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naramata-blend

Life in a slow place that quickly steals your heart.

Month

June 2016

Marichel — A Naramata love story

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The views on the Naramata Bench just don’t get any better than this.

When Marichel owner, viticulturist and winemaker Richard Roskell is asked what makes his winery special he pauses and chooses his words very carefully: “The offerings from this  farm are an expression of love of Naramata. This is a special place for growing and making wine.”

More than just the attention and care Richard pours into the 1,500 cases of Viognier and Syrah Marichel he produces yearly, the farm too is about love. He was persuaded into buying it by his wife Elisabeth in 2000 who fell hard for the beautiful land on a bluff overlooking Lake Okanagan with its incredible across-the-lake view of Summerland’s Giants Head Mountain.

Elisabeth passed away a year ago. “She was key in helping us acquire the farm,” Richard says. “For example, she spoke German with the former owners who were in Germany. We both fell in love with it as soon as we saw it. She is a huge part of what Marichel is today, her efforts and her vision.”

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Tasting Room with a View

The vineyard’s name is a combination of the first initials of Elisabeth’s son Marlow, Richard and Elisabeth. I think it sounds lovely and very French.

A retired Air Canada pilot, Richard says he is relishing his second career spent in the outdoors. “There is some useful cross-over from my days as a pilot,” he says. “The discipline you need to approach a problem and the organizational skills definitely apply. But it’s not in any way a mechanical process like flying from Point A to Point B. It’s a much longer and hugely rewarding process to plant vines, watch them grow, tend them and years later literally see the fruits of your labour.”

Richard says his take on wine-making is very hands off. “The wine is quintessentially an expression of the farm. I don’t manipulate the wine…It’s the vineyard you are tasting.”

Anthony Gismondi does a much better job at describing Marichel Vineyard’s Syrah saying, “Mocha, liquorice, black berry jam, port-y nose with intense vanilla, leather, resin, cooked rhubarb notes spiked with garrigue and slightly volatile notes…” Sounds good too me. Here is my description: “Damned good.”

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One of two winery dogs that will greet you effusively.

This small winery is a bit of a hidden gem tucked away in Naramata on Little John Road which boasts only two properties…that of our good friends Bill and Pam and Marichel. Richard carefully tends the vineyard himself which is divided up into eight small microclimates. He has left areas of natural plantings on the property which is home to a variety of wildlife. Partway through the growing season he will select prune off a good deal of the fruit to supercharge the flavour of the remaining grapes.

With a quiet, but dedicated following, Marichel is a wonderful surprise for new visitors who are astonished by the dramatic views, special wines and the warm welcome. The tasting room is open daily through mid-October from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 1016 Little John Road is on the lakeside of Naramata Road before you reach the Village of Naramata.

No Foxglove, No Love

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Photo light in the secret garden this morning on my favourite plant of all time.

What does it say about me that my favourite garden plant is deadly? Digitalis, also called Dead Mans Bells, Bloody Fingers and Witches Gloves is toxic but beautiful. A few years ago a US woman poisoned her husband by adding foxglove leaves to his salad. He became violently ill but survived. I guess the guy wasn’t handy.

IMG_9530I prefer to call by them by their more endearing name, Foxglove. Also called Virgin’s Glove, Fairy Caps, Folk’s Glove and Fairy Thimbles, this cottage garden flower is a key reason my secret garden looks magical this morning. I grew all the foxgloves in my collection from seeds in the greenhouse…many of them ordered from Plants of Distinction in England. Some of my favourites are Candy Mountain Peach (see, not a sinister name at all)…the bells face upwards in this one, Camelot cream with its densely clothed stems of Guernsey cream bells, Elsie Kelsey, with its beautiful snow white bells and a raspberry jam lip and obscura with a nodding red-veined yellow flower from Spain. Heywoodii is of the palest of pinks with heavy freckles with densely packed bells on a dwarf plant. Mertonenisis is also a very fine hybrid reproducing truly from seed with its crushed strawberry bells…I could go on.

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I like the way they look mixed in with lupins.

They are virtually maintenance free and hardy. It took some patience as most are biennial. I had to nurture my seedlings, harden them off, plant them and wait another whole year to see their bells. They will grow in a number of soil types as long as there is good drainage. Most are hardy to zone 4.

