Monday, December 16, 2013

Flavours of Melbourne Named "Best Culinary Travel Book" in Australia

Proud to say that the Flavours of Melbourne book that I helped write has been named the "best culinary travel book" in Australia by the Gourmand World. The book now qualifies for the next round - “GOURMAND BEST IN THE WORLD” COMPETITION. Woo! So excited.


FLAVOURS OF MELBOURNE - BEST CULINARY TRAVEL BOOK IN AUSTRALIA

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

10 Ways to Beat Jet Lag in Amsterdam


Originally published on EuropeUpClose.com

1. Visit a Coffee Shop (No, not that kind)

Marijuana makes many people tired, so it’s a good idea to stay away from the city’s wickedly popular “coffeeshops”—at least on the first day. Fortunately, Amsterdamers have a love of fine coffee, and micro-roasters are popping up across the city. It’s a little out of the way, but Espresso Fabriek is one of the city’s first micro-roasters, and for two more centrally located roasters, visit Two For Joy or Headfirst Coffee Roasters.

Continue Reading----->

Friday, November 8, 2013

Why Jon Rimmerman is a Rock Star

I found a new hero over the weekend: Jon Rimmerman, founder of Garagiste, a "100% independent, pro-consumer purveyor of wine, food, wisdom, and esoteric tidbits of travel and culture." What's not to love?

Rimmerman is all about high-value wine, and in his recent interview with GQ Magazine, he lists his favorite wine regions for finding high-quality wines for low prices. What do you know—he loves all of the same places that I do! And thanks to his booming success (Garagiste sold $30 million of wine in 2012 according to the New York Times), these beautiful wine regions are getting more attention. In honor of Jon Rimmerman's awesome wine philosophy, here is a collection of Ravenous Traveler articles focused on the wine regions that he and I both love: the Columbia River Gorge, Puglia, Italy, and the wine regions surrounding Cape Town, South Africa. (If only he'd included the wines of Croatia!)

The Columbia River Gorge:
"The Columbia Gorge, in Washington and Oregon, is the most exciting wine region in America," says Rimmerman

Courtesy of Columbia Gorge Winegrowers

Washington Magazine: Pour on Columbia, Drink in the relaxed tasting rooms of the Columbia River Gorge
Travel + Escape: A River Runs Through It: Road Trip in the Columbia Gorge
Ravenous Traveler: Waterfall of Wine Weekend: The Columbia Gorge Passport Tour
Ravenous Traveler: Tips for Wine Tasting in the Columbia Gorge and Hood River
Ravenous Traveler: Hood River Wine Tasting in the Columbia Gorge


Puglia, Italy:
“If you like Zinfandel, try Negroamaro from Puglia, Italy." —Jon Rimmerman

Map of Puglia wine region courtesy of Italian Flavor Consortium

BootsnAll.com: The Budget Traveler's Wine Tasting Guide to Italy
EuropeUpClose.com: Tasting and Talking About Puglia Wine
EuropeUpClose.com: Puglia, Italy’s Summer Food and Wine Festivals
EuropeUpClose.com: Wine Tasting in Puglia, Italy
WhyGo Italy: The Mediterranean Diet in Southern Italy
i-Italy Magazine: Pirro Varone: Organic Wine In Southern Italy
i-Italy Magazine: Southern Italian Cult Wine: Q&A with Sergio Botrugno
i-Italy Magazine: Q&A with Winemaker Massimiliano Apollonio
i-Italy Magazine: Cantine Aperte In Salice Salentino
Ravenous Traveler: Puglia Wine Review
Ravenous Traveler: Guide to Wine Tasting in Puglia
Ravenous Traveler: Puglia's Most Important DOC Wines
Ravenous Traveler: Wine in Puglia: Interview with Valle dell'Asso Winery
Ravenous Traveler: Michele Caló & Figli Winery: Living the American Dream in Italy

Wine Regions surrounding Cape Town, South Africa:
“Cape Town is a mélange of everything a person looks for. It's spiritual. It's edgy. And the wine region is one of the most untapped. —Jon Rimmerman



Viator Travel Blog: Guide to Wine Tasting near Cape Town, South Africa
Travel + Escape: Drinking Up South African History



Monday, November 4, 2013

Waterfront Restaurant & Wine Bar: Presenting Kelowna on a Plate


 Originally published in Northwest Travel Magazine

Farm to Table has come a long way since originating in the 1960s, and today, many of us, especially in the Northwest, expect to find farm-fresh ingredients in a fine-dining setting. Mark Filatow, chef and sommelier at Waterfront Restaurant & Wine Bar, in Kelowna, B.C., certainly has access to advanced cooking techniques and international flavors, but he’s chosen to take farm to table to an entirely new level: back to the basics.

