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Winnipeg wine lists - good? Bad? Ugly?

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So in this past weekend's column I mentioned that I was going to be hitting Peasant Cookery (formerly Oui Bistro at the corner of King and Bannatyne). Last Monday, my wife and I took her mother (visiting from Prince Edward Island) there, and got to experience the revamped menu (featuring more home-style French "comfort food" type cooking than the restaurant's previous incarnation).

While I'm no food reviewer, I'm comfortable saying the dishes (including Beef Bourguignon, flank steak and pickerel) we had at our table were top-shelf. But sticking to the wine list, Peasant Cookery's (created with the assistance of Banville & Jones) is excellent. It's a great concept - split the list into reds and whites, and then by price point - $30, $40, $50 or $60 per bottle. There's a reserve wine list and a one-price red, white, rose and sparkling by-the-glass program ($8 per glass), but we opted thought it would be more fun to try out the "prix fixe" wine menu.

We opted for a bottle of red - namely, the Bennett Lane 2007 Turn 4 Cabernet Sauvignon [PDF] from California's Napa Valley. It's in the $60 red section of the list - a great price, seeing as the wine retails for $35.99. It's got loads of rich black fruit and a great balance of tannin, oak and fruit. While it could easily keep in a cellar for a few more years, it opened up with the beef dishes incredibly. It's easily a 92-point wine, in my humble opinion.

Granted, Peasant Cookery's wine list doesn't provide detailed descriptions of each wine (or even whether they're lighter, heavier, oakier, etc.) but I like the idea of grouping by one price both conceptually and aesthetically. Additionally, the staff I've encountered there are extremely well-educated in all things wine.

Another restaurant that does a great job with their wine list is Earls. That's not so surprising when you know the organization has long employed someone with the title "Director of Wine Experience" (aka my dream job title). They do a similar thing with their wine list - they have their "one-price" reds and whites and then a reserve list. They have also worked extensively with Perrin (France), Hardy (Australia), Barossa Valley Estates (Australia), Inniskillin (Canada) and others on their house wines.

There are a lot of other great wine lists in Winnipeg - in fact, I've been lucky enough to be a judge at the Wine List Awards over the last few years, which means I've perused more than my fair share of lists. I'll have more on these in the future - for now, I just wanted to touch on the flat-price approach to wine lists. It essentially means that some wines will be great values while others won't.

Do people like this idea of flat pricing? What are some of your favourite wine lists in Winnipeg? Do you find our wine lists to be generally exceptional? Average? Lacking? Do tell... send me an email, leave a comment of shoot me a message on Twitter...

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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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