Monday, February 17, 2014

World of Wines at Winefest Edmonton

Winefest Tickets
I was lucky enough to initially to win tickets to Winefest through a contest run by @Argenplath on her blog, What Would Argenplath Pay? A few days before Winefest, @michpetersjones also managed to get me on the attendee list for the media preview. The great thing about being able to attend both events was that I was able to experience Winefest from both the media and the public’s perspective, as I was betting both events would be very different.

The Wines

So you know why I enjoyed the wines that I enjoyed, I’ll be honest and tell you that I am a fan of white wines and champagne first and foremost, particularly Riesling and vintage champagnes. I have been trying to get into red wines more recently, but find that I tend to lean towards those that have a fruitier taste and are mildly sweet. I am not a fan of red wines that taste bold and oaky, nor do I enjoy white wines that are so dry I feel parched just drinking them. You won’t see any wines from the USA on this list as I have tried many in the past, and inevitably, they give me a migraine. I couldn’t tell you why, but I have tried whites, reds and sparkling wines from California and Washington to be sure, and it always ends up the same, me feeling like my poor head is going to explode, so I try to avoid them whenever possible.

My Favorite Wines

White Wines

Bostavan Muscat (Moldova) – Lightly sweet, much less so than a Riesling, but still easy to drink on it’s own and as someone who is just learning to drink wines.

Dirty Laundry Woo Woo Vines Gerwurz (Canada) – Easily the easiest drinking white wine of Winefest, a Gewurtzaminer which is not as sweet as a Riesling but still mildly sweet and enjoyable on it’s own.

Lonely Shaman Merlot &
Stradivari Rubin
Red Wines

Bostavan Bastardo (Moldova) – This red wine reminded me a lot of Riesling, sweet and easy to drink on it’s own. Good choices for younger wine drinkers who are new to wines or red wines and are looking for something very approachable. By the way, Bastardo is a type of grape, not just the winery trying to come up with an interesting name, something they pointed out to us as many people don’t realize, much like we didn’t, that there is a grape called Bastardo.

Lonely Shaman Merlot (Moldova) – A very approachable red that doesn’t even resemble a red wine, this particular merlot is mildly sweet, smooth and very easy to drink for those who are new to red wines. It would also pair nicely with spicy food, or could easily be drunk on it’s own. This was easily my absolutely favorite red wine of Winefest.

According to the representatives from Unix Imports Ltd and Celestial Wine and Spirits,  although Moldova might not spring to mind as a great wine-growing region, they have been making wines for over 5,000 years, and have only recently begun to gain ground on the international scene after they gained their independence from the USSR in 1991. Previously wineries were not privatized in Moldova and as such, most of their wines stayed within Eastern Europe, with the majority of their wine being sold to Russia. Since the privatization of wineries in 2000, they are working hard to convince liquor stores and consumers alike that Moldovan wines can compete with the best that we’ve already come to know.
Anna de Codorniu Spanish Cava


Anna de Codorniu Rose (Spain) – Although I’m not usually a fan of rose, I found this Spanish cava to be mildly sweet, bubbly, and as easy to drink as a non-alcoholic sparkling beverage. Curtis, the wine representative, told us that this particular winery has been making wines since 1551 and was the first to bring the champagne method back to Spain to make the first sparkling wine in Spain in 1872.

Dessert Wines

Stradivari Rubin (Moldova) – Unlike traditional ports and ice wines, this dessert wine is no sweeter than a Riesling, making it drinkable not only as a dessert wine, but on it’s own.

My Least Favorite Wines

White Wine

Yalumba Y Series Viognier (Australia) – Of all the wines I tasted, this was the most unpleasant thing I put in my mouth all day. It’s described as “An alluring mix of honeysuckle, candied ginger and glace pineapple aromas. Fresh flavors of fresh pineapple and dried figs.” However, both my guest and myself tried this on Saturday afternoon and immediately found it tasted unpleasant and almost foul in our mouths. I thought it might be my aversion to ginger, but considering my friend also didn’t like it and has similar taste as I do in wine, I think it was just this combination of flavors didn’t agree with us.