Continue reading here----->

Friday, November 1, 2013

24 Hours in Zagreb, Croatia


24 Hours in Zagreb, Croatia originally published on EuropeUpClose.com

When I first arrived in Zagreb, Croatia, I immediately felt as though I’d stumbled onto something entirely new: a medium-sized city that had been hidden behind the closed walls of Yugoslavia until its dissolution, and then the following war for independence. I took a deep breath of the fall air and found the aroma of paprika mixed with micro-roaster coffee, and it was enough to awaken all five senses. It turned out I was right: This really was something new.

Continue Reading Here---->

Monday, October 28, 2013

Wine Tasting at Hester Creek Winery, Okanagan Valley Part 2

This article is part of The Great Northwest North American Wine Road Trip series, during which we'll visit wine countries in Oregon, British Columbia, and Washington.

As I was saying: Throughout the meal, Roger had given me a great introduction to Hester Creek Winery but we'd only talked business. That's when things got real, and we started to talk about our families. Roger, his wife, and his children all call the Okanagan home, and I told him that my father was wooden sailboat builder and that I grew up in Maine. We began discussing the new forms of publishing—blogs, Twitter, online versions of newspapers, etc.—and I felt that we'd reached a higher plain.

Soon enough, we climbed the hill and entered the modern Hester Creek Winery, replete with a six deluxe guest suites inside of a Mediterranean-style villa. The winery is the ideal base for a trip through the southern Okanagan Valley, and you can find great dining at Terrafina and live music at the winery most Saturdays. Further, Hester Creek Winery hosts cooking classes, which involve creating a four-course meal using fresh Okanagan ingredients in a beautiful kitchen.

 
Showing off the awesome kitchen where Hester Creek holds cooking classes (with wine, duh)
The Hester Creek grounds and vineyards cover 95 acres, and the views from their high up perch overlooking the Golden Mile growing area are mind-bendingly beautiful. The winery takes its name from the original owners of the property, Judge Haines and his daughter Hester. Spending her whole life on the property, Hester played a major role in its development, including giving her name to a stream that runs through it. Hester Creek Winery adopted her name to honor this history, and its cabernet franc vineyard dates all the way back to 1968, making the vines some of the oldest in the region.




The above wine, Hester Creek Winery's 2009 "The Judge," is one of those Okanagan powerhouse reds that the area is developing a reputation for. I dare anyone who loves Napa cabernet sauvignon to sample The Judge and find it lacking. It is an estate red blend, and the blending ratio changes annually (the 2009 The Judge featured merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc). You can taste this wine and others seven days a week in the tasting room, which is open year round, and tastings are free. Moreover, the winery typically serves several "tasting-room-only" wines that can only be purchased direct at the winery. Other wines that stood out to my palate:
  • 2012 Pinot Blanc
  • 2012 Trebbiano
  • 2012 Cabernet Franc Rosé
  • 2011 Character Red Blend

Photo courtesy of Hester Creek Winery

Portions of this article included information obtained during a press trip funded by the Thompson Okanagan tourism board.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

2014 Portland Events Wall Calendar in Stores Now


The 2014 Portland Events Wall Calendar: Something all cities need, and only Portland, Oregon has (Ok, Austin, too)


I've been a part of the Portland Events Wall Calendar crew since its inception, and, now that we're in our third year (and our calendar has become the all-time, best-selling calendar at Powell's Books!), I thought I'd share it here on Ravenous Traveler. This thing is beautiful, and I wish that I'd had something like it when I'd first moved to Portland (as well as San Francisco, New York, Italy...). It offers hundreds of ideas for fun things to do with the Portland community, and that's what Big Weekend Calendars and the Portland Events Wall Calendar is all about: having fun as a city.

Now in its third year, the Portland Events calendar shares more than 250 Portland-area events and activities with the dates printed right on the calendar. Just hang it up; enjoy the big photos by award-winning local photographer Mark Gamba (Sports Illustrated, National Geographic Adventure, Forbes), and get ready for an entire year of awesome things to do in Portland. Most importantly, the calendar includes dates for Portland events for the entire upcoming year. Yep, that means you will know what's happening in Portland in December 2014 right now.

