A few weeks ago, May told me about a wine tasting to be hosted at Vinomania, organized by the University of Alberta Alumni Association. And as $25 seems to be my threshold for wine tasting events (at least currently), it seemed like a great opportunity to sample more wines in an attempt to further develop my palate.
It turned out that $25 was a beyond reasonable price, as in addition to nine wines, we also had access to a hot and cold food spread, catered by Bistecca. The staff person later told me that the Alumni Association had subsidized the event, in the hopes of ensuring the ticket price wouldn’t be a barrier to attendance. So it looks like my University education is paying me back in other ways too!
Gurvinder Bhatia, owner of Vinomania and a wine columnist with CBC, was a great host. Personable and obviously passionate about wine, Gurvinder had just returned from Italy a few days before. As a result, eight out of the nine selections that evening were Italian, allowing us to travel through the country in a wine glass. It helped also that Gurvinder is a storyteller, personifying each variety with his tales of winemakers, grape histories and places.
Our wine line-up
The store itself is quite nice to visit also, with the majority of wines organized nicely into crates (which, as May and I found, made great purse cubbyholes too), lit by track lighting suspended from above. It made the gloomy, grey fluorescence and monochromatic shelves at the rear of the store lacklustre by comparison. Gurvinder has also set up a 24 for under $24 section right up front, perfect for green winos like myself.
Gurvinder talked about how food and wine pairings should consider flavour, weight , texture and acidity. He encouraged guests to help themselves to the spread, and given the number of full-bodied reds we tried, I was glad for the crispy bison short rib rolls, fatty deliciousness of the braised pork belly, and absolutely amazing veal cheek (it was so tender it melted in my mouth). I know what I’m having the next time I’m at Bistecca.
My tasting plate (first of many)
The wines (as always) moved from whites to reds, and (as always) I enjoyed the whites more than the reds. My favourite of the evening was the Gallo Mauro Moscato d’Asti, a refreshingly light dessert wine that Gurvinder said pairs like a dream with chocolate. I picked up a bottle with the intention of saving it for a warm summer night, to be served alongside bars of Chocophilia.
One of the white wines of the night
Gurvinder also had a nice surprise in store for us after the tasting concluded. In addition to a copy of Tidings, a food and wine magazine, he also offered everyone a free membership to the Vinomania Club, which entitles us to discounts, and a $20 tasting card, to be used with the store’s Enomatic system (refreshed often with different bottles of wine to sample). Though it’s a great marketing ploy to get us all back to the store, it was still a much appreciated gift.
Enomatic System at Vinomania
It was great to see some familiar faces at the event, and meet some new ones as well. Cheers!
11452 Jasper Avenue
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