Educating the Palate at Cornucopia Whistler
What tasting notes are you picking up? What is the nose giving you? What is the texture like? These are all questions that baffle many of us when it comes to wine. Truth be told, the wisest guidance I have been given by an expert is “if you like it, then drink it”. This said, I do love my vino and this year I committed to the educational side of Cornucopia. Carefully selecting seminars that appealed to my tastes, I copied up to the idea of coming out on the other end more appreciative of my favourite liquid than cursing it for a Crush induced headache.
Starting with the Women of Whistler’s Wine Tasting 101 seminar, I found myself in the midst of 72 impressive local ladies, including our guide, Araxi’s own Samantha Rahn, International Sommelier of the Year. Key learning from this session was that a blind tasting can really put your perceived likes and dislikes to the test. A challenge I would encourage upon everyone.
Next we followed Saturday morning breakie with blending know-how thanks to the winemaking wisdom of David and Cynthia Enns. The owners of Naramtha’s acclaimed Laughing Stock Vineyards shared stories from their years of production while we enjoyed the special opportunity to compare their Chardonnay and Portfolio wine’s past, present and future. It is a rare occasion that you get to sample the same varietal in succession over various vintages and compare alongside the winemakers themselves. My personal note to self on the Chardonnay was that while the current “baby” vintage that has only just been bottled weeks ago was unappealing to look at with its cloudiness, it tasted like juice. The 2011 and 2009 versions were a lovely step in the right direction, but the buttery gold that the 2006 delivered made drinking before noon highly inviting! I guess I will have to learn to not just consume the wine we buy within 2 hours of purchase, which apparently 90% of the population is known to do.
To end a day of learning with the wisdom of an industry legend is something special. Harry McWatters did not disappoint as we collectively celebrated 25 years of Meritage….now remember people, it is not a French term so don’t make it out to be one! As the father of this varietal in BC, McWatters offered exclusive insight in to its birth and upbringing in the Okanagan. Our group was then given the unique opportunity to see if we could out do his version…daunting? Um yes. We blended his Barrel samples of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc to see what concoction pleased our palate….then compared to his and five other Meritage versions which make use of his grapes. I would say the average bottle price of $25 for any of them is still very much worth it to me.
I will admit, after all this education, the celebration component of Cornucopia was calling my name so it became a night of toasting the top red performer of this year’s festival, the Stoneboat Pinot Noir….sweet vino goodness – a winner it is.