Portland has so many awesome events, and our city's great organizers are so creative that there's something new every year. I mean, Feast Portland only deputed last year, and now it's one of the most anticipated food events in the country. Along with Feast, the 2014 Portland Events Wall Calendar includes plenty of other food, wine, and beer events—even saké events. In 2014, we feature the Taste of the Nation Portland, PDX Urban Wine Experience, Portland Seafood & Wine Festival, Oregon Brewers Festival, and many more. We also include Portland bike events, from Reach the Beach and the PDX Bicycle Show to the World Naked Bike Ride. Portland running events are there, too—from the Shamrock Run to the Worst Day of the Year Run, and we have Portland-weird events, too, including the Adult Soapbox Derby and the Vampire's Masquerade Ball. Of course, the calendar also has your back when it comes to major events, such as the Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade and The Pirate Festival.


Check out how it works: For each calendar month, event names and descriptions up top; dates on the grid below


Our photographer Mark really deserves an extra shout out. Mark Gamba has taken photos for so many amazing groups, including Entertainment Weekly, ESPN, Esquire, Men's Journal, People, Runner's World, Sunset, and the list goes on. His work is featured in museums on both coasts, too. I mean, how many wall calendars come with this level of photography? And Mark shoots sides of Portland that you may not have seen before, whether it's a home-made Halloween graveyard in Milwaukee or zany participants of the Worst Day of the Year Ride crossing the Steel Bridge. For those of you who haven't bought a calendar before, I'll show off a few of the photos from the 2012 and 2013 Portland Events Wall Calendars at the end of this post to give you a better idea of what Mark does.

The 2014 Portland Events wall calendar is sold pretty much everywhere, including:


  • Powell' Books
  • All New Seasons locations
  • All Zupan's Markets locations
  • All local Costcos
  • All local Whole Foods Markets
  • Both Food Front Cooperative groceries
  • Mirador Community Store
  • The Portland Nursery
  • New Renaissance Bookshop
  • Alberta Cooperative Grocery 
  • Annie Bloom's
  • Audubon Society of Portland
  • Broadway Books

You can also buy one online here. (By the way, one of the tough knocks about the calendar business is that our Amazon.com reviews do not carry over each year. So, if you've got a moment, please review us and let people others know what you think about the calendar.)

Lastly, I just want to say thank you to all of the people who buy our calendar as well as all of the hard-working event organizers who supply us with their event dates so far in advance (we know it isn't easy!). We get lots of support from local businesses, business owners, websites, food trucks—and we're honored. The calendar is researched and edited by Portlanders; the photographs are taken by a Portland photographer; Portlanders comprise the sales team; and it is printed by Precision Graphics, based in Tualatin. I love our Portland community, and I hope that our calendar can help people connect with all of the creativity in Slabtown.

See you around at:









 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Wine Tasting at Hester Creek Winery & Dining at Terrafina Restaurant, Okanagan Valley Part 1

This article is part of The Great Northwest North American Wine Road Trip series, during which we'll visit wine countries in Oregon, British Columbia, and Washington.

Pulling up to the Hester Creek Winery on my last day in the Okanagan Valley was like going to the gym the day after running a marathon. It was about a week and a half on the road, and I hadn't done anything but drink wine. Plus, in the middle, there was the... what was it? Oh yeah, the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference (apparently I drank a minimum of 225 wines a day according to my notes). Fortunately, as a professional, none of this phased me. I parked and got straight to work.





The Hester Creek vineyard was like a winelover's airstrip to heaven:

Time for lift off—

I was meeting with Hester Creek director of hospitality, Roger Gillespie, at the onsite Terrafina Restaurant for lunch. The wineries in the Okanagan Valley have it down: Many of the best wineries offer not only fantastic wine but inventive, locally inspired menus at onsite restaurants, and, as I was soon to learn, Hester Creek offers a whole lot more.

