The aromas of pears poaching in fresh orange juice, orange zest, vanilla beans, Chardonnay and just-picked Naramata pears smells like fall preserving at its best. Add in the ginger and cinnamon scents coming from the gingerbread in the oven and you have an irresistible combination.
This poached pear recipe uses 24 pears and makes four freezer bags worth of desserts that can be thawed, warmed and served with my gingerbread, a sponge cake, or with sweetened mascarpone cheese, candied almonds, over ice cream or simply on its own.
Vanilla Naramata pears in orange wine syrup
24 small to medium just-ripe pears
4 cups (1 litre) Singletree Chardonnay or a dry, light wine like a Pinot Blanc
2 tbsp grated orange rind
2 cups freshly-squeezed orange juice
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 vanilla bean, cut into four pieces
Wash pears and peel leaving the core and stem intact. Immerse in ascorbic acid water (I used Fruitfresh) to keep the pears from turning brown.
In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the wine, orange rind, juice and sugar. Bring to a gentle boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat, add vanilla pieces and gently boil for 5 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, ease pears gently into the syrup. Cover and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, gently rolling pears over a couple of times. Pears should not be soft but should show some resistance. Remove saucepan from heat and let cool.
Pack 6 pears and 1 piece of vanilla bean into a freezer bag and cover with 2 cups of syrup. Squeeze out air, seal and place on a baking sheet so pears remain in a single layer in the bag. Freeze. Remove from baking sheets once frozen hard.
This traditional gingerbread fills the kitchen with its spices. It freezes well if wrapped and sealed in an airtight bag.
2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup dark molasses
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup applesauce
1 farm-fresh egg (from your own chickens if you have them!)
1/2 cup softened butter
Pre-heat oven to 350F and butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.
In the bowl of a mixer, sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt.
In another bowl, combine molasses, hot water and applesauce. Using mixer on low speed, pour molasses mixture into the dry ingredients all at once and beat. Add egg and butter and beat until combined. Increase speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes.
Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake in pre-heated for 55 minutes to one hour, or until toothpick inserted in the centre of the loaf comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes, remove from pan and serve with a vanilla Naramata pear in orange wine syrup and a dollop of whip cream.
Garagiste North brought together 28 small producers and a highly appreciative group of wine lovers in Penticton on Sunday to offer a sampling of why small is better — Carpe Vinum indeed. The first of its kind in Canada, in it’s fourth year and sixth festival, Garagiste North, The Small Producers Wine Festival, celebrates the artisan winemaker creating commercially produced small case lot wines (under 2000 cases). The term Garagiste (gar-ah-jeest) comes from a group of winemakers in the Bordeaux region of France, producing “vins de garage” or “garage wine.” They were small-lot winemakers, sometimes working in their garage, who refused to follow industry laws and protocol.
The Garagiste pop-up wine store was on site and I chose three of my favourites to take home: Black Cloud‘s Red Sky (Bradley Cooper & Audralee Daum), Schell Wines inaugural Chardonnay produced by the event’s co-founder and author Jennifer Schell (The Wine Party) and her brothers Jonathan and Jaime and a Forgotten Hill Wine Co. Pinot Gris (Ben and Maya Gauthier).
Partial proceeds from the event will benefit the Garagiste North Wine Study Scholarship at Okanagan College, which is great.
“Being a small producer means giving everything you’ve got,” says Forgotten Hill Wine Co.’s Maya Gauthier. “You’re not starting with big money and you have to love what you do to make it happen. The learning curve is incredibly steep and the workload is so high that only those with a major passion for wine are willing to take it on.”
Forgotten Hill Winemaker Ben Gauthier says, “The result of that is that these small winemakers are putting their heart and soul into the bottle and it really, really shows in the finished product. Every wine has a different, individual story to tell. At the same time, we have the advantage of not being bound by any (or not many) rules: no one is telling us what to do!”
The Forgotten Hill’s Vineyard is a four acre plot on their property, planted in 3/4 Pinot Gris and 1/4 Pinot Noir. “Ours is the highest vineyard on the Naramata Bench, sitting at over 2100 feet,” says Maya. “We balance out our high elevation by having an enormous rock face behind the vineyard, which reflects heat during the day, and radiates heat into the evening. Our soil is predominantly gravel and sand, which allows us to control the vigour and produce small grapes, and low yields, with intensely concentrated flavours. We also make use of deficit irrigation, meaning that we water very sparingly, which helps to enhance the varietal characteristics of our grapes.”
