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Event reviews are written by Tasting Info Editorial staff OR you may contribute your own.

 Having a bit of an issue getting the reviews posted.  Bear with us...

Aussie Wine Gala @ Banker’s Hall, January 30,2003

An eager sellout crowd of 400 plus wine lovers were met with the daunting task of tasting up to 100 different wines (plus several beers) all from Australia.  For lovers of wines from down under, it was a little bit of heaven.  Though the average price of wines out for sampling was about $16, there were a number of definite charmers in the group and some real bargains.  We note especially the Swagman’s Kiss Shiraz from Gold Medal Marketing agency at $13 was a great value.    The top wines in our minds were the Yalumba Viognier & Cape Mentelle Chardonnay on the white side and Marienberg’s Reserve Shiraz & the St. Hallet Gameskeeper Reserve for the reds.  These four are in the mid to high twenties.

Offsetting the alcoholic onslaught was a collection of exotic foods from some of the finer restaurants in town ranging from fresh oysters and hors d'oeuvres from Catch to a stick to your ribs macaroni from the Arden Diner.  There was even a rich rum & mango cake to go with a rum infused beer!

The constant challenge & frustration of the evening was the venue, Banker’s Hall West lobby.  It’s tall, cavernous and hard edged making it noisy, especially when the guitar duo was playing.  Great music, but it became impossible to converse and the event lost any hope of intimacy.
Moreover, there were way too many people for the space making it difficult to move about and impossible to get through the whole range of choices presented by  the 26 agencies pouring for this Ability Society fundraiser.  On their behalf, it is a new event and the space untried.

Venue:  average
Ambience/Comfort: average
Product Quality:  excellent
Product Variety:  excellent
Food Quality:  excellent
Food Quantity: good   (could have used some bread…)
Overall Rating:  very good event!


Review of Winefest Calgary  February 13 - 15, 2003.

Winefest Calgary 2003 was another huge success as the event welcomed 2700 very keen wine consumers over the 3 days sampling more than 200 wines from around the world. Representing countries from Argentina to Romania & wines styles from Bubbly to Port, there were offerings galore as well as an abundance of breads, cheeses, meats & antipasto to accompany the wines.

As is common at a consumer show, the wines were mostly modest in price(largely under $20) though some rose to the $40 level.  However, within that collection were a substantial assortment & range of styles, flavors& quality as well as some great bargains (eg. Robert Skalli & Swagman’s listings).

Our favorites were  a Mionetto Sergio Proseco (about $18)   Monterra Merlot (about $20) &   Swagman’s Kiss Shiraz (for good value, about $13)

The consumer rules, however, & the Winefest People’s Choice Awards went to two Aussie wines.

 Red:      Mad Fish Cab/Merlot/CabFranc
White:   The Other Side Chardonnay from d’Arenberg.

Winefest is a great event not just for the wines (& certainly, the price is right), but because it is such a friendly, sociable event.  It is well-organized, well-run & well-maintained (thx to the SAIT cooking students).  After 11 years of producing Winefest, they’ve really got it all figured out.  It works great!

Venue:  VG, works well; not crowded.
Product Quality: VG
Product Variety:  excellent
Food Quality:  VG
Food Variety: VG
Food Quantity: excellent
Overall:  excellent!

A Scotch Event to Remember  -  February 28, 2003.

While there is a growing interest in scotch drinking, especially single malts, & scotch tastings are usually well-attended, there are few opprtunities to compare house to house & really explore the range & depth of the wonderful world of scotch.

The February '03 Scotch Festival at Willowpark Wines & Spirits was such an event. Talk about comparison!  Talk about opportunity! There were 50 different malts from 20 different distilleries & way more choice than you'd ever get on a trip to Scotland.  It goes without saying that comparisons were being made on style, age, price & brand.  What a selection!

As usual, there was great food & lots of it (when do you more need food at a tasting than when the average alcohol level is over 40%?). But the surprise of the evening was the appearance of the UofC Highland Band.  A little loud even for a large store, the music of pipes & drum was nonetheless very welcome, adding just a little more 'flavor' to the festival.

Aw Shucks!!  Oysterfest at Catch March 13. 2003.

