Spring is my favourite time of year in Naramata, British Columbia. It’s fifty shades of pink in my photo essay.
Naramata is world-renowned for taking it slow. Our little village is one of only three Canadian communities with a special status as a “slow city” bestowed on us by Cittaslow, an international organization formed in Orvieto Italy in 1999. We just get better and better and living up to our slow status.
Here is a new and most wonderful way to celebrate life in the slow lane in eight painless steps:
- Saunter up to the bar at Legend Distilling.
- Order a dram of Wyatt Whisky.
- Take your time, decide if you want it neat, with a splash of water to open up the flavours or on ice if it’s a hot day and that’s your jam.
- Stroll on out to the patio with the best view in stunning Naramata overlooking vineyards, Okanagan Lake and Giant’s Head mountain.
- Pull up an Adirondack and place your tumbler on the arm.
- Leisurely contemplate the amber colour of the whisky as the sun lights it up.
- Get your nose involved and appreciate the aromas of dried fruits, vanilla and spice.
- Take a sip…savour.
It took Legend Owner/Distiller Doug Lennie four years to make this beautiful Wyatt Whisky, we owe it to him to push pause and fully immerse ourselves in the tasting.
“Making whisky is why I wanted to get into distilling in the first place,” says Doug as he talks to me on the sunny patio in early spring about Legend’s inaugural 1,400 bottles of Wyatt Whisky. “It’s special because it’s named after our son. It’s special because it’s made with British Columbia wheat and aged in oak barrels that previously held local wines and ports. It’s special because we are excited about good food and wine and we are making something unique that is full of character.”
Wyatt Whisky joins a growing list of hand-crafted spirits the Naramata distillery is garnering a loyal and enthusiastic following for. It’s best known for its range of legendary gins.
Doug describes his first whisky as very much a Canadian style whisky made from 90 per cent wheat (Red Wheat from Peace River), 10 per cent rye and aged in toasted French oak barrels. The grain is milled, mashed, fermented and distilled at Legend Distilling in its gorgeous copper beauty, the centrepiece of the distillery’s front window.
Wyatt Whisky is 40 per cent alcohol and is non-chill filtered which Doug says makes for a more flavourful, full-bodied whisky. To ensure the first release was amazing, Doug waited a year longer than the three-year cycle many new distilleries are on for their whisky programs.
“The art comes into the blending,” he says. “The whisky is stored in barrels from different cooperages with different char levels.” His Canadian-style,”…is not as aggressive as an American whisky which is aged in barrels with a 1/4 inch of charcoal. My style is more subtle. You taste the wood flavour and the fruity notes from the barrels along with the lovely caramel and wheat flavours of the grains.”
For those still working on acquiring the acquired taste whisky drinkers talk of and aren’t quite ready for a neat or nearly neat taste, Legend Owner and cocktail genius Dawn Lennie came up with her own take on a whisky sour in collaboration with Naramata’s Elephant Island Winery.
ON NARAMATA THYME
2oz Wyatt Whisky
1oz Elephant Island Apricot dessert wine
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz honey syrup (1:1 honey and water)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Add all but 1 sprig of thyme to a shaker full of ice and shake shake shake.
Strain into coup glass and garnish with fresh thyme.
If I had made a fine whisky that I hovered over for four years it would be a grand Tom Hanks, “I made fire” moment shouted at full volume. Doug Lennie, in his humble, laid-back style says, “I hope everyone loves it as much as I do.” Give it a taste, take your time.
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.
“I’ve been doing this for a little more than 20 years, ” says Naramatian Tim Skrypiczajko as he shows me around one of the two plots of land he farms on North Naramata Road.
“I learned to garden from some old-school organic farmers, they saved their own seed, so to me it’s always been a part of the process.”