Ben’s style is “meticulous minimalism” with the goal of showcasing the varietal and the terroir, without any interference. “We want the winemaking to be true to what the vineyard delivers, to the season and to the soil. All we want to do is coax things in the right direction. ”
The Gauthiers planted the vineyard in 2008, with a winery in mind as a long-term goal. Since planting the vineyard they have built a home, a bed & breakfast, and had two daughters, and now, finally, the winery has come to be. They opened in June and have a lineup that features Pinot Gris, Rosé and Pinot Noir. A Syrah and another Pinot Noir will be released in Spring 2018.
“We really enjoyed the event, and loved having the chance to interact with likeminded wine peeps,” says Maya. “We are able to swap stories, build a personal connection with each other and with the customers, and strenghten the ties in our community of small producers. Vive les Garagistes!”
“It is a really is a unique community – and a super passionate one,” says Jennifer Schell of the Garagiste. “This is what makes our festival so different and why we attract the real wine lovers to the tasting. The name Garagiste (going back to its origins from Bordeaux) represents the renegade winemaker and those who experiment with new blends and varietals. The is what is also happening here and what defines our group, our Garagiste Guild as we are calling it.”
Jennifer says plans are in the works for the first Garagiste Symposium and trade show this January focussing on the needs and culture of the small producer. The event will be taking place at Okanagan College in Penticton who are the event venue sponsors. She is also signing a new book deal — Garagistes of British Columbia.
“We also enjoyed the first event yesterday with our Riedel sponsor on board. So fabulous having our high quality wines tasted in the highest quality crystal glassware. Our focus is also to educate wine lovers about the entire process of winemaking from vine to bottle by allowing them the opportunity to talk directly to the growers and winemakers behind the label.”
“As for Schell Wines … after working with the Garagistes and putting these festivals together for the last few years with my event partner Terry (Meyer-Stone), I wanted to become a Garagiste,” says Jennifer. ” I called my two brothers to ask if they wanted to start this new adventure together and they were in. I love that we have this family project together – gives me more time with them in a very busy world. I signed up Rob Westbury at Nagging Doubt Winery as our winemaker – he is a Garagiste and also my brother’s neighbour. So this made the perfect match for us.
“We purchased the Chardonnay grapes from Kitsch Wines that is on East Kelowna Road- just 2 minutes from my parents’ farm and where my brothers and I grew up. So, this felt right with fruit from our neighbourhood representing our unique East Kelowna terroir and what wine from grapes grown on our family farm would actually taste like.
“I am also known for being a huge fan of Chardonnay – so this first wine had to be a Chard. My niece designed our logo and also the ‘doods’ for our Chardonnayism and Chardonnayist t-shirts.”
“We find the Garagiste events to be the most ‘real’ interfaces with the wine consuming public,” says Black Cloud’s Bradley Cooper. “There’s none of the that ‘we’re here to get a buzz and catch up on gossip’ at the other big shows. The average Garagiste attender is engaged, curious and aware. They’re ready to try and discover. Since we’re still unknown to many people despite starting up in 2008, we value the kind of exposure Garagiste affords.
“Small producers can sometimes innovate in ways larger operations may find difficult. There’s a certain agility with being small production,” he says.
Bradley’s winemaking philosophy is “…start with the finest grapes you can afford which will solve or eliminate many issues down the road. After that, intervene only when you must, but if you must, don’t hesitate or waffle. Wine doesn’t favour procrastinators in its formative months.”
Black Cloud’s Red Sky is pretty special. Wine people in BC and beyond will be talking about 2015 for decades to come. As Brad says, “Was it the first of many warmer vintages or was it an anomaly, a gift from southern climates? What we know at this time is that it was warmer and earlier than just about any growing season in the modern era (post 1988). Which resulted in some unusual circumstances.”
“The 2015 RED SKY started out as juice bursting with flavour and plenty of Brix, or sugar in solution. Unusually, it was also a little higher in the pH department. To avoid having a flabby rosé (who likes a flabby rosé?), we cold fermented at about 12C and boosted the natural acidity by about half a gram per liter. Cold fermenting helps lock in the fruit flavours. Yeast selection was initially feral but to ensure a strong finish at the end of the race we added our old pal Romanée Conti 212 when about 1/2 half the sugar had been depleted. The result of the yeast family feud is the complexity and savoury nature of this rosé.”