I was welcomed to the restaurant by owner April Goldade, and took a seat at a table on the patio. When Roger arrived, he appeared a well-calculated dresser with Clark-Kent glasses to boot. Over a bottle of the winery's 2012 Cabernet Ftopranc Rosé, he shared a bit about Hester Creek. "This piece of land you see," he said, "is called the Golden Mile. Some of our cabernet franc was planted here as early as 1968." The Golden Mile is not technically a bench like the Naramata and Summerland: it is a stretch of land raised up from the valley floor, and this topographical fact saves it from the early frosts that some of the other Okanagan vineyard areas get. In Canadian wine country, this can mean all the difference.


Terrafina Restaurant

Terrafina chef Natasha Schooten came out and introduced the menu, which offered a medium-to-large selection of seasonal dishes focused on gourmet pastas and pizzas. Like many of the Okanagan's top-notch restaurants, Terrafina features loads of local produce, and this made all of the difference. We started with the Antipasto Platter, and I must say that hands down it was the best antipasti I've ever had (and I lived in Italy for two years).

The marinated artichokes, eggplant, and caper berries were packed with flavor; the homemade focaccia was light and a non-overpowering accompaniment; and local meats and cheeses were each different and melt in your mouth. Next, we ordered the Sausage and Mushroom Pizza, with wild mushrooms, sausage, aged cheddar, and olive oil; the Pan-Fried Fishcakes, with organic quinoa, feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, organic tree fruit, avocado, and sun-dried tomato vinaigrette; and the Gnocchi, with asparagus, carrots, wild spinach, shaved Parmesan, and microgreens.

From the left: Pan-Fried Fishcakes, Sausage & Mushroom Pizza, Gnocchi, & The Judge


Natasha explained that Terrafina makes its Tuscan sausage in house—a mix of basil, tomato, and local meat—and that it contains no nitrates or dextrose. Thanks to the Gnocchi, I can tell you that the best time to visit the Okanagan Valley is during asparagus season, which runs mid-May through Mid-June.

Terrafina Chef Natasha Schooten

I loved the fresh produce in all of the dishes, and Terrafina sources it from a range of Okanagan farms, including Covert Farms, Fester's Peppers, Harker's Organics, and Pranna Farms. Natasha said that her cooking is greatly influenced by Rod Butters, a chef who spearheaded local cooking in the Okanagan and who currently owns and operates RauDZ in Kelowna. Additionally, the pizza crust was very good: crunchy and chewy enough to leave you satisfied without being heavy. The Gnocchi had wonderful flavor, but the gnocchi themselves were a little heavy. I prefer very light gnocchi, almost pillowy.

Throughout the meal, Roger had given me a great introduction to Hester Creek Winery, but I'd noticed that he'd been a little quiet. What did he have in store... (To be continued)

Portions of this article included information obtained during a press trip funded by the Thompson Okanagan tourism board.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

American Rieslings - A Taste of the Finger Lakes

America's primary riesling producers are Washington, Oregon, California, New York, and Michigan, and, living in Oregon, I like to keep close tabs on what's happening on the other side of the country in terms of riesling. I love Oregon's rieslings for their incredible terroir. In general, the style involves high acid levels and a incredible tartness—two components that make many Oregon riesling conducive to aging. When I open a bottle of Oregon riesling, I know it's good if it tastes like crisp Oregon air coming straight off of the Pacific Ocean.

The Finger Lakes Region of New York, located in the northeast of the state, have garnered a number of important awards. At the fore, Wine & Spirits magazine listed 20 Finger Lakes rieslings on its of best of 2012 list. As part of the Finger Lakes Alliance virtual tasting series, which you can check out on Twitter using hashtag #FLXWine, I was sent free samples of four rieslings. They were produced by Hosmer Winery, Glenora Wine Cellars, McGregor Vineyard, and Wagner Vineyards and range from dry to sweet. 


2012 Hosmer Dry Riesling Cayuga Lake ($15) - Out of all of the wines, this was the crowd pleaser. I actually enjoyed the 2012 Wagner sweet riesling best, but this was my second favorite. It has peach, pear, fresh grass, and petrol on the nose and lime peel and lemon on the palate. Clean with nice minerallity, too.
2012 McGregor Vineyard Semi-Dry Riesling ($17.99) - In general, I'm not a fan of semi-dry rieslings unless they taste of a sweet summer afternoon. This wine was made with fruit grown on 35-plus-year-old vines, but I found the flavors were not intense enough for me. The nose was floral with lots of tangerine, too, and I got honeysuckle and yeast on the palate. 


