The 20th Anniversary Top 20


For a festival celebrating its 20th anniversary, it’s apropos that a record number of wines were submitted for consideration in Cornucopia’s annual top wines awards.

With 167 exceptional wines on the table, determining the winners of Cornucopia’s 20th Anniversary Top 20 Competition was not for the faint of heart (or palate). DJ Kearney, international wine educator, wine writer, festival presenter and head judge, led the diverse panel of experts from Whistler and Vancouver. Each judge is recognized as a leader in their field within the B.C. food and wine industry, and includes wine directors, wine instructors, food and wine writers, sommeliers and restaurateurs. The panel gathered for the day in a blind tasting session at Whistler’s Quattro Restaurant on September 19.

“To receive 167 high-caliber entries is an indication of the festival’s stature among B.C.’s wine and food festivals,” says DJ Kearney, Cornucopia Top 20 chief judge. “With the finalists reduced to 20 wines in honour of Cornucopia’s 20th anniversary, it was even harder than usual to determine the best of the best. Don’t think I’m complaining, though — I led a crack team of Whistler and Vancouver experts who fearlessly blind tasted and evaluated the record number of entries on-site in Whistler. I’m looking forward to seeing the crowds arrive for the festival and make their own discoveries among the blockbuster lineup of wines at this year’s event.”

With characteristics such as colour, aroma, flavour and finish taken into evaluation; the scores were tallied and the top 20 wines were chosen.  Judges were put to the test.  Paul Street, VP of Food and Beverage for Whistler Blackcomb was one of the 14 on the panel. “It was an honour to judge the Cornucopia Top 20 under DJ Kearney, with such an experienced panel of judges from both Whistler and Vancouver. The wines were excellent, and I was pleased to see such a great mix of domestic and international wines represented. It’s too bad we couldn’t have awarded more of the wines, but this leaves more opportunity for discovery by Cornucopia attendees!”

Eric Blouin, judge and Cornucopia Ambassador agreed, “It is so great to be able to host this competition here in Whistler with a full Whistler hospitality crew on the tasting panel. With a record 167 wines submitted, you can definitely see that there’s some excitement in the industry for Cornucopia’s 20th Anniversary.”

Eric Griffith, of Whistler’s Alta Bistro noted, “The tasting was set up professionally with DJ Kearney overseeing to allow for a blind tasting and it was a real test to taste so many wines systematically and assess their merits in a short time.  The panels were moderated very well and the tasting groups were able to focus in on the wines which were the best in the flights – there was a lot of agreement concerning the the best of each grouping and which wines were considered for the Top 20.  I felt that our group did a good job finding the best, no wines that weren’t meant to be top were left behind.  The wines voted into the Top 20 are definitely worth finding and buying for enjoyment this Fall at Cornucopia!”

As in previous years, the judges recognized the Top 20 wines and awarded three wines as the Top Bubble, Top White and Top Red.

Without further ado, the Top 20 wines for 2016 are:

Top Bubble – Haywire The BUB 2014
Top White – Quails’ Gate Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay 2014
Top Red – Kaiken Reserva Malbec 2013

Best of the Rest, in alphabetical order:

  • Barossa Valley Estate Shiraz 2014
  • Black Hills Nota Bene 2014
  • C.C. Jentsch Cellars Cabernet Merlot 2014
  • C.C. Jentsch Cellars Syrah 2014
  • Ceretto Barolo DOCG 2011
  • Ceretto Langhe DOC Arneis Blangé
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling 2014
  • Culmina Family Estate Winery Dilemma 2014
  • Foxtrot Vineyards Foxtrot Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013
  • Hardys William Hardy Shiraz 2014
  • Harper’s Trail Pioneer Block Dry Riesling 2014
  • Howard Park Miamup Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
  • Mascota Vineyards Unanime 2012
  • Pegau Plan VSIG
  • Tantalus Chardonnay 2014
  • Villa Maria Taylors Pass Vineyard Chardonnay 2013
  • Villa Maria Taylors Pass Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012

Cornucopia participants can congratulate the winners and sample these wines during the festival at Crush Grand Tasting, and Cornucopia Trade Tasting (exclusive to industry professionals).

An enormous thank you to Cornucopia’s expert judges:

  • DK Kearney, Head Judge
  • Andre St. Jacques
  • Daenna Van Mulligen
  • David Brownridge
  • Eric Blouin
  • Eric Griffith
  • Geoff Weddell
  • Joanne DiGeso
  • Kurtis Kolt
  • Luc Trottier
  • Michael Kompass
  • Olivia Halla
  • Paul Street
  • Samantha Rahn
Judges Daenna Van Mulligen, Geoff Weddell and Michael Kompass Photo: Julie Zoney


Flight of White at the Top 20. Photo: Julie Zoney

Where Culinary Minds Meet

A meeting of culinary minds will take place in Whistler during Cornucopia, presented by BlueShore Financial when the festival welcomes a stellar lineup of nine chefs from near and far to head up the Chef’s Table Luncheons and The Culinary Stage demonstrations.

