If there’s one thing your intrepid liquor reporter can be called in February, it would be predictable. That’s right gentle reader, February marks the first wine festival of the year, and your humble narrator was there sampling the wares until closing time. It was like Xmas for tipplers!
The month of January is like a bleak and alcohol-free desert as the liquor industry recovers from a month-long hangover after New Year’s Eve, so I’m always ready and raring to go when the first wine festival of the year rolls around.
This year’s event was a particularly momentous occasion, as 2012 marks the 20th anniversary of the Calgary Winefest, and it shows no sign of slowing down.
Long-time readers may recall that WineFest was held on the SAIT campus for 15 years, and moved to bigger digs on the Stampede Grounds in 2008. The event management changed at the same time, so the first few years were a bit dicey, but they have since worked out all the kinks, and even expanded the festival to Edmonton.
With 57 wineries pouring samples to all and sundry, your intrepid liquor reporter had to attend over both days of the weekend just to fit them all in.
The first day was spent at the early afternoon media & industry scrum, where your humble narrator gets the chance to chat in-depth with the wine reps without the din of the hoi polloi that crowd the evening sessions.
However, your humble narrator made sure to return for the evening session on Saturday, which is filled to bursting with roving packs of single women on the prowl to find a man who drinks wine instead of beer.
For the swinging bachelors in the audience, be aware that Winefest is a target-rich environment, with ladies outnumbering the gents by a fair margin. When factoring in the poor judgement caused by a few glasses of wine, as well as the hooting wingwomen trying to get their gal pals hooked up with a classy gent, you’ll have to fight them off with a stick!
Naturally, your intrepid liquor reporter went as his own wingman on Saturday night to double up on the phone numbers received from the ladies, which were sometimes even accompanied by a little squeeze as they were slipped into my back pocket after a young lady had knocked back a few Chardonnays.
The wineries on hand this year were about evenly split between old world and new world producers, as well as a few unexpected appearances from places like Israel and Moldova.
Argentina was particularly well-represented this year, and the wineries have finally branched out to offer more than just Malbec, with New World interpretations of the classic Cab Sauv and Merlot styles of Europe.
While Malbec is the grape that put Argentina on the map of the wine world, the crafty winemakers are branching out to avoid the same fate that befell the sweet German wines of the 1970’s due to changing consumer tastes.
The Syrah and Cab Sauv blends coming out of the Argentine wineries are superb, and are still priced more attractively than their equivalents from France and Spain, so spend a little more time in the Argentina aisle of your local booze merchant looking for gems.
For readers looking for a recommendation for their next wine purchase, my favorite wine of the evening was the Red Velvet from Cupcake Vineyards out of California. A blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, Cab Sauv, and Petite Syrah, this wine has rich aromas of chocolate and blackberry, and maybe even a hint of coconut on the finish.
Each of the varietals that make up the Red Velvet are fermented and oaked separately prior to blending, lending a soft and creamy mouth feel from the first sip to the end of the glass.
A rich and lush red, this would pair well with a chocolate fondue shared with that special someone, or even a big peppery steak on the BBQ. If you’re the type to pair cheese with your wine, try a classic Appenzeller or medium white cheddar.
At under $15/bottle from your local well-stocked booze merchant, you might as well take home a few of them. Heck, at this price, you might as well take home a case.