Rimon Pomegranate Wines
Red Wine

19 Crimes Shiraz Durif (Australia) – This particular red wine tasty very smoky, oaky, and the taste was so strong I felt like it was kicking me in the mouth! This is definitely a wine that you would have to pair with a gamier red meat in order to ensure the wine didn’t overwhelm the taste of your meal, and is definitely not one you would enjoy a glass of on it’s own. This red wine epitomized everything I dislike about red wines and unfortunately, was one I couldn’t wait to get the taste of out of my mouth.

Honorable Mentions Wines

Red Wines

Vina Zaco (Spain) – A Spanish wine given 90 points by Wine Spectator, I found it fruity, light, with a smooth body and very easy to drink for a red wine.

Dessert Wines

Rimon Pomegranate Dessert Wine (Israel) – I was intrigued as this wine, unlike traditional wines made from grapes, was made instead from pomegranates! Unlike other dessert wines such as port or ice wine, I found this dessert wine to be nowhere near as sweet and actually very refreshing, with a juice like quality.


Goat cheese and caramelized onions
I found most of the food provided for the event to be mediocre, and everything seemed to be focused on cheese in all its forms. There was just plain cheese in the form of boccocini with tomatoes, and goat cheese with caramelized onions – served on silver spoons for the media preview and on crackers for the public events. For melted cheese fans there was arancini, least to say there was more cheese than risotto, as well as flat bread with cheese and various toppings, which were more doughy than cheesy, and some sort of phyllo filled with crab and cheese. During the media event, appetizers were set up on tables where people could help themselves. During the public event on Saturday, in addition to these stations, they also had servers roaming around offering them to attendees.

The Cheesiry was also in attendance offering a variety of sheep cheese including a port infused pecorino, pecorino naturale, provence herb pecorino, peppercorn pecornio and fresco, all of which were much more delicious than any of the previously aforementioned appetizers offered by Winefest.

Other food vendors that we tried include COBS Bread which three offerings, but my favorite was their “Pane Crostini”, which was bruschetta on COBS Pane di Casa, which I found light and moist.

Nefiss Lezizz was offering a range of edible and non-edible products all made from Turkish olives, including olive oils, olives, liquid and bar soaps. Their olive oil had a nice citrus smell to it, with a full-bodied and buttery smooth feel as it coated my mouth, and had a mildly sweet taste to it, which I found enjoyable as compared to many olive oils which can almost have an acidic taste to it.

Of my least favorite food vendors oddly enough was Bernard Callebaut, whose chocolate I normally enjoy. However, their dark chocolate sea salt caramel tasted mostly of caramel, which completely overwhelmed the sea salt and chocolate. Their rosemary chocolate had an odd kick of heat to it, and we actually had to have a second piece to see if we were imagining it. However, there definitely lacked any rosemary flavor and we found the chocolate tasted more of a spicy cayenne than anything else, unsettling since we were expecting a gentle rosemary flavor.

The Mobile App

This year, Winefest launched a mobile app to help guests navigate Winefest as well as to allow them to notate their favorite wines with just the tap of a finger. I gave their app a whirl and have to say that it has a long way to go before I would find it remotely useful.

Cheese from The Cheesiry

Wines were listed alphabetically, one could easily use one hand to pick the wine and either click the star to “Favorite It” or the pencil icon to make some quick notes. Any wines that are “favorited” will have the star highlighted in the list view, making it an easy reference for anyone trying to remember which wines they enjoyed and might want to purchase after the show.


The floorplan looked like something they would have submitted to Shaw Conference Centre so they knew how to set up the space, and given to the vendors so they knew where to find their booths. However, since everything was labeled with a number instead of a name, it required that you cross reference with the list of wines to find the booth number, meaning you have to go back and forth between two separate parts of the app. That’s quite a bit of a work, and also, when you first open the floorplan, all the numbers were squished together and overlapped because the map was too big for the screen. In order to scale the map so the numbers are readable, you need to either put the phone down on a table so you can use one hand to scale it up or use two hands, which is difficult to do when you have a wine glass in one hand.

