Songs and sips of the season

With less than a month to go before Christmas, I experienced my first holiday tunes recently while out exploring a few seasonal events.

And talk of what treats to make or buy has come up in conversation.

I am a bit of a stickler when it comes to pairing food and drinks, but I also enjoy pairing a piece of music with what’s both in my glass and on my plate. As you are prepping menus, decorating, or wrapping gifts, some suggestions that may bring the whole holiday experience together.

White Christmas by Bing Crosby screams for a glass of something smooth and silky while baking cookies, with hints of oak as you sit by the fireplace waiting for the oven timer. Chardonnay seems like a good choice. CheckMate Artisanal Winery has several bold chards. Grab some fresh, buttery shortcake and experiment.

The Hall and Oates version of Jingle Bell Rock has just enough of a beat to be jovial, but still relaxed. While decorating the tree (or sitting in an easy chair providing advise on light placement), sip on Apple Pie Punch, hot or cold.

Discovered on Pinterest a few years ago, the non-booze version is apple cider, ginger ale, apple slices. The adult version simply subs in hard cider for the juice and ginger ale. Try NOMAD’s version.

Gift wrapping? Hot gin and tonic: an ounce and half of tonic syrup (found at many locally distilleries), equal parts gin (more or less), top with hot water and a cinnamon stick. Throw in a lemon slice for vitamin C.

Try a gin from Okanagan Spirits or Ampersand Distilling. Pair with Frosty the Snowman.

Turning to red wines, the Eartha Kitt version of Santa Baby with a glass of Harper’s Trail Cabernet Franc to sip on while making your shopping list, which hopefully is a bit more reasonable than the list in the song and includes some charitable contributions.

My favourite Christmas album is by Barbra Streisand. Her rendition of Jingle Bells is enough to make your head spin with its changes in tempo. Listen to it on repeat through your earbuds while putting the outdoor lights up. It will speed you along in the cold weather.

Then, come inside for something I like to call an alcohocolate: a combo of hot chocolate and a libation. There are many recipes online for red wine-hot chocolates, but you might need a bourbon alcohocolate. Dark chocolate, a bit of honey, and lots of cream. Grab some almond bark.

And when your tasks for the day are done: Silent Night.

Option one, a glass of Syrah. Try Hillside Winery, Sandhill, or Vanessa Vineyard.

Option two: a glass of your favourite tea with a gingerbread cookie or mincemeat tart, because the classics never go out of style.


Christmas in wine country

Tis the season, or it soon will be, for holiday events and gatherings all over the Okanagan and wine country.

It’s a good time to take in special wine tastings, open houses, craft fairs, or some combo of all three.

In the spirit of keeping the calendar organized and tackling the gift list at the same time, think about adding these seasonal celebrations to your schedule.

Rancho Vignola has its annual harvest sales around the B.C. interior over the next few weekends, including Vernon and Penticton on Nov. 16 and 17, and Kelowna Nov.24-25.

If you haven’t been to one, be prepared for one of the most organized sales of dried fruits, nuts, and seeds. Plus, the seasonal confection collections are great gifts.

A personal favourite: chocolate banana chips.

Want to learn to make your own treats? Predator Ridge is hosting an Xmas Chocolate and Candy Class on Nov. 28.

Wineries and wine shops are hosting one-stop-shop events – pick up some wine and shop for the holidays at the B.C. VQA Wine Information Centre’s annual open house this Saturday.

Under the Mistletoe at Summerhill Pyramid Winery takes place Nov.24-25 with Tomo Jewelry, then head to Quail’s Gate the same weekend for its Sugar Plum Fair. Make it a weekend by taking in Mission Hill’s Festival of Trees Lighting Ceremony on Friday night, Nov. 23.

Winery associations are getting into the season with their annual winter festivals and events.

Holiday Cheer Open House takes place at Okanagan Falls wineries this weekend, as each opens its doors for tastings, holiday treats, maybe some mulled wine, live music and craft makers selling their creations on site.

Wineries in the Oliver-Osoyoos area celebrate Winter in Wine Country with a variety of events.

On Nov. 24, Road 13 will have complimentary tastings and barrel samples, and Nov. 23-25, VinAmité invites you to its fourth annual Cheese Fondue Party.

Then pop over to Tinhorn Creek for its open house.

A signature event in the South Okanagan, Light up the Vines takes place at the wineries, cideries, a brewery and a distillery along Summerland’s Bottleneck Drive on Dec.1-2, as the lights are illuminated on the vines.

And on Dec. 2, the wineries of West Kelowna’s Westside Wine Trail present Sip into the Season, an annual wine and craft tour.

Rumour has it that traditional tourtiere will be available at the Naramata Christmas Faire on Dec. 2. Spend some time visiting a few Naramata Bench wineries on your way there.

Save the date for the first Oliver Eats Winter Maker’s Market on Dec. 8, with members of the South Okanagan Artisans Collective.

There will be gift ideas galore, and if company is in town (or about to descend upon you), the “dash away” options may save you cooking at least one meal.