Over the past 50 or so years seed growing has changed dramatically as part of the industrialization of agriculture that resulted in commercial vegetable seed growing becoming specialized and in the hands of a relatively few companies and people. Farmers like Tim are working hard to preserve and maintain unique seedstock suited to particular micro-climates. He quotes John Navazio, the author of The Organic Seed Grower, “The seed was part of their farm and their farm was part of the seed. Each variety that was selected over time to meet the environmental conditions and the farmer’s needs became part of the whole system used on the farm.” That was the way it had always worked and Tim is doing his part to continue that valuable tradition in Naramata.
“I’m a curious person by nature, so I just started to try to grow as many different things as possible. If it was something I’d never heard of before, even better.” Tim started saving seeds and expanding the variety of seeds he grew in earnest. “I would seek out new and different varieties from small seed companies here and there, as well as a few other sources and started to amass a large collection.” His collection grew to the point that he turned his hobby into a business in 2010 and began selling seeds. He has now at the point that the Naramata Seed Company is his primary focus.
“I still treat it like a hobby though. Growing so many different things keeps it interesting. The only part of the business that feels like a real job is the marketing stuff,” he adds.
Tim says his philosophy has always been to work with the farm — it’s soil, climate, topography… and farm in a way that’s suitable for that. “At some point I realized the place where I live is the ideal place to produce seeds so it made sense to focus on that. I feel the plots I farm are the best place in Canada to produce certain kinds of seeds.”
“I discovered that growing and selling seeds is a good way to make a viable income from a couple acres of land, while being able to do most of the work by hand and not having to use lots of machinery, which I like.
“Sometimes I wonder how I ended up doing this, and think that somehow the seeds chose me to be their custodian, not the other way around.”
The Naramata Seed Company’s seeds are open-pollinated, untreated and of course non-GMO and Tim farms using traditional chemical-free farming techniques. He is dedicated to the preservation of genetic diversity and is focused on rare and historic varieties.
Starting your own seeds is easier than you think
Tim says it’s easy to grow plants from seeds and encourages everyone to give it a try. “You will soon realize it’s not as daunting as it seems. There are lots more people who want to try growing from seed all the time.”
A tomato is born
Naramata is a great place to grow anything, he says. North Naramata’s isolation from other farms and gardens reduces the risk of potential cross-pollination he adds.
Growing the company
As for the future, the Naramata Seed Company will soon have an upgraded website making online ordering easy. His goal is to grow the company to the point where he can focus on the growing and seed cleaning and turn the marketing over to someone else.
Slow & Seedy Sunday
Tim is playing a key role in Slow & Seedy Sunday taking place in Naramata February 11 from 11 – 3 at Columbia Hall. The free event hosted by NaramataSlow will include seed and garden-related vendors, a preserve exchange and information on a backyard chicken project. Speakers include James Young, who has obtained farm status on a relatively modest plot of land in the Village, beekeeper Tim Bouwmeester of Desert Flower Honey and Chris Mathison, the owner/operator of the Grist Mill Garden who will talk about seed starting and diversity. Check out the NaramataSlow Facebook page to learn more.
How pretentious is it to name your house? Oh, very, so let’s up the ante and choose a latin name.
The Handyman hails from England where house naming is a thing. Think Primrose Cottage, Two Hoots, Crumbledown, Nudgens, Wits End, Tweedledum, or Creeping Snail.
We have neighbours with house names like Ironpost Guest House, Forgotten Hill and the Grape Escape but they are guest houses with a good reason for a name. Also nearby is Rancho Costa Plenty which has been sale for awhile.
We could have chosen another dead language name like Cave Canem (beware of the dog) but that would have dated us our two pals lived to ripe old ages and are now planted in the garden, or Nessum Dorma (none shall sleep) with the idea of discouraging visitors from overstaying.
A week after our gate and name went up a neighbour pulled his car over to chat and said, “You know, I drive by your gate every day on my way to work and think, seize the day, yup, good idea.”
As hokey as it sounds, it’s become a mantra for our house that is often welcoming visitors with wine, a nap in a tree house and evenings on the deck.