Making their first appearance in Whistler are Cornucopia 2016 International Guest Chefs – Benito Molina and Solange Muris from one of Latin America’s Top 50 restaurants – Manzanilla restaurant in Ensenada, Mexico. Molina trained at the New England Culinary Institute and worked in Brittany before learning Mediterranean techniques under Chef Todd English, while Muris trained at the Central Piedmont Culinary College in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Minami Chef’s Table Luncheon, 2015. Photo: Darby Magill


Next up, Chef Luis Valenzuela returns to the stages of Cornucopia. Valenzuela, originally from Guadalajara, Mexico – immigrated to Toronto in 2001 where he is now co-owner and executive chef of Carmen Cocina Espanola – named in 2013 as one of Canada’s Best New Restaurants by Enroute Magazine.

UK-born Chef Dan Hayes will make his way “across the pond” from Victoria, B.C. Co-owner of The London Chef cooking school with his wife Micayla, Hayes will showcase his classic French training and love of rustic Mediterranean cuisine during Cornucopia. When Chef Hayes is not in the kitchen you can find him on TV as host of documentary food series Moosemeat & Marmalade.

Alan Ferrer, executive chef of Yaletown hotspot Minami Contemporary Japanese regaled past-Cornucopia goers with the restaurant’s specialty – Aburi sushi. Aburi is an old-school method of cooking in which the topside is lightly seared with a blowtorch and bamboo charcoal. That said, there’s more to Chef Ferrer’s repertoire than Aburi, of course, which he will present during a Chef’s Table Luncheon.

Edible British Columbia founder and proprietor, Chef Eric Pateman will share his insatiable passion for the great food and wine available in British Columbia on The Culinary Stage. Pateman has become a leading ambassador of Canadian cuisine, co-authored two books “The BC Seasonal Cookbook” and “How Canadians Communicate About Food” and is a recipient of the Mayor of Vancouver’s Art Award for Culinary Arts in 2013 as well as being named a Top 40 Under 40 Business People and Top 40 Under 40 Foodies in Western Canada.

Chef Eric Pateman on the Cornucopia Culinary Stage, 2015. Photo: Darby Magill


Renowned Vancouver Chef David Hawksworth – of Hawksworth Restaurant — will demonstrate why he’s considered one of Canada’s leading culinary influencers during his Chef’s Table Luncheon.  Hawksworth is certainly no stranger to Whistler, as an avid skier, he has partnered on several occasions with Whistler Blackcomb for a series of pop-up lunches and après. In addition to Hawksworth’s numerous awards such as Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards Restaurant of the Year and Chef of the Year (2012, 2013) and for four consecutive years, Best Upscale Dining, as well as enRoute magazine’s top three Best New Restaurants, and Maclean’s magazine Restaurant of the Year – Hawksworth is also known for the Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship Foundation; a recent partnership with Air Canada for signature dishes exclusively featured on Air Canada flights in International Business Class and in Maple Leaf Lounges, television appearances and charitable causes including his long-standing commitment to Fishing For Kids the West Coast Fishing Club’s annual charity tournament benefiting the Canucks Autism Network.

Closer to home, Chef Randy Jones – chef/owner of Pemberton’s Mile One Eating House once again returns for his extremely popular (and quick sell-out) Culinary Stage event – Pembytopia. Mile One Eating House’s motto is “we take comfort food seriously” and the restaurant team is passionate about showcasing great B.C. food & beverage products. Jones’s culinary career began at the Dubrulle French Culinary School in Vancouver and then to an apprenticeship with Fairmont Hotels & Resorts. He has worked in kitchens from seaside, to mountain top and all points in between with locations like Tofino, Whistler, the Canadian Rockies, the South Chilcotin and downtown Vancouver. His passion for the bounty of B.C. has evolved from these amazing places, with the casual offering of Mile One Eating House reflecting this.

Last but certainly not least – in anticipation of the upcoming winter season — two of Whistler Blackcomb’s culinary leaders will also join the fun of Cornucopia.

Born and raised in the Bavarian Alps – Executive Chef Wolfgang Sterr, joined Whistler Blackcomb in 2011. Combining his two loves for food and snowboarding, Sterr worked in Davos, Arosa and Engelberg Switzerland on a quest to expand his culinary knowledge. Over the next four years he was exposed to Italian, French and German cuisine and was able to snowboard 100 days each season. As is the story with the majority of Whistler-ites – Sterr initially came to Whistler on a snowboard vacation in 1991 and fell in love with Canada. After moving around the country for several years, Sterr returned to Whistler for a visit in March 2010 which made Wolfgang realize that life has more to offer than just work and the mountains called out to him to return. And in a twist of fate Sterr joined Whistler Blackcomb to run the Roundhouse lodge, and nine months into the journey, was promoted to Executive Chef to help lead the massive food and beverage division which includes 17 on and off mountain restaurants.

Steve Ramey joined Christine’s on Blackcomb as Head Chef as part of the restaurants re-vamp and re-launch in 2015 – just in time for Whistler Blackcomb’s 50th Anniversary. In this new role, Ramey brought the culinary prowess he honed as the sous-chef at Vancouver’s renowned Hawksworth Restaurant to Whistler Blackcomb. Ramey was awarded his Culinary Apprenticeship and Inter-provincial Red Seal in 2007; and in August 2003, he was the top apprentice in his class. He started with the Hawksworth Group in 2011 and was responsible for menu development. Under his watch, Hawksworth Restaurant was consistently named Vancouver’s top restaurant, and one of the best restaurants in Canada.

