This weekend I was taking in my very first “Cornucopia”. The two week long food and drink festival hosted in Whistler. It gathers industry professionals and fans together through specialty dinners, parties, cooking demonstrations, and seminars. And in this post we were taking in the latter.

Out of all the possible wine seminars, I was most interested in this one: “Top Value Wines”. This was not just a class on one specific type of grape, or wines from merely one region. This was a collection of information, covering several different types of wine, from all over the world. Information that I could take and apply in my every day life.

I typically visit my local liquor store looking for a bottle; but often don’t know what to get, so simply hope a label compels me. There are so many different types of wine, and we all can’t be sommeliers. Picking one can be overwhelming, especially if it is to be shared with others who may judge you on your selection. Or maybe you don’t want to spend more than $20 on your purchase, because you think, “it’s just for me”. Therefore, I was looking forward to taking in this workshop, to have it help remove future doubt in my wine selection. And now, thanks to this wine seminar? I have a list of what to reach for during my next liquor store visit. So continue reading to see 12 wines worth trying, that won’t break the bank.

The seminar was set up like a lecture room with rows of tables, an overhead projector, and a panel of speakers leading the class. Our three hosts were the ones to choose the 12 wines we would be tasting. And as we did, they would share why they selected this top value wine, plus what they liked about it. Rachel is the owner of “VV tapas”, a new wine bar in East Vancouver. Tyler runs the “Village Taphouse” liquor store in West Vancouver. And Daenna writes for 4 wine magazines all throughout Canada, where she is better known as the “Wine Diva”.

Everything was pre-poured and placed in order on a speciality place mat. Water was self serve at the back of the room, a larger plastic cup gave you the opportunity to taste and spit, and a packet of saltines offered a way to cleanse your palette in between.

The seminar began by explaining value. Just because a bottle is inexpensive, it doesn’t make it worse off than something that costs double that. “Value” was described as something worth more to you than what you would expect to pay for it. We then went one by one through each glass, essentially going through a whole case of wine.

 

First was the “Rivera ‘Marese’ Bombino Castro del Monte D.O.C.” This is a lesser known wine, hailing from a more obscure area, at the “heel of the boot of Italy”. This white is made in a stainless steel vessel, to ensure nothing takes away from the grapes. It is a creamy, full bodied wine with tropical notes. And best enjoyed frosty cold. It isn’t widely distributed, but it is available in 27 stores across the province, that offers it at $22 a bottle.

The “Seven Terraces Sauvignon Blanc” is $18 at any BC liquor store. Described as a “text book” Sauvignon from New Zealand, it is tangy with a crisp finish; and also a little dry yet refreshing. It is available year round with green apple and peach flavours, ideal as a “hot tub wine”.

The “2018 Synchromesh Reisling” is from our own back yard: Naramata and Okanagan Falls. It is available at privately owned liquor stores for $23, but for the best deals, it is recommended that go right to the source. The same can be said for any BC wine, the best prices are right from the winery itself. As for how it drinks, this eas a balanced blend with plenty of acidity, thanks to its natural fermentation. Our hosts highly recommended it with Asian cuisine like Thai food and with a variety of curries. It is also just as good with breakfast because it pairs well with bacon. A great all around white, with a lower alcohol content at 9%.

Then for the rest of our tasters we went red, starting with the “2018 Santa Carolina Pinot Noir Réservé” from Leyda Chile. Available for $14 a bottle at any BC liquor store, this was the best deal out of all the glasses. It comes from a newer region, just off the Pacific Ocean; hilly with a cool climate. This Pinot Noir with its savoury character pairs well with rich earthier foods like risotto, mushrooms, and Wellington.

The “2017 Humberto Canale Estate Noir” is from Patagonia, the very south of Argentina. Also described as the “end of the earth” with barren terrain. The dessert’s cooler nights and higher altitude is great for preserving the acidity of their wine. At $20 a bottle from private liquor stores, you get good “bang for your buck” here.

Next we switched the order and went to glass #9, the “2016 Lupi Reali Montepulciano d’Abruzzo” from Italy. A medium, light bodied wine that sold for $19 a bottle, at private liquor stores. Made from certified organic grapes, it doesn’t have a lot of mechanical bitterness to it, thanks to how it is produced. It is a great acidic wine with plenty of freshness; and good tannins making it a great choice to pair with sausage. It is also the bottle our experts recommended to bring to a party, when you don’t know what they like.

We then went back to our placemat order with glass #6, the “2018 Gran Passione Rosso” from Veneto, Italy. The grapes are left on the vine and dehydrated slowly. The farmers wait for them to shrivel up and loose half their weight before picking them, and making wine with them in oak barrels. The result, a more intense wine at 14% alcohol, with only a tiny amount of residual sugar. You get flavours of oak spice, vanilla, plum and raisins. This is available at privately owned liquor stores for $16 a bottle.

Glass #7 was the “2017 Boraso Garnacha” from Spain. A fruit wine with a “strawberry twizzler” character, a younger wine with no oak contact. At $15 a bottle at any BCL, our hosts joked that this was the perfect wine to crack open when you either don’t want to commit to finishing it, or you have to share with someone else.

The “2017 Protea Cabernet Sauvignon” is from Western Cape South Africa and runs at $15 at BCL. It hits all the classic notes with its time in oak barrels, followed by a year in stainless steel. It is a balanced wine that you can enjoy right as you open the bottle. Peppery with some cassis fruit.

The “2017 La Stella Fortissimo” from the Okanagan Valley was the most expensive bottle of our tasting. $35+ at the winery or private liquor store. It is a blend that is mostly merlot. Another approachable wine that you don’t need to decanter, although letting it rest doesn’t do it any harm either. It pairs well with meat, and for the vegetarians grilled eggplant and bean dishes. It also has enough acidity for tomato sauce.

The “2017 Famille Quiot Les Combes d’Arnevels Ventoux” from Rhone, France is $21+ at private liquor stores. It is a classic Southern Rhone blend with a mix of varietals. The wine has good minerality with flavour of dark fruits, leather and spice.

And glass #12 was the $20 “2016 Gerard Bertrand Terroirs Corbieres” from Languedoc, France. This was a full bodied blend with mostly Syrah.

Here, I wish I took better notes. Although having finished 12, 2oz glasses without using my spit cup, and only nibbling on two salted crackers; I wasn’t as alert or as thorough as I was at the beginning of our seminar.

In conclusion, I am very happy with this workshop. I have discovered 12 great bottles to reach for and impress others with, the next time I am in need of wine. And at these prices I can get a couple to share or one for me and another to gift.

For more on Cornucopia, and how you can attend next year’s occasion, visit the link below. https://whistlercornucopia.com/

For the vlog version of this event and the recap of our weekend drinking, check out my latest video, now upon my YouTube Channel: MaggiMei.