Calgary Stampede elevates its wine programming

New events added following an inaugural international wine competition

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The Calgary Stampede is just over a month away, and if you’re a wine lover, there’s a lot more to enjoy this year.

The Stampede has introduced new wine events and experiences to highlight the connection between agriculture, food and beverages.

“Agriculture has always been at the heart of the Calgary Stampede,” said Joel Cowley, the Stampede’s CEO, in a news release.

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“Grape wine is one of Canada’s highest value-added agricultural products and we are proud to highlight its importance through a new series of events and experiences that celebrate the best in Canadian and international viticulture.”

The new programming is built around the results of the inaugural Stampede Cellar Showdown, an international wine competition held at the BMO Centre in February. I was lucky enough to be one of the 32 judges who helped taste more than 550 wines over three days. At conclusion, the top wines earned trophies while gold, silver and bronze medals were also awarded.

The top-performing wines will be featured at the June 22 Stampede Cellar Uncorked event in the newly expanded BMO Centre. The event will feature winning wines and bites prepared by top restaurants. Tickets for the event are $125 per person.

Notable wines from the competition will also be available during the Stampede, from July 5 to 14, at venues on the Stampede grounds, including the new Stampede Cellar Wine Garden.

As well, a premium tasting of wines from the legendary Bordeaux house Chateau Mouton Rothschild will be led by co-owner Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild and head winemaker Jean Emmanuel Danjoy at 7 p.m. on July 7 at Rotary House on the Stampede grounds. Tickets for the exclusive event are $325 per person and include entrance to the Stampede grounds.

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Learn more about the top-performing wines at the Stampede Cellar Showdown at CalgaryStampede.com. Here are three of the wines that earned top honours.

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Bodegas Salentein

2020

Reserve Malbec

Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina

This wine won the award for top value wine in the Stampede Cellar Showdown. Co-owned by Calgarian Ben Pon, the winery was started by his father, Dutch ex-pat and businessman Mijndert Pon with his first vineyard planted in 1996.

The winery now boasts 900 hectares of high-elevation vineyards in the Uco Valley, one of the prime spots for wine in the larger region of Mendoza. There are three brands run by the company – Salentein, named after Mijndert Pon’s estate in the Netherlands, Killka and Portillo.

Made of 100 per cent malbec, this medium-full bodied red is deep purple/ruby in colour, with juicy flavours of black cherry, wild strawberry, vanilla, black licorice, dusty earth, plum and spice. With persistent acidity and ripe, smooth tannins, it’s an easy-drinking malbec without too much extraction.

Price: About $22. Look for it at Co-op Wines Spirits Beer, Liquor Baron, Sundance Liquor, Urban Cellars and
Willow Park Wine & Spirits

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Drink: In the next three years. Try it with wild boar ragu, barbecued brisket or a grilled T-bone steak. Cork; 14.5 per cent alc./vol.

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Osoyoos Larose

2019

Le Grand Vin

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

This red blend from the Okanagan Valley wowed judges, earning the honour of top red wine in the competition. It was launched in 1998 when France’s Groupe Taillan, owners of several wine properties in Bordeaux including Chateau Gruaud Larose, partnered with Canadian-owned Vincor International (now part of Constellation Brands) to plant vineyards near Osoyoos. In 2013, the French firm bought out its partner to take sole control of the project.

Le Grand Vin is built to last. I was able to taste a bottle of the 2009 vintage provided by the winery last year and it was excellent — balanced, with dried fruit flavours and lots of captivating tertiary notes.

From the warm, balanced 2019 vintage, this blend consists of 65 per cent merlot, 16 per cent cabernet franc, seven per cent of both cabernet sauvignon and malbec, plus five per cent petit verdot. Flavours of plum, black cherry, vanilla, leather and mocha predominate on the lush and rich palate. It is very approachable now but will improve with some time. The vintage available in Calgary will switch to 2020 soon, and it is also a stunner. You can’t lose with either vintage.

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Price: Around $60. The wine is available from larger retailers and small boutiques alike. Check with your neighbourhood store.

Drink: In the next five to seven years. Try it with prime rib steak, elk, lamb or white cheddar. Cork; 14.5 per cent alc./vol.

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Champagne Collard-Picard

Non-vintage

Prestige Extra Brut

Champagne, France

This impressive Champagne won the Reserve Grand Champion award at the Stampede tasting, finishing second overall to the Grand Champion Poggio Landi 2020 Rosso di Montalcino.

Collard-Picard is operated by the husband-and-wife team of Olivier Collard and Caroline Collard-Picard. Both have long histories in Champagne, with their families growing grapes in the famous sparkling wine region since the 1890s. The couple launched their own winery in 1996.

The fruit for this blend is primarily from Grands Cru and Premiers Cru vineyards. It is half chardonnay, plus equal parts of pinor noir and pinot meunier. The bulk of the wine is from the 2014 vintage (35 per cent), with the rest from 2011, 2012 and 2013. All the wines were aged in barrel on the lees for a year, before spending another four years in bottle.

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This is a rich, attention-getting Champagne, with lots of autolytic character such as brioche and cream on the nose and palate. Lime and lemon meringue, nuts and some spice perk up the palate. It is a fabulous Champagne in the richer style.

Price: About $80. Look for it at Bin 905, Craft Cellars, Crowfoot Wine and Spirits signature store, Heritage Wine and Spirits, Highlander Wine and Spirits in Marda Loop, Liquorville Tuxedo and Willow Park Wines & Spirits.

Drink: Now. Enjoy it on its own, with a white fish in a cream sauce or a savoury quiche. Cork; 12 per cent alc./vol.

Contact Darren Oleksyn at [email protected] or follow him on Instagram or X. Looking for a specific wine? Because wine inventories are always in flux, it’s a good idea to call a store to confirm they have it. A search on Liquorconnect.com can give you an idea of stores that have carried the wines.

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