Much To Do About The Edmonton Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival


A few weeks ago the 12th Annual Edmonton Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival was held at the Shaw Conference Centre on the edge of Downtown and scenic river valley, and I was lucky enough to be given tickets to attend the Industry and Trade part of the festival, and a pair of tickets to raffle off as well.   I am late getting this post out and I apologize for my tardiness.

There were two reasons that I wanted to attend, first was that the Dairy Farmers of Canada were going to have a booth promoting Canadian Cheese and the second reason was Arla Foods was going to be promoting their new German Alpine Cheeses at the Festival as well.  I was accompanied with my “plus one”, Rick from Explorations with Sailor Rick, who not provided some pictures, but also shared his extensive knowledge of wine with me and made the night quite enjoyable.

Our first stop was the Dairy Farmers of Canada‘s booth to talk to the representatives, and given the tentative Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) that had just been announced between Canada and the EU, I thought it important to talk to them.  It give the EU more access to the Canadian Fine Cheese Market, and some feel that it will be the death knell for some small artisan producers in Canada.  I am more of a “Think of a Solution not the Problem” kind of person so I will leave the rhetoric to others.

I did have visions of asking some hard-hitting questions and playing devil’s advocate about CETA, but right of the bat we were greeted with cheese, and questions were out the window (along with remembering names too) but we had samples of Fromagerie Bergeron‘s new Medium Gouda which was a bit of a tease as it is not available in Alberta…Yet.  I spoke with the person from Bergeron and heard him speak about his cheese and I could hear the passion in his voice, his love of cheese was clear from this wonderful cheese.  I also spoke with the rep from Dairy Farmers of Canada.  I asked about CETA and what the impact might be?  He was expecting questions like this and gave an honest answer, and that was they don’t really know.  Once CETA is put in place, it will take a few years to see the economic impact on the farmers/producers.  Little known part of CETA is that the Canadian Dairy industry gets more access to the EU market too.

The whole purpose of the Dairy Farmers of Canada being there was to promote Canadian Cheese, so they held several cheese tasting seminars throughout the festival.  Unfortunately I was unable to get into one, but Gemma (who won the tickets to the festival) and this is what she told my about the session she attended

“…I even tried out the cheese tasting event. That was a true highlight of the evening. I never really thought to enjoy cheese, as you would wine. I do usually pair my cheese with some type of fruit or cracker, but I never thought to slowly eat the cheese and savour its flavour. To experience the true milk flavour in each bite was eye-opening. I loved the Gouda from the Fromagerie Bergeron in Quebec and I really hope that it becomes available in Edmonton soon…..”

Our next stop was the Arla Foods Inc, which has been in Canada since 1961 and is the one of largest dairy co-operative in the world (Owned by Swedish, Danish and German Dairy Farmers) and produces and imports several types of cheese in Canada under the Tre Stelle®, Buko®, Castello®, Arla®, Apetina ® Feta and Dofino® brand names.  They were showcasing their Castello® Bavarian Alps Selection, a new selection of German Alpine cheeses, which according to their website:

“Castello® Bavarian Alps Selection is made from cows that live a life of privilege, grazing on Alpine grasses and herbs high up in the mountains during summer. Come fall, they are paraded back to warm homes and milked with care in a centuries-old tradition. Time-honoured recipes turn their distinctive, herb-infused milk into delicious cheeses that will transport you and everyone you share them with to a Bavarian mountain high. Castello® is proud to share these unique cheeses with you.”

Rick and I sampled two of the four cheeses in the product line and I was quite surprised with them.

The Wiessbier Cheese was washed with a German Wiessbier or Wheat Beer.

The Wiessbier Cheese was nice cheese.  It had a nice mouth feel, it was buttery and nutty too.  I am gluten sensitive, but this is a cheese that I would risk the stomach cramps to eat.

The real surprise was the last cheese that we tried.

Hirten - complex and surprising cheese
Hirten – complex and surprising cheese

This hard cheese is aged 9 months and was fairly piquant in flavour, but it did finish with a nice sweetness that reminded me of caramel.  Which when one of the Reps suggested that we try it with some dark chocolate, seemed so wrong, but it was so right, the chocolate was great complement to this cheese.  Who would have thought it would work?

I did have the opportunity to speak with Lisa, who leads sales in Western Canada for Arla Foods, about the cheese, the other cheeses they make and of course CETA.  You can tell her passion for cheese and the cheese making industry just by speaking with her.  She recounted a story about how as a girl she toured a Parmigiano Dairy in Italy with her father and that she has been around cheese all her life.  She spoke about how Arla brought Cheese Makers from Denmark to teach their Canadian Cheese Makers how to make their cheese; their way and how the Canadian Cheese was on par with its Danish counterparts.

When I asked how the new market share detailed in CETA would affect Arla, especially seeing it is a Canadian Subsidiary of an EU Company, she was refreshingly honest in saying that they don’t know.  There is a great deal of speculation about how the new quotas will be handled/distributed/acquired.  They could be given to producers; they could be given to the stores/importers.  Everyone is in a holding pattern until all the details are finalized, which for now all anyone knows for sure.  Lisa also echoed the Dairy Farmers of Canada’s rep in saying it will be a couple of years until we know what the economic impact is.

After we toured the cheese, it was time to move on to the wine and there was a lot of it, some great, some good and some…..well mom always said if you had nothing nice to say…..

I hope you enjoyed the recap of my experience at the festival, I hope to have a few more posts that are about cheese, but not necessarily about my cheese making.

Until next time go and try some new cheese.

One Comment on “Much To Do About The Edmonton Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival

  1. Great post Ian, well written. I really enjoyed the evening with you. The cheeses were good and I agree with your comments. Fingers crossed that they have more cheeses/producers at future events.

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