Ben Sigurdson

Ben Sigurdson

Literary editor, drinks writer

Ben Sigurdson edits the Free Press books section, and also writes about wine, beer and spirits. He paid his way through university by working at a handful of wine stores in Winnipeg, which helped him land the wine-writing gig on a freelance basis in 2005.

Ben started working in the newsroom in 2012 as a part-time copy editor. Later that year he was hired as a full-time web copy/web editor, working the graveyard shifts.

When esteemed books editor Morley Walker retired in January 2014, Ben rekindled his love for all things literary and started a new chapter at the Free Press.

Ben holds a bachelor of arts degree in English/politics from the University of Winnipeg as well as a master of arts degree in English (writing stream) from the University of Manitoba.

Recent articles of Ben Sigurdson

Never waste backyard apples … or cereal-beer dreams

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Never waste backyard apples … or cereal-beer dreams

Ben Sigurdson 5 minute read Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022

IF your apple tree is loaded down with fruit, Manitoba cideries might have options to help get rid of it.

In Winnipeg, Jesse Oberman of Next Friend Cider is always looking for apples (and other backyard fruit, particularly grapes). Oberman and a couple of volunteers are working on getting through a backlog of about 100 trees to be picked right now; if you’d rather not wait, he’ll gladly accept fruit being dropped off at Low Life Barrel House (398 Daly St. N.). For more see nextfriendcider.com.

Dead Horse Cider pays cash for apples, or will take them in exchange for juice. They also have a Backyard Blend community cider program which directs your apples towards the production of their cider of the same name. Hauling your apples out to the Winkler-area cidery would certainly be worth the trip, as their cozy new tap room and patio are well worth the visit — although you’re best to get in touch in advance rather than just show up with a trunk full of fruit. See deadhorsecider.com for more.

Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files

Jesse Oberman of Next Friend Cider is among Manitoba cideries looking for fruit (apples and more), but currently has a backlog of about 100 trees for picking.

What’s up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 6 minute read Preview

What’s up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 6 minute read Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022

Winnipeg Beer FestivalSaturday, Aug. 13, 5 p.m.-midnightFort Gibraltar, 866 Rue St. JosephTickets from $17.35, wpgbeerfestival.com

With weekend temperatures set to soar, there’s no better spot to grab a cold one in Winnipeg this Saturday than within the wooden walls of Fort Gibraltar.

The fifth annual Winnipeg Beer Festival returns to St. Boniface on Aug. 13, with 23 producers of beer (of course), wine, cider, mead, spirits and more set to pour their wares to help thirsty locals beat the heat.

Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022

FREE PRESS FILES
The fifth annual Winnipeg Beer Festival returns to St. Boniface on Aug. 13.

B.C., Ontario lead the pack at National Wine Awards

Ben Sigurdson 7 minute read Preview

B.C., Ontario lead the pack at National Wine Awards

Ben Sigurdson 7 minute read Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022

In late June, two dozen seasoned palates from across Canada (myself included) descended upon Ontario’s Niagara region. the bunch of us spent five days holed up at Club Italia tasting nearly 1,900 wines from eight provinces at the WineAlign 2022 National Wine Awards of Canada. And as always, the release of the annual competition’s results (available at winealign.com/awards) is a chance to reflect on the state of Canadian wine.

The number of entries was down slightly at the 2022 competition versus the previous year, but still amounted to an impressive 1,890 wines from 250 wineries in eight provinces. Overall, B.C. producers made up 137 of the wineries entered, followed by Ontario with 87, and then Quebec, Nova Scotia and so on. (Yes, there were Manitoba entries that won medals — more on that in a minute.)

The competition sees wines sorted into flights by grape variety or style and then tasted blind by panels of judges — only the grape variety/varieties are given so that price, producer, region and the like don’t influence the results of the judging, which is done on a 100-point scale. The first few days are spent sorting through wines that are worthy of being re-tasted in the final two days of judging, when the top medals are awarded. Platinum, gold, silver and bronze medals are doled out based on the scores the wines receive; this year just 24 wines received platinum medals, which averaged a 93-point score or higher.

