Friday, April 30, 2010

John Schreiner: Okanagan Wine Tour Guide

Vineyards Surround Lake Okanagan

Wine Of The People, By The People, For The People

Schreiner's 3rd Edition is out May 1st 2010, Updated and Revised
Just in time for the Okanagan's Spring Wine Festival, John Schreiner's 3rd edition of John Schreiner's Okanagan Wine Tour Guide, is out in book stores May 1st 2010.

Schreiner's guides to wine offer an approachable and friendly introduction to the region's winegrowers, winemakers and proprietors of the ever-expanding Okanagan Valley wine community in addition to the wines themselves.

In the book's Intro, Schreiner tells you upfront that he didn't write the book for “technicians,” but rather for people who enjoy drinking wine and for the people who make the wine that we enjoy drinking.

“Wine is not a clinical product to be separated from the people who grow it. The art in wine is what attracts both consumers and wine growers,” writes Schreiner in his Introduction to the book's 3rd edition. The first edition was published in 2006 and already there are a good many new additions to the Okanagan winery fold, with more wineries planned and building underway.

“In most of the tasting rooms I have visited, everyone is having fun, especially during wine festival time,” writes Schreiner, reminiscing, “During the Okanagan's Spring Wine Festival 2005, I was lounging on the deck at Jeff and Niva Martin's La Frenz winery, savouring a glass of Shiraz...”.

This is the context, a context of place, time and people in which John Schreiner uniquely can immerse you when it comes to the distinctive regions and wines of the Okanagan. His perspective dates back 35 years when he first began touring the region in search of good wines. The Okanagan's current vibrant wine industry really only dates back to the late 80's/early 90's so Schreiner's insight is one that lends itself to developing right alongside with the then-nascent wine industry of the region itself.

The book delves into the various regions of the Okanagan. The Okanagan Lake itself is 135 km. stretching more or less N-S from Penticton up to Salmon Arm. The wine growing regions are dotted all along there and stretch down, past Skaha Lake, into the Golden Mile and Black Sage Bench areas of Oliver and then down into Osoyoos, around Lake Osoyoos which spans the U.S./ Canada Border, and then a bit West over into Keremeos and Cawston, known as the Similkameen Valley.

Wonderful Lake Okanagan wineries and vineyards, British Columbia

His book beguiles you with the charms of Naramata Bench, a wine-growing region overlooking the expansive, beautiful and pristine Lake Okanagan; delves into the people with a dream some of whom are just selling their first '09 vintages in time for Spring Wine Festival 2010, kicking off today in the Okanagan. He gives you a brief background on valley influentials such as Elias Phiniotis, Ron Taylor, and Howard Soon. He also takes you into the past with historical anecdotes about B.C.'s oldest continually operating winery (since 1932), Calona Vineyards, and forward into the future sharing with you certain family's plans to plant on the northern perches of Salmon Arm, where the nearest vineyard at Larch Hills is at B.C.'s highest elevation of 700 meters/ 2,300 feet.

Winner 2009, VPIWF, Spirited Industry Professional

Most importantly, however, Schreiner will introduce you to the people who have chosen to build their lives around the vine, to make the best of the hand that Mother Nature deals them season after season. With this kind of an introduction to a region's wine, you can't help but fall in love with the ones that please your palate, and keep returning year after year to see what magic has been bottled in this year's new vintage.

*Note Book's Wine Speak Glossary at the end is very helpful and is sure to make you sound like you know what you're talking about when you're in the Tasting Rooms.

John Schreiner's Okanagan Wine Tour Guide (2010), 161 pgs.

Available in Bookstores and Online Now

For More On Schreiner visit: John Schreiner's Blog

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Posted via web from Okanagan Food And Wine

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Most Romantic Mollusc

Smittys Oysters – Smittys Oyster House

Sex Shells: Exposing the Sunshine Coast’s Most Romantic Mollusc

By Darren Robinson

Move over Viagra, there’s a new libido launcher lining the waters of BC’s Sunshine Coast. And the pearl of this love story is the foundation of a new scientific study that intends to prove (or dispel) the ancient myth that oysters can increase human sex drive. Sex sells, and here is not the place to argue the details of the study or its validity and acceptance by the medical world, we just want to know if it’s true. And
according to the study, it is. But millions of grinning people from all around the world that solemnly swear by the steamy power of this slimy sea delicacy have known this for ages.

Romantic Molluscs - Darren Robinson Photography

What we do know is that this study supports a more natural way to kick your love life into high gear; likely with fewer side effects.

So if oysters are in fact a natural aphrodisiac, then BC’s Sunshine Coast may very well become known as the land of getting-it-on. Think about it. All the primary ingredients necessary to elevate your love life are all right here in abundance on the West Coast of Canada. Magical beaches. Check. Captivating sunsets. Check. Solitude and serenity. Check. Beautifully-appointed accommodations. Check. Waterfalls straight out of fairy tales. Double-check. Unspoiled nature. Check. Oysters aplenty. Check and check.