Suck! Shuck! Slurp! A tongue twister of an event!
Alexander Keith’s 10 day long Oyster Fest’03 at Catch Restaurant ended
in a shucking frenzy Thursday, March 13 as celebrity & pro shuckers
competed for prizes & went through 600 oysters in the process.

A large & boisterous crowd witnessed teams from the Stampeders, Willow
Park Wines, Calgary Flames, Tourism Calgary & A-Channel face off.  Suck!
Shuck! Slurp! They shouted. Suck! Shuck! Slurp! The crowd yelled back!
(try that 6 times…)  The contest consisted of Shucking & Sucking down a
dozen oysters while another teammate Slurped 2 beers.  Tough work (the
shucking part, that is) but Brian Perry of the Willow Park squad was
clearly the fastest of the team shuckers & powered his group to victory
in record time.

On the pro front, preliminary rounds began late afternoon & by 8pm there
were only 4 competitors left; 2 from Calgary & 2 from Vancouver.  The
eventual winner based on speed, quality of cut & presentation was Tod
McDonald of Vancouver.  He quickly challenged world champion Patrick
McMurray of Toronto (who was here to judge) to a friendly shuckoff only
to be beaten by a mere 3 seconds.  The skill & speed exhibited were
amazing & McDonald still took home a beautiful Catch Oysterfest Classic
trophy for the event provided by Alexander Keith’s Pale Ale & bragging
rights for a year..

Savour Calgary Wine & Food Experience  -  March 5 to 16, 2003

It was all over in a flurry, but what a week it was!  The tasting events
of Savour Calgary’s wine & dine experience kicked off Wednesday March 5
with a media lunch atop the Calgary Tower &  the very popular Fetzer
Appetizer Challenge at the Westin.

On Thursday we were entertained by a unique Food Court Fashion show at
Eaton Centre featuring the creative work (mostly from fast food
wrappers) of Calgary designer Shae Berry.

Thursday evening saw the return of a very impressive California Wine
Fair.  Though it’s still not as well attended as it should be (less than
400) the event showcased over 300 wines from 90 producers, all from
California.  A great opportunity to check out the Califonia wine scene, this
event features a huge range of wine types, styles & prices from what has become
a wonderfully huge, but often confusing, collection of wines. The California
Wine Fair is a classy event that just needs a little more publicity because,
bang-for-the-buck, it’s the best deal in town…

Some of the wines we liked were:
Whites --  a new Fetzer Chardonnay-Viognier & Napa Wine Co. 2001 Napa
Valley Sauvignon.
Reds -- Frog’s Leap Rutherford Cab (yum); Castoro Cellars 2000 Zin (great
value), Beaulieu Tapestry Reserve 1998 & Ravenswood Napa County 2000 Zin.

Friday was party nite with two great events: Art & Wine at The Art
Gallery of Calgary & Wine Rave, a late nite event at The Chophouse.  Art
& Wine will be the talked about event of Savour as everything came
together in style.  Nearly 400 people spread out on three levels to
enjoy great food, wine & music in a gallery setting. The wine (all
California, again) offered selections of some of California’s great
variety.  The food, supplied by Catch, Murriettas, Delta Bow, Centinis,
Cook Book Co. &  Teatro was great; light, fresh & tasty. And lets not
forget the art which included a live statue with video camera & a
sculpture consisting of hundreds of cafeteria trays.  Very cool, as was
the jazz & the mostly young crowd buzzed all evening.

Saturday was travel &  education day.  Starting in the morning,
participants could go on a Sip, Shop & Savour Tour of downtown (Stephen
Avenue) shops & collect stamps on their “passports”  toward potential
prizes.  For the eonophillic there were 6 wine tasting seminars as well.
From Renwood Zins to California syrahs to wine blending & bio-organic
practices, there was much to be learned & wine to be tasted.

A highlight of the seminars was the Mondavi Cabernet Blending Workshop.
Participants were given 2 lovely young cabs from Oakville & Stag’s Leap
districts to blend with merlot, cab franc or malbec to appreciate what
goes into blending & find for oneself what changes can occur with the
addition of this varietal or that.  It was quite informal & great fun!
While we didn’t come close to matching the lovely benchmark cabs (1998
Napa Valley & 1998 Oakville) we were all rewarded with a sample of
Mondavi’s top cab, the 1998 Napa Reserve Cabernet.