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Once your foxgloves are blooming let them for for as long as you can. Your goal is to allow the plant to go to seed and for the seed to dry so it can be scattered around the garden. Yes please. I love the unkempt look of the garden with self-seeders.

IMG_9523Bees love foxgloves and their blooms are entirely dependent of the visits of this insect. The projecting lower lip of the corolla forms an alighting platform for the bee and as he pushes his way up the bell, to get at the honey which lies in a ring around the seed vessel at the top of the flower, he rubs on the pollen. A single foxglove can provide from one to two million seeds. This particular plant is a whopper with beautiful markings towering above my head.  They love the dappled shade of my secret garden although they will tolerate full sun.

IMG_9497I love they way their dramatic spikes of tubular flowers with speckled throats add elegance and height to my garden.

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They look nice among my climbing rose.

Foxgloves are pretty darned handy. They are used to produce the important heart drugs digitoxin, digitalin, digitonin and digitalenin which are extracted from the leaves. The drug increases the activity of all forms of muscle tissue, but more especially that of the heart and arterioles, the all-important property of the drug being its action on the circulation.

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The Fish are Wearing Sweaters

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“It’s so freaking cold that the fish are wearing sweaters.”

We have been in the lake since May 9th training for our chilly relay swim across the English Channel this summer. Our conversations have been going like this as we stand in the water trying to talk ourselves into actually swimming:

“Colder than yesterday, which was colder than the day before. How is that possible?” — Me

“Just get in.” — Charlie

“Don’t rush me.” — Jan

“It’s a good thing we don’t have balls.” — Me

“Maybe we do.” — Charlie

“I just saw a fish go by. It was wearing a sweater.” — Me

“Just get in.” — Charlie

“Look at the ducks on the shore, I think their feet are frozen to the ground.” — Me

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Charlie checking the lake temperature. Sometimes it’s better not to know.

When we start whining I bring up teammate Jaime who is swimming in chillier waters in Alberta. The day she went in when it was 7 degrees in the water with an air temperature of 8 and it was snowing a bit was pretty hardcore. We have been swimming in 12- to about 15-degree water and once in, over the initial ice cream headache and teeth-aching first few minutes we are actually finding it almost “enjoyable”. We have the lake to ourselves as even the hard-core Ironmen are still in the pool. We’ve learned to trust that this too shall pass and we actually will find it bearable.

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We have a perfect one-kilometre swim route from the Peach (giant Peach concession stand) to the SS Sicamous (historic paddle wheeler) which is protected from boat traffic by a line of buoys.

The glass is half-full…of lake water

  1. The cold water is helping our immune system. It helps boost the white blood cell count because the body is forced to react to changing conditions. The cold actually shocks your system into rallying its defences.
  2. We get an endorphin high because it brings us close to the pain barrier or on some days through it. The pain stimulates endorphins and voila…it hurts so much it makes us feel good. Something like that…
  3. It boosts our circulation and flushes our veins, arteries and capillaries. The cold water forces blood to the surface and pushes the cold downwards.
  4. It burns a few more calories.
  5. Cold water swimming places stress on the body physically and mentally. So, go figure this one…those stresses reduce life stress making us more calm and relaxed.
  6. You actually habituate to the cold water. You find it hard to breathe for the first minute or so but you settle in, relax and get used to it. You learn it won’t kill you.
  7. The pain of immersion never disappears but the cold shock response will reduce somewhat after about five or six cold water swims.
  8. It makes you feel BAD ASS to be out there when it’s frigging cold and wavy and people on the beach stop and stare. You learn you have the power to master the cold.
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A rare calm day. Nice for swimming but not great for our Channel training.
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It is really mind of matter for the first few minutes…every time. You learn to trust that the initial shock will wear off and the sense of revitalization you get afterward is worth it. My new secret pleasure is a hot bath of about equivalent swim time with Saje Apres Sport bath salts. Good thing we have solar panels for our hot water.
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I don’t know if I will be swimming in early May next year though… Probably will wait until June.