Kayaking The Sunshine Coast– Darren Robinson Photography

Situated only 40-minutes from Vancouver and less than 90-minutes from Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast is made up of charming coastal communities including Gibsons, Sechelt, Pender Harbour Powell River, Lund, Texada Island and Savary Island. All encompassed by pristine waters (fresh and salt), coastal mountains and old-growth forests, the Sunshine Coast draws visitors from around the world
wanting the very best in outdoor adventure, mental and physical rejuvenation, and romance.

Lund Harbour at sunset – Picture BC

The journey starts with the love boat. Not the one with Captain Stubing, Gopher and Isaac, but whichever boat you choose to get yourself, and your loved one here.

BC Ferries operates regular sailings year round, or perhaps a romantic private charter is more what the love doctor ordered. No better way to impress your date than by showing up to his/her door in a private boat. Check.

If your love happens to get sea sick easily, no need to surrender the night, there are available alternatives. Pacific Coastal Air will deliver you to Powell River from Vancouver in less than 30 minutes. Of course, there are also float planes that would happily fly you into any of the many surrounding area lakes in premiere fashion.
Once on the Sunshine Coast, the oysters take centre stage.

In Gibsons, on the southern end of the Sunshine Coast, Smitty’s Oyster House will prepare an oyster feast sure to get any mojo working quickly. The restaurant prides itself on enticing all of the senses of those who enter its doors. Shell-shocked lovers can be caught savouring a bevy of local shellfish, including Jervis Inlet oysters, Salt Spring Island mussels, and Savary Island clams both indoors and from the patio with a backdrop of glistening water and towering coastal peaks. The oysters are starting to kick in.

Sunrise image – Thors Cove Cottage

For a gastronomic oyster overload on the upper Sunshine Coast, The Laughing Oyster’s David Bowes prepares innovative and creative seafood dishes while guests delight in panoramic views of Okeover Inlet, the welcome gate to Desolation Sound Marine Park. Gunpowder Prawns, Wild Salmon and Spinach Crepes, and oysters anyway you like them round out a seafood menu of the Gods. On many nights the
romance is further enhanced with live music, sometimes straight from the guitar-wielding hands of the Executive Chef. By now, your senses are likely overwhelmed in a state of oyster-induced bliss.

If the “shaping clay” scene of Ghost infamy is a fantasy of yours, then Thors Cove Cottage should be next on the date list. A water taxi will bring you to the cottage’s shores in Lancelot Inlet for an oyster experience unlike any other. Delight in an escorted tour of their oyster farm, where you will learn about seven species of oysters, clams and mussels cultivated on approximately forty shellfish farms in the inlet
complex. The tour appropriately ends with a seafood feast that includes Oysters Grilled in Salsa with Jalapeno Cheese, Locally Smoked Oyster Pâté, Oyster Seviche, Oyster Baguette, Grilled Oysters with Pesto, and Oven Baked Parmesan Oysters. You’ll be asking for your room key before you can say Oysters Rockefeller.

Romance is in the salty-air. If you yearn for a more natural approach to sexual therapy, you might want to consider the Sunshine Coast in lieu of filling your next prescription of the little blue pill at your localpharmacy.   *

Darren Robinson is a freelance writer and professional photographer from Powell River, on BC’s Sunshine Coast. He can also be found some afternoons at Powell River Tourism. His images can always be found at

Twitter @LocalFoodWine

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Posted via web from Local Food And Wine

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Celebrity Wine Festival - Osoyoos June 2010

Host and Presenter, Jason Priestley

The Osoyoos Celebrity Wine Festival (OCWF) is presented by Destination Osoyoos, in tandem with presenting sponsor Black Hills Estate Winery, Hotel Sponsors Walnut Beach Resort, Spirit Ridge Resort, Watermark Beach Resort and the business community of Osoyoos.

The Vinos 

Co-host and Presenter, Steven Page


Celebrity Wine Fest's Commercial Competition. Win wine!!!

The Osoyoos Celebrity Wine Festival takes place from June 10 to 13, 2010. It’s a great weekend of food and wine pairing events from regional chefs and winemakers, and lets participants rub shoulders with film and television A-listers while enjoying the region’s best cuisine and wine. So far, the following celebrities have confirmed their attendance: Jason Priestley (Beverley Hills 9020, Hollywood & Vines1), Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek, National Treasure), Ned Bell (Food Network), and Chad Oakes (Emmy award-winning producer). Other celebrity actors, chefs and winemakers are being invited.