Brad describes The 2015 RED SKY as strawberry, cherry, rhubarb in the nose and in the palate. And enough tannin to stand up to just about any casual food pairing from pizza to picnics to pastrami. “Unusually, the alcohol is on the high side but the big, round body of the wine manages that with considerable aplomb.”
Seasoned with garlic cloves and shallots, this easy to make pork chops recipe is elevated into the stratosphere with its apple and blackberry hard cider and velvety cream sauce. Adapted from blogger queen of France’s Mimi Thorisson’snew cookbook, French Country Cooking, the recipe takes less than a half hour to prepare.
4 bone-in pork chops, 2.5 cm thick
fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 shallots, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled and smashed
8 sage leaves
2/3 cup Rest Easy Naramata Cider Company apple and blackberry cider
3 tablespoons heavy cream
Preheat oven to 325F
Score the pork chops on both sides and season all over with salt and pepper.
In a large saute pan, heat the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook for 3 minutes. Add the pork chops and garlic cloves, reduce the heat to medium and cook just until the juices run clear (about 7 minutes per side).
Transfer the pork chops to an ovenproof dish, put the sage leaves on top and spoon the pan drippings over all. Put in the oven to keep warm.
Increase the heat under the pan to high and pour in the cider. Boil for 2 minutes to reduce. Add the heavy cream, stir until thickened and remove from the heat.
Pour the sauce on top of the chops and serve. Pair with the remaining cider!
I created this recipe to showcase the unveiling of a bespoke Okanagan chocolate. With this trademarked chocolate the Okanagan Valley has put the frosting on its reputation as Canada’s food and wine capital. Chocolate, wine and orchard fruit…yes!
Until you can get your hands on this beautiful chocolate from Okanagan College, the locally-sourced CC OrchardsNaramata dried cherries and special Wild Goose Dunkelfelder wine to create the ultimate gooey, chocolatey, tart cookie I will suggest substitutes…
Okanagan College is the first post-secondary institution outside of Europe and only the second in the world to create its very own chocolate recipes. The exclusive milk and dark chocolate recipes were created by Chef Danny Capadouca and Chef Bernard Casavant last summer when the pair traveled to Paris to the Or NoirTMII tasting laboratories of Cacao Barry, a chocolate company founded in 1842. More on how you design a chocolate in an upcoming post on the blog with an interview from Chef Bernard…It’s tough work right?
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup Wild Goose Dunkelfelder (or other fruit-forward red high quality red wine)
icing sugar for dusting (optional)
further 1/2 cup of Okanagan Noir or other high-quality dark chocolate for drizzling over baked cookies (optional)
The night before you want to make your cookies, macerate (soak) the 1 1/2 cups of dried cherries in one cup of red wine overnight in the refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Strain the cherries reserving the wine to drink! Chop the cherries into two or three pieces; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla extract; beat until well combined. Add the flour mixture, and beat on low speed, until just combined. Do not overbeat.
With a wooden spoon, fold in Okanagan Noir chocolate and cherries. (Dough can be frozen at this point, wrapped well in plastic, up to 1 month; thaw completely before baking.)
Form balls of dough, each about 1/4 cup; place balls on baking sheet about 3 inches apart. Bake until puffed and cracked, 9 to 11 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Dust with icing sugar and drizzle melted Okanagan Noir over the icing sugar topped cookies for even more chocolatey flavour.
Store in an airtight container, at room temperature, up to 3 days. Three days? As if that is going to happen…
British Columbia’s only winery exclusively dedicated to bubbles and one of a very few in Canada, Bella Sparkling Wines focuses on single vineyard expressions of classic Champagne grape Chardonnay and Gamay Noir, an underdog BC grape that won’t be for long. Bella is special too as the exceptional sparkling wines are made using traditional and ancestral methods.
Newsflash: Making wine, as everyone in the Okanagan Valley knows, is hard work. It’s dependent on the weather and growing conditions that change from year-to-year. It’s about hard physical, unglamorous, labour. It’s about finicky science with art, research, education, knowledge and risk thrown in. Making sparkling wine? Double, triple, quadruple the work. Making traditional and ancestral (natural) sparkling and the work goes off the scale.
Found a niche
“I love what I do,” says Bella wine maker/owner Jay Drysdale. “It’s hard to get a true sense of the fruit with so much makeup,” says Jay. “I love to see what the ground gives us with nothing added to hide the flavours or strip the colours.
“It may be hard but we have also found a niche.” After a thoughtful pause, Jay says, “I don’t know how to put this properly but it is amazing to share my science experiments, work at making the wine better and better and share my passion with others.”