 2012 Glenora Wine Cellars Riesling ($?) - Again, this wine's sweetness feel toward the wishy-washy middle, and, in my opinion, the acidity level was just too low, giving the wine an overall flat quality. The nose had some interesting herbal-tea scents, though. 








2012 Wagner Vineyards Riesling Select ($?) - This wine was my favorite because, even though it was sweet, it had a great acidic backbone that left the palate clean. Overall, the 2012 Wagner Vineyards Riesling Select had great balance—a decadent and viscous wine with enough class to serve with a savory entree course. Thai curries obviously come to mind. Savory soups involving sweet corn. This wine's creamy texture could really make for some interesting pairings chefs.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Ravenous Reading in the latest issue of Travel + Escape Magazine

The August 2013 issue of Travel + Escape Magazine (for iPhones and iPads) features an article I wrote called Walla Walla, A Wine Oasis is Eastern Washington. It provides an introduction to Walla Walla, a winetown rife with classic cowboy stories straight out of the wild wild west, as well as winery, restaurant, and hotel recommendations and practical information for setting up your own wine-tasting adventure. At $1.99 an issue, you can't beat the price, and Travel + Escape Magazine really takes advantage of the online format, with videos, webcams, and more. Check it all out here.

SJR Vineyard (in the area known as The Rocks), photo courtesy of Mary Delmas Robertson of Delmas

I did not receive any financial assistance in writing this article, but I did receive a lot of help completing my research. I'd like to thank Muriel Kenyon from Otis Kenyon Winery, Madeleine Shero from Rotie Cellars, Suzie Nelson and Ryan Pennington from Spring Valley Vineyards and Northstar Winery, Justin Yax with DVA Advertising & Public Relations and Tourism Walla Walla, and Steve Robertson and Mary Delmas Robertson at Delmas Wines.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wine Tasting at Poplar Grove Winery, the Okanagan Valley

This article is part of the one-month road trip series, The Great Northwest North American Wine Road Trip, during which we'll visit wine countries in Oregon, British Columbia, and Washington.

No need to beat around the vineyard: Poplar Grove Winery makes some of my favorite wines in the Okanagan Valley. Let me try to explainn: the wines are so complex that they leave me wanting to know more, viz. drink more; they are well aged and only released when ready to drink, and this plays a key role in how expressive they are; and they give me a sense of place: these wines, particularly the Poplar Grove 2009 Merlot, taste like the Naramata Bench in the Okanagan Valley.

Naramata Bench outside of Penticton, Okanagan Valley by Naramata Bench Wineries Association

Now, let's move away from the subjective. Poplar Grove makes wines that are French in style and range from pinot gris, chardonnay, viognier, merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon varietals to the awesomely powerful Bordeaux-inspired red blends. many of which you can only taste and buy onsite. The tasting room is freakin' beautiful, too, and, yeah, I know, in this aspect, my Okanagan posts are getting redundant:


Poplar Grove tasting room stands on the famous Naramata Bench and looks out onto Lake Okanagan

Poplar Groves wines are definitely some of the most complex that I tasted in the Okanagan Valley. I never exhausted their depths, and I doubt you would be able to either, even if you drank bottle after bottle, vintage after vintage.

Most impressive, Poplar Grove wines also come at a high value, and my favorite, a masculine, dark-leather and tobacco merlot, costs only $30. Jesus, why can't we purchase them in the USA! I didn't purchase this wine but chose the also awesome Blanc de Noirs rosé, and, so far, this is my one and only regret on The Great Northwest North American Wine Road Trip. It's a serious regret, since we can't get any of Poplar Grove's wines in the USA, as I understand it. I should have bought both.



I personally believe that all of Poplar Grove wines are stand outs—though they sadly weren't pouring their Cabernet Franc (this grape is easily one of my favorites in the Okanagan Valley)—but here were my favorites:

  • 2011 Chardonnay
  • 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2012 Blanc de Noirs (rosé)
  • 2009 CSM (blend of cabernet sauvignon, syrah, and mourvedre and a play on GSM!)
  • 2007 Legacy 
For all you big Napa Cab lovers, I seriously recommend saving a few bucks and grabbing the Poplar Grove Legacy for a steal at $50. It is Tolstoy, DFW, Hemingway, and Dostoyevsky rolled into one (as well as cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot)! It is the winery's signature wine and perfect for romance. I promise you'll be reciting poetry after the second sip (after the first, you'll simply be weeping). The wine even prompted the winery to write: The finish is heartbreakingly long, like a French kiss goodbye at the train station.

