The Grape Nut

with Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

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  • California, Day One: Paso Robles' big reds, etc.

    It’s a good thing I’m such a poor sleeper on the road, otherwise I have no idea when I’d have the time to submit any sort of update at all for my humble little corner of the Free Press website. So here I am, sitting in front of my laptop at 5 a.m., blasting out as quick of an update as possible about what we did yesterday.

  • A taste of California in downtown Winnipeg

    Here's a quick plug for my friends down at the Winnipeg Free Press News Cafe: they're hosting a California-themed food and wine night this Thursday (December 1) starting at 7:00 p.m.. Guests will enjoy six Cal-themed hors d'oeuvres (including lamb, beef, pork, and seafood dishes) paired with wines from the Golden State. The tentative list of wines, as chosen by The Winehouse:

  • Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé

    Beaujolais Nouveau, for those that don't know, is a red wine from the Beaujolais region of France that is released on the third Thursday of November (today). Made from the Gamay grape, it's a young, fresh wine that doesn't bring a lot of tannin, can be served slightly chilled, and is a decent pairing with a traditional Christmas dinner.

  • Deadline doldrums: MacLean event cancelled

    Imagine my horror on Thursday morning when I got an email from my friend Mike at Banville & Jones, informing me that the Burge Family Winemakers 2005 Garnacha I reviewed in this weekend's column had sold out shortly after the visit by Mr. Burge a couple of weeks back - when I originally tasted the wine. The column was already printed - the Detour section is one of the first to be printed, as there's not usually any "breaking" news in there - and it was too late to substitute another wine.

  • New liquor laws in effect to start November

    With a new month come new liquor laws in Manitoba, and while some of them won't directly affect the average imbiber, there are a few changes that consumers will be be interested to learn about.
  • Good Drinkin' Tonite... and tomorrow, and the next...

    My inspiration for the title of this post? I was interviewed by none other than Terry David Mulligan this morning – yes, he of Good Rockin’ Tonite and Much West in days gone past.

  • B.C. bounty

    Life has been nothing less than a nuts for me so far this summer. After my two-week stay in Australia, I was home for a fortnight before turning around and heading to judge at the International Value Wine Awards in Calgary. I returned home from that competition, then headed to the Okanagan Valley last Friday. I got back from easily my best visit to the Valley yet on Thursday, and have been processing everything I saw, heard and (especially) tasted while I was there. As I mentioned in my column, it was easily my best visit yet.

  • Down Under adventures, Part 1

    It's 9:15 on a Tuesday night here in Australia's Yarra Valley as I write this, which is around 6:15 on Tuesday morning back in Winnipeg. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the time difference, and have had a tough time adjusting to being fifteen hours out of my normal routine (as well as being away from my family, sleeping in strange beds, etc). I'm hoping tonight I'll get more than four hours of sleep, which would be a first for this trip that started on Friday night in Winnipeg.

  • The rest of the fest / heading Down Under

    It seems, dear readers, that I left you in the middle of the 2011 Winnipeg Wine Festival — at least blog-wise. Apologies, my friends, but the last few days more hectic and tasting-filled than previous years — I'm still reeling...

  • Wine Fest, part deux

    When we last spoke, I was getting ready for Tuesday night's Winnipeg Wine Festival ancillary events. The first was a VQA wines of Canada tasting in the lounge of the cityplace Boston Pizza. I'm a big booster of Canadian wines, and for $20 this tasting might have been the deal of the week.

  • Winnipeg Wine Festival, part 1

    Despite the thin blanket of snow covering the city, things heated up pretty quickly on Sunday afternoon as the Winnipeg Wine Festival officially kicked off at Niakwa Golf and Country Club. Dubbed World of Wine, the kickoff ancillary event seemed to go off without a hitch. I remember being there two years ago on a beautiful, hot afternoon and watching golfers tee off. This year? Not so much.

  • Is Terry David Mulligan going to jail?

    Could the former host of Good Rockin' Tonite and Much West be heading to the slammer? And why the heck would a wine columnist write about it?

  • Wine week — palate prep

    It's been, once again, far too long between posts, but that little e-hiccup is about to be corrected. I can't after all, remain silent in this little corner of the Winnipeg Free Press website as the Winnipeg Wine Festival descends on venues across the city. From the ancillary events  to the Gala Dinner to the weekend public tastings, I'll be taking in as much of the fest as is humanly possible.

  • Dashing dining at the Winnipeg Wine Festival

    I figured I'd make good on my promise to post the menu for the Winnipeg Wine Festival gala dinner, which takes place Thursday, May 5 at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. Each course is paired with two California wines (except the dessert, which gets just one). As a whole, I like the pairings — no real wacky wines except for maybe the Apothic red, which is almost off-dry but should do very well with a chocolate dish. I also like the decision to go with one white and one red wine on the second dish — I think if I was picking the wines I'd be torn on that dish as to whether I should pick a white or red.

  • Louis Riel, Caribou, fair trade and Flat Rock

    IN case you were wondering what is and isn't open tomorrow (February 21, Louis Riel Day), Manitoba's Liquor Marts are not - I repeat, NOT - open. Winnipeg's private wine stores, however, can open; I'm assuming many will, with  Sunday/holiday hours. Same with beer vendors - most will choose to open, but some may stay closed. DO yourself a favour if you're heading to a private wine store or beer vendor tomorrow - call ahead.

  • Bubble trouble?

    Well, Grape Nut readers, it's been a while since I checked in on my corner the Freep website. My family and I have been absolutely hammered by illnesses, including (but not limited to) stomach flu, strep throat, a sinus infection, general colds/flu, etc. It's been brutal and truth be told, I've been putting back more cough syrup and tea this holiday season than I have wine. But as we emerge from the disease-infested cloud, I thought I'd check in to the blogosphere quickly...

  • Mo' better booze

    With the mercury dropping and the snow rising, I'm looking forward to warming up tonight at The Crown Royal Master Blender Experience. I'm really interested in tasting through the entire line of made-in-Manitoba Crown Royal products, including the brand new Crown Royal Black.

  • Winnipeg wine lists - good? Bad? Ugly?

    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).

  • More on the Lehmanns

    I had meant to post a follow-up to my entry re: lunching with Peter and Margaret Lehmann last week, but figured I'd hold off, as the Barossa couple made a quick stop in Winnipeg on Tuesday, and I had a chance to catch up with them after they had spent the better part of two weeks travelling across Western Canada (they're in Toronto today, where earlier they replicated the seven decade tasting I attended in Vancouver).

  • Tasting history

    I’ve been writing up a blog post about my trip to Vancouver last week for lunch with Peter and Margaret Lehmann, and to taste through what was billed as “Seven Decades of Winemaking”. Quite frankly, I’ve never had so little trouble spouting off so much copy about wine, so I’ve decided to break my thoughts up into a couple of pieces.

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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