Once the scores are all tallied and medals awarded, organizers take the scores and create a list of the top performing wineries, from each of B.C. amd Ontario as well as the country as a whole. They also create a list of the best performing small wineries – outfits who produce 10,000 cases of wine or less.

Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022

In late June, two dozen seasoned palates from across Canada (myself included) descended upon Ontario’s Niagara region. the bunch of us spent five days holed up at Club Italia tasting nearly 1,900 wines from eight provinces at the WineAlign 2022 National Wine Awards of Canada. And as always, the release of the annual competition’s results (available at winealign.com/awards) is a chance to reflect on the state of Canadian wine.

The number of entries was down slightly at the 2022 competition versus the previous year, but still amounted to an impressive 1,890 wines from 250 wineries in eight provinces. Overall, B.C. producers made up 137 of the wineries entered, followed by Ontario with 87, and then Quebec, Nova Scotia and so on. (Yes, there were Manitoba entries that won medals — more on that in a minute.)

The competition sees wines sorted into flights by grape variety or style and then tasted blind by panels of judges — only the grape variety/varieties are given so that price, producer, region and the like don’t influence the results of the judging, which is done on a 100-point scale. The first few days are spent sorting through wines that are worthy of being re-tasted in the final two days of judging, when the top medals are awarded. Platinum, gold, silver and bronze medals are doled out based on the scores the wines receive; this year just 24 wines received platinum medals, which averaged a 93-point score or higher.

Once the scores are all tallied and medals awarded, organizers take the scores and create a list of the top performing wineries, from each of B.C. amd Ontario as well as the country as a whole. They also create a list of the best performing small wineries – outfits who produce 10,000 cases of wine or less.

What’s up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 3 minute read Preview

What’s up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 3 minute read Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022

Movie night at the Lyric TheatreFriday, Aug. 5, 6:30 p.m. and 8:45 p.m.Lyric Theatre, Assiniboine ParkFree admission

Assiniboine Park’s weekly summer movie night returns to the Lyric Theatre this Friday with a lineup heavy on big-budget, mainly family-friendly flicks.

The free double bill kicks off at 6:30 p.m. with a screening of Sing 2, the 2021 animated musical comedy featuring the voices of Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson and many more. This time around, the gang must convince Clay Calloway, an aging rock star lion (voiced by Bono), to leave his reclusive life and come out of retirement. Clay and the gang must face their fears in a production that could make or break their careers.

Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022

Marvel Studios Kumail Nanjiani (from left), Lia McHugh, Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie and Don Lee in a scene from Eternals.

Infused beers a tasty way to get your daily serving of fruit

Ben Sigurdson 5 minute read Preview

Infused beers a tasty way to get your daily serving of fruit

Ben Sigurdson 5 minute read Saturday, Jul. 30, 2022

If anything was to be gleaned from last weekend’s successful (at least from outward appearances) Ballpark Brewfest at Shaw Park, it’s that fruit-infused brews are as big a deal as ever — at least as far as the locals are concerned.

In addition to core pours and seasonal brews available throughout the concourse of the home of the Winnipeg Goldeyes, many of the smaller-batch and/or limited-release beers being poured by the 18 participating breweries featured some sort of fruit infusion made in styles ranging from crisp, clear and fresh to sweeter, heavier brews.

While not every one of these fruity beers was a home run, and fruit-infused beers might not be in everyone’s ballpark, style-wise, they’re certainly a compelling style of beer, working particularly well in summer months. Here are a half-dozen new/newer examples currently in our market made by local breweries…

Saturday, Jul. 30, 2022

BEN SIGURDSON / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Two of the four beers being poured by Kilter Brewing Co. at Ballpark Brewfest were infused with fruit.

What’s up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 3 minute read Preview

What’s up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 3 minute read Wednesday, Jul. 27, 2022

Winnipeg Comedy ShowcaseJuly 31, 8 p.m. (doors at 7 p.m.)Park TheatreTickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door

When the Winnipeg Comedy Showcase made its debut in January 2014, comedian and showcase host/producer Jared Story figured it might be a one-off.