Now that's a tasting note.

To go wine tasting at Poplar Grove, visit any day of the week 10am-5pm (open till 6pm April through October). Tasting fee is $5, and it is waived with purchase. The onsite Vanilla Pod Restaurant serves lunch and dinner, and it offers a tapas-style menu inspired by the Okanagan's incredibly flavorsome produce.




Portions of this article included information obtained during a press trip funded by the Thompson Okanagan tourism board.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Fried Pasta! Ciceri e Tria Recipe: Eating Southern Italian with the Ravenous Traveler

This article, with recipe for Ciceri e Tria, a traditional fried pasta dish from Italy's Puglia region, originally appeared on EuropeUpClose.com

It was great finally getting the fried pasta right, thanks to a little help from Puglia's The Awaiting Table Cooking School

Italy’s Puglia region has been blowing up for years among food lovers and those appreciative of the Mediterranean diet. Everyone from top chefs to leading culinary writers have been traveling to Puglia, and you too can meet local chefs and learn the secrets of the Mediterranean diet by visiting this beautiful region of Italy.

Continue Reading---->

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Coffee Encounters Tells the Story of World's Coffee and the Suspended Coffee Movement

Putting the Suspended Coffee Movement into perspective, now that it's about to strike Portland and Seattle straight in the crema.

Let's take a break from all the wine for just a second to talk about coffee, a great new book, and the ways in which we can all be more kind to one another. Over the last year, I worked with Smudge Publishers, an Australian publisher, on the 543-page book, Coffee Encounters. One of five contributing authors, I labored to tell the story of Australia's entire coffee industry, and the story turned out to involve everyone from specialty coffee roasters in Sydney and baristas in Melbourne to Ana Maria, a struggling coffee picker in Guatemala, and the Suspended Coffee Movement. This massive coffee-table-style book—one that's actually about coffee:-)—shares the perspectives of hundreds of people in the coffee industry, and it taught me about the Suspended Coffee Movement, a movement that shares coffee and more with those less fortunate.

The children of Guatamalan coffee picker Ana Maria, Mario and Melanie


If you've been watching the news, then you've likely heard about the man who bought 500 coffees at a Tim Horton's in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, on July 22, 2013. He simply ordered a coffee and a Boston-cream doughnut and 500 additional coffees and told the cashier to give the coffees away for the rest of the day. This trend has caught on over the last week, and now over 9,500 coffees have been purchased. My questions is: Is this related to the Suspended Coffee Movement?





The Suspended Coffee Movement is believed to have begun in Naples, Italy, and then Bulgaria took up the cause, and it seems to be rapidly gaining speed right now. The Suspended Coffee Facebook page is less 8 months old a and it has well over 100K Likes, and I have a feeling that the mystery man in Edmonton was influenced by the movement. In buying 500 extra coffees, he, either purposefully or not, created 500 suspended coffees.





The Suspended Coffee Movement is simple: While purchasing your morning brew or afternoon pick-me-up, buy an extra coffee and the cafe will give it to a person in need. Many cafes feature Suspended Coffee stickers in their windows to let you know that they participate in the cause. That's it. A random act of kindness with a huge following.






It seems that a lot of the people in the coffee industry care deeply about the world and the people in it (I can't believe I'm even writing this as though it's novel, but hey—). Maybe this is because coffee spans the world and, further, because it takes people all over the world to create the delicious cup off coffee that we enjoy each morning. Smudge Publishers has taken up the cause, too, and the Coffee Encounters book is dedicated to Ana Maria, the Guatemalan coffee picker so poignantly depicted by writer Tyson Hunter, and her children.

Additionally, Smudge Publishers started the charity, Picking Up The Pieces, which will begin with helping Ana Maria and then continue to provide running water, electricity, sewerage, gas, and more for others in similar situations. $5 from every book sale of Coffee Encounters will be given to Picking Up The Pieces, and, until you find Coffee Encounters on a book shelf near you (at the moment, it is not distributed to the United States) you can purchase a Suspended Coffee today. Good luck my friends, and be excellent to one another.