Mission accomplished. Bella, now five years in, is selling out of all they produce and is garnering a loyal and effervescent following.
Riddle me this?
How many times does Jay touch a bottle to do a process such as hand riddling and hand discorging before it’s sold? “About 85 times,” says Jay. “All we do has become the norm and we don’t really think about it anymore but the 2,000 cases we produce is a lot to do by hand.”
Jay says Bella is about using traditional techniques that are a dying art. Jay likens what he does to the pushback in what’s happening with our food. “Our grandparents used real butter in their food. Our generation went to using margarine and all the stuff that’s put into that. Now we are seeing why our grandparents’ generation were healthier and enjoyed better tasting food.”
Of Bella’s 2,000 cases, 500 of them are natural wine made with ancestral methods. When wine was first made 8,000 years ago, it was not made using packets of yeast, vitamins, enzymes, reverse osmosis, cryoextraction, powdered tannins…among other additives and processed used in winemaking worldwide. Wines were made from crushed grapes that fermented into wine. Full stop.
Traditional and ancestral methods
Jay explains that his wines made with the traditional method involve a first ferment in a tank. The clear wine on top is then racked or siphoned off the murky lees and sometimes aged in oak barrels during or after this clarification and racking. The second step involves bottling with the addition of yeast and sugar for the second ferment. This is where the riddling comes in. Jay grabs each bottle, giving it a small shake, an abrupt back and forth twist, every day over a period of one to four weeks. The shaking and the twist dislodges particles that have clung to the glass and prevents sediments from caking in one spot. (A Gyropalette is on Jay’s wish list…a computer-automated machine that would reduce his workload enormously.) The final step is discouraging where a small amount of wine is released along with the sediment plug.
Natural wine has only one ferment involved and no added yeast, sugar or sulphur.
We compared Bella’s first vintage of Orchard House Gamay with a glass of their traditional Champagne-style sparkling, B2 (Buddhas Blend), 100 per cent Chardonnay from two vineyards, one in Oliver and one in Kamloops to blend two levels of acidity. (Editor’s note – I love my job.) The traditional style was lovely. To quote Dom Perignon, “I am drinking the stars!” Fresh, dry, citrus notes.
Bella’s Orchard House Gamay, with grapes from a small holding on the Naramata Bench was more flavourful with sherry, apricot and peach notes and it was a lovely pale pink. Made with traditional methods, the sparkling wonderfulness was made with Gamay Noir that remained on the lees for a year in a tank. The lees act as a natural preservative and as long as it stays smelling clean no sulphur is required. As Jay says, each sip tasted a little differently. (Editor’s note – for better or worse re the writing quality – I’m sipping a glass as I write this. Worth a typo or two…)
The lucky students at my Naramata-Blend valentine baking classwill be among the first to sample Orchard House Gamay, this special sparkling of only 40 cases that will be released for Valentine’s. There are a few tickets left if you want to learn to bake fancy French pastries with Chef Amanda Perez of The White Apron Co.
Champagne love story
For their first date Jay took Wendy Rose and his dog (Bella) truffle hunting just outside of Portland, Oregon. They had a lot in common including a shared rich culinary background. Jay was a retired chef, currently working in the wine industry and Wendy grew up in a household where her mom was a chef and her dad’s only hobby was wine. Long story short, the couple has been celebrating ever since. Wendy and Jay founded Bella in 2011 on a four-acre Naramata homestead that incorporates vineyard, pigs, chickens, bees, organic gardens and heritage fruit.
We are into borrowed time now in our gilded season. The low, slanting light that is wonderful for photography and that fleeting feeling, knowing the blue skies and gold light will too quickly fade to our long season of gray are getting me outside every chance I get.
The light: thick, plush, gold is not something we are imagining. The position of the sun in the sky is changing. That, in turn, alters how we perceive colour and light. In the height of summer, the sun is as far overhead as it gets. But the sun drops and drops after the summer solstice in June — and the change speeds up at the midpoint toward winter, which is the light I’m capturing in these photos.
The farther from the equator, the more obliquely the sun’s light strikes Earth — that’s the longer, slanted light we are bathed in now, instead of the full-on beams we bask in at high summer.
Winter is coming but not first without this gleaming farewell.This year’s fall colour has been supreme. No hard frosts or strong winds to crash the party early so nature can do its thing and linger in all its golden glory.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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?
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?