There’s an obvious need for more of these intimate gatherings as they
were largely sold out.  They were informative, educational & completely
non-intimidating.  A great way to pass a very chilly Calgary day!

Sunday saw Vintners Brunches at some downtown restaurants featuring
California wines.  And now we can look forward to Downtown Dining Week
(March 7-16) with specially priced menus at 50 restaurants.

Though parts of Savour are not new to Calgary (California Wine Fair) it
is great to see a new festival in the making.  The Avenue Media group
(or now Red Point Media) have a hit on their hands.  Not everything was
brilliant, but it was mostly terrific &  for a first time event, put together on
relatively short notice, Savour Calgary came off amazingly well. 

Late News! Downtown Dining Week has been extended til March 22, 2003...


Sunday Brunch with John Ash.  March 23, 2003.

You know you’re in for a treat when John Ash comes to town.  The treat was Sunday, March 23, 2003 at Willow Park Wines & Spirits & the event was their inaugural Sunday Brunch.  John Ash, internationally recognized chef, author, radio host, columnist & teacher from California led a sold out crowd through a 4 course meal of fine contemporary wining & dining.

 The brunch had a distinct Fetzer flavor to it as all the wines were Fetzer’s Bonterra Vineyards selections & John Ash is a spokesperson for & consultant to Fetzer Vineyards.  But the day was not about Fetzer, but about marriage: the potential exquisite combination of wine with food that can bring one to one’s knees (or rolling on the floor in ecstasy, as Ash would have it…)

Ash entertained an audience of 60 plus with stories, information & the message that we needn’t follow the rules about food & wines working together.  To start, for example, we sampled a deliciously earthy Roasted Garlic Soup with a Wild Mushroom & Lentil Strudel & Watercress Drizzle paired up with a lovely medium-bodied Rhone style Fetzer1999 Bonterra Syrah that met the soup & marched right up the same path…

The second course was a Pan Seared Steelhead Salmon with Parsnip Purée & Tomato Leek Fondue.  This simple dish featured a tomato & leek salsa as counterpoint to the fish & was well paired with Fetzer’s 2000 Bonterra Chardonnay ( a soft, creamy, oaky/buttery wine with a bit of citrus & apple).

 For the main course we were treated to Grilled Beef “Tagliata” with Rosemary, Capers & Lemons. This version of an Italian favorite was a superb combination of textures, flavors & colors.  The beef rested on fresh aruguali with balsamic vineager drizzled over it & was topped with fried capers & shaved parmesan. The beef course was met with the 2000 Bonterra Zinfandel, a deep garnet wine with plum & pepper tones.  It sat perfectly well in balance with this dish & was probably the most popular pairing of the event.  We also got to taste the 1999 Bonterra Cabernet in this course & it taught the lesson of how wine changes with food.  It went from light weight, young & tannic to soft, supple & nearly as well matched with the beef.

 Amazingly, most seemed to have room for the dessert which fortunately was a light “Soup of Fruits” with Sabayon & Coconut Shortbreads.  The sabayon, essentially egg yolks & sugar whipped over heat was infused with Bonterra Muscat Canelli (which was the paired wine: lovely honey-orange citrus sweet wine of only 9% alcohol) & pored over tropical fruits.  Very aromatic & refreshing, this Muscat is a great deck wine for summer.  Again, a good match.

 And, while John was great entertainment, the heroes of the day were really Mark Massicotte & Desmond Johnston of Savoir Faire Restaurant who matched up the wines, did the cooking & filled in the details of the recipes.  A treat, indeed.  The next Sunday Brunch has a ways to go to top this! 

We have the recipes!  If you're interested in any of the recipes from this brunch, let us know on the
Feedback Page (with a fax #) & we'll fax them to you.       


Review of Taste of the Nation, Calgary. April 7, 2003

In the world of Food & Wine fundraisers here in Calgary, & there are many, none is better run or more valuable to the community than Taste of the Nation.