Coffee Encounters: Adventures to Origin:





Friday, July 12, 2013

Wine Tasting at Quails' Gate, the Okanagan Valley

This article is part of the one-month road trip series, The Great Northwest North American Wine Road Trip, during which we'll visit wine countries in Oregon, British Columbia, and Washington.

In the northern Okanagan Valley, near the town of Kelowna, Quails' Gate winery is offering some deliciously fascinating white winesnot to mention the views that come with them:



The Stewart Family moved to the Okanagan Valley in 1908, and, like many winemaking families in the Okanagan, they started out growing fruit trees. They founded Quails' Gate winery in 1989.

Interestingly, the first non-native people to move to the Okanagan Valley lived on what is now the Quails' Gate property, and, while wine tasting, you can check out the original farmstead, the Allison House. According to Wikipedia, Susan Louisa Moir Allison was a Sri Lankan-born Brit who moved to the Okanagan Valley in 1873. She was an author who loved interacting with the indigenous people, the Okanagans, and she had a whopping 14 kids—mostly in this little house at Quails' Gate pictured here:

The Allison Family House

Susan reportedly saw the famous monster of Okanagan Lake, Ogopogo, which might look something like this (2011 Riesling by Monster Vineyards—delicious in its own right, too):


Alright, enough history and folklore. At Quails' Gate, I was shown around by The Wine Doctor, Isaac. Dr. Isaac got his moniker during a live radio show, when he asked the disc jockies to send a shout out to his kids from the "Wine Doctor." The name stuck, and the Stewart Family even made him a name tag. It was a good thing the doctor was in the house when I visited, because I was feeling ravenous. "No problem," said Isaac, "take two merlot and call me in the morning."

Earning his title, Dr. Isaac explained that some of the winery's vineyards grow out of an extinct volcano cone, and the winery's foch vines are the oldest vines. Foch is a type of grape, and, no, it isn't pronounced that way. It's pronounced fōsh. I'd never heard of the grape before and was excited to get to try it.


Of all their wines, I truly loved the 2012 Chenin Blanc for its tropical fruit, kind-but-firm acidity, and light, care-free-summer-days attitude. It's been served to President Obama and Prince William and Kate Middleton, and you can try it too with incredible views at Quails' Gate. Other stand out wines, according to my tastes, were:

  • 2012 Chasselas (blend of pinot blanc and pinot gris)
  • 2011 Quails' Gate Chardonnay
  • 2011 Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay
  • 2011 Pinot Noir
  • 2011 Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir
The wines made with the foch grape are also worth a try. They are incredibly masculine, with huge tannins, deep fruit, and tobacco notes.

Love Quails

Quails' Gate is open daily for wine tasting, and they offer a basic wine tasting for $5 (fee waived with two-bottle purchase). Additionally, you can take the highly informative Family Tour, which is offered three times a day. It includes a wine tasting and costs $8. Pre-booking isn't necessary.

The winery has a nice porch with lots of comfy seating—ideal for soaking up the Okanagan atmosphere—and the onsite restaurant, Old Vines Restaurants & Bar, has equally dazzling views and serves a locally and seasonally inspired menu in a fine-dining setting.




Lastly, I visited Quails' Gate at a very special time: when the grapevines were blooming. Vines only bloom for a week or two each year, and, though the flowers are very small, they symbolize the beginning of another vintage of idiosyncratic wine, in this case, from the Okanagan Valley.

Portions of this article included information obtained during a press trip funded by the Okanagan tourism board.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Wine and Cheese Tasting at Upper Bench Winery, the Okanagan Valley

This article is part of the one-month road trip series, The Great Northwest North American Wine Road Trip, during which we'll visit wine countries in Oregon, British Columbia, and Washington. Follow along in real time on Twitter with the hashtag, #NWRoadTrip.

Have you ever met a couple that just rocks? That's Gavin and Shana Miller, owners of Upper Bench Winery and Creamery, in the Okanagan Valley. Gavin makes wine; Shana makes cheese; and a more perfectly paired couple there could never be.




Shana welcomed me to Upper Bench. She makes all of her cheese onsite and sources all of the milk from British Columbia dairy farms. One of her assistants, a hard-working, cheese-loving young lady, was rocking out in the humid creamery to her favorite tunes. Steam bellowed and her body swayed to the music while she made the day's cheese, following Shana's precise methods and recipes.