He was (happily) proven (very) wrong: Sunday night’s show at the Park Theatre will be the 30th edition of the Winnipeg Comedy Showcase — a nice, round number that illustrates just how important the showcase has been for emerging and established local comics alike. When comedians are cutting their teeth, it’s often while being ignored at an open-mic night at a bar; the Winnipeg Comedy Showcase, meanwhile, offers comics the chance to audience-test bits and hone their tight fives in a theatre.

Featured funny people on Sunday night’s bill include Andy Noble, Emmanuel Lomuro, Karlee Liljegren, Abby Falvo, Matt Kay and Carson Košik. Advance tickets are available via Ticketweb, Eventbrite or from the comics on the bill.

Wednesday, Jul. 27, 2022

Keep a clear head with alcohol-free brews and bubblies

Ben Sigurdson 6 minute read Preview

Keep a clear head with alcohol-free brews and bubblies

Ben Sigurdson 6 minute read Saturday, Jul. 23, 2022

Summer’s a great time to kick back on a patio, in a backyard or poolside with a refreshing beverage. And while an ice-cold beer, a fun cooler or a glass of white/bubbly/rosé can really hit the spot in warmer weather, there are times when you might not want the buzz that comes with them — or perhaps, for whatever reason, you’ve chosen not to drink alcohol.

Thankfully the selection of non-alcoholic beverages (beyond soda) continues to get bigger and, in many categories, better. Here’s a roundup of some zero/low-alcohol drinks tried recently, many of which are worth your time even if you do regularly imbibe.

Selection varies, so included is where these drinks were picked up, although many may be available beyond the listed shops. (In addition to Liquor Marts, beer vendors and private wine stores, non-alcoholic drinks can be sold at grocery stores and elsewhere.)

And because some choose non-alcoholic drinks because they’re lower in calories, that information also follows where available.

Saturday, Jul. 23, 2022

An all-local lineup at Ballpark Brewfest will have fans trading RBIs for IPAs

Ben Sigurdson 6 minute read Preview

An all-local lineup at Ballpark Brewfest will have fans trading RBIs for IPAs

Ben Sigurdson 6 minute read Wednesday, Jul. 20, 2022

At the outset of the 2022 season, Winnipeg Goldeyes general manager Andrew Collier tossed out a major curveball, telling big-business beer to hit the showers in favour of an all-local lineup.

What started as Craft Beer Corner, a small portion of the concourse dedicated to all manner of local lagers and ales, has grown into a chance for Manitoba breweries to get their wares in front of thirsty Goldeyes fans throughout Shaw Park in a venture that has benefited both the club and the local brewers.

On Saturday, 18 craft breweries from Winnipeg and beyond (as well as Winkler’s Dead Horse Cider) will be slinging samples of their brews in celebration of the all-local partnership at the inaugural Ballpark Brewfest, which gets underway at 2 p.m.

Collier had been contemplating a beer festival for years, but wasn’t sure if there was a window for another one in the summer.

Wednesday, Jul. 20, 2022

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Andrew Collier, GM of the Winnipeg Goldeyes, poses for a portrait with some of the local beer selection at Shaw Park in Winnipeg on Monday, July 18, 2022. Goldeyes games have switched to exclusively craft beer, and there is a Ballpark Brewfest event coming up. For Ben Sigurdson story. Winnipeg Free Press 2022.

For warm-weather sipping, rosés have skin in the game

Ben Sigurdson 3 minute read Preview

For warm-weather sipping, rosés have skin in the game

Ben Sigurdson 3 minute read Saturday, Jul. 16, 2022

In last week’s Uncorked I dove into whites and reds to enjoy in warmer weather, only mentioning in passing the ideal summer sipper — rosé wine.

It goes without saying that drinking pink when the mercury rises is never a bad idea. But not all rosés are created equal — from the depth of colour to the aromatic profile to the sweetness level and flavours pink wines bring, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, it can be tough to know what you’re getting before you buy and open that bottle.

