The 15th Annual East Kootenay Wine Festival.

I have a love/hate relationship with food and wine festivals.

On the one hand, they are an opportunity to try out different foods and wines that maybe you wouldn’t have an opportunity to try. If you’ve always been curious about eating an oyster (delicious by the way) but are too scared to order them in a restaurant, trying them at a wine festival is your perfect chance!

However, there’s also a dark side to these events. Inevitably, there’s always individuals who indulge a little too much and can easily ruin the evening for other guests. Broken glasses, spilled drinks, and bad manners are not uncommon at these events.

In the end, I like to think that the good outweighs the bad, and for me, these are a great way to get out there and try new wines and enjoy old favorites. So earlier in the year when some friends invited us to join them at the 15th Annual East Kootenay Wine festival at the Fairmont Hot Springs, we jumped at the chance to go.

The festival kicked off on Friday, November 5, with a 5-course dinner and accompanying wine pairings.


While each dish was excellent and very creatively plated, the standout dish of the meal was easily the Wild Mushroom Cappuccino appetizer, paired with the 2014 Autumn Gold from Wild Goose Vineyards. The plating for this dish was brilliant, they played off the name and served it in a coffee cup, complete with saucer just as you would expect with a cappuccino.

What really jumped out at me was the texture of the dish, instead of drowning the mushroom pieces in a broth, this was a meaty, chewy dish. The mushrooms were finely diced in a light sauce with notes of sherry, thyme, and pepper.  The accompanying Rosemary biscotti was ridiculous, soft and crumbly with a savory rosemary flavor.

The Autumn Gold from Wild Goose was an excellent pairing, with a subtle sweetness and a refreshing acidity, that cut through the richness of the dish quite well.

The next event on Saturday afternoon was a sit down tasting seminar featuring 3 whites and 3 reds from Hillside Winery, See Ya Later Ranch, and Robin Ridge.

The first wine on the menu was a 2014 Chardonnay from Robin Ridge winery in the Similkameen valley. A somewhat young wine with really good acidity and stone fruit, but needs some aging to reach its full potential. Up next was a 2015 Unleashed Pinot Gris from See Ya later Ranch, a fuller bodied Pinot Gris with good tropical fruit flavors. Last up among the whites was a 2015 Un-Oaked Pinot Gris from Hillside Winery. Super fruity and light with some pretty big peach flavors.


Moving into the reds, our first wine was a 2015 See Ya Later Ranch Pinot Noir. Nice and easy drinking with strawberry and cherry notes with just a hint of tobacco on the nose. Our second red was a 2014 Gamay Noir from Robin Ridge. Some fairly serious pepper notes on the nose along with coffee & dark chocolate on the palate. Last but not least was a 2013 Merlot from Hillside Winery. A little more tannic than expected for a Merlot, but good acid accompanied with blueberry notes.


After the tasting, we just had enough time for a quick dip in the hot springs before the start of the festival.

As part of the VIP package we signed up for, we got early entry into the festival, meaning we were among the first 50 or so persons allowed into the tasting rooms. The festival was spread out among 5 different rooms throughout the resort in order to accommodate the nearly 60 BC wineries in attendance.

Our plan that night was to hit up the dozen or so “must visit” wineries on our list and then make our way around to some of the new wineries we had yet had a chance to experience.

The event filled up quickly and within an hour it was getting difficult to get around, there were throngs of people at every turn. We did manage to visit all but one of our must visit entries. Sadly we weren’t able to make it to the Summerhill Pyramid winery booth.

We ran into a situation that can be quite common in these festivals, the “Gabber”. In this case, there was a group of about 6 people that insisted on trying every wine on the table and speaking at length with the person pouring about each one. We patiently waited for about 10 min to try and sample the wines before moving on.

Just before the festival started we were debating about whether to have something to eat before heading into the event and ultimately decided not too. Turned out that was the right decision, the appetizers for the event were amazing and by the end of the night, we were stuffed. We had our fill of mini fish & chips, prawn tempura, mini beef wellingtons, and copious amounts of fantastic cheese.

However, what impressed me the most about the food was the oyster bar. They had a chef shucking fresh Atlantic coast oysters and they were delicious. I even managed to persuade one of my festival companions to try one for the first time. He said he liked it but I don’t imagine he’ll be eating another one anytime soon.