Taste of the Nation is a program of Share our Strength (SOS) an organization established in the US in 1984 to assist in the struggle to end hunger & poverty.  Since that time they have raised over $70 million & have gone from one event in one city to100 now operating across North America.  Calgary celebrated its11th version of Taste of the Nation this April 7, 2003.

There were somewhere in the order of 800 attendees who were very well fed & watered on behalf of this year’s charities: Mustard Seed, Interfaith Food Bank, The Back Door & Oxfam Canada.  The great thing about this event, though, is the fact that it is entirely volunteered.  The committee, the sponsors, the restaurants, agents & suppliers, the staff, the musicians, literally everything is donated AND all the money raised goes to the charities.  This is truly spectacular giving!

Spread out over four levels of the Jubilee Auditorium we saw food of great variety & high quality ranging from Dunn’s Deli &  Spolumbo’s to tasty snacks from Planet Catering,  Rouge, The Westin &  Molly Malone’s Irish Pub to virtual meals from Earl’s & Mango Shiva Restaurants (about 40 food suppliers in all).  Then there were lovely chocolate treats fromCallebaut & Les Truffes.  The alcoholic beverages ran the gamut from international wines (from France, Chile, Italy, S. Africa, Australia, US & Canada) to scotch, vodka & sake & then to beer from all over (two standouts being Alhambra from Spain & Bavaria from Brazil).  But then there were also Sobe drinks from Pepsi (one of the local sponsors along with American Express, Jenn-Air & SYSCO, the major north American sponsors), fruit juices from Alfresh Beverages & water from Evian (both local sponsors).  

On top of all this there was also a silent auction with items from spas, a DVD player & airfares to paintings, hotels & food. And if that was not enough, there was great entertainment provided through the evening by local musicians.  This included a couple of guitarists, an Irish band with step-dancers called Unrealt & a very crowd-pleasing klezmer style jazz group called Take the Oiy Train., Lots of fantastic food & good fun!

If you haven’t been to this event, try it out next year.  It’s truly a great value &  a wonderful cause.  And check out the websites:  www.strength.org or www.tastecalgary.com



Review of Taste of the Vines, April 15, 2003. 

If it’s Tuesday, this must be Co-op.  Tasting of the Vines (Americas) welcomed 300 fans of the grape to an interesting collection of over 80 wines from Canada, US, Chile, Argentina & Uruguay at the Co-op Beddington store. 

While most of the wines were in the $10-20 range, there was something for everyone & some real bargains to boot.  Our favorite wine was the Sterling Napa Valley Cab @ $24.  Smooth & well balanced with soft tannins & good fruit this is definitely a complex & sophisticated wine.  But the great value of the evening was a new cab from Chile by Mauco Cellars.  Simple, soft & food friendly…& such a deal @ $12!

Review of French Fling, April 11,2003.


Review of Southern Italy Tasting, April 23, 2003. 

Bring up the topic of wines from southern Italy & most wine fans will think of 2 words: bulk & boring.  The wine producers of the southern regions, Sardinia, Sicily, Calabria & Puglia are steeped in the traditions of generations & centuries of traditional high yield production methods.  This has generally resulted in mega gallons of low quality wines not worth the low prices offered.  There are some fine wines, notably Stella & Mosca of Sardinia & the Planeta wines of Sicily, but these have been the tiny exception.  And Sicily produces as much wine as California!

 Now add to the mix a few winemakers (mostly young) with great skills & a modern vision plus  a weakened world demand for plonk & you get drastically lower crop yields & new wines with  flavor, body, balance, charm AND very reasonable prices.

The Southern Italy tasting at Centre Street North Wines & Spirits presented by Paul Martzoukos of Empson Canada & titled “Going Native” was a presentation of 6 such wines. The lineup consisted of:

 • a 2001 Vermentino by Cantina Santadi of Sardinia called Cala Silente a medium bodied white with floral nose & toasty honey flavors with good acid & balance.

• a 1999 Grotta Rossa (same producer) which is from the Carignano grape (Carignane to the rest of us…). This is a medium bodied red with flavors of stewed, dried fruit & soft tannins.