More so than whites or reds, the appearance of a pink wine can tell you a lot about what to expect before you open the bottle, one of many reasons producers tend to package the stuff in clear bottles rather than in tinted glass. Most rosés that are paler in colour tend to be on the more delicate side, offering up more floral, chalky and tree fruit flavours than their deeper, darker counterparts, which bring more fleshy red berry notes. New World rosés tend to be a bit riper, weightier and fruit-forward, while Old World (read: European) pink wines are often more austere, lighter-bodied and delicate.

Saturday, Jul. 16, 2022

Res Fortes Rosé

Crisp, refreshing wine options ripe for summer sipping

Ben Sigurdson 5 minute read Preview

Crisp, refreshing wine options ripe for summer sipping

Ben Sigurdson 5 minute read Saturday, Jul. 9, 2022

In winter, there’s nothing quite like cosying up with a hearty, robust red wine or a richer, fuller-bodied white wine. But we’re heading into summer, which means lighter, fresher wines are the order of the day.

Light and fresh, however, doesn’t have to mean suffering through watery wines devoid of flavour. There’s all manner of exciting wines out there that are crisp and clean without being bland and boring.

First off, let’s take it as a given that sparkling wines and rosés will be in heavy rotation this summer, and instead look at options when it comes to whites and reds.

In the former category, the first and most obvious choice is Sauvignon Blanc. While there are some examples of the grape that are a little on the nondescript side, generally speaking Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, New Zealand or South Africa will rarely steer you wrong, offering fresh tart fruit with zippy acidity that’s perfect for summer sipping.

Saturday, Jul. 9, 2022

What’s up at Folk Fest

Ben Sigurdson, Eva Wasney, Rob Williams, Jen Zoratti 6 minute read Preview

What’s up at Folk Fest

Ben Sigurdson, Eva Wasney, Rob Williams, Jen Zoratti 6 minute read Wednesday, Jul. 6, 2022

The daytime stages at the Winnipeg Folk Festival are ripe for musical discovery. This week’s What’s Up is dedicated to the must-sees before the headliners.

Kurt Vile and the SadiesGreen Ash, Friday at 1 p.m.

Music fans and artists were shocked and saddened earlier this year when the Sadies’ guitarist-vocalist Dallas Good died on Feb. 17 from a recently discovered coronary illness at the age of 48.

Wednesday, Jul. 6, 2022

SUPPLIED
Kurt Vile will share the stage Friday with frequent collaborators, the Sadies.

Local breweries offer palate-pleasing lagers and ales

Ben Sigurdson 5 minute read Preview

Local breweries offer palate-pleasing lagers and ales

Ben Sigurdson 5 minute read Saturday, Jul. 2, 2022

With my recent trip to Italy’s Abruzzo region in the rearview mirror, and having spent five days tasting hundreds of Canadian wines at WineAlign’s 2022 National Wine Awards of Canada in Niagara, Ont. last week, I figured it was time to give my palate a quick break from the acids and tannins that come with excess wine tasting. And nothing resets a bruised and battered palate quite like cleansing summer lagers and ales. Plus, it was a chance to see what’s new and exciting from local craft breweries.

The Sookram’s Brewing Co. Shore Leave (Winnipeg - $4.15/473ml cans, brewery, select beer vendors) brings the flavours of summer in a big way. A pale gold and hazy sour beer infused with pineapple and coconut, both those additions come through aromatically along with wheat and oat notes. It’s slightly chewy and off-dry, with mouth-watering acidity highlighting the pineapple and almost-salty flavours while the coconut chills in the background with the grainier ingredients. Four per cent alcohol; pass the sunscreen. 4/5

For summer fruit flavours in a package that’s neither sweet nor tart, the latest version of the Good Neighbour Brewing Co. French Blanche (Winnipeg - $4.25/473ml can, Oxus, Liquor Marts, beer vendors) delivers. Pale straw in colour and hazy, this Belgian-style wheat beer features the addition of peach, apricot and lemon, all of which show well aromatically along with the pronounced wheat and spice notes. Dry and light-plus bodied, the peach note brings some weight and is the most prominent on the palate, with wheat, spice and the other fruit notes doing their trick and the lemon addition bringing some acidity. Lots going on here, but also dangerously drinkable. Five per cent alcohol; brewed at Oxus but also available from One Sixteen on Sherbrook St. 4.5/5

