by Tom Firth and Linda Garson with Stephanie Arsenault, Tannis Baker, and Alita Brown
The 2018 edition of Alberta’s Finest Drink List was only our second year, and we were floored by the outstanding response. We saw nearly 50 percent growth this year, involving us in two very full days poring over wine, beer, and spirit lists from across the province.
Not only did we get to see many classic lists from established or familiar venues, but also quite a few that were new to us, or only barely known. We were surprised how many lists were really very good.
Our judges score each list independently, and most importantly, evaluate consistently. This isn’t about who they know or like, but about the list on the table – does it have breadth or depth, is it interesting or noteworthy, does it seem approachable or manageable – or was only the barest attention paid to offerings? We saw plenty at each end of the spectrum.
And that’s what these awards are all about. Finding great lists that showcase all the talented sommeliers and buyers around the province who are sourcing varied and exciting lists that are well curated, but also manage to fit the venue, and encourage patrons to try something new, while still incorporating some classics.
A special thank you to everyone who submitted their lists, and also to Hotel Arts for being the perfect venue for our two hectic days of judging. Thanks too to the Italian Trade Commission for collaborating on our new category of Best Italian List, and to our Presenting Sponsor, Alberta Treasury Branch, who also sponsor our Best Alberta Content award, that celebrates those great restaurants and venues supporting the bounty of local Alberta beers, wines, and spirits being made right here at home.
Co-Chair, Editor in Chief
As the creator of Vine & Dine, Linda has spent more time than most since 2005 eating, drinking, and studying menus and wine lists. Running her educational pairing program for so long has given her such an appreciation of Alberta’s vibrant culinary scene, that she launched Culinaire Magazine in 2012 to celebrate the best our province has to offer in the world of food and beverages.
With 20 years in food and wine marketing, from leading Western Canada’s portfolio for Brown Forman Beverages, to Executive Director at Alberta Culinary Tourism, where she earned a national food tourism marketing award (TIAC) and Venture Magazine’s Most influential Albertans, Tannis brings knowledge, passion, and expertise to the table. Today she is a partner at Food Tourism Strategies, a leader in culinary development and marketing.
An avid lover of wine and spirits for over 35 years, Alita spent 15 years in the industry before joining SAIT in the Hospitality Management program as an instructor. Having spent years creating and costing lists, judging is a great way to see what the competition is doing. To continue with her wine and spirit knowledge and practice, Alita is finishing the W.S.E.T. diploma course.
Co-Chair, Drinks Editor
A 20+ year veteran of the beverage industry, Tom spent several years retailing for two of the best wine stores in the province before moving to the journalism side of a wine bottle. Drinks Editor for Culinaire magazine, and Competition Director for the Alberta Beverage Awards, he’s spent many a day poring over wine lists with an eye for exciting bottles that won’t wreck the budget.
Writer, photographer, and the author behind globaldish.ca, Stephanie is a lover of all things food, drink, and travel. While sometimes an elusive creature, trotting the globe, Stephanie can typically be found on a patio in the sunshine with a pint of beer or a glass of wine in hand.