Wine arts

Manitobans bring their expertise to the industry

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Manitoba is flat, cold for much of the year and has relatively fertile soil -- in other words, it's no place to grow grapes. We make some fruit wine, but pretty much anything beyond that is a stretch.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/09/2009 (4837 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba is flat, cold for much of the year and has relatively fertile soil — in other words, it’s no place to grow grapes. We make some fruit wine, but pretty much anything beyond that is a stretch.

But despite the inhospitable nature of Friendly Manitoba for making wine, some people from our province have had an impact on the wine industry both in Canada and beyond. Many have set milestones along the way that are a testament to their love for wine.

Daenna Van Mulligen’s lack of pretension and genuine enthusiasm for wine was evident at the tastings I attended with her in Germany last year. It came as little surprise, then, when I learned that she was born and raised in Brandon. Now based out of Vancouver, this successful sommelier and writer administers two hugely popular wine websites (www.winediva.ca and www.winescores.ca) and makes regular appearances on Tasting Room Radio, former MuchMusic VJ Terry David Mulligan’s wine-related talk show.

In an industry that has been dominated by men, it’s nice to know women are making significant inroads both at wineries and in the industry as a whole. Former Winnipegger Barbara Philip MW is leading the charge. Incidentally, MW stands for Master of Wine — Barb is one of a handful of Canadians to receive this accolade, and the first Canadian woman to do so. The MW program is akin to an academic master’s degree, and fewer than 300 people in the world have earned a MW.

Barbara and husband Iain are also based out of Vancouver, and work as educators, wine judges and consultants in BC (see www.barbarianwine.com/) — Barbara is also a portfolio manager for the British Columbia Liquor Distribution Board (BCLDB). Her thesis for her MW was on the potential for Pinot Blanc to become a signature white grape variety for the Okanagan Valley, and she has been instrumental in developing wine education programs for aspiring sommeliers.

Claus Janzen wasn’t born in Winnipeg, but his love for wine arguably started here. He was born in Germany, and his family moved to Canada shortly thereafter. After some travelling, he returned to Manitoba to go to school and work. His travels through Europe sparked a love of wine, and it wasn’t long before he met and befriended Caymus winemaker Chuck Wagner in Napa Valley.

In 1994 Janzen started working at Caymus, putting his business degree to work shaping Caymus into a premium California brand. It’s now one of the world’s most recognizable premium California wines. But Janzen wanted to run his own winery, so with Wagner’s help he established Bacio Divino. The winery has gone on to much critical acclaim.

The Bacio Divino 2005 “Pazzo” Red (Napa Valley, California — around $45, select private wine stores) is a blend of mostly Sangiovese (Chianti’s main grape) with some Petite Syrah, Cabernet, Viognier and more. Cherry, mint, leather and tobacco notes are evident on the nose; on the palate it’s remarkably supple, with red cherry, cola, strawberry licorice and white pepper flavours. There are soft tannins at work here; it’s a very drinkable, sophisticated red. Not sure who carries this — I got it at Banville & Jones.

Donald Triggs has arguably made the greatest impact on wine of any Manitoban. His name is the most recognizable of Manitobans in the industry (think Jackson-Triggs). Triggs was born in Treherne and raised on an area farm, eventually earning a degree in agriculture from the University of Manitoba. His first professional contact with wine was managing production at Ridout Wines, Labatt Canada’s wine division. Here he met Allan Jackson; the two would eventually start their eponymous winery on their way to creating beverage giant Vincor International. The company was bought by international heavyweight Constellation Brands in 2006 for US$1.09 billion; Triggs left Vincor later that year after 17 years with the company.

The Jackson-Triggs 2006 Proprietor’s Reserve Meritage (Okanagan Valley, BC — $19.99, Liquor Marts and beyond) is a Bordeaux-style blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Aromas of plum, mint, blackberry and pencil shavings emerge on the nose of this Meritage (pronounced like “heritage”). It’s full-bodied and quite dry, with medium tannins coating the palate as the earthy blackberry and mocha flavours come through. A beef wine if there ever was one.

Coming soon — more Manitobans who are moving and shaking in the wine world…

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I also tried the Château Mas Neuf 2008 Tradition Rosé (Costières de Nîmes, France — $15.95, Liquor Marts and beyond). Light pink in colour, this rosé (a blend of Syrah and others) offers raspberry, watermelon, and strawberry jam aromas on the nose. It’s a dry, medium-bodied rosé, with tart strawberry and rhubarb flavours complemented by red apple notes. Try with grilled fish, pork dishes and/or milder cheeses.

uncorked@mts.net www.twitter.com/WFPuncorked

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