  • Thursday, June 10, 8:00 pm at the Watermark Resort: The Vinos - a wine commercial film festival for amateurs. Tickets $29.
  • Friday, June 11, 9 am to noon: Ride with a Winemaker. Join local winemakers as they enjoy a bike ride and picnic lunch in the South Okanagan. $70.
  • Friday, June 11, 6:00-10:00 pm at Walnut Beach Resort: Osoyoos VIP Reception and Beach Party. $99.
  • Saturday, June 12, 12 noon to 3 pm at Black Hills Estate Winery: Nota Bene Release Party. $149
  • Saturday, June 12, 7 pm to 11 pm at Spirit Ridge Resort: Celebrity Wine Auction with proceeds benefiting children’s charities. Participants taste an array of South Okanagan wines with appetizers from local restaurants, and can bid on rare wine from great Canadian wineries in silent and live auctions. Last year, $55,000 was raised for the Providence Children’s Centre and Osoyoos Child Care. The evening features a live performance by Steven Page, formerly of the Bare Naked Ladies. $249.


Posted via web from Okanagan Food And Wine

Monday, April 26, 2010

House Wines, Two Trained Sommeliers

House Wines is co-owned by Michelle Bouffard, and Michaela Morris, both trained Sommeliers.   

house wine advocates wine pleasure without pretense, where wine is demystified and laughs are guaranteed. Find out more about house wine and the services  they provide.

Michelle Bouffard

Michelle Bouffard, Sommelier, co-owner House Wines

Michelle grew up in Québec where she studied classical trumpet and performed, taught and conducted music. She moved to Vancouver in 1996 to finish her bachelor’s degree in classical music and learn English.

In 2003, she completed her International Sommelier Diploma with top marks and today she teaches for the International Sommelier Guild. Michelle continued her wine education with the completion of the internationally recognized Wine & Spirit Education Trust’s (WSET) Diploma Programme in 2007. Her first year was funded by a scholarship awarded by the Vancouver Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier.

Michaela Morris

Michaela Morris, Sommelier, co-owner House Wines

Michaela  earned her bachelor's degree in Linguistics and French from the University of British Columbia, funding her studies by working in fine dining restaurants. A one year exchange program led her back to France where she discovered the wine region of Burgundy.

It was there that she decided to pursue a career in the industry. She enrolled in the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) classes and was awarded a scholarship by the Vancouver Chapter of Les Dames d'Escoffier for the WSET's Diploma Programme. She successfully completed the programme in 2005 and is currently a guest lecturer for the WSET Diploma.

April/May 2010: New Zealand the Green

“The picture perfect wine producer continues to redefine its story.” Just in time for the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, Michaela & Michelle provide a primer on New Zealand’s wine regions and share their favourite outdoor, cultural and gastronomic experiences.

Michaela and Michelle conducted a seminar at the recent 2010 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival called "Get The Dirt On New Zealand Terroir."  They gave an overview, compiled from their 3 weeks of travel to the country late last year, on the main 8 wine-growing regions of the island nation south of the equator.

During last week's festival, The Globe And Mail, Canada's national newspaper, did a profile Q&A on each of them. Here is a slice of excerpt from both...

Globe And Mail Q&A With Michaela Morris

 What wine are you most excited to taste at the festival?

MM: With hundreds of wines to taste, it is impossible to choose just one. I look forward to indulging in plenty of wines from Argentina and New Zealand but always like to make time to visit the German tables. There are usually great off-the-beaten track surprises. Bürgerspital Estate from the region of Franken is definitely on my list. Beyond their Riesling Spätlese, they are also pouring a Gewürztraminer and a Scheurebe as well as a Rieslander Beerenauslese.

Q&A With Michelle Bouffard by Globe And Mail

What wine are you most excited to taste at the festival?

MB: Oyster Bay Sparkling Cuvée NV from New Zealand to satiate my bubble craving and Zorzal Pinot Noir to transport me to sunny Argentina.

You're going to a dinner party tonight. You have $20 to spend on a bottle of wine from the BCLB. What would you buy?

MB: 2008 Schloss Reinhartshausen, Riesling Dry, Rheingau, Germany, $19.99. I love introducing people to dry Riesling. Its low alcohol content is a bonus. It allows you to drink a few more sips.

Read More On The Globe And Mail, Vancouver >>>

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Posted via web from Vancouver Food And Wine

Kurtis Kolt Sommelier Of The Year, VPIWF 2010

Kurtis Kolt of Salt Tasting Room, Sommelier of The Year, Awarded by Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival

Kurtis Kolt took home Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival Sommelier of The Year Award 2010 during last week's festival.

Kurtis Kolt was awarded the Sommelier of the Year Award at the 2010 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival.

