Toast this reading list

Instead of breaking out the Kindle or iPad for reading books at the beach or on the patio this summer, why not grab the actual book?

A glass of wine or a craft beer, your snack of choice paired with one of these reads, and you’re all set.

Icon: Flagship Wines from British Columbia’s Best Wineries, by John Schreiner – This is a gorgeous hardcover book. Keep it on the coffee table as a reference point or for guest to pick up and thumb through while sipping a glass.

Dozens of wineries are profiled, following a detailed introduction by Schreiner that explains the selection process for the book. Several wines per winery are included with tasting notes and a handy “drink now” note.

Need a wedding gift this summer? Start the happy couple’s wine cellar with this book and a few bottles highlighted in it.

Lure: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the West Coast, by Ned Bell with Valerie Howes – Chef Ned Bell is a champion of the sustainable seafood movement and responsible management of the bounty our oceans provide, as reflected in this well-organized cookbook.

The book is organized by white fish, shellfish, fatty fish, and sea greens, and by course (salads, soups, sandwiches and so forth). It also includes a handy “back to basics” section with fun charts, and, of course, a primer on how to cook fish.

The Okanagan Table: The Art of Everyday Home Cooking, by Rod Butters with Kerry Gold – Okanagan-ites will be familiar with the growing restaurant portfolio under the guidance of Chef Rod Butters (RauDZ, micro bar – bites, Terrafina, and Sunny’s).

It's filled with mouth-watering photos and recipes sorted by the time of day, like “sunrise” and “twilight." The recipes also embrace the flavours and freshness of the Okanagan with an occasional twist. The Cauliflower and Saffron Wedding Soup is divine.

One of the best parts of the book is a list of local farmers, producers, and suppliers.

The Wandering Vine: Wine, the Romans and Me, by Nina Caplan – A lyrical journey through wine regions, from England to France to Italy, that at one point were part of the Roman Empire. This book is part travel journal, part personal exploration, and part wine writing.

It may make you want to retrace the writer's route, or simply let this transport you to another realm that explores what wine can do for each of your senses, and what memories a certain wine can make or revive.

Tangled Vines: Greed, Murder, Obsession and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California, by Frances Dinkelspiel – The title just about sums things up.

This is the true story of a day in 2005 when a warehouse of wine in California went up in flames, the costliest destruction of wine in history. If you like true-crime stories, this meticulously researched book is for you.

It addresses many things in the underbelly of the wine industry, from personal tensions to wine fraud.

Next on my reading list? Eating Local in the Fraser Valley by Angie Quaale, and Food Artisans of Alberta by Karen Anderson and Matilde Sanchez-Turri.


Protect your wine

I’m not ashamed to admit that I've ruined perfectly good wine in mere minutes.

In fact, I once ruined a bottle of one of my favourite Okanagan syrahs with a callous attitude of, “It’ll only be in the car for a short time, it’ll be fine.”

It wasn’t. Less than 15 minutes in a hot car with no air conditioning – a 1995 Honda Civic Hatchback, in case you were wondering – and the wine:

  • overheated in the bottle
  • the cork smelled like a wet paper bag
  • it had an unpleasant essence of cabbage soup.

The wine may have been faulty to begin with, but the fault lies with me for not taking better care of the bottle.

When you or your summer visitors are out buying wines — craft beers, ciders, or spirits — plan to protect your purchases from the blazing-hot Okanagan sun.

It only takes a few minutes to damage one of these beverages.

Not many of us properly prepare for wine touring in the heat, thinking we'll just hop in the car, hit a few wineries and head home.

But as you're loading wine into your hot car, keep in mind that your new purchases can be in jeopardy faster than ice cream melts in your gin and tonic.

Wines under screw cap may do a bit better, but wine under a cork will not stand the heat.

A hot car can dry out a cork in record time, ruining characteristics of the vintage inside. The air in the warm bottle expands, causing leakage and exposing the wine to oxygen and oxidization.

If you can, tour at cooler times of the day. Temperature will be lower, and the tasting rooms may be less crowded in the morning or late in the day.

And your palate is fresh in the morning.

An insulated, re-usable shopping bag can protect a few bottles for a short time. The bags, for produce and dairy, are usually found beside regular, cloth shopping bags.

Cool the bag in the fridge or freezer overnight and throw an ice pack in the bottom. Better yet, take a cooler with an ice pack or two to protect your wines from direct sunlight and a rapid rise in temperature.

And finally, if you drop into a winery on the spur of the moment and are totally unprepared, ask the tasting room staff for a box or two. Put your wine in the box with the lid closed.

At the very least, the cardboard will block out the sunlight and keep the temperature a bit lower. The trunk is probably a better spot for storage — it's dark and likely cooler than the passenger area — unless you are running the air conditioning up front.

Failing all that, you can always take your box or bag into each winery for safekeeping, and enjoy your tasting worry free.

Just don’t forget to take your case(s) when you go.

Tis the season to drink pink

You’ve probably noticed a resurgence in rosé in recent years, and, as patio season approaches, many wineries are releasing their pink bottles.

Newly releases white wines are out on the shelf — the reds may still be aging for release in the fall — but rosé seems to be having its day in the sun. If you’ve tended to take a pass, rest assured that the overly sweet bottles of vintages past have given way to drier, more sophisticated styles that are both food-friendly, and easy to sip on their own.

But how is rosé made? Not by pouring finished white and reds together, although depending on a country’s wine regulations, that is a possibility.

