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Life in a slow place that quickly steals your heart.

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Okanagan wine touring

Fall farmer’s market leek soup

FullSizeRender.jpgSweeter and milder than onions, leeks make a lovely, creamy and delicious fall soup loaded with bucketful’s of fresh market garden vegetable healthy goodness like carrots, onion, potato and celery and a dollop of Naramata Bench wine for added flavour.

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Some assembly required

  • 8 medium leeks (3 pound), trimmed, leaving white and pale green parts only, and chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 small potato
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine…I chose Tightrope Winery’s 2015 Pinot Gris (Why not use a nice wine as you only need a 1/2 cup and the Chef can appreciate it a wonderful glass or two while cooking.)
  • 3 cups chicken or turkey stock …I used my homemade turkey stock frozen from my Thanksgiving turkey
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves…still growing in my garden luckily
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chilled heavy cream

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Directions

Wash sliced leeks in a large bowl of cold water and lift out and drain well in a colander. Leeks collect a lot of dirt and sand generally so need a good wash. My market leeks were perfectly clean which was a bonus. Cook leeks, onion, carrot, celery, salt, and pepper in 4 tablespoons butter in a large heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes.

Peel potato and cut into 1/2-inch cubes, then add to onion mixture along with wine, stock, water and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.

Stir in parsley and simmer soup, uncovered, 5 minutes. Discard bay leaf and keep soup at a low simmer.

Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a 1-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, then add flour and cook roux, whisking, until golden, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add 2 cups simmering stock (from soup), whisking vigorously, then whisk mixture into remaining soup and return to a simmer, whisking.

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Simmering soup before blended.

Blend soup in 4 batches in a blender until smooth.  Reheat if necessary, then season with salt and pepper. Any leftover soup freezes well. (Don’t add the cream topping before freezing).

Beat cream in a bowl with an electric mixer until it almost forms soft peaks. Serve soup topped with cream. A dollop of sour cream would also work well.

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The long gleaming farewell

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Old vines with the Naramata Bench in the background

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.

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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.

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This special golden light is also great for photographing people bathing everyone in a warm glow.

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.

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Such a great name for the winery where these shots were taken…Blue Mountain… yup.

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.

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The view from Blue Rock on North Naramata Road yesterday.
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Still nice enough for a sail on Okanagan Lake.

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.

Down Bottleneck Drive and into the Summer side of the lake

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It’s rare that you don’t need to enhance your photos by upping the colour saturation…this photo of the view from Summerland’s Thornhaven Estate Winery is untouched but you won’t be if you visit.

Being spoiled for choice of wineries to visit in my own Naramata Bench neighbourhood, we rarely venture down the road to OK Falls or Oliver or across the lake to Summerland which we view from our deck, but we really should get out more. A trip to Thornhaven Estate Winery and some time spent in those red chairs is time perfectly spent. I have a soft spot for anything do with Summerland because any town with “Summer” in it seems like a warm and happy place…add a glass of their Infusion frizzante and the happy metre goes into the red chair zone.

Jan Fraser, who with her husband Jack, started the winery as a “retirement” project says, “There is something special about the wineries in Summerland. I think it has to do with how many of them are family-owned. They are all pretty special out here and their is a lot of pride.” In addition to Jan and Jack, who also run Jackson Height’s vineyard, their son Jason is winemaker and cellarmaster for the estate and oversees three of Thornhaven’s Summerland vineyards. Daughter Cortney heads sales and marketing for the winery and with husband Nick oversees the Elmo’s Vineyard, where the winery grows its unique Orange Muscat.

The family is celebrating the 15 anniversary of Thornhaven in the best way possible with the release of their XV, which is the Syrah-Cabernet Sauvignon blend available just at the winery. If you like pink and bubbles (yup), their Infusion is made from classic Champagne vareitals Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. I loved it.

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The two special 15th anniversary releases.

The family has a lot to celebrate. Jan says she is most proud of being around 15 years. Thornhaven was only the third winery in Summerland when they opened. “It’s great to be part of a community of wineries now which makes such as a nice destination for wine touring.” The Bottleneck Drive Winery Association, of which Thornhaven is an active participant and booster,  now has 19 members including a fruit winery and cidery. Among the members are Dirty Laundry Vineyard, Silkscarf Family Boutique Winery, and 8th Generation Vineyard.

IMG_9159.JPGDaughter Cortney says she is most proud of her brother Jason. “We never set out to make award-winning wines. Our goal was to make really good wines but it’s a happy surprise to be recognized and it’s all down to Jason. He has control of the vineyards to the cellar to bottling, until the wine hits the shelves. Have to give it to him. We are already having an award-winning season taking two golds at Spring Wine Festival, for the XV and our 2015 Gewürztraminer. With so many wineries now its such a great surprise that we make really great wines too.”

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Known for it’s killer views of the valley and Okanagan Lake, Thornhaven ratchets it up a notch with free entertainment on the patio on summer weekend afternoons.

Thornhaven has grown from producing 2,800 cases to about 5,600 and the hard work is still engaging, Jan says. “The wine changes every year and we add new things like the frizzante.” Cortney chimes in saying, “It’s dangerously easy drinking.” I can testify to that. It was a good thing the Handyman was driving.

The family is expanding with the addition of Cortney’s three children and it’s looking like the family business may remain so for years to come. “Cortney, our first to reach Kindergarten age, was in class and the kids were working on learning how to set the table. After everything was placed, Cortney says, ‘This is where the wine glasses go.’ I explained to the teacher that we are in the wine business so she didn’t get the wrong idea.” Cortney added that local teachers get a lot of bottles of wine at the end of the year versus I Heart Teachers mugs. I bet they are OK with that.

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You are welcome to bring your own picnic to enjoy on the patio. Light snacks like bruschetta, cheese, charcuterie and crackers are available to buy along with Thornhaven wine by the glass.

If all the other Bottleneck Drive wineries are as warm and welcoming as Thornhaven and their wine as good, I can understand what Jan means about Summerland having a unique vibe. “It’s a pretty great community of like-minded people who know what it takes to get great wine into the bottle,” she says.

Like the movie “Sideways” here is a bit of digression. This little bear cub is peeping in the window of our deck doors as I write this. You know the feeling when you’re back is turned and someone is watching…

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Cheers to the Okanagan.

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