Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

  • Radio personality was a voice for wine

    While you may have known him best as the voice behind CBC Radio 2 program Disc Drive, which ran from 1985 to 2008, Jurgen Gothe was also an enthusiastic wine writer. His Uncorked column (no, I wasn't the first) appeared from 1997 to 2014 in Vancouver's Georgia Straight, and he also wrote about wine for the Vancouver Sun and Globe and Mail, among others. Gothe died on April 9 at the age of 70 after battling cancer.
  • Time for a beer break

    I'm up to my eyeballs in all things Chile. The Winnipeg Wine Festival's ancillary events start up in just over two weeks, and with Chile as this year's theme region, there'll be plenty of wines from that skinny South American country to be tasted during wine-fest week.
  • Wine festival's cork about to pop

    With just over three weeks to go until the first of the Winnipeg Wine Festival's ancillary events get underway, now's as good a time as any to have a look at the festival's program leading up to the two big weekend public tastings on May 1 and 2 at the RBC Convention Centre. First up are a couple of new events. On Monday, April 27, enjoy all things Argentina at the Winnipeg Art Gallery starting at 7 p.m., as part of Malbec World Day celebrations. While the official Malbec World Day is actually April 17, guests at this event can discover what makes this inky black, full-bodied red wine so captivating -- and try it with finger foods inspired by Argentine cuisine while enjoying live tango dancing. Tickets are $45.
  • Wine fest offers tasty VIP options

    Tickets are on sale for the Winnipeg Wine Festival's main weekend public tastings, which take place Friday, May 1 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., as well as Saturday, May 2 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets for the public tastings are $54.95 and are available at Manitoba Liquor Marts as well as winnipegwinefestival.com. The Friday night will once again feature a VIP component -- $79.95 gets one into the festival's theme-region area -- Chile this year -- at 5:30 p.m. (90 minutes before everyone else) and a wine reception with finger foods.
  • There's value at whisky-palooza

    Let's not kid ourselves -- $210 a ticket is a lot more money than the $50 or so per person thousands spend on entry to the Winnipeg Wine Festival every year. But unlike the wine fest, the Winnipeg Whisky Festival at the Fairmont Winnipeg featured a full spread of fantastic food, a souvenir Glencairns glass, a complimentary cab ride home and featured more than 100 whiskies from the U.S., Canada, Scotland and Ireland -- most of which were of the premium variety -- as well as a handful of premium rums, cognacs and brandies.
  • Provincial trade rules stunt growth of national wine culture

    A recent study released by Vinexpo, the world's largest wine-related exhibition and trade show, sheds some interesting light on wine-consumption trends in Canada, and gives pause for reflection on the state of the Canadian wine industry. The Vinexpo study, undertaken by British agency International Wine and Spirit Research, pegs Canada as the world's sixth-largest importer of wine in 2014, bringing in 32.7 million cases. That's 294.3 million litres of vino landing on our shores.
  • Portugal without the port

    Portugal's Douro Valley is best-known for the sweet fortified wines produced by in the region that we know and love as port. Perhaps this is why so many of their dry red wines -- typically made from the same obscure, indigenous grape varieties as port -- are both overlooked and underpriced. Located upstream on the Douro River from the seaside town of Porto, Douro producers have a centuries-long tradition of making both table wines -- i.e. non-fortified red wines -- as well as port.
  • Ideal for a thirsty voyageur: Spicy options arrive just in time for winter festival

    When a wine column falls on Feb. 14, the temptation is certainly strong to write about some aspect of Valentine's Day: wine and chocolate, sparkling wine for your sweetie, and so forth. But with the Festival du Voyageur having kicked off on Friday and running until Feb. 22, I thought it would be a heck of a lot more fun to think about the flavours of this province's favourite winter fest than to pore over which juicy Merlot will go with that heart-shaped box of chocolates.
  • Early bird gets the beer

    It seems as though products are coming and going faster than ever from Liquor Mart shelves (and, to a lesser extent, private wine stores). As they do a few times per year, last week Manitoba Liquor Marts delisted a bunch of products in order to make way for new and returning products. Of all drinks, it's beer that's trickiest to stay caught up on, and for me to review. Some of the more interesting new brews hit the shelves in fairly limited quantity, and with Winnipeg's relatively active beer community, once word gets out stock can dwindle pretty quickly.
  • Are you ready for some snacking?

    The Seattle Seahawks versus the New England Patriots. This is it -- the game for all the marbles (or a shiny trophy, if you will -- what can I say, I know next to nothing about American football). What is it about the Super Bowl that brings people together to watch like no other championship game? Is it the overall spectacle? The actual game itself? the commercials? The halftime show? The deflated ball scandal?
  • Put your palate to the test

    Last weekend I detailed how Sean Dolenuck of La Boutique del Vino won the inaugural Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (CAPS) Manitoba chapter's best sommelier competition. This week I have news on a wine-tasting competition for all of us non-sommeliers.
  • Vintage victory for sommelier

    There's a new champ in town when it comes to Manitoba's best sommelier. Well, to be fair, Manitoba's never had an official best sommelier before, so Sean Dolenuck is both the new champ and the first one.
  • What's brewing for 2015?