• a 2000 Negroamaro called Promessa from the ex-Canadian guy, Mark Shannon, who produces the now popular A-Mano Primitivo.  This wine from Puglia was a little austere on the nose but offers big, soft dark berry fruit in the mouth.  It is dense, dark & rich with big tannins.  And a steal at $14.

• a 2000 Santa Anastasia Nero d’Avola from Sicily which has a big, fruity nose, big dark , earthy fruit, great structure & some spice (syrah-like?).

• of course a Primitivo, in this case the 2001 from A-Mano, the winemaker who almost single-handedly is changing winemaking in Puglia.  It’s another fruit bomb with a smokey nose & deep flavor à la many California Zins and

• the gem of the event was the 1998 Shardanna, a dream wine of the owners of Empson made by Santadi, also a Carignano which has all the elements of a real classy ageable red.  It comes from a vineyard of pre-phylloxera vines up to 100 years old & has great color, big fruit, good balance, acid & tannins & is just a pleasure to drink.  About $35.

The south of Italy may be the sleeper of Europe right now.  We’ll definitely be hearing much more from here in the years to come.  It was a treat!




For the Love of Children Photo Exhibition & Gala, May 1

Multicultural is the best word to describe it!  The 1st annual Photographic Exhibition & Gala put on by the For The Love of Children Society in aid of a project to rebuild a school & orphanage in Nepal was probably the most varied & interesting fundraising event so far this year. 

 Imagine:  The Gala was essentially a photographic competition, exhibition & auction. But then there was dancing by a contemporary East Indian troupe, belly dancing, a native dancer & contemporary ballroom display.  And there were local celebrities, Dave Rodney, Al Duerr, Bret Hart & Darr Maqbool.  There was even a Town Crier.  And that’s just the people part! 

There was wonderful music from several nations & food from far & wide: Mexican, Indian, Greek, Italian, Ukrainian, Chinese, Japanese & local spins on things asian.  And the beverages included a variety of beers (notably Lake Louise Lager from Wildwood), wines (some very interesting products from Georgia in the former USSR), scotch, vodka & soft drinks too!  It was a tasting event with entertainment & lots of it.

Well over 400 people showed up at Artspace Gallery very dedicated to the task of raising $40,000 for the reconsrtuction project.  Our guess is that the great turnout plus the live auction (including a dinner for 6 personally cooked by A Channel’s Darr Maqbool) should easily put them over the top.  Kudos to the organizers of such a worthy cause & the sponsors (chiefly The Sun, A Channel, The Breeze & The Camera Shop) for a great first effort & a wonderful event well worth repeating…





Spirits of the West Food & Wine Festival  April 24, 25, 26, 2003.

This year’s Spirits of the West was the fifth such successful project for the Ability Society of Alberta which supports the requirements of special needs people of all ages.  It was three nights of fun, food, beverage & entertainment.  And it even had a celebrity visit from former Prime Minister Joe Clark & Maureen McTeer.

Spirits of the West is a pay-as-you-go kind of event.  You pay an admission fee (of $15-$20)  then purchase sampling tickets at $1 each & wander around trying out various restaurant samplings or beverages ranging from water to fine wine.  And, in this case, there was also a silent auction & raffle for the Ability Society. 

The Devonian Gardens venue really lends itself to the stroll about experience & great food featuring everything from continental to Indian to Caribbean, sushi to sausages & coffee house cookies was available to taste.  On the beverage side was a variety of wines from US, Australia, Chile & Canada, many new beers & coolers, vodka martinis, whiskeys & sake. There was music throughout each evening provided by various individuals & groups (notably a latin guitar duo called Havana Live). 

The setting gave the event a tropical feel in the face of a radical weather change over the 3 days.  The Thursday opening attendance was probably limited by great weather in the 20’s.  Friday saw a very good crowd that filled Devonian & Saturday’s foot of snow again put a damper on crowd numbers.  What can one do?  It was a fun event nonetheless…


150 Years of Hardy’s Wines  May 6, 2003.

There aren’t a lot of companies that have survived 150 years in any business (The Bay & …?).