Read More on Cherries And Clay, Kurtis's Blog >>>
He is the General Manager at Gastown, Vancouver’s Salt Tasting Room and has been in the Vancouver wine and food industry for the better part of two decades. He is a passionate supporter of BC wines, and has been at the forefront of introducing them to Vancouver consumers. He is certified by the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, The Wine Academy of Spain and is credited in the Winemaking program at UC Davis. 
Read More on The Globe And Mail >>>

Kurtis’ managing and wine-directing experience has launched two local restaurants, Main Street’s Aurora Bistro and Gastown’s Salt Tasting Room onto the international culinary map... Both restaurants won gold as Best New Restaurant in the Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards and were named one of Canada’s Top Ten New Restaurants by enRoute Magazine in their respective years. Along with receiving a Gold Award for his much-acclaimed wine program at Salt Tasting Room from the Vancouver International Wine Festival, Kurtis has received the Premier Crew Service Award from Vancouver magazine. He’s also not half as serious as all of this makes him sound.
Read More from Andrew Morrison on Scout Magazine >>>

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Burrowing Owl Estate Winemaker Bertus Albertyn

Bertus Albertyn, Burrowing Owl Estate Winemaker, Photo Courtesy Gord Wylie

Burrowing Owl, the 140-acre property that sits at the crown of the Okanagan's Black Sage Bench's Road 22, has a new winemaker. His name is Bertus Albertyn.

Bertus is a South African native married to a Canadian physician who took his post at the South Okanagan property, owned and run by Chris Wyse, in January earlier this year. There he will make the wine from the 125 acres of vineyards under cultivation that produce approximately 30,000 cases each year. Mind you, even at this volume of production, relatively large for the Okanagan, you're likely only to be able to find a bottle of Burrowing Owl, nearly any variety, any vintage, at the winery's wineshop itself or at select restaurants in B.C. There's just too much demand for it to be able to keep the VQA liquor stores continually stocked.

Burrowing Owl Vineyard Management, Photo by Randy Lincks

“It's a breath of fresh air to come here to Canada,” says Bertus. “Here in B.C. we can't produce enough grapes to fulfill B.C. Consumption.”

It's a good insight into British Columbia's young wine industry, if a relatively modest one. Recently we asked Bertus what the secret is to making great wines:

“Winemaking itself is generally a simple process. If you have good quality grapes you are going to make a good wine. The key is to take yourself out of the equation as much as possible.”

Since we're thinking there might be just a little bit more to winemaking than that, we cajoled Bertus into talking to us a bit longer to see what gives.

“It's important to know when to take the grapes off the vine. And temperature control,” he conceded. He hastened to add that the practices he's following at Burrowing Owl Winery since coming on board in January have been in place there from the beginning. “With a cellar producing such a great product for so long, the systems that have produced the wines are to be treated as such. These practices are not something new for the cellar.”

Burrowing Owl Long-timer,  Fernando Bottoni,  Photo Courtesy Gord Wylie

Fernando Bottoni (long time cellar worker), Bertus Albertyn, Joey Matias (long time cellar worker), Emmerick Keller (Plant Manager) and Scott Stefishen (Assistant Winemaker). Missing is Pat Johnson. Photo by Gord Wylie.

South African Roots

Bertus Albertyn looks – and is – still young but has a lifetime of grape growing under his belt. He has a degree in Viticulture and Oenology. He worked at two vineyards in South Africa, the Wellington Cellars, a large operation that bears the same name to the Wellington Wine Growing Region in South Africa and which “produces as much grapes there as in all of Canada;” and the Avondale where he learned organic winemaking and vineyard management “approved by Mother Nature” at this small family-owned winery.

International Vintages

While working in South Africa he did a vintage in Sonoma, a vintage in Italy outside of Venice, and two in France, one in Crozes-Hermitage at Alain Graillot, and the other in the South of France, Domaine Des Anges. “I did the harvest in France, Italy and America while I was working South Africa. I would do a crush every 2 years in a different part of the world to broaden my knowledge of winemaking. This also helped me to broaden my vision and taste,” Bertus told us. So the fact that the seasons in Canada are inverted to the seasonal changes in South Africa doesn't phase him; it's something he's learned to work to his advantage.

The Winemaking Touch

Bertus's approach to wine is a tactile one: “I'm fond of smelling wine. But at the end of the day you have to drink the wine. It's about the enjoyment of the palate, the fullness and softness of the wine.”

He said it's the post-fermentation maceration that yields a softer, rounder wine and this can also help with the age-ability of the wine. He'll also tell you that the sooner you can interject oak into the wine, the better. Then he “ages it at least 18 months.”

Of course, it really all begins during the harvesting and then the crush. “We're lucky here because of the cold nights. The grapes go into the cellar cold. When you can start at a low enough temperature then they can't peak very high. It's important not to let the temperature go up to 35 c. - that can kill your yeast. If you can increase your temperature during fermentation, you double your ability to extract,” he explained.