This is just a snippet of culinary offerings at this year’s Cornucopia. A plethora of winery dinners at Whistler’s best restaurants, drink seminars, various tasting events including the must-attend flagship tasting event Crush Grand Tasting — there is a menu for every taste and budget.  Don’t miss out – tickets are on sale now.

Loving Local Honey: How Sweet-Hearted Foodies Can Save The Planet, One Jar At A Time.

by Lisa Richardson

“Your average consumer is curious about colony collapse, or honey’s health benefits. But serious foodies are the only ones asking about fake honey.” ~ Bruce Boynton, CEO of the US National Honey Board. 

You just have to learn a little bit about honey to realize it’s a true culinary marvel, but it takes a foodie, it seems, to appreciate that this rare delicacy is in danger.

Across the world, honey is being cut with corn syrup, or adulterated with illegal Chinese honey, or even packaged and counterfeited as a different type of honey altogether. It doesn’t help that the bees themselves are in peril – dying off in unprecedented numbers.

Which is why the beekeepers of the BC, including throughout the Sea to Sky, are perhaps the most important people in our entire local food chain. After all, in a world without bees, there’s not much left to eat. To say nothing of honey, which may truly be the most underrated foodstuff on earth. Just ask the pharaohs. They were entombed with it. And because of the marvellous bacteria-proof nature of the stuff, when they peeled back the wax seal on the honeycomb, the honey found in Egyptian tombs was still edible. It hadn’t gone bad, because honey doesn’t go bad.  It’s that good.

Delores Los is one of Pemberton’s most experienced bee keepers.

As a young Outdoor Ed teacher in Squamish, she was asked to take on the care of the school’s hives. Knowing nothing about bees, she sought out a local expert, the late Orval Van Horlick, of Paradise Valley, one of Squamish’s pioneers, who took her under his wing. When she later moved up to teach at the Pemberton Outdoor School, she set up hives and kept bees there for 15 years.

40 years after that first entree into bee-keeping, she has eight hives of her own, housing, at the height of summer, almost 800,000 bees.

When she realized that a new generation of young bee keepers was coming to the craft – inspired in part by the media attention given to colony collapse disorder – she initiated a beekeepers association in Pemberton, which now has 23 members, from 80 year old veterans to complete rookies, sharing know-how, and building a stronger bee-keeping community.

This July, Mark Winston, bee expert and the award-winning author of Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive, reported that BC bees are thriving, with the lowest colony winter losses in North America –  a resilience due partly to the high level of expertise among local bee keepers, and partly because the bee colonies tend to be smaller, local, and less industrial here.

He’s also noted a shift in bee-keeping, over his 40 years in the craft, since the advent of the bee apocalypse. “A typical local meeting of bee-keepers used to have ten crotchety men over the age of 70.” Now, even for a local meeting, hundreds of people, including young people and women, are in the crowd. “People care about bees. And the new wave of beekeepers also care about food, and growing local, and many put bee health first, emphasizing the enjoyment of beekeeping as much or more as maximizing colony productivity. It’s a movement deeply rooted in an expanding food culture that favors local farming and reductions of synthetic pesticide and fertilizer use.”

It’s a trend that the Fairmont Hotels & Resorts embraced, placing honeybee hives on rooftop gardens and installing wild bee “hotels”, throughout their hotels from 2008. The Fairmont Chateau Whistler installed four beehives in 2013, expanding to 12 hives last year, which house between 180,000 and 300,000 bees each year. With the help of honeybee keeper Steve Gourley, of Gold Strike Honey, (a Squamish and Whistler Farmers’ Market regular) who checks in on them weekly, the Fairmont’s bees produce about 180 kg/400 lbs of delicate wildflower honey every season, for use by the Chef and mixology team.

Photo: Rob Miller / Fairmont Chateau Whistler

Gourley actually relocated his own bees to Lillooet, from the Fraser Valley where he was grown and raised, in 2012, in search of a less contaminated ecosystem. “We decided to take a leap of faith and come up and try and produce honey in a cleaner environment.” It worked. “They look amazing now.”

In Gourley’s ideal world, every ditch would be full of flowers and every yard would be full of dandelions.

And every table, no doubt, would feature authentic local honey.

They can’t do it alone. They might have millions of bees on their side, but they need us, too, to swell their ranks, be loud for local, devour their honey, and revel in imperfect clover-covered lawns.

Writer Lisa Richardson has been lovingly awarded Pemberton’s favourite writer award 7 years running. Cornucopia’s favourite local food writer, Lisa is currently also senior writer for Coast Mountain Culture magazine, editor of the Winds of Change’s Wellness Almanac and columnist in the Whistler Question.  

For more about living locally and living sustainably, check out Cornucopia’s fresh ideas at Nourish – our series dedicated to action and play in the world and in the kitchen.

Photos: Photo: Rob Miller / Fairmont Chateau Whistler