Life in a slow place that quickly steals your heart.


Jennifer Schell

Garagiste North – the small guys’ wine festival with big beautiful wines


IMG_0976.jpgGaragiste 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 event took place in Penticton under hot and sunny skies



Garagiste Guild LOGO_GRAY_REVISED.jpg

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).

My take-home treasures to be savoured in a more leisurely fashion.


Partial proceeds from the event will benefit the Garagiste North Wine Study Scholarship at Okanagan College, which is great.

Maya Gauthier and her amazing Pinot Gris

“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!”

Schell Wine’s t-shirts were a hit. They were designed by Jennifer Schell’s niece, Hillary Schell, a doodle artist.


“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.”

Artist Hillary Schell and the label she designed.
Audralee talking Black Cloud.

“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.”

Organizer Jennifer keeping her cool on a scorching hot day

Here are some other highlights of my tasting day…

Tall Kyle Lyons of Tall Tale Wines from Okanagan Falls. They produced 290 cases of Pinot Noir Blanc and Syrah Nouveau with an interesting fermentation method hailing from the South of France.  The red is best served chilled and has a fresh, fruit forward taste.
Love, love, love their labels. How Canadian is this or what?


Wendy Coulombe of vin Amite Cellars Inc of south of Oliver pouring Compass, a Merlot, Cab Sauv, Cab Franc and Malbec blend that generated a lot of buzz at the festival.
Kristine Witkowski talks with Naramatian Pam about their Bottega Wine Studio‘s Seven Directions and Bottega. The wines are made in the North Okanagan. Seven Directions is Rosé exclusive and  Bottega’s winemaker Daniel Bontorin crafts small lot red and white wines from grapes from the Okanagan that he feels display the highest potential for great Merlot, Cab Franc and Viognier.
Anthony Buchanan Wines produces 300 cases in Penticton from grapes northwest of Oliver. Anthony specializes in single vineyard, site specific wine. Amazing.
Andrew Stone of Anarchist Mountain Vineyard produces 400 cases of unbelievably good Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a red blend called Mayhem in Osoyoos.
Nighthawk Vineyards, five years in the making,  from Okanagan Falls has awesome labels by Kelowna artist Alex Fong. “The Chardonnay has a beautiful nose,” says festival guest Chris from Kelowna. “This is the kind of wine that I immediately begin meal planning with. I would love this with a pasta in a beautiful cream sauce.”
Roche Wines Dylan Roche showing off two beautiful bottles, a 2016 Rosé and a 2015 Pinot Gris. Their gorgeous winery on Upper Bench near Naramata opened just recently and is an instant hit.


The Holy Grail of ginger cookie recipes

Literally dozens of ginger cookie recipes carefully filed away are now in the recycling. I have found it. Best-ever ginger cookies that more than live up to their name.

The ultimate in fall comfort cookies, the humble ginger cookie, can get no better than these. The recipe is from my new favourite local cookbook called The Butcher, the Baker, the Wine & Cheese Maker in the Okanagan and it’s genius creator is the Bean Scene Coffee Works in Kelowna.

It’s hard to pin down what makes this recipe so good. I think it’s the combination of the spices and of course, butter.


  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp good quality cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/3 cup white sugar + 1/2 cup for rolling cookies
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup fancy molasses
Fit for a king

Preheat oven to 375F. Whisk the flour, baking soda and spices in a medium bowl and set aside. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat butter, brown sugar and 1/3 cup of white sugar together on high speed, until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue mixing on a lower speed until blended. Add molasses and mix again for about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the dry mixture, mixing on low speed until all the flour is incorporated. The dough will be soft and slightly sticky.

Roll dough into 1 tablespoon-sized balls and drop onto a plate containing 1/2 cup of white sugar. Roll cookies in sugar and press lightly to form a disk, making sure to coat both sides. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, spaced 1 inch apart. Bake one cookie sheet a time on the middle rack for 11 minutes. The cookies should come out of the oven with the traditional crackle appearance and looking slightly under-baked.

IMG_2503.JPGBest eaten warm with a lovely cup of coffee or hot chocolate.

I’m not kidding about these being the ginger cookies I’ve ever baked although I fully admit I’m prone to exaggeration. I love it when you can bake the best of the best of simple, traditional recipes… like the shortbread cookies I made yesterday which were elevated into another realm with the addition of fresh vanilla bean (French Laundry recipe).

