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Column: Experiencing the Whistler Cornucopia for the first time

A recap of a festival jam-packed with delicious offerings and educational culinary and drink seminars, and wine recommendations

I attended Whistler Cornucopia for the first time this year and was surprised at what I had missed all these years. This is the 27th year of the event, which started with just a few events focused on promoting B.C. food and wine.

It has now blossomed into one of B.C.’s largest food and wine festivals outside of Vancouver, spanning 11 days over two weekends with more than 100 events featuring food and an expansive international offering of drinks of all kinds!

It was very nice to visit Whistler in the quieter shoulder season. Many high-end restaurants offered three-course prix fix menus for $59, and the vibe in the village was much more relaxed than during ski season or the busy summer months. 

I stayed at the Chateau Fairmont Whistler, located conveniently in the heart of the Upper Village of Whistler and about a 15-minute walk from the Lower Village. I have stayed at this hotel many times before, but because of my hectic schedule during past stays, I never realized the hotel offered complimentary car service and a shuttle bus to the Lower Village. It also offers free daily yoga classes, art walks and guided hikes each day. For more about my stay, check out my video.

I liked that the festival included many culinary seminars in addition to its focus on drinks. I attended one featuring Chef Alana Maas, who won an episode of Chopped Canada. The seminar was both educational and delicious — while her team was in the back making these dishes for us to sample, Chef Alana demonstrated how she created each dish and gave tips on how to make them at home. 

Each course was paired with a sample of wine from a B.C. winery that was curated by Samantha Rahn, a noted local wine presenter. To learn more about my experience, watch my video about the seminar.

There were drink seminars on whiskey, gin, vodka and cognac but as a wine lover, I stuck with those seminars focusing on wine. However, I appreciated that at any given time, there were multiple events so you could enjoy a variety of food and drink offerings rather than being stuck with just wine events. 

This variety of drinks was also available at the signature events, which were great for groups enjoying a nice night out. 

I learned so much at a wine seminar on the wines of the Loire Valley led by another notable wine speaker, Paul Watkin.  It gave me a chance to sample nine wines from various regions in the valley. 

I also attended a wine dinner at Araxi Restaurant featuring the wines of Tinhorn Creek Vineyards. The matching of a high-end Whistler restaurant with a notable B.C. winery was a recipe for an exceptional night. I hadn’t noticed the changes at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, now owned by Andrew Peller Ltd. and with Leondro Nosal hired as the winemaker. 

Nosal has high ambitions for the winery, and I would keep an eye out for their Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc-based wines. A summary of my dinner experience can be found in this video.

Wine recommendations of the month

This month, I have two wine recommendations for you.

Firstly, since I have just tried their wines, I would recommend the Tinhorn Creek 2021 Reserve Cabernet Franc.

Tinhorn Creek, in my opinion, makes the best Cabernet Franc wines in B.C. This is quite an outstanding value at $40 per bottle, given it is their top-shelf offering of this grape varietal. You can purchase this wine directly from the winery or from specialty liquor stores. 

My second recommendation is the Mollydooker 2020 The Boxer Shiraz.

Mollydooker burst onto the scene in 2006 and has been producing very well-received wines since then. Mollydooker is Australian slang for a left-handed boxer as both owners, Sarah and Sparky, are left-handed. This wine is a prototypical Australian Shiraz bursting with jammy dark fruit flavors. It is barrel fermented and matured in 100 per cent American oak, using 45 per cent new, 25 per cent one-year-old, and 30% two-year-old barrels. It has a 92-point rating by Wine Spectator and you can drink until 2030. Available in B.C. Liquor Stores for $35.99. 

Until next time, happy drinking!

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