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Friday, August 28, 2009

Winnipeg Wine Scene? - Part 1

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Whenever I travel to a new city I am always curious to investigate the local wine scene and see what, if anything, stands out. Such was my goal for my recent trip to Winnipeg, Manitoba (July 2009). The impetus for the trip was to meet more of my wife’s extended family based in Canada’s central-most provinces. Manitoba, to a west coaster like me, seems more like the centre of the country than a western cousin until you visit the province and recognize the same laid-back approach to life that we are accustomed to in Vancouver.

Manitoba may be the land of 100,000 lakes, but the area around Winnipeg is pure prairie. You can literally see for miles and miles - a unique experience for someone used to mountains in every direction.

The province has a short and (normally) very hot growing season which is not ideal for growing grapes but is ideal for growing fruit. 2009 has been a bad summer for sunlight hours, which will lead to many crops ripening very late. The effect on the province’s fruit wine producers remains to be seen.

Winnipeg is the cultural and economic capital of the Manitoba and is by far, its largest city with over 600,000 residents. A few of them drink wine… but more on that a bit later.

To determine if the city you are exploring has a wine scene, you must first establish your evaluation criteria.. For me, a fair standard would be: a yearly wine festival, the existence of a local wine industry, long and diverse restaurant wine lists and the ability of the city’s residents to purchase a wide variety of wines.. With those being the criteria, Winnipeg scores on all counts. However, to be fair to the fine wine cities of the world, it scores pretty low.

Wine Festival

The yearly Winnipeg wine festival runs in May and is attended by the city’s glitterati and wine enthusiasts. The six-day festival offers many different tasting events to attend. Some are perennially booked and others are one-off specials. This year the festival chose to set as the theme for the festival “The Wines of Chile.” Thirty wineries from Chile were showcased including these Chilean stand-outs: Luis Felipe Edwards, Miguel Torres Chile and Concha y Toro. For more information about the Winnipeg Wine Festival, visit their website: www.winnipegwinefestival.com/

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