Much has been made of (and said about) Winnipeg’s new branding and slogan; the Kilter Brewing Co. Prairie Lager (Winnipeg - $3.75/473ml can, brewery, Liquor Marts, beer vendors) sports both on the package of their latest lager. It’s very pale straw in colour and mostly clear, sporting up-front grain and malt aromas and a hint of citrus. Light-bodied and mainly dry, it brings classic lager notes of bread dough and fresh malt as well as toasted nut and some modest bitterness. At 4.5 per cent alcohol, think of this as an easy-going post-lawnmowing beer — like the new logo/slogan, it’s decent but not mind blowingly inspiring. 3/5

Saturday, Jul. 2, 2022

What’s up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 4 minute read Preview

What’s up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 4 minute read Thursday, Jun. 30, 2022

Workman, fireworks to light up the DownsJuly 1, 1-11 p.m.Assiniboia Downs Gaming & Event Centre, 1975 Portage Ave.$10 admission (ages five and under free), $5 parking

If you’re jonesing for your fireworks fix this Canada Day, go west. Assiniboia Downs Gaming and Event Centre is hosting a Canada Day festival that starts at 1 p.m. and will include those thrilling aerial pops, bangs and flashes via CanFire Pyrotechnics at 11 p.m.

Prior to the fireworks, there will be plenty to see and do for all ages. The day’s events include a range of activities for kids, over 100 local artisans and makers offering up their wares, a beer garden and all manner of food trucks.

Live music kicks off right at 1 p.m. with a lineup headlined by Hawksley Workman and including Space Case, Cassidy Mann, Madeleine Roger, Justin Lacroix Band, the Incredibly Hip and Sassy Mellows.

Thursday, Jun. 30, 2022

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / FREE PRESS FILES
Hawksley Workman

Wines abuzz in Abruzzo

Ben Sigurdson 6 minute read Preview

Wines abuzz in Abruzzo

Ben Sigurdson 6 minute read Saturday, Jun. 25, 2022

For as long as I’ve been writing about wine (more than 16 years in this space now), there’s been one wine-producing country that’s been top of my bucket list to visit — Italy.

So when the chance arose to visit the Abruzzo region in early June with a whole bunch of Canadian and American wine writers, sommeliers and influencers, I jumped at it.

Abruzzo isn’t as well-known (or opulent) a wine-producing region as, say, Tuscany or Piedmont, but what it does offer up are wines with a great sense of place that are typically very good values and incredibly food-friendly.

The region itself is located about two hours northeast of Rome, nestled near the Adriatic Sea. It’s a fairly rustic region that might not bring as modern a style as its Tuscan or Piedmontese counterparts, but what it does deliver is timeless beauty as well as wines with a true sense of place and with great character — not surprising given it’s one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the western world.

Saturday, Jun. 25, 2022

Ben Sigurdson / Winnipeg Free Press
The gorgeous Masciarelli winery is seen at sunset, with rows of Montepulciano wines in the foreground.

Plenty in the wine, beer aisles for Father’s Day toasts

Ben Sigurdson 5 minute read Preview

Plenty in the wine, beer aisles for Father’s Day toasts

Ben Sigurdson 5 minute read Saturday, Jun. 18, 2022

If dads were judged solely by whether or not they were around on Father’s Day, I’d certainly not be anywhere near the top of the good list.

The last two pandemic years aside, I almost always end up spending the day with a couple of dozen other folks in Canada’s wine industry judging at the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada which, this year, is being held in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. For five consecutive days — starting at 8:30 a.m. Sunday — I’ll be tasting between 250 and 300 of the 2,000-plus Canadian wines entered in the competition.

