Popcorn and therapy from the Okanagan
Visiting Sumac Ridge Estate Winery in Summerland not long ago, I was treated to some Steller’s Jay bubble as a welcome glass. It’s one of the oldest (they’ve made it every year since 1987) and arguably the best sparkling wine (it keeps on winning national and international awards), and it costs a reasonable $24.99 in many, if not most, B.C. LDB stores. At the end of a long wine-and-vineyard-touring day, nothing is nicer.
It was my friend and colleague Judith Lane who once said that popcorn was her favourite treat with bubble, and sure enough there were little bowls of popcorn on the wine barrels at Sumac Ridge. But it wasn’t just any old cinema popcorn; it was the house’s truffle-scented popcorn, so good, so perfectly matched to the Steller’s Jay that I had to get the recipe out of the restaurant chef so I could give it to you here. Nothing to it; here’s the list of ingredients.
- 1 scoop popcorn
- 2 tsp melted butter
- 1/2 tsp white truffle oil
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves, chopped
- kosher salt to taste
- cracked black pepper to taste
And here’s the how. Melt butter and keep warm. Pop the popcorn. Place in a medium-sized bowl and toss with a drizzle of melted butter and white truffle oil. Finish by seasoning with fresh thyme leaves, salt, and pepper. Start making another batch immediately and put another bottle of Steller’s Jay in the fridge.
How about a little Therapy?
Came a batch of new vintages from the Okanagan’s Therapy Vineyards, in Naramata. Let me crib you this quote from the new edition of John Schreiner’s Okanagan Wine Tour Guide: “Therapy Vineyards might seem overly cute as a winery name until you experience the therapy of sipping Pinot Gris here, while watching the sunset over the vineyards of Naramata.”
Therapy was the original Red Rooster operation that relocated to Naramata Road and was subsequently acquired by Jackson-Triggs/Vincor. And speaking of Jackson-Triggs, that’s where the current Therapy winemaker, Steve Latchford, got some of his background in the trade before taking over here in 2009. Fanciful names hiding excellent wines—that’s the call here.
I’ll take you quickly through some of the new releases. Pink Freud 2011 has to be my favourite name among the Freudian wines; it’s a rosé ($17 at the winery and super-savvy wine shops). Freudian Sip 2011 costs the same but they made three times as much of it, so there’s more to find. Alter Ego is a white blend for $24—nice and leafy/herby tasting, produced from Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, and a smidgen of Chardonnay.
There are also three varietally labelled wines in the current release: Riesling-Kerner, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay, all priced in the low $20 range. The Chardonnay is my current favourite. More details on wines-as-Therapy in upcoming columns. If you’re travelling through Naramata this summer, look for some signage and stop in for a therapeutic winetasting!
Speaking of the best Okanagan wine guide out there, it’s here, and just in time for summer wine-country touring: John Schreiner’s new and updated Okanagan Wine Tour Guide, which has added 30 new wineries since the last one and also looks at the Thompson River Valley. It’s just out from his long-time publisher—and mine—Whitecap and costs $19.95, which is the price of a good bottle of B.C. wine. I always like to tell folks this fact: when I arrived in Vancouver, there were four wineries in B.C. Now there are over 20—probably a few more since you started reading this page.
John’s wine guide is the best book of its kind for British Columbians, and likely will be for as long as he keeps updating it. The Okanagan is the feature here; he has others out dealing with other B.C. wine regions. It’s a easy read: a few paragraphs on the background and history and personalities of each operation, then personal picks, contact info and hours, accolades, and lots more.
It’s really the only book you need in the glove compartment when you’re heading out to sample the wines of B.C. in their home settings. Yes, there are maps, and accurate ones. Don’t leave on your wine discovery trek without it.
Charmed, I’m sure…
A new Portuguese red table wine has arrived. It came laden with a silver medal for best value from InterVin Canada and a gold from Sélections Mondiales 2011. It’s called AYA, which may or may not be the name of the producer, and Charming, which may or may not be the name of the wine itself. It’s a blend of 40-percent Castelão, 30-percent Trincadeira, 20-percent Aragones, and 10-percent Cabernet Sauvignon. There—at least one grape you recognize.
The best part—besides the flavour—is the price: $14.99 Specialty Listing, which means that not all LDB stores carry it, but they can all order it in for you. The producer’s words: “a shell-like colour, a complex nose of fresh fruit; medium body and a lot of freshness…a very Charming wine.” Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?
I say: deep purple colour, heady, fresh-stomped-grape aromas, bright and bracing. Suitable for just about any sort of seasonal food, especially the stuff we like to eat outdoors—burgers, hot dogs, ribs, corn, potato salad, greens, and all that. You may have to ask around at your neighbourhood store for AYA Charming; start by checking the Portuguese section.