Not everyone in the Okanagan uses a sorting table. In fact, it's a very distinctive choice that a winemaker makes. Bertus uses a sorting table. When asked if this goes counter to his philosophy of “taking yourself out of the equation,” he responded:

“We're not changing anything. We're just taking out the debris. We're just doing a better job. Leaves are a very bad thing because they're green. We're destemming. But we're not totally crushing. And of course we use only ripe grapes. No green grapes,” he said with a laugh.

For his white wines he's also fond of a more “old-world” style of wine making. He's quick to point out that South Africa has a long heritage of grape growing. One of the wineries where he worked dates itself back to 1693 when it was established.

“Our whites are whole-bunch wines. We do no de-stemming,” explained Bertus. “The stems are actually used as a filtration system to yield cleaner wine. Our pinot gris and chardonnay are all more old-world, lightly settled and have a 'darker ferment.' With a dirtier juice you have more flexibility in fermentation. More glycerines give more body in the wine. New world wines, for example, are all de-stemmed. That creates up-front fruit flavors.” Bertus went on to explain that the whole bunch press delivers a juice with a lower solid content; cleaner juice, in fact, than destemming.

Jim & Midge Wyse – Proprietors of Burrowing Owl Estate Winery;         Photo by Gord Wylie

Burrowing Owl Vineyards is also known as a green winery. Named after the regionally endangered species of Burrowing Owl, when Midge and Jim Wyse purchased the vineyards in '93, they created a custom of donating $2 for each tasting at the winery. That $2 goes towards South Okanagan Rehabilitation Center For Owls and to the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of B.C. They've donated more than $250,000 to date.

Jim and Midge Wyse, Proprietors, Kerri Wyse McNolty (center) and Chris Wyse, President (r) Burrowing Owl Estate Winery; Photo by Gord Wylie

Re-use: All wine bottles used in the wine shop and in the restaurant operations are cleaned out and re-used at the winery. They use an alternative pest control system. And The Sonora Room, the on-site restaurant, adheres to a less than 100-km local food supply philosophy, a philosophy and a tradition at the Sonora Room that their new Executive Chef team will continue on beginning May 1st when they re-open for full time summer season hours.

Black Sage Road, Oliver, B.C., Canada

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Chefs' Table Society of B.C. And Vancouver Cooks 2

The Chefs' Table Society of British Columbia

The Chefs' Table Society of British Columbia is a chef-administered, province-wide collaborative dedicated to creating a foundation for the exchange of information between culinary professionals. The Society supports innovative and sustainable programs that will inspire, educate and nurture its chefs, producers and the local food industry, all the while promoting standards of excellence with the aim of enhancing the reputation of regional cuisine.

Vancouver Cooks 2

A second helping of recipes celebrating the BC food scene, served up by 70 well-known and emerging chefs. Five years after Vancouver Cooks, which sold more than 13,000 copies, the Chefs’ Table Society returns with over 100 new recipes from 70 chefs around  Vancouver,  Victoria  and the Okanagan.

Divided into four sections:  local food, international flavours, emerging talents and pioneering chefs, edited by Joan Cross, Jamie Maw and Andrew Morrison. Vancouver Cooks 2 celebrates the key elements that have forged Vancouver’s unique culinary culture and made the city a world-class dining destination. We also see the industry behind the scenes, understanding its heritage and the innovative strides Vancouver chefs are taking.

Written for the home cook, Vancouver Cooks 2 pairs more than 50 full-colour photographs with the mouthwatering recipes, each with wine notes. Royalties from the sale of this book go to the Chefs’ Table Scholarship and Bursary Fund.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

South Okanagan Winery Association Banee' 2010

 Speed Dating For Wine Lovers

New and fresh at this year's Banee', sponsored and organized by the South OkanaganWinery Association, was “Speed Dating Wine Tasting,” an event that took place on a sunny Saturday afternoon at the Walnut Beach Resort in Osoyoos.

Fortified with a light lunch that included Farmed Fresh Bacon, cut thick and griddle-fried, Lettuce and Tomato sandwiches along with a dessert accent of wild, organic blueberry mousse prepared by Walnut Beach Resort Head Chef, Justin Paakunainen, a group of about twenty of us wine-taster-speed-daters were ushered into the afternoon of speed- dating-wine-tasting with the SOWA wineries.

I happened to get placed next to Anthony Gismondi in the circular round of 18 Wine Tasting “stations” that event organizers dubbed “the ladies,” and we tasters were the “men” who were given 5 minutes at each of the 18 wineries represented. With Gismondi, who is described as B.C.'s premier wine taster, - along with John Schreiner, Sid Cross and Tim Pawsey - it was fortunate placement. Since Gismondi, who has had a “bit of a hand” (quoting him here) in the organizing of the Playhouse International Wine Festival over the years in Vancouver, had hatched the idea of “Speed Dating Wine Tastings” which they've been promoting for months now, he was pleased to see that his brainchild had manifested and multiplied.

