I had some time to kill before having to meet up with Janice and May, so took some time to admire the view from the terrace of the Shaw Conference Centre. It was a beautiful fall day, and though the leaves had all but fallen from the trees, our river valley was looking glorious bathed in the warm autumn sun. I was able to capture a few shots of two hot air balloons just taking flight from a field near the Muttart Conservatory:
Up, up and away!
Just after five, the girls arrived, and we headed into one of the halls already buzzing with activity. After having our tickets scanned, we were handed a wine glass on our way in, and picked up a small program listing all of the vendors present. Pretty soon, however, we figured out that it was easier and more fun to simply wander the aisles without attention paid to labels and names.
Unlike the Taste of Edmonton, this festival charges a $15 admission fee. For what purpose, I still can’t figure out, as I can only imagine the hundreds of dollars each winery would have been charged to set up a booth. Tickets were actually a little cheaper though – 50cents each, with wine and food samples priced at a minimum of 2 tickets, but up to, as far as we could see, 20 tickets. May and I both snagged a few coupons from the local paper, so between the three of us, managed to redeem them for 60 free tickets, and only needed to purchase $20 dollars worth to supplement them. I’m sure for most patrons of this event though, being economical wasn’t on their minds – it looked as if most of Edmonton’s upper crust was present that evening (Hello, Louis Vuitton!).
Though wine (and spirits) should have been the main attraction (hence the name of the festival being wine & food and not food & wine), we necessarily gravitated towards the food vendors. We hadn’t had a lot to eat prior to meeting, so we figured some food in our stomachs would make the alcohol easier to process.
The Little Potato Company
had the best deal hands down, selling samples of Piccolo Potatoes with Fresh Cream and Dill for just 3 tickets, and as a bonus, distributing two small bags of potatoes along with it, free of charge. The Grill
had one of the most popular items on the floor – Blue Cheese Stuffed Mini Burgers. Presentation was of utmost importance at this event, and would put most at the Taste of Edmonton to shame. For example, B-Bim-Baab
was offering mini portions of their namesake, hand garnished with sections of pickled carrots, bean sprouts, egg, and grilled beef. Of course, although there were some reasonably priced items to be had, there were also some duds – a small plate of butter chicken and rice was $5 from Khazana
, while a combination plate from the Haweli
booth was a startling 19 tickets.
Blue Cheese Stuffed Mini Burgers from The Grill
For us, wading through the overwhelming number of wine merchants was a chore – as all of us are relatively new to the appreciation of wine, we didn’t really know what to sample. The importance of marketing to a wine label’s success was evident on this night – brands such as Funky Llama and House Wine (hee) distinguished themselves in part because of their stand out names. I was happy to see a few brands that I had noticed on past trips through liquor stores, and seized this opportunity to inexpensively give them a go.
Janice receives her first pour of the night
The 2006 Fat Bastard
Rose from France was a bit weak for my taste, while the 2005 Voga Italia
Pinot Grigio wasn’t bad. The 2005 Artezin Zinfandel from the Hess Collection was too rich for me, and definitely boasted of a dark, black cherry taste the purveyor had mentioned. Mystiq, a Cognac-based fruit cocktail, was a refreshing departure from wine, and was sweeter than the similar but more well-known Hypnotiq. My last sample turned out to be the most expensive of the evening, a 2003 Private Reserve Chardonnay from the Canadian Peninsula Ridge Estate Winery
. At $5 for the 2oz. pour, the wine was well worth it – smooth, and with nary an aftertaste.
We didn’t make it out of the hall until nearly 7:30, in part due to the increasing number of people touring the aisles as the night wore on. I will be back next year, ideally with a knowledgeable oenophile in tow, and make sure to again arrive early, and keep an eye out for coupons in the paper.