    Since there was no column the last couple of weeks -- 49.8 looked back at 2014 last week and Georgia Nicols' expanded horoscope column looked ahead to the year 2015 and all it might bring prior to that -- I figured I'd roll up my sleeves and take a swing of my own at what the year ahead might bring drinks-wise. So, allow me to gaze into my crystal ball -- err, decanter -- and conjure up predictions as to what might be in store for the province in the year to come...
  • An oasis of sparkling wines

    People are often asked about their desert island books, food and so forth. Well, when it comes to my desert island drink, it's not even close -- I'd take sparkling wine. And while I'm not much of a New Year's Eve party animal, Dec. 31 is always a good excuse to pop a bottle or two of bubbly and toast they year that was and the one to come.
  • A second thought about 'first growth'

    Can one wine hurt a country's burgeoning industry? A recent press release from a new British Columbia winery certainly has me thinking it might. The winery in question is One Faith Vineyards, a project in the Okanagan Valley driven by Bill Lui, who made his name in the medical-supply business before turning to his passion -- wine. Having taken wine education courses in California and B.C., as well as visiting many properties in France's Bordeaux region, Lui publicly launched his winery last week.
  • Coping with the big chill

    As I've mentioned before in this column, I'm a seasonal drinker. As the mercury drops and winter sets in, the crisp white wines I've enjoyed over the summer tend to fall off my radar. Instead, I turn to red wines that can provide warmth as temperatures plummet.
  • And now a word from our literary editor

    Anyone with a passion for wine, beer and/or spirits has likely already thought about bottles they'd like stuffed in their stocking this holiday season. But most enthusiastic imbibers of wine, beer and spirits also love to learn about the stuff as well.
  • Happy Nouveau year!

    Craft beer lovers in this province are an enthusiastic lot. Introduce growler-filling stations with locally made beer? They'll line up in droves. Bring in a $150-ish craft beer Advent calendar? Watch it sell out in hours. A local brewery such as Half Pints releases a new brew? You can bet fans will be lined up before the doors open. Wine geeks? Not so much. In fact, the most traditionally lauded day of the year for wine is next week -- and chances are few will bat an eye.
  • Changes afoot in B.C. to help wine buyers

    The next time you're in the Canadian wine section of your favourite store, have a close look at the Ontario wines. You'll see wines from the Niagara Peninsula are often more specifically labelled by sub-appellations such as Niagara-on-the-Lake, Twenty Mile Bench, Vinemount Ridge, Beamsville Bench, Short Hills Bench, etc. These smaller regions help producers let consumers know a little more about where the wine comes from and, as a result, a little more about what to expect when popping the cork (or twisting the screwcap).
  • Painted Rock on a roll with Bordeaux-style wines

    Congrats to Painted Rock Estate Winery for recently being named winery of the year at the 2014 InterVin International Wine Awards held this past August. The Okanagan Valley winery has had more than its share of successes since Manitoba-born proprietor John Skinner and company purchased their 24-hectare property in 2004. The winery focuses on red Bordeaux grape varieties -- mainly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot -- as well as some Syrah and Chardonnay. Australia's Wolf Blass Wines came in second at InterVin, while Peller Estates Niagara-on-the-Lake, which was recently awarded WineAlign's winery of the year at the 2014 National Wine Awards of Canada, took third place.
  • Own the wine podium with these vintages

    The Gold Medal Plates national tour kicked off in Winnipeg on Oct. 2, featuring nine local chefs competing for one spot at the Canadian Culinary Championships in Kelowna, B.C. The basics: A group of judges are served the dishes and corresponding Canadian wines, as chosen by the restaurant, while guests wander the room at the RBC Convention Centre sampling both food and wine at each eatery's station. Proceeds from the event went toward the Canadian Olympic Foundation to support Canadian athletes.
  • Giving thanks with an inexpensive wine

    It was bound to happen — after last week's miniature heat wave, temperatures are finally settling in to something similar to normal for this time of the year. But before diving into the big, heavy red wines that are so much more palatable in fall, there are some lighter-bodied, fresh whites and reds that deserve your attention.
  • Fall in for some big flavour

    The first day of fall has come and gone — the kids are back in school, football and hockey are overlapping, and the selection of beers on local shelves is moving from the crisp citrusy fresh to the warmer, heartier brews. All those low-alcohol radlers/grapefruit-infused beers are making way for stouts and porters. And the ever-popular pumpkin-and-spice-infused brews are popping up like jack-o'-lanterns at Halloween.
  • Why not make it a day for Grenache?

    There's been a trend in the last few years for marketing/PR firms working for certain wineries or regions to cook up specific days to celebrate one particular grape or another. International Chardonnay Day was May 23, for example, and Cabernet Day was Aug. 28 this past year. I don't pay these marketing ploys much attention -- I taste plenty enough of most wine grapes, thank you very much, and don't need to be told when I should be drinking something in particular.
  • Across the borderline

    Being in Regina over the Labour Day weekend can be an adventure. While people-watching fellow hotel guests in town for the Labour Day Classic football game between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders (which I didn't attend) was enlightening, my adventure was the chance to check out the differences between how liquor is sold in Saskatechewan versus here in our fair province.

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