This weekend we were in Whistler attending their annual food and drink festival, christening the start of their busy winter session. I was lucky enough to be able to attend a few of their seminars and sessions, including a couple of their drink ones. These I find are best for those who want more intimate knowledge on the class they are signed up for and enjoy the traditional classroom setting. Rows of tables positioned before a proctor up front. Each seat is set with a placemat marked with the specific wine or spirit being covered.
I won’t be going into all the finite detail of the Masi wine and Japanese whisky drink seminar(s) I attended, but will provide a brief overview, should you reading be interested in attending one for yourself in the future.
Drink Seminar: Capturing Time in a Bottle: Three Decades of Masi Amarone Wines
Focused on a single winery, this seminar was all about the labour of love that goes into wine making for the 7 generations of the Masi family. They follow the traditional process of drying harvested grapes for up to 4 months, before the fruit is pressed and slowly fermented. And after fermentation the wine is aged for at least 2 years in wooden barrels. A process we got to learn more about through videos and photos, including a time lapse of the grapes being dried in the naturally colder climate, which avoids their rotting.
The result are wines that continue to mature and develop within the bottle, rewarding wine makers and wine enthusiasts who are patient with the process. Our time spent in this class was trying the same varietals years apart, taking into consideration the climate that year, its rainfall, heat and resulting crop yield. We learned how all of the above can change the wine from one year to the next, and how they in turn evolve 10 years after that.
This was a guided tasting of both Masi Campofiorin and Masi Costasera Amarone that date back to the 1990s. It was a rare opportunity to experience these sought-after wines firsthand, and you definitely got your monies worth from it.
– Masi Campofiorin 2012
– Masi Campofiorin 2015
– Masi Campofiorin 2018
– Masi Costasera Amarone 1997
– Masi Costasera Amarone 2006
– Masi Costasera Amarone 2015
– Masi Costasera Amarone 2016
– Costasera Riserva Amarone 2015
Drink Seminar: The Fine Art of Japanese Whisky
Hosted by @whiskymuse Reece at @reecesims, who travelled up to Whistler to present one of the only non-wine sessions available. The invite promised an exploration into the world of Japanese whiskies, a detailed account geared towards those who have a bit of experience with whisky and are looking to expand on it.
The class showcased new and evolving categories exclusive to Japan, which differ greatly from North American whiskies, which may of us are more familiar with. The definition of whiskey in Japan is that 10% of it needs to be derived domestically, and the other 90% can be a blend of other spirits, thus allowing Japanese distillers to get fairly creative with their casts. They often source whiskies from other countries like US, Canada, and Scotland to make a blend all their own. And use a variety of barrels to age from virgin oak to ex-bourbon, ex-sherry, ex-port, and ex-wine.
And then there is virgin Mizunara oak, a harder to grow, wind-swept looking tree with twisted limbs that results in barrels that are not watertight. Using such barrels are not only expensive, due to the rarity of the tree, but you lose much of your finish product casting it in, due it not being watertight. The result, whisky that has a lot more vanilla in it and a finish of raw spicy wood reminiscent of spice and incense.
And only in Japan do you have whiskey made with koji, which is cooked rice and/or soybean that has been inoculated with fermentation culture and mould. And from there, there are 3 different types of koji Japanese distillers can play with. Some distillers stray from the popularity of blends all together, like Kuijra which produces their whisky from 100% Thai indica rice.
From single-grain rice whiskies to pure malts, to Mizunara cask-finished expressions; the class focused on 5 different small craft distilleries who do whisky differently. Here, participants were able to try bottles they might not otherwise know about or would get to. This list included a few bottle running at $200+ a bottle.
– Shin Select Reserve Blended Whisky
– Kanekou Okinawa Whisky
– Kujira Ryukyu Whisky 10 Years Old
– Shinobu Pure Malt Whisky 10 Years Old
– Amahagan World Malt Edition #3 Mizunara Finish
– Masahiro Pure Malt Whisky 12 Years Old Sherry
– Shinobu Pure Malt Whisky Lightly Peated
– Shin White Oak Aged Whisky Umeshu
In closing, both of the above were the most informative of all the 2022 Cornucopia events I attended this weekend. I would recommend both to anyone looking to expand their wine and spirits knowledge in an interactive setting. Not to mention, you get to learn through drinking!