Few people know that Hardy’s of Australian wine fame has been at it that long & recently, Bill Hardy, the 5th generation president was in Calgary on a tour celebrating their huge anniversary & spreading the gospel according to Hardy”s.

Mr. Hardy led a lunch of great elegance & taste created by Great Events (of Spruce Meadows) & hosted by Willow Park Wines & Spirits.  The four courses, Apricot & Macadamia nut stuffed breast of Chicken, Grilled west coast salmon, Potato encrusted loin of lamb& to, top it off, a dark chocolate terrine with Callebaut truffles & raspberry coulis were accompanied by pairs of Hardy’s wines. One set being the Tintara line & the other, their premium wines like Eileen Hardy 2001 Chardonnay. 1999 Thomas Hardy Cab, &  a lovely 1998 Eileen Hardy Shiraz.

Bill Hardy obviously loves his family, his work & his products & was quite prepared to regale the crowd of 50 for the afternoon with tales of years past including one about his mother Eileen who was prepared to walk half way across London many years ago to collect her OBE from the Queen when one of her fellow countrymen noticed her from his cab & gave her a lift.

Another was about the 150 year-old bottle he’s carrying around with him on the tour & how it became the oldest existing Australian bottle of wine in a brief 5 minutes (it showed up at auction just prior to an 1844 bottle which the auctioneer managed to drop just after it had been bought.  Thus, the 1853 product instantly became the oldest surviving bottle of wine from OZ.  And, it turns out, they were so afraid that a similar disaster mey befall their bottle that a replica was made & that’s actually what is being toured while the original sits safely at home…

The event ended with a birthday cake, song & well wishes from the audience.




The Flames Alumni Food & Wine Tasting May 28, 2003

The Flames Alumni have done it again!  In what has to be one of the best attended fundraisers in the city, the Food & Wine Tasting was the preamble to their annual Charity Golf Tournament which combined raise approximately $100,000 per year for worthy charities.  The function held at Artspace & sponsored by Willow Park Wines & Spirits was in aid of VRRI & The Canadian Mental Health Association. They have in 9 years now reached the million dollar mark in funds raised!

The Flames event is a combination food & wine tasting evening with silent & live auctions. It featured delicious items from the Luciano’s group (Luciano’s, Santa Fe & Vintage) & wines from around the world.  Highlights food wise were a spicy chicken penne dish & a great little chocolate hazelnut & pear desert.  From the wines, 2 standouts were a Tinhorn Creek 2002 Pinot Gris from BC. &  Simon Gilbert’s  2001 Australian Shiraz (both very affordably under $15).

There were lots of celebrities in the house, mostly ex-Flames of course, including chair Dana Murzyn,  Lanny MacDonald, Joel Otto, Perry Berezan & Bearcat Murray, who also acted as auctioneer for the live auction.  With a crowd of over 500, it was good fun & another great success for the Flames…


The New Zealand Wine Fair Trade Tasting May 29, 2003

The New Zealanders hit town on their North American wine tour & with them came an onslaught of great, crisp & grassy Sauvignon Blancs.  The NZ Wine Fair Trade Tasting was an elegant event &, appropriately, was held in a most elegant venue, the CPR Railway Pavillion.

Every producer, it seems, has at least one Sauvignon Blanc & there was not a bad one in the bunch.  Though NZ now has quite a reputation for Sauvignon, the country fortunately produces a whole lot of other good wine as well, especially traditional European varietals.

We saw many Semillons, Chardonnays (some unoaked), a variety of Reislings as well as some Pinot Gris (notably Babich 2002 & Matakana Estate 2002), Merlots, Cabs & Syrah. 

The “newcomer” for NZ is Pinot Noir & there were many varied examples to taste. While there were some very good wines (including Konrad & Co.2002 Pinot Noir), none really stood out as being brilliant.  We suspect that the home market eats up what is notoriously a small production grape. There were, however, some other appealing reds including a 2000 Babich Irongate Cabernet Merlot, Kim Crawford 2002 East Coast Merlot & Trinity Hill Gimblett Road Cab/Merlot.

And, lest we forget the Sauvignons, there were 2 excellent reserve sauvignons, Brancott Vineyards Reserve Sauvignon 2001 & Babich Winemakers Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2002.