Pouring a Pinot Gris from one glass into another with Pinot Noir will likely elicit a veiled frown in a tasting room. And the result? You’ve probably ruined two perfectly good glasses of wine.

Typical white wine grapes, like Pinot Gris may be part of the mix, but it’s the skins that are important. Pink wine is made by allowing the skin of the grapes to have some contact with the fermenting juice, but not enough to make it a red wine.

The longer the skin contact — which might be as short as a few hours — the darker the wine; rosés come in range of colours.

Then, there is the saignée method — literally “bleeding” in French — wherein some of the juice is removed after skin contact, which concentrates the flavours and characteristics of the wine.

No matter how it’s produced, rosé wines often have aromas of strawberries, red fruits, a bit of vanilla, and can be “bone” dry to lightly sweet. Try some of these, well chilled, and find your favourite.

Quail’s Gate, Rosé 2017: A blend of Gamay Noir, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, this is a pale salmon colour with a delightful nose of grapefruit and red berries. Pair with a spinach salad topped with seasonal berries, roasted hazelnuts, and goat cheese.

Township 7, Rosé 2017: Very aromatic notes of rhubarb and strawberry, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. A more structured rosé, the finish is refreshing with nice minerality and stone fruit flavours.

Road 13, Honest John’s Rosé, 2017: A very vibrant garnet colour may lead you to believe this is sweet, but, in fact, this wine has many complex fruit flavours, from berries to watermelon to a touch of apricot. So of course, pairing with a trendy watermelon salad is perfect.

Evolve Cellars, Pink Effervescence: Why not have some pink bubbly? Pinot Blanc with just a hint of Merlot; have a bottle chilling in the fridge for a spontaneous celebration. It's the ultimate refresher on a hot day with an organic popsicle.

At around $20 a bottle, buy all four, invite some friends over, and have a drink pink night.


A terroir abroad

Ask a winemaker, vineyard manager, or anyone who works with the soil in our regional vineyards to describe the Okanagan “terroir,” and you’re likely to get a variety of descriptions.

The answer may depend on where you are when the question is asked, as you may be on granite, or sandy, or clay soil.

And you may be in a micro-climate affected by the temperature radiating off a nearby large rock face, or moisture from a lake or river, or the slope of the vineyard is just different enough in one block of vines to make “this” pinot noir different from “that” pinot noir.

In a nutshell, terroir is complicated.

I’ll save you the trouble of googling it: terroir, in short, means a sense of place. It’s the combination of soil, climate, environment, topography, sunlight…the elements that give a wine its distinction, and notes of where its from.

But, there is another aspect. Geo-politics. History, if you will. Not really a factor here in British Columbia, though government regulations certainly do play a role in agriculture, but an intriguing part of another under-the-radar wine country: Hungary.

If you’re in the wine business, and more specifically, the wine tourism business, attending the International Wine Tourism Conference, which visits a different wine region in Europe each spring, should be on your bucket list.

Not just for the seminars and networking, but for the familiarization tours. In my case, a media tour that encompassed film tourism and health tourism, along with wine.

The winemakers we met were young. Most are focused on two things.

First, reclaiming the vineyards and winemaking from the Soviet era of mass production, which sent low quality wine abroad.

Hungarian wineries are reclaiming their native grapes – Furmint, Hárslevelű, Kadarka – because they want to reflect the Hungarian terroir.

Yes, you’ll find Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc here, plus exquisite sweet wines from Tokaji made from a blend of grapes referred to as Aszú, but clearly, there is a passion for being uniquely Hungarian.

And why not? These grapes often grown on volcanic soil are truly terroir-driven.

The second focus is gastronomy.

Bistros located at wineries are high end. So much so that the restrooms are memorable, one with doors sliding open as if you were entering the Starship Enterprise. Nearby are boutique hotels that range from castles to ultra modern suites.

But the food…Instagrammers, charge your phone batteries. The days of goulash are fading. Grandma’s Chicken Paprika has been elevated to gourmet.

Foie gras, duck, and pork dominate (so does deer stew with pasta, I’d go so far as to call that comfort food), and Michelin stars are on their way. Pairing is essential to show off both the wine and the work of the chefs.

Yes, Hungary is a world away. The country’s history is complicated and often heart breaking.

But in many ways, our two regions are on the same path of discovery. Finding the authentic terroir upon which our vines grow.

More Okanagan Taste articles

About the Author

A creative thinker with more than two decades of experience in communications, Allison is an early adopter of social and digital media, bringing years of work in traditional media to the new frontier of digital engagement marketing through her company, All She Wrote.

She is the winner of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association's 2011 and 2012 awards for Social Media Initiative, an International LERN award for marketing, and the 2014 Penticton Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award for Hospitality/Tourism.

Allison has amassed a following on multiple social networks of more than 30,000, frequently writes and about social media, food and libations as well as travel and events, and through her networks, she led a successful bid to bring the Wine Bloggers Conference to Penticton in June 2013, one of the largest social media wine events in the world, generating 31 million social media impressions, $1 million in earned media, and an estimated ongoing economic impact of $2 million.

In 2014, she held the first Canadian Wine Tourism Summit to spark conversation about the potential for wine tourism in Canada as a year-round economic driver.

Allison contributes epicurean content to several publications, has been a judge for several wine and food competitions, and has earned her advanced certificate from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust.

In her spare time, she has deep, meaningful conversations with her cats.

She can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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