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Wine, cheese and infrared cooked steak bites at Cornucopia's CRUSH Gala Grand Tasting

Party time
Photos by Kelly Jean Marion -- @kellyjean247

The Crush Gala Grand Tasting is a renowned and highly anticipated event. As in years past the event is held on both Friday and Saturday night so that Cornucopia attendees can fit it in with the rest of their hectic weekend schedule. This year lived up to its expectations, boasting a wide variety of quality wines and new vintage releases.

Wine, Tasting

For many the objective for the event was simple, navigate through the crowd to taste as many wines as possible before stumbling back to the hotel. For others, structure was key and with a check list of wines to drink in hand they sipped, swirled and spat. These wines included the winners of the Top 25 Wines at Cornucopia Contest selected by a panel of esteemed industry professionals.

Three categories were added this year: Top Red, Top White and Top Sparkling.

Top Red: Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Reserva 2006

Top White: Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars Chardonnay 2011

Top Sparkling: Cristalino Cava Brut

I was impressed to see that five out of six of the wines at the Christopher Stewart Wine and Spirits table were part of the Top 25 Wines.

Wine, Tasting

Well-known vineyards, including some of my favorites (Iniskillin Okanagan Estate, Dirty Laundry, Quails Gate Winery and Fort Berens Estate Winery) were pouring a handful of wines each.

There were also some that I had never seen or tasted before that caught my eye, like the newly released Jam Jar. This sweet Shiraz was a nice break from the dry Chardonnays and big Cabernet Sauvignons with it's sugary but not treacly mouthful that didn't make you feel like you were drinking syrup. The great thing about this one is that it is only $14.99 which is cheap compared to many other comparable "dessert wines" on the market. Pair this one with some shortbread and you have yourself some Jam Thumbprint cookies without the red thumb.

Jam Jar

Apothic Winemakers Blends were there pouring their established Apothic Red while also dishing out their newly released (September 2012) Apothic White.

In addition to the 58 vineyards that were handing out tasters, there were also other merchants showcasing their goods.

Four Season's Restaurant, Sidecut, had a consistent line of wine-lovers eager to have a seasoned steak bite to go with their bold reds. The restaurant is famous for their custom rubs, high quality Canadian Prime Beef and their 1800 degree infrared grill. Have you ever had a steak cooked through infrared light?

Sidecut, Steak

To appease the vegetarians in the crowd, Whistler Cooks Catering kept a continuous flow of addicting wild mushroom tarts, while Daiya supplied dairy free grilled cheese sandwiches for the lactose intolerant.

Daiya, Grilled Cheese

Roger's Chocolates was also there with trays of themed chocolates, all alcohol induced like the guests at the event. I wasn't one to turn down chocolates flavoured like Mojitos (shown below), Mai Tais, Pina Coladas and Lemon Drops.

 Rogers Chocolates

Of course where there is wine there must also be cheese. On Friday night's Crush Dairy Farmers of Canada was giving out samples while on Saturday it was Moonstruck Organic Cheese. Not only are both companies represented by knowledgeable and friendly staff but they make some damn good cheese. I particularly liked Moonstruck's Brie which, like all of their cheese, is made from the milk of the doe-eyed Jersey cows.

Moonstruck Cheese, Jersey Cow

Van Houtte, a partner of Cornucopia, provided caffeine to keep guests alert at this event as while as many others during the festival. Whistler water was there to keep everyone hydrated while also determining (if they didn't already know) what kind of drinker they were in general or for the night. A tough choice, I decided to be a swiller. Whether I lived up to that title or not I can't be sure.

Whistler Water

Whistler Animals Galore (WAG) was the charity supported that weekend, which coincided perfectly with the Whistler sled dog memorial that happened just a week before.

The event proved to be a success with many leaving with a goofy grin and a staggered step. It will no doubt be a "must attend" event next year.

For more photos from this year's event check out my CRUSH gallery on Flickr. Or check out my collection of photos from the ten events I attended at Cornucopia.

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