Cornucopia — Day 2

November 23, 2010 by  

I was asked to volunteer as a sommelier at Cornucopia, Whistler’s Celebration of Wine and Food, and I jumped at the chance. Spend an entire weekend of wine and food in the beautiful, Olympic-ski-resort town? Sign me up!

Saturday — Day 2

Saturday I was back at 10 a.m. to report for my first volunteer shift. I was marched up to a table of open Pinot Noir and told to taste it all. That’s a lot to face so early, but I suppose it could have been Napa Cab or Argentinean Malbec! One other sommelier and I worked through about four dozen bottles to make sure all the bottles were showing well for the Pinot Noir from Around the Globe seminar.

After tasting through the wines, it was time to pour them. Pouring a flight of a dozen wines for about 60 people is no easy task. It is very important that each wine is put into the correct glass, or the consumer gets a misrepresentation of the wine. Also, when trying to make four bottles pour exactly 60 servings, it is important to have a good measuring instinct, as there is certainly no time to measure each serving.

Next it was on to set up the Bubble-icious seminar, which also posed a challenge. Since an important part of enjoying sparkling wine is the mousse, it does no one any favours to pour out the wine in advance and let it become flat and warm. So timing was crucial for this one, only half the wines were poured to begin, then the pouring team burst into the room half way through the seminar to pop more corks and buzz around the room filling the rest of the glasses.

During the down time, I was able to sit in on the Cool Climate Clarity seminar, featuring 13 Australian wines. Mark Davidson of Wine Australia was the host, colourful and good-humoured, but most of all knowledgeable and keen to sweep away the notion that all Aussie wines are over-ripe fruit-bombs. He made the point that there are more cool-climate growing areas in Australia than most people imagine, especially in the South and Tasmania. Favourites in the room (because with a boisterous Aussie leading the session, everyone has to speak up) included the Tahbilk Marsanne 2008 (~$18), Ocean Eight Verve Chardonnay 2008 (~$50), Yabby Lake Pinot Noir 2007 (~$51) and Ring.bolt Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (~$22).

When the seminar let out it was time to jump into action. In an amazing feat of teamwork, the volunteers and convention centre staff managed to turn over the two 60-seat tasting rooms in one hour. This is amazing because 120 seats, with an average of a dozen glasses at each place, require a whopping 1,440 wine glasses. After a tasting, these glasses usually still contain some wine. So the excess wine must be dumped out, the dirty glasses collected into dozens of crates and whisked away; the water glasses, spit cups, tasting mats and garbage must be collected and recycled or thrown out; and the table cloths must be changed. Now it’s time to set up for the next tasting! Cloths down; mats down; spit cups down; 1,440 new, clean glasses out; wines organized, opened, and tasted; and each wine must be poured into the appropriate glass at each seat.

Once that madness was over I was able to join the Argentina – Beyond Malbec seminar hosted by Iain and Barbara Philip of Barbarian Wine Consulting in Vancouver, and it is always a pleasure to be in their expert company. Since Canada is the number two export market for Argentinean wine (after the USA), Argentina is trying to get consumers to think of the country for more than the popular Malbec. The seminar was very informative, taking guests through all the regions in Argentina, considering latitude, altitude, climate, soil and water influences. For me, the Michel Torino Cuma Torrontes “Organic” 2009 from Cafayate, Salta offered a lot – crisp, refreshing acid, light body, aromatics, and for only $14. The top of the reds was Finca Decero “Remolinos Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 — smooth, balanced with a lot of fruit extraction for only $28.

After helping with the tear down of the Argentina tasting, I had finished my volunteer duties for the day. I went up to the Viking Stage to join the All You Need Is Cheese seminar, where Canadian cheese was paired with Summerhill Pyramid wines. There were nine types of cheese and six wines to play around with pairing. My favourites included Boerenkaas from Natural Pastures in Comox Valley paired with the Chalice, a deep, nutty, caramel-y dessert wine, and the Tiger Blue from Poplar Grove in Naramata paired with the Riesling Icewine.

We finished the epic day at the Crush Gala Tasting … for the third time. This time I stood in line to try the 2006 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red ($149), big, red blend (Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec) from the Napa Valley in California. It was a wine with depth and made me a little weak in the knees. Thankfully there was great people-watching when I took a seat and watched the buzzing tasting room.


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