All in all, a lovely bit of education.  However, there are no plans as yet for a public NZ tasting event.  For now you’ll just have to take our word or see your trusted retailer.


Sauvignon Blanc In The City; June 12, 2003.

It was NBW night in Calgary!  Nothing But Whites.  In fact, nothing but Sauvignon Blanc as Metrovino & J. Webb Wine Merchants hosted the annual Sauvignon Blanc in the City at Artstage.  Something in the order of 40 wines from France, Italy, Australia, Chile, New Zealand, Canada, Argentina &  S. Africa were on tasting for the event which helped to raise much needed money for the Calgary Food Bank.

This selection of wines represented the diversity of Sauvignon Blanc styles & flavors with personal favorites popping up in all countries & prices points but dominated by New Zealand. 

At the higher end of the scale we liked:
• 2002 Isabel Estate Sauv Blanc from NZ ($27), smooth, mellow, well-balanced, elegant;

• Mondavi 2000 Stag’s Leap Sauv Blanc from California, somewhat austere, but big, well-balanced & lovely;

• Jackson Estate Sauv Blanc  2002 from NZ ($22),a big, fruity, grassy slurp;

• 2001 Mason Cellars Sauv Blanc from California, a very well-made wine has herbal characteristics plus citrus & tropical fruits & good acid and 

• 2001 Lawson Dry Hills Sauv Blanc from NZ ($23) is a grapefruit bomb with lots of acidity & balance.

On the value side we liked 2000 Chateau Tariquet from France ($14) & Los Cardos 2002 Sauv from Argentina (only $12).

A crowd of only 200 was a little disappointing as this event usually sells out, but left lots of room for strolling & mingling. The large Artspace gallery area provided easy access to the wonderful food supplied by some of the more talented chefs & restaurants in town.  These included Brava Bistro, Teatro, Sugo, The Living Room, Infuse Event Catering, Janice Beaton Fine Cheese &  Bruleé Patisserie.  But it wasn’t just food for the sake of eating.  The dishes were selected to pair with the wines & most were very successful.  Two standouts were Infuse’s selection of:

• sumac dusted pacific halibut with pink grapefruit & shallot marmelade
• lund’s organic fingerling potato & anchovy brandade w sourdough crostini &
• peaches & cream corn with fire roasted tomato panna cotta and

Teatro’s scrumptious soybean dish: edamame with diced pecorino cheese & chives tossed w truffle oil & served on an endive scoop.

The bottom line was a fun evening of food & wine pairing & new ideas for summer quaffers.  And with the most pleasant evening in a couple of weeks weather-wise, the Sauvignon Blanc in the City, “a Festival to Celebrate Summer” did just that…

a BBQ?    


The Awesome Australian Wine Festival, June 17, 2003. 

A Stampeder Football season opener & wonderful summer-like weather couldn’t keep a few hundred dedicated wine fans from their appointed rounds at the Awesome Australian Wine Fest at Devonian Gardens Tuesday June 17, 2003.  The event, sponsored by the Australian Wine Bureau, showcased some of the rich variety of wines from OZ.  It's charity partner was The Junior League of Calgary, so the proceeds will go to their projects. 

Some familiar old standbys, some new labels  & a whole bunch of great new wines (either brand new or new to our market) added up to approximately 150 different wines & head-spinning choice…

Like the Californians, ever vigilant to cover a market niche, the Australians are proving that there’s always a new way to satisfy a customer & always a new customer to satisfy.  They don’t seem to be afraid to try something new or chase a price point. A show of this nature really drives home the chief benefit of privatization in Alberta – variety!  And we are definitely the beneficiaries…

The tasting? There were wa-a-a-ay too many good wines to begin describing, but we’ll mention a few standouts in passing.  The Australians, of course, are known for their Shiraz & it comes in numerous styles, flavors, weights & combinations.  Two that we particularly enjoyed were newcomers:                  

• Wayne Thomas  2001 Shiraz from McLaren Vale a very rich, sophisticated wine with dense black fruit & long finish ($25)

• Shotfire 2001 Barossa Shiraz,  lighter  than the above but fruity, earthy & every bit enjoyable ($15) will go on our Value Wines list