Raspberry almond tarts = a whole lot of #Naramatalove

The Bench Raspberry Almond Tarts from The Butcher, the Baker, the Wine & Cheese Maker in the Okanagan by Jennifer Schell

The first recipe from the first crop of our Naramata raspberry farm berries is fittingly by our favourite Chef, Stewart Glynes, the owner of The Bench Market and it’s from my new favourite cookbook, The Butcher, the Baker, the Wine & Cheese Maker in the Okanagan and we are taking them to good Naramata pals’ place for dinner tonight. So much love packed in there that I had to use a run-on sentence…

Step one…go and pick berries in pyjamas with a coffee in one hand and colander in the other.
Step two…put on clothes and dash to the Naramata Store for butter. It’s not unusual to see horses hitched at the store but I drove. The store is a true general store and has: liquor store, bottle depot, DVD rentals, ice cream shop, deli, groceries, post office…


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup cold unsalted butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 3-5 Tbsp cold water

Mix together flour, butter and salt in a bowl with hands until it is a fine sand-like texture. Add cold water a little at a time, until dough comes together but is not sticky. Form into flat dish shape and chill for about an hour.

FullSizeRender.jpgAlmond filling

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  •  1 cup ground almonds
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

In your mixer with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until smooth (about 7 minutes) on medium-high speed. Add almonds and eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Add flour and mix on low until just combined.

Preheat oven to 350. (Stewart says this recipe makes about 12 4-inch tarts but my tart rings must have been taller as I only had enough pastry for 6 tarts…) Place dough on floured surface and roll out. Cut a circle slightly larger than your tart rings or tart pans and fold into bottom of shell. Add 5 or 6 raspberries to the bottom of the shell. Add enough almond cream to come even with the top of tart. Press another 5 or 6 raspberries into top of almond cream in whatever design you like.

Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until top is lightly brown around edge. Top with powdered sugar and some sliced almonds toasted for a short while in the oven and garnish with a sprig of mint.

Ready for the oven
Et voila!

Apple cake on wheels

The apples are local, from BC Tree Fruits, a farmer’s cooperative and my eggs are from neighbour Lucy’s happy chickens

This cake is on wheels for four reasons:

  1. It’s the creation of Klemens Koester of Bread on Wheels in Kelowna
  2. It’s so straightforward to make that you can invite your friends over for coffee and have it coming out of the oven in about an hour…so fast — like a cake on wheels.
  3. The apple slice decorations make the cake resemble a wheel.
  4. It’s wheely, wheely, wheely good.

The recipe from The Butcher, the Baker, the Wine & Cheese Maker In the Okanagan, makes two 10-inch (25-cm) cakes. It’s handy to have two cakes as you can send one home with your coffee date guest or pop it in the freezer for a future date.


  • 1 cup (250 mL) room-temperature butter
  • 1 cup (250mL) granulated sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp (10mL) baking powder
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) vanilla
  • zest of ½ lemon
  • 3 apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/8-inch (3-mm) wedges
  • apricot jam, for glazing
  • icing sugar, for dusting
Cool completely after baking before sifting on the icing sugar and brushing with the hot apricot jam or the sugar will disappear into the cake.

Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Grease and flour two 10-inch (25-cm) baking pans. In a mixer bowl, whisk room-temperature butter and sugar together until nice and fluffy, then add eggs slowly and mix well. Add flour, baking powder, vanilla and lemon zest. Mix until batter is even.

Spoon batter into cake pans evenly. Spread out until top is nice and smooth. Lay apple slices gently onto batter. Do not push into the batter.

Bake in the middle of the oven until golden brown, for about 30-40 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick which should come out without crumbs. Remove from oven and cool in the pan on a rack.

Try substituting other fruits for the apples. My apricots are just about ready so I’m going to try those next.

The nicest way to finish up: Dust icing sugar over cake and glaze apples with hot apricot jam or jelly.

The new amazing recipe book’s Bean Scene’s best-ever ginger cookie recipe is equally on wheels and will be my new go-to Christmas cookie. The spice mix is spot on.

The Butcher, the Baker, the Wine & Cheese Maker in the Okanagan

Jenn portrait with book take 2
Award-winning cookbook author Jennifer Schell at the launch of her new book, The Butcher, the Baker, the Wine & Cheese Maker in the Okanagan, at Bench 1775 Winery on the  Naramata Bench overlooking Okanagan Lake. Photo: David McIlvride, Spatula Media

Within five minutes of dipping into Jennifer Schell’s new collection of recipes, the stories of the chefs who crafted them and the artisans who provided the amazing local ingredients and the libations to accompany them, I knew she was preaching to the choir. And I say hallelujah. To anyone who delves into this beautifully written and designed cookbook who isn’t yet in the I-love-the-Okanagan-choir, your robes await.

Jennifer has the enviable good fortune of being raised on an orchard in Kelowna and has marinated herself in the area’s rich and growing artisanal food culture. She describes the book perfectly as, “A love letter to the Okanagan and to all those who have created, grown, and nurtured our special valley on this earth. They are a delightful confluence of old and new world, blending their international influence and flavours with our local bounty, establishing a cuisine that is distinctly Okanagan. Through their recipes and stories, I am pleased to introduce you to these gifted people who bring this local food to your table every day.” I love her love letter. Here’s why…

I whipped up a batch of Bean Scene’s best-ever ginger cookies from the Brunchie Lunchie section to fuel a cover-to-cover read. They were the best-ever.