The name of our Village is pretty crazy too when you know its history and it has a lot of letters “a”s … although it doesn’t hold a candle to these English villages of say…
or my personal favourite, so much so that if we decide to leave Canada and return to the Handyman’s homeland this would be the spot…
In 1905 Naramata was originally called East Summerland which was too confusing, I guess and a bit dull making us a candidate for sister villagehood with Little Snoring. The postmaster’s wife, Mrs. Gillespie was a bit of a hippie dippie in her day apparently. She was a medium of the American Spiritualistic church and invited some of her gal pals over for a get-together at which she went into a “spiritualist trance.” The spirit of a great Sioux Indian Chief, Big Moose, came to her and spoke of his dearly loved wife calling her Nar-ra-mah-tah, as she was the Smile of Manitou. All and sundry were struck by Mrs. Gillespie’s revelation, a few extra letters were dropped (which was a darn good thing) and here we are. (I wonder if Big Moose every worried about Narramahtah’s faithfulness…)
I also wonder if we should add Please Drive Carefully to our Village sign?
Harvesting lavender…those words together sound pretty idyllic. Even in the heat and smoke from Okanagan fires it is a pretty amazing way to spend a morning. It is the only farm work I’ve done where you come home hot, dirty and sore but smelling better than when you started.
In movie speak It’s The Colour of Purple, Scent of a Woman and Attack of the Killer Bees all rolled into one. The glorious purpleness of the fields, the clean, stringent and all encompassing lavender aroma and the buzzing of a zillion bees make the time spent at Forest Greenman Lavender Farm in Naramata an intense sensory experience. This photo essay captures the sights of the morning…your imagination will have to fill in the rest.
The girlies would tell you this tale if they could but their typing is hunt and peck at best and would take far too long. I think the whole event confuses them as well. An aside… Did you know chickens have a great memory and can differentiate between more than 100 human or animal faces. They love to play, they dream (about eating millions of bugs?), they mourn for each other and they feel pain and distress. They also make great moms — they talk to their chicks while still in the egg and turn the eggs about 50 times a day.
A week into chicken husbandry I am still getting up at 6 a.m. to check on them. In my pjs, no coffee on board, I duck into their coop to change the water and hear the run latch gently click shut with me inside.
The run is some distance from the house and the sleeping Handyman who decidedly does not wake up at 6 a.m.
The old weird song lyrics start going through my head…
Oh, dear, what can the matter be
Three old ladies locked in the lavatory
They were there from Monday to Saturday
Nobody knew they were there
I try using a stick to poke through the hardware cloth and lift the latch up.
The first one’s name was Elizabeth Porter
She went in to be rid of some overdue water
And she stayed there far more than she ought to
And nobody knew she was there.
Maria and The Baroness are watching me curiously. (Re side note…they are smarter than you think.) I then try pushing the hardware cloth out, with a fair bit of force, in several spots. The Handyman is really good at building things and the coop is racoon-proof, or so we thought.
The second one’s name was Elizabeth Pomphrey
She went in and made herself comfy
Then she said: “Girls, I can’t get my bum free.”
And nobody knew she was there
After only a week with my new pals we aren’t super comfortable with each other. They are eyeing me suspiciously and making low murmuring sounds. Another aside…Researchers have shown that there are at least 24 different sounds chickens make and maybe as many as 30. While chickens don’t have nearly the vocabulary that us humans have, and their chicken brains don’t allow for abstract and deep conversations, they are still a very vocal and conversational critter.
I finally hit on the solution and break a few zip ties that are securing a set of overlapping panels of the hardware cloth and make my great escape. Coffee!
The last one’s name was Elizabeth Carter
She was known as a world renowned farter
She went in and played a sonata
And nobody knew she was there.
Later that day The Handyman installed a rope gizmo allowing the latch to be opened from the inside as well.
The day after the escape from the coop I woke at 6 to find the nesting box door hanging open. I ran to the coop expecting it to be empty or a scene of indescribable carnage but found the girlies milling about in the run, all feathers accounted for. The new bungee addition makes the coop really racoon proof.
Because chickens are clever creatures, each occupying a different role in the pecking order, keeping them in your backyard gives you a chance to see the individual personalities and quirks. Maria is fascinated by holes of any kind. She is also the boss.
