Crossing the Canada-U.S. border with B.C. wine

B.C. wine in the U.S.

As the B.C. wine industry matures and wines from around the province win more and more medals and recognition internationally, the refrain of “it’s too bad I can’t buy this in the U.S.” is becoming all too familiar from our friends south of the 49th parallel.

American visitors here can’t ship wine to themselves, and the number of bottles they can take back in their luggage is limited. But there is another option—Kascadia Wine Merchants in California.

Yes, the “Eureka!” state, or so says Wikipedia, meaning, “I have found it!.” Therefore, Eureka! You have found an online shop where your friends in America can purchase Canadian wine and have it shipped to them in America.

Industry folks who attended the Fortify Conference in Penticton this past November may have taken in a presentation by Kascadia’s founder, VJ Gandhi, or had a chat with her. VJ is a “proud Canadian citizen with epicurean taste” and a passion for supporting artisan winemakers and exposing them to the U.S. market.

This is not a small feat, and it is not a simple process, but it is possible.

From the consumer side south of the border, it’s as easy as online shopping. With 45 states now in the Kascadia portfolio and a robust marketing plan for each winery she brings in – each winery has its own page on the Kascadia site – the company has grown from the novelty of buying Canadian wine or servicing Canadian ex-pats, to inspiring wine lovers in the U.S. to buy wines from north of the border.

With restaurant clients, including a Michelin-starred spot in San Francisco where you can order a bottle from Oliver’s Winemaker’s Cut, plus both retail and wholesale clients, VJ’s goal is to see wines from Canada have the respect and recognition given to other wine-producing countries, like France or Australia.

And why not be this ambitious as an industry? We have the goods and we have the brand.

During the first year of the pandemic, Kascadia’s average purchase shot up from two bottles to hundreds of dollars spent on one sale, and in six months, VJ’s inventory was sold out.

For wineries, VJ and her team can walk them through the process to get their bottles into her online marketplace so this coming season, when a guest in a tasting room is disappointed he or she can’t get a wine back home in the U.S., wineries can confidently say, “Yes, as a matter of fact, you can.”

Upcoming Events

Feb. 4: Apex Mountain Resort – The popular winter wine event Vertical & Vintages returns to the Gunbarrel Saloon.

Through to Feb. 9: Multiple venues throughout the valley – Reserve a table or two at a favourite or new-to-you restaurant during Dine Around.

Through to Feb. 14: Multiple venues throughout the valley – Explore the flavour map for the second annual Okanagan Hot Chocolate Festival.

Through March: Grizzli Winery in West Kelowna — Book an icewine tour, available daily.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Ways to cut back but still enjoy January

Pie and 'Dry January'

"Dry January" is thought to have started in the U.K. around 2012 or 2013, encouraging people to give up alcohol for the month as a reboot after the holidays.

It’s been on the upswing for a while, and after the pandemic influenced a rise in day-drinking—either out of lockdown boredom or COVID coping (or both)—it seems to be more common. Pair it (pun intended) with “Veganuary” and the growth (also pun intended) of plant-based dishes, and you’ve got a health kick.

Personally, January is a month during which l look for moderation and comfort—moderation to acknowledge the indulgences of the holidays and ease back into my normal routine, and comfort because this month is dark and depressing.

First, let’s look at moderation. Rather than sideline booze entirely, there are low-or-no alcohol options to consider.

Breweries are getting on the bandwagon. The days of O’Doul’s non-alcoholic beer being the sole choice for beer drinkers are gone. Your favourite brewery may have a non or low-alcohol option, but there may only be one or two brews.

Enter Libra, a line of non-alcoholic craft beer. To paraphrase the company, Libra is about finding balance between being social, and being busy, between being fun and getting things done.

Stout, pale ale, IPA, Pilsner, it has it, plus a delightful Lavender Sage Cream Ale. Read my review of this collaboration with Serena Ryder.

Libra comes from Charlottetown and note, Kelowna’s Kettle River Brewing has also stocked up on a variety of non-alcoholic brews. Meanwhile, a wine option has emerged much closer to home, thanks to ONES+, the “only Okanagan wine without the buzz”.

And, of course, where else but the Okanagan would a seasoned winemaker work on perfecting non-alcoholic Canadian wine?

This brings me to comfort, and for that, may I suggest “Pie January.” With or without a glass of wine, beer, cider a cocktail or mocktail, vegan or not, sweet or savoury, why not a flight of pies this month? My suggestions, if you’re not going totally dry, are:

• Chardonnay with chicken pot pie

• Gamay Noir with tourtière meat pie

• Lager with cheeseburger pie

• Apple cider with apple and cranberry pie

“Pie January.” Let’s make it a thing.

Upcoming Events

Jan. 22, 27 and 28: Multiple venues in Vernon, Penticton, and Oliver. Get your tickets for the Okanagan Winter Wine Festival.

Jan. 18 to Feb. 9: Multiple venues cross the valley. Reserve a table or two at a favourite or new-to-you restaurant during Dine Around.

Jan. 28: Giant’s Head Brewing in Summerland hosts Summerland’s Finest Red Carpet Black Tie Affair.

Through March: Grizzli Winery in West Kelowna—Book an icewine tour, available daily.

If January doesn’t work for you, "Dry February" supports the Canadian Cancer Society. Learn more here. And then there is always "Sober October."

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Plenty of fun ways to ring in the New Year with

New Year's Eve dining

Staying in? Going out? As we all cautiously walk into 2023, New Year’s Eve feels like it’s just about back to normal -- knock on wood – though our habits may have changed a bit since that last big party you attended a few years ago.

