Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/3/2019 (304 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
For the past decade, the Winnipeg Wine Festival’s public tastings have included a theme region. The chosen region is given more space at the public tastings for a wider range of products — some new and/or exclusive to the festival — to be poured for the thousands of people who every year.
California, Chile, Australia and Canada have each been in the spotlight twice, Argentina and New Zealand split the bill one year; in 2018, organizers looked across the pond to Europe for the first time, highlighting wines from Italy.
This year’s public tastings (held at the RBC Convention Centre) will once again feature an Old World wine-producing region, with vino from Spain taking centre stage at the May 3 and 4 public tastings. Meanwhile, this year’s recently announced ancillary tastings leading up to the weekend — typically smaller, more manageable affairs at a wide range of venues throughout the city — explore all corners of the wine-producing world.
Argentina is first out of the gate with its annual Malbec World Day, taking place at the Winnipeg Winter Club (200 River Ave.) from 7 to 9 p.m. on April 17. In addition to a focus on the South American country’s flagship red grape, a handful of sparkling and white wines will also be featured, as all manner of Argentine food (think empanadas and plenty of beef).
The week prior to the May 3 and 4 public tastings is when the frequency of ancillary events really picks up. On April 28, the Winnipeg Wine Festival introduces a new event, Brunch and Bubbles, at Blaze Bistro at the Delta Hotel (350 St. Mary Ave.) from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The name of the event pretty much says it all — expect plenty of fizzy wines and brunchy bites.
Later that night the focus returns to southern hemisphere wine regions as Rudy’s Eat and Drink (375 Graham Ave.) hosts Australia and New Zealand wineries at the Down Under event from 7 to 9 p.m. There should be lots of Aussie Shiraz and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, among other sippables.
April 29 sees the focus turn back to Europe, with a pair of evening events sure to either up your quota of la dolce vita or joie de vivre. Kitchen Sync (370 Donald St.) plays host to all manner of Italian food and wine with a kitchen party offering regional wine-and-food pairings, while Resto Gare (630 Des Meurons St.) hosts the Vive La France event that focuses on French fare (obviously). Both events run from 7 to 9 p.m.
The following night, April 30, features a trio of events sure to please plenty of palates. California producers will kick it old school at Rae & Jerry’s Steakhouse (1405 Portage Ave.) from 7 to 9 p.m., with big bold reds, whites and more from the Golden State paired alongside classic cuisine.
And while British Columbia and Ontario wines are no laughing matter on the global stage, they’ll be poured at the Gas Station Arts Centre (445 River Ave.) from 6 to 7:15 p.m., prior to the Red Carpet Comedy event taking place at 7:30 p.m. as part of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival.
Finally, if Spanish wine and food is more your cup of tea, a three-course sit-down meal with wine from 7 to 9 p.m., led by Canadian master of wine Elsa Macdonald, was slated to take place at Fionn MacCool’s (1582 Regent Ave. W.), which has since closed. Organizers have indicated the event will still take place at a location yet to be determined.
May 1, leading up to the public tastings, typically highlights the Winnipeg Wine Festival’s feature region, and this year is no exception. The Savour Spain event will see cava, Rioja reds and crisp fresh whites (as well as the odd sherry, perhaps) flowing freely from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the Qualico Family Centre in Assiniboine Park.
Tickets for the Winnipeg Wine Festival’s ancillary events are on sale now, starting at $50. To buy tickets and for more information, visit winnipegwinefestival.com.
Bodega Alamos 2017 Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina — $15.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)
Bright purple in colour, this Argentine red brims with aromas of brambly blackberry, plum, blueberry, cocoa and baking spices. On the jammy, full-bodied palate, there’s more of that concentrated dark fruit, with some white pepper and black tea notes, as well as light tannins and a splash of acidity. It’s a relatively simple but fun example of Malbec. On sale for $14.39 plus taxes until Sunday. ★★★
Torres 2015 Celeste Crianza (Ribera del Duero, Spain — $22.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)
A year in French and American oak barrels has imparted distinct cocoa and vanilla aromas to go along with the soft blueberry and tart raspberry notes of this Spanish red, made from the Tempranillo grape. It’s a plush, medium-plus bodied red that sees those notes from the oak flesh out the slightly subdued raspberry and blackberry flavours. It’s a little more fruit-forward/New World in style than many other rustic Spanish reds; a newer vintage might help pep things up a bit. On sale for $17.99 until Sunday, so act fast if you’re interested. ★★1/2
Nichol 2017 Pinot Gris (Naramata Bench, B.C. — around $22, private wine stores)
In appearance, this certainly isn’t your typical Pinot Gris — rather than being pale straw or gold in colour, it’s a pale pink that comes from some extended skin contact as the grapes macerate prior to fermentation. Aromatically, it brings plenty of fresh peach, watermelon, pear and sweet apple notes, with some intriguing chalkiness. On the light-bodied palate, those ripe fruit flavours persist, and the underlying chalkiness is helped along by very light tannin (from the skin contact) that brings great texture paired with some modest acidity. A great way to gear up for warmer weather. ★★★★
Literary editor, drinks writer
Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson edits the Free Press books section, and also writes about wine, beer and spirits.
Updated on Thursday, March 28, 2019 at 10:31 AM CDT: Updates location details of event previously scheduled at Fionn MacCool's.