At the end of the evening, I got a chance to sit back and go over our night. We did manage to revisit several of our old favorites such Burrowing Owl, Stags Hollow, Laughing Stock, Blue Mountain Vineyards, & Tinhorn Creek. I also got a chance to try some wineries for the first time like Volcanic Hills, Hester Creek, The Hatch, & Maverick winery.

Personally, my favorite wine of the evening was the 2014 Nota Benne from BlackHills Estate Winery. I voted for it as my pick as the top red wine of the festival and was very pleased to see it announced the next day as the 2016 People’s Choice Award winner in the Red Wine category.

All in all, I have to say that I quite enjoyed this festival, I thought it was for the most part well organized, and I quite liked the seminar piece on Saturday afternoon. All things considered, I would attend this festival again.

What about you, what are your thoughts on Food & Wine Festivals? Are they your type of scene or do you prefer something a little more quiet and relaxed?



“CAFFEINATED” – The world of caffeine

If you’re anything like me you really look forward to that first cup of coffee in the morning. Your not quite ready to tackle the day until you’ve had that first sip. Once that happens everything just seems to brighten slightly, your mood improves, your energy levels rises, and you feel like your ready for anything.

But what is about that first cup of coffee that brings about those feelings? Why is it that others get the same feeling from a cup of tea or a can of pop. In Murray Carpenter’s book “Caffeinated” he dives into what it is about those beverages that make us reach for them, makes us crave them. It’s one thing…..caffeine.

Caffeinated - book about caffeine
What do we really know about caffeine?


In “Caffeinated”, Carpenter attempts to provide some insight into caffeine, a drug that most of us probably take for granted. As the author travels from coffee bean farms in South America, to synthetic caffeine plants in China, to energy shot bottlers in New Jersey, he reveals how little we actually know and understand about the drug.

He reveals the battle that is going on within the scientific community over what effect caffeine has on the human body. Can caffeine be considered an addictive drug, should it be considered in the same discussions as alcohol, tobacco, and narcotics? Is it possible to overdose on caffeine or is it a harmless drug that just provides a temporary boost of energy similar to sugar?

Carpenter also goes into a lot of detail about the caffeine industry, from coffee producers to energy drinks to caffeinated gum and pills. It’s a billion dollar industry that has grown rapidly and left regulators scrambling to catch up.

Overall this was a very interesting read, it had good pacing and organization. Carpenter did a good job of not overwhelming the reader with scientific information and keeping jargon to a minimum.

I will definitely look at caffeine much different after reading this book.








Sabotage, History, Intrigue, and the World’s Greatest Wine!

Remember what it was like as a kid when you got to go to the toy store. That pure sense of excitement and joy. Well for me as an adult a trip to the book store has that same feeling. You never know what new treasures you are going to uncover.

A recent trip to my local bookstore uncovered one such treasure, Maximillian Potter’s “Shadows in the Vineyard”.


It’s the the real story of a plot to poison the vines of LA ROMANÈE-CONTI, one of the world’s most famous vineyards in Burgundy France.

The author Maximillian Potter, began this as story for Vanity Fair magazine but based on what he found he eventually turned it into this book. In his own words: “I went to Burgundy to report on yet another crime, but what I discovered was the poetry of grace, unwavering tenderness, and humanity”.

In telling this story Potter goes into great detail about the individuals involved, the actual act of sabotaging the vines, and the ensuing police sting operation that caught the perpetrator. He writes about the history of the individuals involved in a way that you start to feel connected to them. You begin to understand the characters and why they do the things they do.

In addition Potter goes into great detail regarding the history of the vineyard itself so as to help the reader understand the significance of what happened.  You are taken back to the earliest days of the vineyard going as far as back as 1757 during the reign of King Louis XV. He also details the politics, business dealings, and emotions that go into running such an esteemed vineyard.

I really liked how the book was laid out in terms of the story. Potter did a good job of integrating the stories of the vineyard history with the story of the actual plot against it. It almost like you were in the midst of a flashback before coming back to present day.

If your more interested in the historical nature and true crime nature of this book you won’t be disappointed. There’s enough of that matter to hold your interest without overwhelming you with wine making and terminology. If your looking for a good story about winemaking and a world famous vineyard then this book is right up your alley.