This weekend, we turn the corner onto a new season of Vancouver Farmers Markets. Two of the big ones, Trout Lake and Kitsilano, are now open for business, with the West End, Mount Pleasant, and other editions following suit in coming weeks.
While we’re still early in the year, it’s certainly far from slim pickings; this week, let’s look at some fare that should be bountiful among the stalls. We’ll keep things local in our glasses, of course, and share British Columbian wines to complement each.
Is there a surer sign of spring? Bright and citrusy, with green herbal notes, whether fresh-plucked from the ground or studded through a risotto with white wine, butter, and peas, I always love the pop of freshness offered by asparagus. Rather than contrasting flavours with a wine choice, I prefer to dovetail alongside those citrusy, herbal components. I’m thinking Lock & Worth Sauvignon Blanc Sémillon 2018 (Okanagan Valley, B.C.; $20 on the winery website), which is clean as a whistle, echoes those flavours, and always has Okanagan sunshine beaming across the palate.
Sure, we get kale any time of year, but we love the nutrient-dense, hearty green, and springtime won’t slow us down, right? As ubiquitous as it is on local restaurant menus and on many a home table, the kale caesar salad is still a favourite of mine. The heartiness, tanginess, and light briny aspects offer a cavalcade of flavours whether we go traditional with a creamy, anchovy-loaded dressing or an easy vegan route with a mix of hummus, capers, and a splash of that caper water. All of that salty goodness coupled with the bitterness of the greens calls for a wine with a little fruitiness to round it all out. I recently tried a sample of 50th Parallel Estate Winery’s Pinot Noir Rosé 2018 (Okanagan Valley, B.C.; $22 on the winery website), dizzy with huckleberries, raspberries, Bing cherries, and lime.
Oh, how I love the simple deliciousness of roasted radishes drenched in butter, then finished off with a pinch of flaky sea salt. With their peppery nature, we need a charismatic wine that will envelop that touch of heat and still hit the buttery richness without overwhelming things. Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars Reserve Pinot Gris 2016 (Okanagan Valley, B.C.; $27.90 on the winery website) is just being released this month (and likely to sell out quickly). Guava and nectarine on the nose lead to blood orange, apricots, and a nice little bit of lemon rind on the palate. It’s medium-bodied, with a light kiss of honey, which adds a charming touch of cheer on the finish.
Let’s do away with a fresh-spinach salad, instead sautéing it up with some local bacon and mushrooms—earthy, meaty, salty, and a touch decadent. A lighter red would suit things well. O’Rourke’s Peak Cellars is one of British Columbia’s newest wineries, located in Lake Country at the northern edge of the Okanagan Valley. Up there, it’s more of a cool-climate winegrowing region—climatically, it sits around where Marlborough, New Zealand, is—so Pinot Noir vines are known to find themselves quite comfortable. O’Rourke’s Peak Cellars Pinot Noir 2016 (Okanagan Valley, B.C.; $35 on the winery website) is a shining example of all the things we love about cool-climate Pinot. Lively red fruit like raspberries and Rainier cherries, a few plums, and a light smattering of tannins keeping everything in place make for a jubilant take on a noble variety.
Beef, lamb, and other carnivore fare
Barbecues are likely to be fired up on a regular basis during the next few months, and with the richer red meats placed on the grill will come an increased desire for hearty red wines. The folks from Blasted Church in Okanagan Falls have a new label that recently stopped me in my tracks. Dubbed “Nectar of the Gods” (Okanagan Valley, B.C.; $55 on the winery website), the wine is meant to be their opulent and shiny jewel in the crown. Although it’s a Bordeaux-styled blend, it doesn’t follow the “Cabernet Sauvignon–Merlot–Cabernet Franc with a small splash each of Malbec and Petit Verdot” route most locals take when inspired by the classic region. Here we have Petit Verdot front and centre at 49 percent of the mix. The dark and brooding berry-fruit-laden grape makes for a bold and showy burst on the palate, with Cabernet Sauvignon carrying the middle, bringing roasted red bell pepper, black currants, and sage; then Côte Noir (a.k.a. Malbec) dives into home plate with blackberry jam and a plume of fresh sage. After 17 months in French oak, the wine went unfined and unfiltered into bottle, ready to rock your summer—or those in the next few years.
All these wines are also available locally in private wine stores for a few bucks more than winery-direct.