And finally, if you didn’t get your hands on it last year….the Christmas King Cole cheese at Upper Bench Winery and Creamery, infused with cacao nibs, is waiting for you.

Wines for All Hallow's Eve

Let’s get the idea of pairing Halloween candy with wine off the table.

I’ve explored this before, and the likelihood that you’ll ruin a good wine by trying to pair it with candy is high.

That said, if you’ll be digging into leftover treats during the next few days, the default choice for me:

  • either one of the two bubblies from Evolve Cellars as a palate cleanser between candies, white or pink Effervescence, or any one of the seasonally-inspired craft brews around.
  • Cannery Brewing’s Knucklehead Pumpkin Ale, or the Toothless Pumpkin Sour Ale from Phillips Brewing Co.

There are a number of wines that, from the names and labels alone, will do nicely for this brief spooky season.

If you’re in Penticton between Nov. 1 and Nov. 4, take in Terrible Temptations, a showcase of cutting-edge (some adult content, therefore 19 plus to attend), scenes from a variety of macabre plays.

The scenes, presented by the Tempest Theatre and Film Society, will be paired with a wine from the nearby Naramata Bench.

With play titles including Slasher, A Beheading in Spokane, and Saint Frances of Hollywood (and more), you’ll have to hit a performance to see how Chill or Groove from Bench 1775, Vixen from Van Westen, Freud’s Ego from Therapy, Naysayer from Elephant Island, or White Knuckle from Monster Vineyards fit into the narratives.

But there are other wines worth exploring, or placing next to a candle for an Instagram-worthy scary-artistic image.

Check just about anything from Moon Curser in Osoyoos, for the labels that are both whimsical, and a tad odd. Afraid of the Dark, a gold medal winner at several competitions, is a Rhone-inspired blend of Viognier, Roussanne, and Marsanne.

And fellow award winner Dead of the Night is a bold blend of Syrah and Tannat. The labels feature owls hovering over animal heads on human bodies.

There are few places where you can walk in and ask for a Bucket o’ Blood. You can at Fairview Cellars, if this big red blend is available. And wouldn’t it be fun at to invite friends over for a Bucket o’ Blood?

Time to resurrect the Murder Mystery game in the back of the hall closet.

For All Saint’s Day, Nov. 1, the obvious choice is a bottle – featuring a few new labels with Renaissance angels and religious symbols – from Blasted Church in Okanagan Falls. Try the Sauvignon Blanc, a bright, citrus-y white wine or Cabernet Franc, with notes of red berries and sage. Both are wrapped in angelic wings.

Finally, a cider to finish — Ward’s Picker’s Hut Winter Spiced Cider. Because winter is coming, you can serve it warm or cold,.

Let’s face it,  when the vineyards and orchards become bare, and the first snowfall comes one dark night, the empty picker huts in the middle of nowhere are kind of creepy.

Am I right?


Snacking and 'sportsing'

It’s a glorious time of year for sports fans:

  • The NFL is in full swing, but it’s early enough to be anyone’s season.
  • Hockey has finally started and we can start to ponder the fates of our favourite teams.
  • And the MLB post-season has begun.

It is also the season of snacking to sports, and, at this time of year, I ponder what to pair with each game as a quiet invasion of chips, dips, and related items populate my fridge and pantry.

It can be a challenge to find the right combo, especially if you’re the only one watching the game who cares about what wine pairs with Hawkins Cheezies (hint: bourbon or rye whiskey both seem to work well).

The snack of choice for watching baseball seems to be Spitz. I have tradition of having a bag of dill pickle Spitz with a gin and tonic.

The botanicals in your favourite gin should pair with the mild pickle flavour, but a vodka tonic with lemon can do the trick if you prefer the chili-lime seeds.

Barbecue Spitz? After extensive taste tests, I find it pairs well with a slightly fruit forward red wine such as a Gamay Noir, as these Spitz have some sweetness.

As for football, it’s not been my sport of choice. I am one of those people who waits for the Super Bowl half-time show, and so, as Maroon 5 has been announced as the 2019 performer, I am taking the opportunity on “football Sundays” to taste Malbecs.

Why Malbec? It’s usually full-bodied, deep in colour, and good with a hearty Sunday dinner of roast pork, so the term “pigskin” can be worked into conversations during commercial breaks.

It should also work well with a plate of nachos loaded with strong cheeses, though maybe skip the jalapenos.

With hockey, the default is often a good Canadian beer. Buy local from any of the area breweries, especially if your favourite pizza is en route.

Why does pizza pair well with beer? The cheese and richness of pizza, combined with the bready crust, needs a carbonated palate cleanser to refresh your taste buds for the next slice.

But if you’re playing on the ice theme, how about an icewine cocktail? A simple option is a shot if icewine in your vodka, skip the vermouth.

Of course, the most convenient snack for any sports watching is probably potato chips. No two brands of chips have the same flavour, and there are so many choices on store shelves.

Here's a safe and somewhat surprising option, especially with multiple bowls and a variety of flavours: bubbly A palate cleanser between bites.

And if you’re trying to be healthy and include a veggie tray in your sports “snackage,” aim for a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, or Viognier.

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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