Banee is the annual celebration of Spring Releases by the South Okanagan Wineries Association.

Speed Dating Wine Tasting

My afternoon of “dating” began with Desert Hills where Winery Proprietor Randy Toor poured no less than seven wines. At his Black Sage Bench property earlier that morning, he had informed the group that in the hottest part of summer he waters only once a week for 7-8 hours. Considering that last summer temperatures in the region reached into the 40's c. we're talking stressed vines,which, as any seasoned winemaker will tell you, yields the better fruit.

The South Okanagan is known for their reds and a couple of stars, amongst distinguished contenders, to come out of the Golden Mile this year are Fairview Cellars' Cabernet Sauvignon '09 which Bill Eggert has aged 16 months in his Radoux French Oak. He'll tell you that his best wine comes from one row of grapes, uniquely yielding because of the “pure sand seam that goes right across my vineyard,” and the “alluvial fan” that characterizes the land his vineyard sits on there in the Golden Mile. This is what he's pulled this vintage from. Put your orders in now. He had just bottled it hours before pouring it at the Speed Dating Wine Tasting this past weekend. Price is $120 per bottle, a Valley first.

It's All About The Terroir?

Remarkable to note is that both Randy's (Desert Hills) and Bill's (Fairview) properties are right next to one another there on the Black Sage Bench. As you follow along Road 22, both are nestled in the same “alluvial fan” and both have similar sandy, silty-with-very-little-topsoil ground to play with. And yet the wines are richly and distinctly different catering almost to not just a different mood or dish but almost even altogether different palates. Desert Hills' Gewurztraminer '09 reflects this dynamic of thirst-quenching freshness, and keeping with the theme of summertime and bbq'ing, the Desert Hills Gamay can go down chilled though not to be missed is their '07 Malbec Proprietor's Reserve, their “pride.”

Steady And Strong

Wine choices that are “fool-proof” and “fail-safe” are Burrowing Owl's Merlot '07 – rich, ripe and red. As John Schreiner puts it, “it's just damned good.” Bertus, their new winemaker, says that in another six months it will be even better when it has a chance to open up. Their Meritage '07 also gives a full flavor profile though, again, Bertus says you can give it another year – or 10 or 15, too, even. The structure is that solid. I find these wines to be masculine. They're strong and vibrant and there's virility that trembles beneath the notes.

Hester Creek's Trebbiano and their Merlot '08. The Trebbiano comes from the only Italian vines planted in the Okanagan, which Hester Creek's owners brought from Italy 40 years ago. Rob, the winemaker's, expertise is in smoothing out the tannins in their full-bodied reds, so you get all of the flavor of a Merlot without the bite. Andrew Moon, Tinhorn Creek's Aussie winemaker of less than a year, explains something about the tannins of the region: The tannins in the Merlot here can “blow your head off,” he says, explaining the importance of tannin management for South Okanagan winemaking, adding that "we'll never get to the levels of a Bordeaux." Okanagan wine educator and consultant, Rhys Pender, explains that "No other place in the world has such a short, hot climate." Tinhorn Creek and Hester Creek wineries are next door neighbors on the Golden Mile.

Inniskillin's '07 Tempranillo. There are only 200 cases. This is only the 2nd vintage. Go. Buy. It. Now.

We kid you not. This is one of the most outstanding, not to mention smooth, hearty and amiable wines to come out of the region. And it's not a grape that anyone else in the valley plants. They've aged it in new French oak about 30% and then for the remainder 70% in 1 and 2 year old barrels. Bottled in May will be their '08 Malbec.

Cassini's '07 Pinot Noir Reserve is their first pinot noir vintage. They've only done 115 cases. Count yourself lucky if you score yourself a bottle before it's sold out. Their Nobilus is 100% Merlot, unusual these days when many of the winemakers are going towards blends. Casssini's Adrian Capeneata is just simply all about no-frills good, solid wine.

People know Road 13 well for their reds. 'Nough said. We'll tell you, watch for their Chenin Blanc '09. It's only been out two weeks now, it's got beautiful acidic balance. Bartier, Mick and Pam have created another big hit that's a phenomenal food wine. Don't forget, too, that '09 saw significant crop damage so only half the crop was harvested. That translates into get it while the gettin's good. [500 cases total]. Also, if you get your hands on a bottle of their '07 Jackpot Chardonnay, made from grapes that were, “in a word – perfect,” then pressed whole cluster, drink up!

Nk'Mip's new release is their '08 Pinot Noir grown on their Black Sage Bench vines, as opposed to their Osoyoos property. Assistant winemaker Justin describes the French Oak aging process altogether too humbly. We're fans, of course, of their Q2 Meritage '07 which we've already written about here.

