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.


New experience of tasting

As wine consumers develop a stronger interest in the cycle of wine – from vineyard, to fermentation, to glass – there is a growing desire to learn more about:

  • why a certain wine has certain characteristics,
  • why some flavours are expected
  • how to choose the right dish to pair with a bottle.

More and more tasting rooms are including experiences as part of their visitor portfolios. Guests can often book in advance, for a small fee, and meander through vineyards, learn about grape growing, take sensory classes to help identify aromas, or sit down for structured pairings.

Wine shops offer these, too. They help to educate the consumer with:

  • vertical tastings (different vintages of the same wine)
  • horizontal tastings (a few bottles from the same vintage, but different wineries)
  • varietal tastings (the same grape, but a mix of vintages, producers, regions, or styles).

With the opening of the new Great Estates Okanagan Wine Experience Centre in Penticton, you’ll soon be able to take part in a wide variety of these options.

The space, on the ground floor of the new building of the Penticton Lakeside Resort and Conference Centre, is divided into three areas.

The first is a lengthy tasting bar opposite a wall of wine and a map of the terroir areas of the South Okanagan for the typical walk-in tasting.

Further down the tasting room area is a smaller space with raised tables for small seated tastings, with wines served in varietal specific glasses (champagne flutes for local sparkling wine, for example) and small food pairings.

Beyond that is a long table that can accommodate groups of around 10, for lengthier educational sessions and small bites, with a nod to how food changes the flavours in wine.

Plans include guest winemakers, seminars, and even a concierge service.

Head in for one of the tasting experiences, and then, if you wish to take a tour to one of the estates – Inniskillin and Jackson Triggs near Oliver, Nk’Mip Cellars in Osoyoos, See Ya Later Ranch in Okanagan Falls, or Sumac Ridge in Summerland – arrangements can be made.

With the recent announcement by Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery in West Kelowna of a large expansion and added hospitality, the creation of these centres is a sign of the evolution of the Okanagan’s wine industry, and recognition that wine aficionados from beginner to wine collector, want to learn.

Dropping by tasting rooms will always be a top activity in B.C. wine country, but as more interesting and educational choices appear at wineries and wine shops, the more memorable the Okanagan wine region will become, especially for those experiencing it for the first time.

Cabbing it in cool weather

As a relatively young wine region, the Okanagan – in truth, British Columbia and Canada – is still finding its way when it comes to identity.

  • Do we have a signature grape?
  • A signature white?
  • A signature red?

Maybe not yet, but the topic is open for much discussion.

My palate is turning toward juicier reds as autumn descends, but I’m not yet ready for the big, bold wines of winter nights.

Light pinot noir this season? Sure, when there’s enough sun on the patio before twilight. 

But I am leaning toward Cabernet Franc for fall. On its own, or with a little bit of another grape such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, B.C. Franc can stand on its own with its typical notes of red berries, cassis, plums, and violets, with some herbaceous notes and green pepper.

They're perfect reminders of summer in a red wine that will pair well with the first stew of fall.

Looking for some suggestions? Try one of these, and enjoy.

Bordertown 2016 Cabernet Franc, $24: a deep Franc, with tobacco notes and that signature green pepper. A long finish with red fruits and slightly grippy tannins. Good to open during a sudden rain storm or for Sunday dinner with the last burgers from the barbecue.

Platinum Bench 2013 Cabernet Franc Block 23, $40: sold out, so you’ll have to bribe your favourite wine geek who may have a bottle. A few years of gentle resting, plus French-oak aging created an elegant wine with black-licorice flavours and excellent balance.

Skaha Vineyard at Kraze Legz 2015 Cabernet Franc, $26: a wine made with care and finesse. This is a jammy, slightly spicy bottle with vanilla notes and a nice complexity. Delightful on its own, or, as the winery suggests, with pork and apple sauce, or a hearty, veggie lasagna.

Pentage 2013 Appassimento Style Cabernet Franc, $35: if you like Amarone, this is your wine. The grapes are partially dried, producing a concentrated, richly flavoured wine with a palate full of plums, raisons, and richness. Pair with dark chocolate.

TH Wines 2016 Cabernet Franc, $35: every bottle at this winery is famously made by hand, with minimal fuss, letting the grapes express everything you may want in a Franc. Juicy, plummy, but not too bold. Enjoy on a date night, with a selection of local cheeses.

Township 7 2016 Cabernet, $28: in addition to the Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon makes up this blend. If you prefer Sauv, you’ll find elements of black cherry, caramel, and eucalyptus. Likely the last vintage of this particular bottle, so pick it up soon.

Deep Roots 2016 Cabernet Franc, $40: bold, ripe, full of stewed red fruits, chocolate-covered cherries, fruitcake, tobacco, and a mix of spices. A full-bodied Franc that can wait a few years, if you can, or enjoy now with Thanksgiving dinner, especially if you layer bacon over your turkey.

Mission Hill 2015 Cabernet Franc, $50: the very first single varietal Franc from Mission Hill, with future vintages to come. From 21-year-old vines, it has a supremely long and elegant finish. Ready to drink now with your best friend and your take on grandma’s signature beef stew.


Wining down to fall

It suddenly feels like autumn, doesn’t it?

There are always those few days when the weather changes and even though we’ll probably have another week or two of warm weather before November hits, the hoodies are already out.

To prepare for the plethora of fall events leading up to the impending grape harvest and crush, here are a few to put in the calendar as we slowly begin to migrate indoors (for something other than the air quality).

Feast: Cookbook Writing from Dreaming to Doing, Sept. 1 (part of the Ryga Festival in Summerland)

If you’ve ever thought that you could write a cookbook, you can learn from authors Lindsay Anderson and Dana VanVeller. They've visited every province and territory to create the bestselling book Feast: Recipes and Stories from a Canadian Road Trip. 

Join the workshop and share your own recipes and food stories and you receive practical guidance how to write about food and cooking.

Naramata Tailgate Party, Sept. 8 (sold out long ago)

If you missed out, ticket holders sometimes list a few for sale. And for next year, be sure you are on the Naramata Bench Association’s email list so you get a notification early in the summer when sales begin.

It's an evening celebration featuring distinctive wine tastings from 28 Naramata wineries with local cuisine and live music, to celebrate the coming of harvest.

Revival Wine, Food, & Music Festival at Hester Creek, Sept. 15 (postponed from the summer)

Hester Creek is celebrating 50 years, and this event is an outdoor, family-friendly music fest with music and food trucks. Bring a blanket and enjoy an early fall picnic.

Can’t make it? Take in the Garlic Festival at the winery on Sept. 29.

Fall Westjet Wine Tasting, Sept. 29: a kick-off signature event for the Okanagan Fall Wine Festival

This year, this grand consumer tasting will be at the Kelowna International Airport in the brand-new Carson Air hangar. The event will have the largest capacity of any indoor wine tasting in the Okanagan.

Heritage Fall Fair at the Grist Mill and Gardens, Sept. 23

If you’re into preserves, baking, crafts, or grow great veggies, there will be almost 100 exhibit categories to see or compete in as well as heritage games of skill, concessions, entertainment and more.

The whole site will be filled with family-oriented activity for the day.

Festival of the Grape, Oliver, Sept. 30

If you attended last year, you might have witnessed Rick Mercer stomping grapes. With more than 50 wineries, a dozen food trucks, 60 vendors in the marketplace, a kids activity area, live music on the main stage, it’s a lovely afternoon for the whole family.

That should be enough to get you through September, till the fall wine festival, harvest parties, and wine dinners are in full swing.

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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