For Tristan MacLaggan, great wine, superb food and amazing views go together perfectly. As the manager of food and beverage and sommelier at the Banff Gondola, MacLaggan says it’s one of those connections that just makes sense.

Autumn is a time to connect with friends and family, to slow down a bit, and to soak in both the beauty of the Rockies and the bounty of the harvest season. At the Banff Gondola, MacLaggan has been planning something special.

MacLaggan says his extensive personal connections in the Canadian wine industry have helped craft the roster for the upcoming Harvest Winemakers Dinner Series at Sky Bistro, to be held this November and December. Some of the most respected and top emerging winemakers in the country will be heading to Sky Bistro.

"We’ve chosen really fantastic people. We wanted to bring in wineries we believe in, wineries we've built partnerships with, and ones that have an ultra-high quality."

"Winemakers dinners are much more of an experience than a simple dinner," he says. "Guests get to meet some of the best winemakers in the country and discover the stories behind their wines. It's more than a meal—think of it as creating a memory."

The series that he has planned along with Sky Bistro Chef Scott Hergott includes a five-course meal inspired by the harvest season and aimed to match the iconic setting atop Sulphur Mountain. Chef Hergott will be changing the menu each week in an effort to celebrate the wines.

Canadian wine: Young, fun and open-minded

Born and raised in British Columbia, MacLaggan is a sommelier certified by the Wine Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and has ‘tons of connections’ with small farmers, small wine producers and the most buzzed-about wine makers in the country.

What most excites him about Canadian wine? “It’s young, it’s fun, people are flexible to trying new things,” he says, comparing it to the wine industry in Europe where he did his sommelier training. There, he says, the industry is "very regimented, very defined."

Featured Winemakers

At this iconic location, 7,510 feet above sea level, the experience will be intimate and unique. Award-winning wineries, including Noble Ridge owner Leslie D'Andrea, Winemaker and President of Lake Breeze Vineyards Garron Elmes and legendary winemaker Harry McWatters from ENCORE, will offer five wine pairings through a five-course meal. Most will start with a sparkling wine and finish with either ice wine or fortified wine, MacLaggan says.

A bearded man smiles holding a bottle of wine at a wine bar.

Photo: Harry McWatters will be attending Sky Bistro's Winemakers Dinner on November 16.

Selecting the wineries was serious business. First, MacLaggan needed wineries that had a solid line-up or range of wines to cover the five courses. And in order to create what MacLaggan calls "a full evening with great wines", they were first given Sky Bistro Chef Scott Hergott's seasonally-inspired harvest menu. Then, they were asked to pair their wines to his menu.

"It was a challenge, for sure," he says. “We’ve chosen really fantastic people. We wanted to bring in wineries we believe in, wineries we've built partnerships with, and ones that have an ultra-high quality."

The winemakers will lead diners through a deep-dive into their wines—from the precipitation and sunlight of that year's vintage, how wildfire played a role in what the wine came to be, and why they're so passionate about the wine they make.

Sky Bistro's Fall Wine List

The Fall 2018 Wine List at Sky Bistro is essentially a complete revamp, MacLaggan says.

That's because he is constantly striving to up the game. And because Chef Scott Hergott has a new dining menu—the two go hand-in-hand.

"We're focusing on the best of what Canada can do, the best that's being done in Canada right now," he says. And that takes a ton of research and thought. It's the fruit of his many years of working in the industry and his many friends and connections, and a commitment from Pursuit to help guests. It's a process that is continuously evolving, he says.

A man in a blue shirt holds a glass of wine in front of a lake.

Photo: Banff Gondola's Tristan MacLaggan is a sommelier with deep roots in BC's Okanagan wine industry.

The Schedule:

November 2: Noble Ridge – Owner Leslie D’Andrea will attend

November 9: Liquidity – Winemaker Alison Moyes will attend

November 16: ENCORE (Time Winery, Evolve Cellars, McWatter Collection) – CEO & Canadian wine legend Harry McWatters will attend

November 23: Lake Breeze – Winemaker and President of Lake Breeze Vineyards Garron Elmes will attend

November 30: Tinhorn Creek – Winemaker Andrew Windsor will attend

December 7: Red Rooster – Winemaker Karen Gillis will attend

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