Winefest Calgary quenches local oenophiles’ thirst for knowledge by uncorking the world

With hundreds of wines to sample at the upcoming Winefest Calgary, patrons may want to keep one tip in mind.

“Take your time,” Katie Hopkins, senior event coordinator with Winefest, says with a laugh. “It’s not a race.”

It may not be a race, but it is a glorious weekend for wine lovers and curious drinkers, alike. With more than 370 wines from over 70 wineries, Hopkins says the event, held Friday, Feb. 22 and Saturday, Feb. 23 at the Stampede Park BMO Centre, offers an amazing opportunity to try something new. 

“We like to say Winefest is like being in your favourite liquor store with all the bottles open for sampling.”

As for those bottles, there will be a wide array from around the world, but with a particular focus on wines from Rioja, Spain, as this is the first year Winefest is featuring a particular region. Rioja, located in between Barcelona and Madrid, is known for its Tempranillo, “a really easygoing, fruit-forward” grape varietal, says Hopkins. 

All attendees will automatically be entered into a draw for a trip to Rioja. (Hot tip: additional entries can be made online at and at the Rioja booths.)

Nine wineries from the region will be on hand, but if attendees are looking for wines that hail closer to home, four Canadian wineries — Castoro de Oro, Sonora Desert, Wild Goose and Devonian Coast — will also be showcasing their goods.

For a patriotic pour, Hopkins suggests checking out Devonian Coast’s Great Big Friggin’ Red, a dark red that the Nova Scotian winery created for Canada’s 150th anniversary. 

“I haven’t tried it yet, but they describe it a supple, full, easy-drinking wine,” she says. “And it’s aged in Canadian oak and maple wood.”

Hopkins is personally excited for the number of rosé wines being poured this year, 21, compared to last year’s eight.

She also has a few final suggestions for attendees. 

Keep track of your favourite wines in the tasting notebooks, which are provided upon entry, and vote for the People’s Choice Awards on your way out.

You should also onsider bringing a non-perishable food item for the Calgary Food Bank. 

Last but not least — and on the topic of food — know that there will be bite-sized hors d’oeuvres and some larger items, like short rib and tortellini, to sample. “But it’s not a meal,” she says. “Maybe eat a little before you come.”

Sage advice for thirsty guests, indeed.

Tickets for Winefest Calgary, which takes place Friday, Feb. 22 and Saturday, Feb. 23 at the BMO Centre, are available at A ticket includes wine and food sampling, as well as a Riedel wine glass to take home. 

Michelle Magnan McIvor is a Calgary-based writer. A former health and wellness columnist with the Calgary Herald, she has written for publications such as Maclean’s, Canadian Business, Chatelaine, Flare, Avenue and Reader’s Digest. You can find Michelle on TwitterInstagram and, most days, drinking coffee somewhere in Mission.