Le Vieux Pin's Apogee Merlot and Epoque Merlot are too deserving of applause not to be mentioned here. They've been hitting it out of the ballpark since their first vintage in '05, and people keep talking about LVP's '06 vintage. New and not yet labeled is a Rose' coming from their Golden Mile vineyards. Shhhh...though. Some wines are just so good, they shouldn't even be legal to drink!

More on the Whites...

Stoneboat's Chorus '09. Winemaker Tim Martiniuk, a young man, has blended a proprietary signature vintage that no one in the Valley can duplicate. He credits their soil's calcerous deposits and heavy gravel for the juice he was able to get from his pinot blanc, pinot gris, Kerner and Viognier grapes which he used to make Chorus. This is the wine we enjoyed with our salmon and grilled vegetable dinner. A perfect pairing. Stoneboat's Pinot Blanc '09 was blessed with botrytis so the 25-year old vines give notes of honey and cloves; the nose, surprisingly, is sweeter than the taste.

Oliver Twist's '09 Viognier is 5 years aged, slight notes of tobacco. It's a nice contrast to their Chardonnay '08 which took B.C. Gold in the Fall Wine Fest.

Quinta Ferreira's Mistura Branca '08 is a Muskat Gewurz blend. Michael, by nature a reserved winemaker, showed uncharacteristic exuberance when pouring. And I'd have to agree, it's wine worth the enthusiasm.

Gehringer does white wines well. Their Auxerrois pinot blanc is fail-safe and as the genetic sister to the more commonly known pinot blanc, it won't throw your palate off. Private Reserve Riesling '09 has now been bottled from their stainless steel tanks and offers good value.

Jackson-Triggs '09 Grand Reserve Sauvignon Blanc offers a greener, acidic backbone; the fruit comes from the start of the Black Sage Bench Road, so the slight difference in temperatures is evident in the juice.

Let's Talk Rose'

Rose' is this year's “come-back kid.” Oft-dismissed as betwixt and between, when you get your hands on the right one, it most certainly stands on its own. Rose' beckons and celebrates summer. And we welcome summer!

Jackson-Triggs '09 Rose' makes a delightful showing this Spring. It's the first year Derek has made the wine with Merlot grapes rather than Cabernet Franc. He ferments it as you would a white and the yield is something altogether too easy to reach for - sip and savor.

Tinhorn Creek's Sandy will tell you that she was up 'til 4 a.m. the other night bottling her 2 Bench Rose'. She's blended 40% cabernet franc and merlot with pinot gris. They've done 103 cases and we recommend a try. Their Pinot Gris '09, at approximately 6,000 cases, makes their Rose' vintage a Proprietor's Reserve Blend.

Golden Beaver's “Heart of Gold,” '09 is a blend of Viognier, Auxerrois and Pinot Blanc. And lest your mind starts to wander down the more imaginative path, Bruno and Stella explain that they are both music lovers and enthusiasts, - their neighbors describe their living room walls as "covered" with guitars and music paraphernalia. Stella has named their next release, “Heartbreaker,” after one of her Led Zeppelin favorites, since Bruno named Heart of Gold after the Neil Young hit song. Their Late Harvest Pinot Blanc '08 has 20g. of sugar in it but really it tastes only medium sweet. It's worth a try and as a foodie it allows you to get creative with the pairing. It will be out in May.

Silver Sage has some unique offerings. Their Sunset '08 has the look and feel of a rose'. It's a blend of white wine and berries with aromas of cranberry and raspberry. This is a brunch with the girls wine; it's their “golfer's special,” and it's also great to have a few bottles on hand for the girlfriends' mani-pedi-spa day. Their Flame '09 is a dessert wine and it's spicy! These are cocktail wines.

Rustico Farm and Cellars is the new kid on the block and Bruce has crafted stories for each of his wines. He'd love to tell you all about his Gewurztraminer “Farmer's Daughter,” when you stop by the winery there in the South Okanagan for a sample.

Speed Dating Summary

Speed Dating for Wine Lovers offered fantastic insight into the complex variations of a region's wines and winemakers. One of the most informative take-homes was how grapes grown in the same soil, with the same sun, even on the same or neighboring alluvial fan, can yield such different vintages. The South Okanagan has, of course, the difference of the two sides, the “right bank” and “left bank” with significant variations of sun exposure and even slight temperature variation from the north part of the acreage to 20 km. or so to the south of the SOWA region. It does give you a glimpse into the tremendous input that a the winemaker has on the final outcome of a vintage.

We're definitely in keeping with the consensus of the other Speed Daters, Tim Pawsey, Sid Cross, Christina Burridge, Anthony Gismondi, John Schreiner, Terry David Mulligan and the rest: that it's a great way to taste nearly a hundred wines in just under an hour and a half and and that it's absolutely most effective when the wineries keep their selections to a range of no more than three wines.