Here she is sorting out the perfect spot for a dustbath. Distracted momentarily, The Baroness steals her spot… not for long. After a dust up Maria reclaims her throne.
The girls and The Handyman
Despite being told I am the chicken lady and in sole charge, I catch The Handyman letting the girls out when he is working on the farm…and he talks to them and makes a special clucking noise. The exercise king, here he is taking them on a little jog…which is funny itself. Something about chickens running cracks me up.
A taste of country life
I love our chickens. Who would have thought it. They are curious, interesting, sweet creatures who demand little and give us eggs daily. I feel good about giving them great food, room to roam and a nice, cruelty-free life.
Hens with Benefits
They give us breakfast in return and lovely fluffy cakes.
Chef Josh Bender and his new restaurant Urtica Eatery at Legend Distilling in Naramata are taking eating local and sustainable to a whole new level. He grows or forages as many of the vegetables and herbs as he can and sources the rest from neighbouring farms. In addition to lovely local fruit the Valley is known for world-wide, Chef Josh serves only sustainably farmed meats, seafood, dairy and eggs.
After a busy day serving guests at Urtica, Chef Josh unwinds at his Naramata property by tending his 12 garden beds and 100 containers of vegetables and herbs and the containers he has planted at the restaurant itself.
“I cooked as a kid,” he says as he offers me a first dish of roasted beets with cumin yogurt, nettle pesto, pumpkin seeds, orange and wild fennel.
Urtica, Chef Josh tells me, is latin for the stinging nettles he used in the most amazing tasting pesto I’ve ever had. “It’s my favourite wild edible and its a super food for plants as well. I ferment tons of it to feed to my vegetables. I love foraging for it.”
“My mother had a big part in my cooking,” he says. “She was my first teacher and I was lucky to grow up surrounded by nature. Blackberries lined our two-acre property in Langley where we had a creek you could walk along for miles in the forest.”
Josh, a guy of few words, describes his Urtica menu as comfort food with a twist which is better tasted than explained in any case. Who needs words? The beet cured organic spring salmon with cucumber carpaccio, radishes, whipped goat cheese and olive crumb was as fresh, bright and luxuriously creamy tasting as it looked on the plate. Each bite was a pleasure and the flavours and textures worked beautifully together.
Other choices on the ever-changing seasonal menu included a roasted carrot hummus with pita, dandelion honey ricotta, hazelnuts and chili oil, mushroom bruschetta with local cultivated oyster mushroom, herbed ricotta and aged balsamic and a farm kale salad with Upper Bench King Cole cheese, honey walnuts, apple chips, pickled onion and anchovy dressing. A selection of focaccia sandwiches included a buttermilk poached chicken with slab bacon, spring greens, tomato, pickled onion and caramelized onion mayo. A braised beef neck melt and goat cheese & beet were also tempting. The featured entree was a vegetable curry stew served with kale chips, spiced yogurt and pita.
“Urtica is a dream come true for me,” says Josh who put his culinary degree to work for him in various restaurants for the past eight years. “I knew since I was 16 that cooking is the only thing I want to do. I’m coming at this out of a place of love versus building a brand. I want to make good food and be happy with what I do. I’m lucky not to be ‘working for the man’ but able to pursue my passion and learn more and more as I go.
“I am making food that I would be happy to feed my family. Food that is sustainably farmed that is good for you.”
Urtica aligns perfectly with Naramata’s status as an international Cittaslow member town. Cittaslow is an organisation founded in Italy and inspired by the slow food movement. Cittaslow’s goals include improving the quality of life in towns by slowing down its overall pace.
Talking about slow, the view on Legend’s patio makes the dining experience one you want to linger over. I paired my lunch with a refreshing summer cocktail, the new Legendary Cup featuring their just released Amaro.
Urtica Eatery is serving lunch Tuesday through Sunday 11:30am – 3:30 pm and beginning today dinner service Wednesday through Saturday 5-8 pm.