As such, my Father’s Day beverage of choice will certainly be Canadian. Perhaps, if it was entered in the competition, it will be the Lakeview Cellars 2019 Serenity Pinot Noir Rosé (Niagara Peninsula, Ont. — $17.99, Liquor Marts and beyond). It’s a pale orange-pink wine, made predominantly from Pinot Noir but with 10 per cent Gamay and five per cent Chardonnay Musqué thrown into the mix. There are plenty of peach and raspberry candy aromas as well as subtle strawberry and watermelon notes. It’s mainly dry and light-plus bodied on the palate, with the peach and raspberry notes bringing a hint of sweetness before the strawberry flavours kick in on the modest finish. Simple and fun, and decent for the price while it’s just $15.99 until the end of June. 3/5

For those whose beer-loving dads will be around this weekend, some local breweries have pulled together Father’s Day packages your pop is likely to love. Nonsuch Brewing Co., for example, has put together a Father’s Day craft beer package that includes their Italian grape ale, lambic, goji berry sour, craft pilsner and apricot hefeweizen. The package is $70 plus taxes and can be ordered for pickup at wfp.to/nonsuchdad, or pop into the taproom and try your luck and see whether they have any left.

Saturday, Jun. 18, 2022

What’s Up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 6 minute read Preview

What’s Up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 6 minute read Thursday, Jun. 16, 2022

Comedian Nate Bargatze brings Raincheck Tour to WinnipegJune 16, 7 p.m.

Burton Cummings Theatre

Tickets $63-$108 at Ticketmaster

You could say that comedian Nate Bargatze was born into the funny business.

Thursday, Jun. 16, 2022

SASHA SEFTER / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files

Manitoba bevvies clean up at first Prairie Beer Awards

Ben Sigurdson 6 minute read Preview

Manitoba bevvies clean up at first Prairie Beer Awards

Ben Sigurdson 6 minute read Saturday, Jun. 11, 2022

Manitoba breweries may have taken home the most hardware at the first annual Prairie Beer Awards, but it was a Saskatchewan brewery and one of its beers that took home the top beer honour.

In mid-May, 284 beers from 45 of 52 breweries in Manitoba and Saskatchewan — as well as a handful of ciders, meads and other beverages such as hard seltzers and kombucha — went head to head in 25 categories at the inaugural Prairie Beer Awards, presented by the Manitoba Brewers Association and the Saskatchewan Craft Brewers Association. (Alberta meaderies were also permitted to enter their wares, as there’s no mead competition in that province.)

Organizer and beer judge Dave Cole was thrilled with the number of entries for a first-time competition. “The Alberta Beer Awards had around 400 entries and has been running for a long time, and in a much larger market,” he said.

Cole was instrumental in making the Prairie Beer Awards a reality. While judging at the Alberta Beer Awards, he was asked why there wasn’t a regional competition for Manitoba/Saskatchewan breweries. After chatting with the brewery associations in both Prairie provinces, he was given the green light to organize the competition.

Saturday, Jun. 11, 2022

June 11 beers of the week

Bergen best again at book awards

Ben Sigurdson 2 minute read Preview

Bergen best again at book awards

Ben Sigurdson 2 minute read Thursday, Jun. 9, 2022

For the fifth time in his career and the second year in a row, Winnipeg novelist David Bergen has won the top prize at the Manitoba Book Awards.

On Thursday, June 9, Bergen was announced as the winner of the McNally Robinson Book of the Year award for his slim novel Out of Mind, published by Goose Lane Editions in September 2021. It follows last year’s win for his story collection Here the Dark; Bergen also won for 1996’s A Year of Lesser, 2005’s The Time in Between and 2009’s The Retreat.

There were a few surprises in terms of winners in some of the other categories, including a pair of prizes that saw two authors share wins. Rowan McCandless’s memoir Persephone’s Children: A Life in Fragments and Jillian Horton’s We Are All Perfectly Fine: A Memoir of Love, Medicine and Healing shared the Eileen McTavish Sykes award for best first book, while the Margaret Laurence Award for fiction was shared by Patricia Robertson for her story collection Hour of the Crab and Bob Armstrong for his western Prodigies.