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Friday, April 2, 2010

Rob Feenie And The Cactus Club

Rob Feenie's Signature Dishes At Cactus Club

By: George Froehlich

Originally Posted on The Savvy Insider


Rob Feenie.  A Canadian culinary superstar.

For the last few years he has been working as a food concept architect for the Cactus Club.

Before that he was the chef at one of Canada's top restaurants, Feenie's in Vancouver, before a falling out with his business partners.

When Cactus Club hired him he was handed a singular mission - kick it up a notch, the food that is.

And he has certainly done that.

His Cactus Club dishes, all have the RF logo beside them.

And they deliver what Feenie is known for - superb food with great flavours and textures.

Our adventure into RF land was a tapas-style meal - four appetizers in all.

The beef carpaccio, a peppercorn-crusted tenderloin, was tender and moist, the Dijon mustard aioli, gave the thinly-sliced meat punch and pizzazz, pickled shallots, added required acidity, a great counterpoint to the richness of the tenderloin. Parmesan and five-herb crostini, provided crunch, a new direction for traditional carpaccio.

But, and this is a big but, the deep fried capers were like little salt balls, dominating the dish and thus spoiling it.

The Butternut squash ravioli, bathed in a truffle beurre blanc sauce, huge super sweet sauteed prawns atop the three ravioli's, was outstanding.

Wow, what a dish.

The ravioli's were topped off with tiny crumbs of Amaretti (an Italian cookie made with almonds, sugar and flour) and a bit of shaved Reggiano Parmigiano.

The perfectly cooked al dente pasta with the creamy, yet earthy butternut squash, were the perfect complement to that stunning truffle beurre blanc sauce.

Crunchy pine nuts and crisp sage leaves atop the squash added another dimension to a simple yet complex divine dish.

The Rocket salad of sliced chicken breast breaded with Panko and Parmesan, was light and so flavourful.

Baby arugula, cucumbers, tomatoes and big sliced chunks of zucchini with cubed colored peppers, provided a great medley of garden greens.

The flavour of the chicken and the cheese came through the tartness of the lemon caper sauce dressing.

Our three cheddar cheese bacon mini-burgers were terrific. You could actually taste the beef, unlike so many other hamburgers that taste like dried sawdust. Again a wonderful combo of different flavours made these hamburgers so delish.

The red pepper relish completed the dish.

Desert, key lime pie, did not have the required tartness of these tiny little gems, the Graham cracker crust sweet, but salt dominated it. It all added up to something that lacked real flavour and taste.

Perhaps Rob Feenie should step in and work his magic on this desert.

Here is the Cactus Club website.


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Gastown's Pourhouse - Wonderful Comfort Food

By George Froehlich

Originally Posted on The Savvy Insider


Comfort food.

There is nothing quite like.

It's simple, straightforward and it packs a myriad of flavours.

Its recipes are time-honoured.

And now a number of restaurants are coming on to the Vancouver culinary scene perfecting new flavour combinations and ingredients - all in the quest for the perfect comfort food.

In Gastown, Pourhouse, is yet another small place carving out a clientele that loves plain old comfort food that is simply delicious.

Pourhouse reminds you of one of those old-fashioned, back of the century saloons, steeped in the traditions of history.

Dark wood, exposed brick, old fashioned chandeliers, dim lights, are all part of the decor that says come in, relax, enjoy, enjoy some good old-fashioned comfort food.

Take the simple grilled cheese sandwich.

At Pourhouse it is divine and decadent but never forgetting its classic roots. Three cheeses are packed between two slices of dark bread - pan fried in butter.

The end result is something that is yummy and outstanding.

It comes with a roast vine ripened tomato soup. The soup, almost a bit sour and tart, the acidity of the tomatoes cutting through the richness of the sandwich.

It is a perfect pairing.

And that Sloppy Joe sandwich - flavours galore singing in unison from the shredded pork and beef, both simmered for hours to develop their fullest flavour profile.

The Slopping Hill pork, rich and succulent. The Pemberton beef, robust and hearty.

The house made Bap, a large roll, it originated in Scotland, is soft in texture, a perfect place for the beef-pork mixture.

And that warm chocolate cake, oozing dark rich sweet chocolate, as soon as you spoon into it, surrounded by a lovely smooth caramel.

On top a caramel salt infused ice cream - a perfect antidote to that rich sweet chocolate filling.

Double espresso, packing a mean wallop of bitterness, the best we ever had.

Pourhouse is all about attention to details.

The server was terrific, explaining all the dishes in detail.

Everything is made from scratch in the kitchen. The chocolate cake alone took 15 minutes to prepare.

Its espresso machine is one of only 10 in all of Canada. The coffee comes from J.J. Bean a local supplier and roaster.

It is only kept for 10 days after that oxidization kicks in and the coffee loses its punch.

Pourhouse - serving excellent comfort food in an atmosphere of history and tradition.

See what else is on the menu at Pourhouse.


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