Also they had a “Show On Map” button under the Beverage Exhibitors section of the app which listed all the wine representatives and what wines they were representing. When you clicked “Show On Map”, it brought up the floorplan, with the booths they were located at indicated on the map. It would have been useful to include this feature in the Wines section as well, considering most people likely would be looking up the booths by the brand of wine, not by the company representing the wine.

People’s Choice

Pleased to meet ewe!
Although everyone could vote for their People’s Choice wine via a paper ballot at the event, I wish they had mentioned through the announcements during the event that it could also be done via the app, as my companion and I had trouble remembering the exact name of the wines we enjoyed but most certainly would’ve recognized the logo had we scrolled past it. The odd thing is in the People’s Choice section, there was a button along the top to that linked to the wines website, yet this link did not exist in the Wines section of the app. Most people would most likely only use the Wines section of the app to make their notes, so it would have been useful to include the links to the wineries in that part of the app as well.

Overall, I didn’t find the Winefest app all that useful considering during the public event, I really had to watch my surroundings to make sure I didn’t wind up wearing wine all over mooself because people were bumping into me on a pretty regular basis. As well, the one feature I would’ve liked to use was the floorplan, but I couldn’t look up locations by the brands of wine and wasn’t going to scroll through every vendor listed to find out who was representing what wine. Winefest needs to seriously overhaul their Winefest app if it’s going to be useful next year.

Wine Representatives

From the Media Perspective

COBS Bread
A lot of the wine representatives were very enthusiastic, talkative and informative, until they asked if we were from a liquor store and I said that I was a food blogger. After that, although they answered our questions, a lot of them were no longer oozing with information and enthusiasm, and didn’t hesitate to jump to help the next person who came along, and some almost completely ignored us after that.

All of the representatives from Unix Imports, Celestial Wine and Spirits and CanMold Trading Inc. were very enthusiastic, knowledgeable and eager to speak of the Moldovan wines they were representing. They were all very informative on the history of Moldovan wines, and all very supportive of the other Moldovan wines being represented in Winefest.

Major props to Curtis from Grady Wine Marketing, my favorite wine representative from the whole show during both the media preview on Friday afternoon, as well as the public event on Saturday afternoon. He was bubbly, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable, regardless of the fact that we were not from a liquor store. Unlike other wine representatives reactions, when he heard I was a food blogger, he continued telling us more facts about Anna de Codorniu, and even offering to move aside so I could get an unobstructed picture with the cava bottles! It was the first table where I felt welcome at when they found out I was not from a liquor store. When I returned on Saturday afternoon, he immediately remembered me and thanked me for my tweet saying he was my favorite wine representative of Winefest and that it made his day. Even though his booth was so swamped we barely made it to the front to say hello, he was still as enthusiastic as the day before and as bubbly as the cava he was representing!

From the Public Perspective

Nefiss Lezizz
I found many of the booths to be less talkative than they had been at the media preview on Friday afternoon. It might very well be due to the sheer volume of people there, making it difficult to engage everyone in conversation, whilst wine glasses were being shoved at them, begging to be filled with alcoholic ambrosia. It was less than ideal for those wanting to find out more about a particular wine, but understandable.

One wine representative seemed to be enjoying herself a bit TOO much. I have nothing against employees enjoying their job as it does come across when you’re pitching it to potential customers. However, I do think professionalism is required and although I would fully expect anyone selling alcohol to enjoy it and of course, sample it. I personally think that a “one for you, one for me”, attitude while serving alcohol to visitors at a wine show might be taking that enjoyment a bit too far. It’s possible that when we were there, that was the only time she did it, but it made us think she’d been drinking as much of the product as she was sampling to others, which when you’re there to do a job, is probably a bit much.

Some of the wine representatives were doing a less than stellar job of representing their wineries. One in particular, Vintage West Wine Marketing, who was representing Vina Koyle from Chile, was too busy visiting with friends during the Saturday afternoon session to even acknowledge or assist those visiting their booth when we came around. Even though the Saturday afternoon session was almost completely sold out according to the @Winefest Twiter feed, and one would think that like other wine representatives in attendance, they would be interested in trying to entice people to try the wine they were representing and hopefully create some loyal followers, that seemed to be the last thing on their mind as we stood there for several minutes waiting. Finally, we left to find another booth to sample.

