. It's almost like we should change our provincial slogan to Friendly... uh, never mind.

The Saturday afternoon public tasting is by far the best time to go and seriously taste wine over the weekend - the crowd is thinner, and is made up mainly of product consultants, restaurant and hotel folk, and other industry types. There's a lot more room to make notes, spitting the wine out isn't as taboo (as long as it's into the buckets provided), and the producers/agents can take a bit of time to talk to you about the wines without a massive lineup forming behind you.

Heck, I even saw Sir Ben Kingsley there a few years ago when he was in town making a film...

Anyhow, by the time the Saturday afternoon tasting winds up I usually consider myself "off the clock" for the evening, and put my booklet and pen away.

However, there were so many winemakers and producers still hanging around that I hadn't yet talked to that I ended up scribbling down a few more notes in the sold-out hall among the thousands of tasters... but I'm still too scared to try and decipher them.

Organizers I spoke with seemed generally pleased with attendance, etc. and reported no major incidents over the weekend, which is always great news. It will be interesting to see which country is chosen as the theme next year - I've heard a few names tossed around, but nothing's confirmed as of yet...

So there you go - my Winnipeg Wine Festival week. Have a nice long weekend, and go Moose!

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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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