During my first flip through The Butcher, the Baker, the Wine & Cheese Maker in the Okanagan, I was captivated by the photos, most taken by Jennifer herself. The photos are professional in quality but somehow capture the warmth of her subjects and the beauty of the dishes without that slick over-styled look so common in magazines and cookbooks today. I’m not sure what secret sauce went into the picture-taking, editing, lay-out process in this TouchWood Editions book but it worked.

On a second pass through I began virtually cooking and baking, selecting recipes that caught my eye and looked easy or doable and even ones that I could see taking on as a challenge like Chef Bernard’s “twisted” carrot cake and Cheffrey’s wild boar ragu. How cool would it be to serve up Wild Moon Organics Berkshire pork meatballs in tomato sauce or, cedar-roasted chicken with spruce and sumac or, pan-roasted arctic char with braised beluga lentils and smoked heirloom tomato-peach gastrique and blow the socks off my guests on our deck?

Summer dining Okanagan style at my nieces’ wedding at Gods Mountain catered by one of the chef’s featured in the cookbook, Dana Ewart of Joy Road Catering, Penticton. Photo: Jarusha Brown

I then began spotting familiar faces of many chefs, farmers and others from my Naramata hood, the Penticton Farmer’s Market or restaurants we frequent and I had to check out their recipes and stories…Chefs like Dana Ewart, one half of the Joy Road Catering team (Cameron Smith is the other half). We look forward to her cinnamon buns every Saturday at the farmer’s market and have been guests at the best wedding feast I’ve ever attended that they catered. This is a bit of a digression…but here are a few photos of that wedding banquet all taken by Jarusha Brown and catered by Joy Road…

IMG_2530IMG_2528IMG_2529On my list of for-sure-recipes to make very soon with the first of our Carpe Diem raspberry crop is The Bench raspberry almond tarts. I plan on taking my cookbook over when we stop for lunch at The Bench and go over the recipe with Chef Stewart Glynes. He has been my go-to guy for pastry and baking questions for sometime now. To say we are Bench regulars is a bit of an understatement…The Handyman has a custom sandwich called The Fussy Chicken there. It was fun to see Stewart sourcing his berries from my neighbour James Young who has crammed acres of production into his 0.39-acre property. James was a great help when I first got my greenhouse. I’m hoping Stewart will be a key customer for our raspberries.

I was also delighted to see my pal Karolina Born-Tschümperlin of Forest Green Man Lavender Farm (previous blog post) in a magical pairing with Legend Distilling, just a stumble from my  house (previous blog post), to create the Legendary Green Man Lavender Martini recipe. Yes please.

No self-respecting cookbook reviewer can do a proper job without actually getting some flour on that book and cracking the spine a bit. (Although I must say that I would buy this book even if I didn’t intend to bake or cook a single thing from it. The photos and the stories of the valley artisans are fun just to browse through and I plan to leave a copy in my guest room.)

Jennifer has kindly agreed to let me share a few recipes I’ve made in upcoming blog posts. The instructions were clear, the recipes produced delicious results and I’m in the enviable place to source the actual ingredients used. I’m sure you can seek out the artisans in your hood to provide you with top-quality, lovingly produced, sustainable ingredients that will at least come close.

The view from Bench 1775 Winery, labelled The Best Patio in the Word, the venue for the book launch. Its winemaker Val Tait is featured in the cookbook with a Bench 1775 Blissful Mojito recipe.

Here is a brief Q & A session with Jennifer:

How long does it take to put together a book like this, what were the biggest challenges and the most enjoyable part of the project for you?

I set a rather ambitious schedule for myself. The current cookbook took five months. The biggest challenge is the cookbook creation process, but also the most enjoyable part for me, is the photography. There is a lot of scheduling and driving around, but I truly love visiting with the people, old friends and new, and being able to visit their farms or restaurants, see what they are working on and catch up with their news. These people never fail to inspire me. Each has such passion for their craft and community, and after each and every meeting, I am super charged and can’t wait to share their faces and their stories with my readers.

What recipe should I make first and why?

It is hard for me to pick a favourite recipe so maybe if we go with what is in season. If there is still rhubarb out there (yup…some left in my garden), I would suggest my mom’s rhubarb pie. I also love the simplicity of the Apple Cake on Wheels and local apples are always available in the cold storage of BC Tree Fruits. Potatoes should be ready soon and the Sunshine Farm Heritage Potato Flan is a winner. OK, that was three instead of one. Sorry, every recipe is  wonderful!

(Throw down accepted…I’ve already made the Apple Cake on Wheels…excellent…)

What’s next in the works for you?

I swore I would take a break after this last book — but, I can’t stop now! Too many stories to share and new farmers and drink makers and butchers and bakers to meet! I am working on the outline of the next book now.


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