In the tasting room, Gavin appeared, and he explained his winemaking background. Gavin had made wine in the Okanagan Valley for many years, working for some of the best-known wineries in the region, including Painted Rock and Poplar Grove, before teaming up with Shana and his partners to start Upper Bench in 2011. To make his wines, Gavin primarily grows or sources grapes from the Naramata Bench, one of the most famous and well-regarded grape-growing areas of the Okanagan. Upper Bench and the Naramata Bench are just a five-minute drive from Penticton, a beautiful town located smack dab in the middle of the Okanagan Valley (to give you an idea, Tinhorn Creek Winery is located about 20-minutes south of Upper Bench and Penticton). 




Gavin poured his 2012 Pinot Blanc and Shana served a plate of three cheeses: Kingcole, Gold, and Brie. I quickly fell in love with the Kingcole, a gentle blue cheese that had the perfect bite, as well as the Gold, a Upper Bench's signature cheese, a rich, semi-soft, surface ripened, washed-rind cheese with a whole lotta buttery flavor.


 

Gavin's wines showed off the Naramata terroir, and, among Upper Bench's excellent wines, my favorites were:
  • 2011 Chardonnay
  • 2011 Zweigelt
  • 2011 Merlot
  • 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon
For a wine and cheese-tasting experience, visit Upper Bench Winery any day between 10am and 6pm. A tasting of four wines and two cheeses costs $5, and this fee is waived with the purchase of one or more bottles.

Portions of this article included information obtained during a press trip funded by the Thompson Okanagan tourism board.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Wine Tasting at Tinhorn Creek Winery, The Okanagan Valley

This article is part of the one-month road trip series, The Great Northwest North American Wine Road Trip, during which we'll visit wine countries in Oregon, British Columbia, and Washington. Follow along in real time on Twitter with the hashtag, #NWRoadTrip.

One of the first things I learned visiting the Okanagan Valley, Canada: It's hard to find a winery or restaurant without incredible views! This wine region is beyond words, from the sheer rock face of McIntyre Bluff to the placid blue surface of Lake Okanagan. My first night, I stayed at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards and ate at the onsite Miradoro Restaurant. The hospitable and welcoming folks who own and operate Tinhorn Creek showed me how to relax Okanagan-style, and this ampitheatre lay between us and the valley as the sun set:

Tinhorn host concerts and weddings during the summer months, too

What an honor it is to visit someone's home, dine with them, and talk about the wine they create. Tinhorn Creek makes a range of wines, and I fell for their reds, which show the fruitiness that comes with great grape maturity as well as the high acidity that comes from a colder grape-growing environment. The Okanagan Valley, which is located in the southeast corner of British Columbia and runs straight down to the border of Washington, has a range of growing environments, and, in the south, where Tinhorn is located, cabernet franc, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon vineyards excel. In general, Bordeaux grapes are widely cultivated, as well as syrah and a handful of other bold reds that benefit from having a strong acid backbone. They paired perfectly with Miradoro's Lamb, which is a braised shank served over Moroccan-spiced lentils with cilantro and sour cream.




Of all the fantastic Tinhorn Creek wines I tasted, the 2010 Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Cabernet Franc really stuck out. I don't know about you, but a good cab franc is hard to find. Usually, they're either too jammy or too vegetal, but Tinhorn's Oldfield Series Cabernet Franc walked the line: It had the rich cherry fruit and chocolate in front followed with herbacious notes, and a killer, integrated acidity the entire way through. The acidity was so well balanced that it seemed to be waltzing with the flavors, which, my friends, is simply classy.


Photo courtesy of Rick VanSickle/winesinniagara.com

Unfortunately, the 2010 is sold out, but you have options. You can wait for the 2011 Oldfield Series Cabernet Franc to be released; you can try out the regular ol' 2010 Cabernet Franc, which is also solid; and you can test these other Tinhorn Creek wines, which were my personal favorites:
  • 2012 Pinot Gris
  • 2011 Oldfield Series 2Bench White (which I believe is a blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, viognier, semillon, and muscat)
  • 2010 Cabernet France
  • 2010 Merlot
  • 2009 Oldfield Series 2Bench Red (blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and petit verdot) 
To go wine tasting at Tinhorn Creek Vineyard, arrive any day between 10am and 6pm (just read the sign dummy). Wine tasting is free.


More of the wacky Okanagan "locals"

Portions of this article included information obtained during a press trip funded by the Thompson Okanagan tourism board.

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