The top non-fiction prize, the Alexander Kennedy Isbister award for non-fiction, went to Dadibaajim: Returning Home Through Narrative, by Helen Olsen Agger, while the Carol Shields Winnipeg Book award was won by Seream for his book Mont-Blanc-Winnipeg Express. The Lansdowne prize for poetry was won by Joel Robert Ferguson for The Lost Cafeteria, while the Michael Van Rooy award for genre fiction was won by Catherine Macdonald for her novel So Many Windings.

Thursday, Jun. 9, 2022

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES
David Bergen has won the top prize at the Manitoba Book Awards.

English professor’s new memoir an exploration of time, family and fishing

Ben Sigurdson 7 minute read Preview

English professor’s new memoir an exploration of time, family and fishing

Ben Sigurdson 7 minute read Tuesday, Jun. 7, 2022

In the vast ocean of published memoirs out there, Neil Besner’s might not be the weightiest catch of the day, but it’s certainly a keeper.

Fishing With Tardelli: A Memoir of Family in Time Lost, published in May by ECW Press, is Besner’s brief rumination on time, family and memory. And while the 72-year-old Besner has written plenty about other authors during his decades teaching in the University of Winnipeg’s English department and his years as a freelance book reviewer for the Free Press, this is the first time he has tackled his own story.

“I had written before this — I’ve written songs, a few poems, a short story,” Besner explains while on a recent visit to Winnipeg from Lake of the Woods, where he spends half the year (he lives in Toronto the rest of the time). “I love writing. I had been a closet writer for 60 years… but my job was all-consuming.”

Tuesday, Jun. 7, 2022

ETHAN CAIRNS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Once Neil Besner retired in 2017, he was able to turn his attention to writing and revising his memoir.

Hotter weather heralded with summer sipping events

Ben Sigurdson 6 minute read Preview

Hotter weather heralded with summer sipping events

Ben Sigurdson 6 minute read Saturday, Jun. 4, 2022

Summer’s almost here, and while folks head out to the lake or on vacation throughout the warmer months, there’s still plenty to do when it comes to food and drink — locally made and otherwise.

Low Life Barrel House, whose year-long build I wrote about in the Free Press in early May, just released its first batch of wines made from organically grown Ontario grapes. The five initial offerings are all available by the glass or for takeaway by the bottle from the Daly Street facility, and include a white wine made from Riesling and Geisenheim grapes, a sparkling rosé made from Cabernet Franc and Vidal and an orange wine made from Vidal and Gewürztraminer.

Sticking with local wine (including some made with Manitoba grapes, no less), Shrugging Doctor Beverage Co. is collaborating with Loaf and Honey for a wine-and-cheese event taking place Wednesday, June 22, at 6:30 p.m. in its tasting room, located at 448-B Brooklyn St. A selection of cheeses will be paired with a range of wines, and Dustin Peltier of Loaf and Honey and Willows Christopher of Shrugging Doctor will talk about their respective products and processes. Tickets are $40 plus taxes and fees are available at wfp.to/shrugdoc.

As the weather heats up, rosé becomes the wine of choice for many, myself included. On Wednesday, June 29, De Luca Fine Wines will host an in-store “Rosé All Day” wine-and-food pairing event which, despite its name, doesn’t actually start until 7 p.m. at the wine store, located at 942 Portage Ave. Tickets are $75 and will feature five rosé wines being poured as well as small bites. For tickets visit wfp.to/roseallday.

Saturday, Jun. 4, 2022

Liquor-law changes could go a lot further

Ben Sigurdson 5 minute read Preview

Liquor-law changes could go a lot further

Ben Sigurdson 5 minute read Saturday, May. 28, 2022

The provincial government announced this week it will be introducing a bill to modernize Manitoba’s liquor retail system.

This isn’t the first time the province has toyed with tweaking the way booze is sold in our province; last year the Tories introduced Bill 40, which would have significantly changed how and where alcohol is sold, but that bill, more wide-reaching than the expected legislation, was withdrawn in October.

There are plenty of fixes needed in our province’s liquor regulations. Here’s where to start:

Liquor and Lotteries Minister Scott Fielding hinted the proposed legislation may do away with the rule that beer vendors need be connected (either physically or adjacently) to hotels. That’s a no-brainer; it’s an archaic law from a time when a hotel room was needed in order to be able to sell booze, presumably so that someone could go sleep off the good times, if needed.

