One of the biggest parties of the fall is surely the Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival.
And if you’ve been following the election as closely as us media types, you have good reason to drink this weekend.
Tickets are still available for all three sessions — Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Saturday night — and can be found on the event’s website. Once you’re in the door, sampling coupons are 50 cents apiece.
Hundreds of wine, spirits, beer and food samples under one roof, showcasing the best from around the world.
With that much on offer, there’s only so much ground you can cover and not have to be wheeled out of the venue by your friends.
With that in mind, my one piece of advice is to explore. Try something new and unfamiliar.
OK, my second piece of advice, try some of the following:
Big Rock: Yes, I said try something new. Big Rock surely is very familiar to Calgary beer drinkers, with a strong lineup of craft beer. But they have released four new beers this fall alone, and if they have even half of them on tap at the festival, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. There’s the Life of Chai Ale, the Monkey’s Fist Royal IPA, their Gerstemeister Marzen and the Anthea Wet Hop Ale, which was just released this week. All of them are tasty.
Creemore Springs: Between Creemore’s Premium Lager and Barking Squirrel, I’m kind of ruined for pale lagers. Slightly nutty with good hop balance, it is a easy drinking amber lager.
Hog’s Head Brewing: This St. Albert brewery is relatively new to the scene, but us fast growing. They’re known for a pair of hoppy numbers — the 105 IBU Hop Slayer and the mild (by comparison) 75 IBU Baby Back Hops IPA . Go with the Baby Back for a good dose of hops, and have a taste of their Death By Pumpkin Ale while you’re there.
Granville Island Brewing: I am an unapologetic fan of the GIB Lion’s Winter Ale. If you haven’t had it, you should.
Rodenbach: In a recent interview, Wild Rose brewmaster Brian Smith said one beer he figured we’d see more of is the barrel-aged sour beer. Rodenbach is a Belgian brewery known for this style of beer. So get ahead of the curve.
OK, I’ll admit I am no expert when it comes to wine. And given it’s the Rocky Mountain WINE and Food Festival, it would be a lot of learning on my part.
But there are many on the list I like. And some I’m just curious about.
19 Crimes: This Shiraz-Durif blend is quite tasty, easy drinking red from Australia.
Sokol Blosser: This Oregon winery makes the very approachable and inexpensive Evolution blends. The white has been around for years, while the red is newer on the market. And the red is the one I would suggest (writer’s bias: I prefer red to white most of the time, except when it comes to food. Then I’m more open). A lot of fruit, but with enough balancing tannins.
The Dreaming Tree: Normally I’m skeptical of celebrity wines. But the pairing of renowned wine drinker Dave Matthews, who has had his own winery in Virginia since 2000, with award-winning California winemaker Steve Reeder has me curious.
Cono Sur: This Chilean wine mainstay, produces a great line of organic wines, and their 20 Barrels range has received high marks in Wine Spectator magazine.
Concha Y Toro: This is another big name in Chilean wine, but it has done well for itself with accolades around the world. Its Late Harvest a standout, and was a favourite of mine at a past festival.
Glenfarclas: This is a great range of single malt scotch, with a heavy sherry influence. Within a wide range there is an underlying note of demerara sugar. It is a classic.
Jack Daniels Gentleman Jack: If you like Jack, you’ll love the Gentleman. It’s twice filtered through charcoal, and is a great sipping whiskey.
Gordon & MacPhail: I have had the good fortune of trying some of Gordon & MacPhail’s rarest bottlings. This independent company bottles hundreds of single malt whisky expressions from dozens of distilleries. They select from the best of the best casks and age them to their specifications. Make sure to stop by their table.
El Jimador: I first tried an El Jimador in an Earl’s margarita. It is one of Mexico’s top-selling tequila brands and has won multiple awards.
Macallan: The Macallan is one of Scotland’s largest distilleries, producing a delicious range of Fine Oak and Sherry Oak whiskies. New to the range is the 1824 Series, four vibrant 100% sherry wood expressions that impart characteristics of their colours.
When it comes to events like this, it’s hard to find bad food, but I want easy-to-eat food. Two bites or something on a stick. Or a cone. Or a crostini. Anything else gets in the way of drinking.
There is a bounty of fine food on offer, representing a host of international cuisines.
MARKET: Bison Tartar, served on a sesame cone. Bison pairs great with red wine. And the cone makes for easy eating.
Black Betty: Betty Slider. Whether it’s wine or beer, a burger is versatile, and great event food.
Double ELLE Bakery: Double chocolate brownie. Pair it with whisky. Scotch and chocolate go great together, and there’s no shortage of chocolate on the menu at the festival.
Empanada Queen: These are tasty pockets of South American flavour, and easy to eat on the go.
Il Forno Vagabondo — Wood Fired Pizza: Like with a burger, pizza goes great with wine and beer. But my choice would be beer. A malty pale ale.
St Ambroise, Canada