Entrepreneur provides educational food and wine experiences

Have you ever walked into a wine shop and felt intimidated by the vast number of bottles before you? Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a Pinot Noir and a Malbec?

Fortunately, Linda Garson is England’s gift to cure your woes. Owner of the successful franchise Vine and Dine, Garson knows more than her fair share about wine.

Travelling across local restaurants like Tango Bistro and Il Sogno, Vine and Dine takes menus and transforms them into an interactive event during which every course is paired with a carefully-selected wine.

Vine and Dine was initially a hobby for Garson in 2005 – two years after arriving in Calgary on a work visa she received a letter from the Canadian government granting her permanent residency.

She recalls her first thought, “The first thing that popped into my head was, ‘ I wonder if Vine and Dine could become a business?’”

Five years later, her monthly events continue to sell out in Calgary.

Scallop soup at Escoba Bistro, featured as part of the menu in a recent Vine and Dine event.
Photo by: Kelli Zacharopoulos

Garson says that the Vine and Dine franchise has evolved from teaching curious individuals to hosting business events and team-building activities.

“Wine and food has the ability to unite people, to bring us together,” Garson said. “That is what I love about Vine and Dine.”

Kate MacLennan and her husband Kevin Gregg have been to four of Garson’s events.

“It’s a great experience to learn about new restaurants and try a variety of food from a new menu,” MacLennan says. “Linda’s also very good at pairing wines with the dishes so you learn about new wines as well.”

Since discovering Vine and Dine online just over a year ago, MacLennan and Gregg say they’ve never pursued another wine course.

“We came once and it was amazing, so we just keep coming back,” Gregg says.

Linda Garson is the owner and operator of the Vine and Dine franchise, a program for adults who wish to learn about wine and restaurants across the city.
Photo by: Kelli Zacharpoulos

Garson also offers a wine basics course that has sold out all 42 times, a combination of culturally motivated soirées, and her most recent plunge into the world of theatre with her Sips & Scripts event.

Sips & Scripts unites food and wine with theatre. Garson has chosen to feature plays such as “Cats” and “Shirley Valentine” in the coming months.

Garson believes her greatest accomplishment was Corks & Talks held last December and catered to 420 people. They enjoyed East African food and South African wine at an event.

“In Calgary, that’s incredible,” she says. “People in this city do want to learn about wine and I am blessed because of that.”

Corks & Talks is an event that features CBC’s international speaker Brian Keating and follows him through his cultural experiences across the African regions. Due to its vast success, Garson will be hosting another event in February.

So what’s next for this wine guru?

With a chuckle, Garson hints at the beginnings of a new project in the next few months.

“It’s very exciting, and I can’t say anything yet because it’s still in the planning stages.”

“All I can say is that it involves food and wine, and it’ll be great for Calgary.”

In the meantime, Garson is also putting the last touches on the itinerary for her Spain wine tour, which is scheduled for September. The trip will feature tours of wineries across northern Spain.

For more details on upcoming Vine and Dine events, visit vineanddine.com.

kzacharopoulos@cjournal.ca