See Spot Run: Spot prawns, Sauv Blanc and the SS Sicamous

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These BC delicacies taste better than any prawn you’ve ever eaten…they should…they cost an astounding $18 a pound.

A sold-out crowd of about 100 wined on 10 Okanagan wineries’ takes on Sauvignon Blanc and dined on three famous local chefs’ versions of spot prawns on a heritage paddle wheeler. I have a wonderfully scribbly, tomato-stained notepad to show for it and a spot or two of my own on my white blouse. OK by me. It was just the right number of people to fill the beautifully-restored SS Sicamous to create a convivial buzz of talk and laughter and the feeling that this was the perfect place to be on a Sunday afternoon in Penticton.

The inaugural Wine Party (Jennifer Schell and Terry Meyer-Stone) spotlight event was designed to focus on a local sampling of a single varietal paired with the BC shellfish that has risen to superstardom in the seafood world. Spot prawns are such a big deal in the culinary world that it’s gotten to the point where it’s very hard to part fisherman from some of their catch before it heads overseas to lucrative markets and if you do, the prices are higher than for lobster. This year’s catch is 50 per cent more than last year’s, partly because Asia’s farm-raised tiger prawn industry has been decimated by a disease.

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The S.S. Sicamous almost stole the show from the spot prawns, Sauv Blanc and the food and wine lovers, wine critiques and wine industry guests at the event.

What’s the big deal about spot prawns? The little critters are large, sweet, firmly fleshed and are harvested sustainably for about 80 days every spring off BC’s coast in the inside waters of  Vancouver Island.

The Spotlight on Sauvignon Blanc and Spot Prawn Festival chefs worked some magic with those already tasty crustaceans.

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Chef Mark Ashton of Lake Breeze’s The Patio created a lime creole cream blackened spot prawn that was my favourite. It was the cream…

 

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Chef John Burke of Penticton’s Front Street Brasserie did his version on a Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwich. Here is where my scribbles got the best of me…ingredients included spot prawn, lime, pickled carrot, mint and cilantro and pickled green chili peppers. Apologies Chef Burke if I’ve left anything out. These had a delicious and refreshing hit of lime and were unbelievably tasty.
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Chef Ross Derrick of The Table at Codfathers Market in Kelowna got his spot prawns from the market’s fishmonger, Jon. He served his ceviche-style and added in albacore tuna to the spot prawn mix with a super fresh tasting pineapple, lemon and lime juice with a hint of chili and garlic with a tomato pico sauce and some spicy cream fraiche. Yum. This is where it got a bit messy…

I now get what the big deal is about spot prawns. A doggie bag would have been an idea…

“Our Wine Party brand is about education as well as fun and this type of event allows people to experience a range of styles produced here in the Okanagan,” says Jennifer Schell. We are spotlighting the local version of the varietal — many wine drinkers immediately think of New Zealand when they think of Sauv Blanc — so we are aiming to redirect their palates here.”

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Fairview Cellars, located at the north end of the Benches of the Golden Mile, offered a thoroughly enjoyable Sauv Blanc.

Lovely glasses of summer-in-a-glass Sauv Blanc was poured by these fine wineries:

“Can you believe this venue?,” says Jennifer. “I immediately fell in love and couldn’t believe I hadn’t been on it before. That will not be the last Wine Party event on the SS Sicamous.”

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SS Sicamous was built for the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1914 and is a landmark at the northwest entry to Penticton on Highway 97.
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The event took place largely in the Ladies Saloon which features a large mirror and electric lights from the early 1900s. The luxury class passenger vessel used to transport passengers and cargo to remote communities along the shores of Okanagan Lake.
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I snuck away from the crowd to savour a glass of Lake Breeze Sauv Blanc in this lovely part of the vessel.  The ship is now operated by the SS Sicamous Marine Heritage Society, with help from the City of Penticton.

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We’ve come a long way baby. I wonder what the crew of the ship would make of the wine and spot prawn party and some of its interesting guests?

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Renée Stewart (Operations & Sales Manager) and her mom, Jeannine Fradelizio are pictured here with Jeannine’s cool invention, Wine Glass Writer. These fantastic pens helped me keep track of my wine glass throughout the event.  Beats a wine charm. Who can ever remember which charm you had?

 

 

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