Overall Experience

From the Media Perspective

Bernard Callebaut
The only thing I would say is that the wine representatives could learn a thing or two from Curtis, of Grady Wine Marketing – it doesn’t matter who the person standing in front of you is, they are a potential customer regardless. The thing that irked me most about the whole media preview was how disinterested many of the wine representatives seemed to be when they found out I was a food blogger. So I might not be buying thousands of units of your wine and directly helping your company make money. However, as a food blogger, I can certainly discuss my experience and if I don’t have a good experience, I’m going to let my readers know. Those that do treat me well will be equally recognized on my blog as those that do not treat me well. That will reflect either positively or negatively on the wines that the wine representatives were representing at Winefest because after all, we don’t get to meet the wine makers at this show, we only get to meet the wine representatives. Although the wine representatives work for companies that represent many wines, they have an obligation to the wine they are representing at that particular event to ensure they are representing them well on their behalf. This means not spending so much time chatting with friends they ignore potential customers at their table, over indulging in wine in front of attendees, or losing interest in someone because they don’t own a liquor store.

Other than that, I found that the media event was quite well put together and I enjoyed the fact that there were not too many people in attendance. It allowed me to actually enjoy myself without having to navigate through a ton of people and worry about spilling wine on mooself. Also, it was easier to approach wine representatives when there were not a lot of people fighting for their attention, and I’m sure it allowed them more time to discuss their wines.

From the Public Perspective

All I can say is CROWDED! Extremely crowded to the point that there were often places in the exhibition hall that were completely impassable. Although I’m happy for the organizers of Winefest that ticket sales were such a success, perhaps it’s a sign that they need to add an additional day to Winefest to decrease the number of attendees per session in order to increase the overall experience?

Need a break from drinking!
In addition to being crowded, I’m not sure if this had to do with the actual attendees or if people felt like they had to do it out of necessity, but there was a lot of shoving! When we attended on Saturday afternoon, we found a lot of people did not hesitate to shove their way to the front while others waited patiently in line for a taste of wine.

Also people were getting pretty darn drunk about an hour in, as the volume of the venue got increasingly louder. About an 1 ½ hours in, I actually commented while waiting in line at a wine booth “I can’t believe how many loud drunks there are!”, commenting on the people at the booth behind us, but the people in line in front of us actually turned around and apologized! Least to say a lot of people were starting to yell, while many other people, particularly women wearing excessively high heels were starting to bump and fall into everyone and everything – their dates, friends, strangers, and walls. By the end of the event at 5pm, we heard a lot of the souvenir Riedel glasses that attendees were allowed to keep, hitting the floor as everyone left the exhibition hall, and saw a lot of shattered glass inside and outside of the Shaw Conference Centre at street level. Least to say the loud yelling drunks, being bumped and fallen into, and avoiding shattered glass at the end of the event wasn’t particularly fun for me….

I’m not sure there is anything that the Winefest organizers could do about people’s behavior, I highly doubt it, but I wouldn’t have paid to attend Winefest had I not won them through a contest run by @Argenplath on her blog, What Would Argenplath Pay? Mostly because I could attend a much more civilized wine tasting event at a variety of wine stores in Edmonton for less than the cost of the $70 that a ticket to Winefest costs. Sure you don’t sample nearly the same number of wines, but if you’re like me and can’t drink very much anyway, the two to three sips I got at the dozen or so booth I visited would have added up to the same amount I would get at a sit down wine tasting where I didn’t have to worry about fighting crowds, being shoved, loud drunks and people falling into me.

Although I enjoyed being able to experience so many wines, as well as some of my interactions with wine representatives, as someone who doesn’t enjoy being jostled around, loud drunks, or rude people, I would probably wouldn’t spend the money to attend Winefest and spend the $70 on a sit down wine tasting or a few nice bottles of wine. However if you don’t mind and can handle that type of behavior, and are able to handle a lot of alcohol in a short period of time, and have $70 to spare, then it might be worth your time to attend Winefest as you do get to experience a wide variety of wines in a short span of time.

1 comment:

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