We also noted:
• Evans & Tate Margaret River 2001 Shiraz lush flavors of dark fruit at $20

• Vasse Felix 2000 Shiraz from Margaret River area, another rich, dense lovely wine ($34)

• Tapestry 2000 Shiraz from McLaren Vale ($22) and

• Chapel Hill 1998 Shiraz also McLaren Vale shows a touch of mint/eucalyptus ($25)

• Brokenwood 2000 Shiraz from Hunter Valley a lush, fruity soft mouthful at $26

And let’s not forget
• Jim Barry’s McRae Wood Shiraz 1999 a lovely big, jammy  Please-decant-me-Shiraz! ($40)


The Aussies are also no slouches in the Cabernet Sauvignon department & Bordeaux style blends:

• Smith & Hooper Cab Merlot 2000 from Wrattonbully an awesome, rich, smooth & fruity quaff at only $20

• Katnook Estate Coonawarra1999 Cab a nice, quiet, traditional cab ($29)

• Penfolds Bin 407 1999 Cab a lovely, well-balanced example of Aussie Cabernet ($30)

• Rosemount Estate Traditional 2000 blend of Cab, Merlot & Petit Verdot is excellent ($29)

• Rosemount Estate Show Reserve Cab 2000 is also a good, clean, approachable Cab ($26)

And our favorite of the whole event was:
• Wirra Wirra The Angelus 2000 Cab a Bordeaux-style Cab with great finesse! ($40) 

Did we mention whites?  Again, there were lots, especially Sauvignons.
The Brokenwood whites are lovely;
Madfish Sauv/Semillon 2002 smooth & $16;
Ninth Island Sauvignon 2001 from Tasmania, crisp, herbal & a bit spicy on the finish $18;
Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier 2001 is a lush, tropical slightly oaky, very fruity & unique viognier priced well at$22 (our fave!).
And the best value wine of the whites was Wirra Wirra Scrubby Rise White 2002 a blend of Sauv/Semillon/Viognier a fresh & fruity slurp at only $13.  We’ll be adding this one to our Value Wines list (see What, How & Why).

What a great learning event!  In the end, there were just too many wines to taste. You may have had other favorites.  Let us know…  



Olé! Wine Gala

Food, Fun, Wine, Music.  Did we mention fun?  Olé, the latin wine fest was definitely a hit.  Judging by the large, very animated crowd there was a lot of Latin-flavored fun at this one!

A new venue, the SunLife Plaza was a spark of inspiration by the Wine Shows Group as it surely is the most interesting venue yet for a wine-tasting event.  It’s wide open & yet broken into smaller areas & worked just fine for strolling, chatting & tasting.  The only hitch might have been that the band (Havana & friends) was a bit loud making it impossible to chat or get info during their set.  However, many people took to dancing & obviously the volume was just right for them… and they seem to have found a new tuba player…

The wines offered for tasting provided a good selection of what South America has to offer but there was very little from Spain (a big surprise as this event was touted as being about Spain & S. America).  In any event, there were lots of Malbecs & Cabs & other varietals & blends to keep the oeno-enthusiast busy.  

Price-wise, the wines fell mostly in the $10-$15 range & represented a lot of good value.  In particular, we liked the new Michel Torino wines from Argentina ( Tannat & Malbec, each at $13) especially their Don David Cab a med-to-full bodied wine with dark color & intense flavor, spice, oak & soft tannins ($16). 

The Carpe Diem 1999 Cab/Malbec from Chile has great fruit, soft tannins @ $16;

Arnaldo B.Ecthart Reserva Merlot/Malbec is treat at about $14;

René Barbier 1996 Cab is lovely & not showing its age @ $20, but our favorite was the

Tarapaca Gran Reserva 1999 Cab,.a merlot-soft wine, rich in fruit & not overly oaked is a good deal at $18.   

The food provided by the likes of Murietta’s, Cornerstone Grill, Conga Room & Vintage Chophouse was excellent & certainly “big” enough to pair with the big wines.  And, on top of all this there were some fine beers including a lovely beer from Spain called 1925 & a new one from Chile called Escudo.

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