Saturday, May. 28, 2022

RUTH BONNEVILLE / FREE PRESS FILES
There are plenty of fixes needed in our province’s liquor regulations.

Taste some ripping Chardonnays for a good cause

Ben Sigurdson 5 minute read Preview

Taste some ripping Chardonnays for a good cause

Ben Sigurdson 5 minute read Saturday, May. 21, 2022

The Manitoba chapter of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (CAPS) is holding a Chardonnay tasting for a very good cause — and you’re invited.

Rebecca Lechman, a sommelier and wine educator at private wine store Jones & Company, passed away suddenly in March 2020. Lechman was quite active in the local wine community and had a particular fondness for Chardonnay. In her honour the local CAPS contingent has created the Rebecca Lechman memorial bursary, a $1,000 award that will be presented annually to a female looking to further her education in the wine or hospitality trades.

With International Chardonnay Day falling on Thursday, May 26, the Manitoba CAPS chapter will be serving up all manner of Chardonnays that day at Tony Roma’s at 1500 Pembina Hwy. from 1-3 p.m. Tickets are $40 for non-members, $30 for CAPS members or, for those who can’t make it, $20 for a support ticket. Proceeds will go towards the funding of the bursary.

CAPS Manitoba puts on a number of events that are typically informal, educational and fun — and you don’t need to be a sommelier to become a member. For more info see wfp.to/capsmb. For information on the Chardonnay tasting and for tickets, see wfp.to/lechman.

Saturday, May. 21, 2022

Apple of their eye

Ben Sigurdson 6 minute read Preview

Apple of their eye

Ben Sigurdson 6 minute read Saturday, May. 14, 2022

Set aside some precious gas money now, cider lovers, as next weekend you might want to make the trek to the Morden-Winkler area of the province when Dead Horse Cider Co. opens its indoor/outdoor taproom to the public for the first time on Saturday, May 21.

Dead Horse is one of many local producers now making cider, including Next Friend Cider (out of Barn Hammer’s facilities), Shrugging Doctor, Stone Angel Brewing Co. and Little Brown Jug in Winnipeg, as well as Wooden Gate, located near Pilot Mound. Some producers are focusing on local apples, while others are importing fruit from Ontario and/or British Columbia.

For more information on Dead Horse’s taproom, including how to get there, see deadhorsecider.com/taproom.

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Saturday, May. 14, 2022

Maxwell Smart photo
Dead Horse Cider Co. will open an indoor/outdoor taproom on May 21.

Who needs flowers when there’s wine?

Ben Sigurdson 5 minute read Preview

Who needs flowers when there’s wine?

Ben Sigurdson 5 minute read Saturday, May. 7, 2022

Don’t feel like standing in line for flowers at the grocery store/florist this Mother’s Day? Forgot to make that brunch reservation weeks ago? (What is it about Mother’s Day and brunch that they’re so interconnected anyway?)

Fear not, as there are plenty of other options out there for mom this year, particularly if she enjoys a good tipple.

A gift basket’s always a safe and appreciated bet, and a number of private wine stores have pulled together a bevy of baskets filled with wine and fun accessories and/or snacks for mom. Kenaston Wine Market, De Luca Fine Wines and Calabria Market, for example, all have Mother’s Day baskets listed on their respective websites, and La Boutique del Vino has even added gift baskets for mom to its SkipTheDishes page. Most other private stores, meanwhile, will gladly throw together something nice for you in a pinch.

It’s always fun to learn about wine in a relaxed, casual environment, so why not get mom tickets to an upcoming education session? Liquor Marts will feature the wines of southern France on Thursday, May 26, in a virtual tasting that kicks off at 6:45 p.m. The tasting box costs $81.66 and includes four wines in a range of styles — for more and to order one for mom, visit liquormarts.ca.

Saturday, May. 7, 2022

Dreamstime
Wine is a good option for a Mother’s Day gift.