A few options to consider for this upcoming weekend, with a happy and healthy wish for 2023 to all.

Play Estate Winery in Penticton is bringing a four-course dinner to its Sonetto Restaurant, with live music by Rebecca Sichon; dancing will be encouraged. The room is stunning, the menu both creative and comforting. A good excuse to get all dressed up.

While Play overlooks Skaha Lake, on the north end of town Social? is steps from Okanagan Lake and is planning a NYE menu with Beef Wellington, lobster, scampi, and more. Overlooking the city, Poplar Grove has two seatings on Dec. 31, and Time Winery downtown starts New Year’s seating as of 5 p.m.

Go totally retro at the New Year’s Eve '80’s Bash at Predator Ridge Resort near Vernon, or “A Most Triumphant Night” '80’s New Year’s Eve bash at Kelowna’s Train Station Pub.

Also in Kelowna, the team at Waterfront Restaurant has created a spectacular five-course menu with choices from foie gras terrine to poached prawns, to a Yuzu chiffon cake.

Or, as bubbles are paramount to ring in a new year, Craft Beer Market in Kelowna is hosting the aptly-named “Let’s Get Fizzy” with a four-course dinner, cocktails, party favours, and a live DJ.

The Old Vines Restaurant at Quail’s Gate in West Kelowna has a special NYE menu, and if you’re looking for something celebratory a little earlier in the day, across the lake at Cedarcreek Winery’s Home Block Restaurant you can reserve lunch or dinner.

In Osoyoos, the 15 Park Bistro in the Watermark Beach Resort has two seatings planned for New Year’s Eve with several options available for each of the four courses, and if you make it an overnight getaway, book brunch the next morning.

If you opt to stay in on Dec. 31, hit your favourite local market this week for some treats, menu ideas, ingredients for a charcuterie board, or plan a takeout dinner to save yourself from making a mess in your kitchen.

And no need to pair a bottle of sparkling wine with anything too fancy at home.

A sparkling rosé such as The Pink One from Noble Ridge would work well with some spicy Asian or Indian takeout. Rigel, a sparkling Riesling from Township 7 is perfect with sushi. Summerhill’s Blanc de Blanc, a bubbly chardonnay, is a delight with popcorn and creamy organic butter.

Cheers to 2023.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Pairing books and sips for gifts

Wine and a good book

In the holiday seasons of the “before times,” I would take some time to read a handful of newly-released books and pair them with a beverage. One of the pleasures of a wintery afternoon—a glass and a page turner.

After the distractions of 2020 and 2021, making sure everyone knows how to Zoom, having turkey dinner delivered, ordering gifts early to avoid delays from natural disasters, the books and booze pairings are back.

And how lovely to feature books written by a childhood friend, a fellow champion of B.C. wine, one of Canada’s most enjoyable food writers, a beloved cartoonist, and one new discovery. Enjoy.

The Descendants, Robert Chursinoff
Nightwood Editions

Rob—I can call him that because his parents grew up with my parents and we and our siblings used to hang out around Castlegar as kids—has penned a debut novel that pulls in layers of our shared heritage as Doukhobors, wrapped in layers of sometimes heartbreaking modernity. Reading portions of it drew me right back to the Kootenays. Suggested pairing: One Faith Vineyards Grand Vin, because ultimately the book is about just that—faith.

The Sipster’s Pocket Guide to 50 Must-Try BC Wines, Luke Whittall
Touchwood Editions

Yes, you can probably fit this book into the back pocket of some well-worn jeans as you traipse through a vineyard. Luke, and I can call him that because he’s driven me around in a golf cart, keeps adding to his repertoire of wine books. All wines are under $50, and you can peruse by attitude. Suggested pairing, under “Texas Gunslinger”: Lakeside Cellars Syrah. Save for the first spring BBQ and pass the book around while the meat’s grilling.

you are human and you need cake, Julie Van Rosendaal
Dinner with Julie

Why yes, I did have dinner with Julie this summer, and yes, I made the table share a huge Baked Alaska, and, yes, she has a recipe for it in this book that should be a stocking stuffer for anyone who bakes cakes. The back story of “blackout” poetry is an inspiration, as is the Nanaimo Bar Cake. Suggested pairing: a hot cup of Constant Comment tea spiked with bourbon, a dollop of honey, a squirt of fresh orange juice with a orange slice on top.

Wildlife for Idiots and Other Animal Cartoons, Adrian Raeside
Harbour Publishing

Because animals in cartoons are funny, the cover has wild animals from a safari wearing “hello” nametags as if they’re at a networking event, and with chapters such as “Rakish Reptiles”, “Bodacious Bears” and “Ubiquitous Ungulates”, what’s not to love? Include subtle and not-so-subtle digs at humans messing everything up and you’ve got an enjoyable light-hearted read. Suggested pairing: Saintly, the good sparkling rosé. Fun and uncomplicated.

Incredible Crossings – The History and Art of the Bridges, Tunnels and Ferries that Connect British Columbia, Derek Hayes
Harbour Publishing

A wonderful blend of beautiful images and history, if you’ve ever wondered about the bridges you cross, how mountain tunnels were made or what happened to that 10-minute ferry you used to ride across the Columbia – RIP Castlegar Ferry. When you travel the province, this is a great coffee table book to pick up instead of Google. Photo buffs will love flipping through it. Suggested pairing: Q&A, a red blend, so you can slowly sip through the questions and answers in the book.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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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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