Thursday, September 20, 2007

Are BC Wines Going to the Dogs?

You bet they are – for the fifth year in a row. Sure we are being a bit tongue-in-cheek here, but this is still one heck of a fun idea. On September 29, from noon to 6:00 pm, See Ya Later Ranch in Okanagan Falls will host the fifth annual Dog Days of Summer afternoon bash. This by donation event in support of the Penticton Chapter of the BC SPCA has now become a favourite family-friendly highlight of the Fall Okanagan Wine Festival.

Over the years, more than 1,000 dogs have brought their owners to this celebration of the See Ya Later Ranch’s quirky history and unleashing of the winery’s newest vintages – all now bottled under screw cap. No dog of your own? No problem say the folks at See Ya Later Ranch. Despite your disadvantaged status, you’re still welcome to raise a glass of 2006 Riesling or Gewürztraminer – two of the just released wines featured at this year’s Dog Days of Summer – in salute of your own favourite four-footed companion.

Above, winemaker Dave Carson poses with one of the See Ya Later spaniels.


In 2003, the winery released a series of wines under the See Ya Later Ranch label in honour of Major Hugh Fraser, one of the ranch’s first inhabitants. A confirmed dog lover, the Major gave his pets free-range of his ranch and house so, in keeping with his philosophy of making the property a dog-friendly place, the new wine labels featured a small, white, flying angel dog and the winery grounds have been outfitted with a Barking Lot where dogs can romp and play in the shade while their humans tour the winery.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Muscadet Meets European Flats or They Took My Oysters

I went down to our local seafood supplier on the weekend to pick up some oysters to take to a backyard party. For the first time in months, they had European Flats in stock. European flats are my favorites (Susan’s as well), and there were only a few left. Threw a dozen or so in a bag pronto before anyone else could grab them and made a call to Susan to say there was a few left – hopefully to save my butt for not sharing. A quick trip to my favorite wine shop to pick up a bottle of Chateau Chasseloir Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur Liethe perfect match for just about every type of oyster but especially good with European flats. So far so good.

This being a potluck, the hostess and host were wondering what I’d brought. Needless to say, since they’d never had these before, they got the first couple I shucked. Naturally, they also had to try the wine I’d brought with the oysters. There was some discussion about what a wonderful match the oysters and wine made.

Another couple were listening – two more oysters vanished. Now you have to appreciate European flats are like potato chips – you can’t just have one. It simply doesn’t work. So now there are four people eating oysters and drinking wine. Next thing I know, there are six gathered around the table where I’m shucking. I look down and there a two oysters left. That’s it, two left for me out of a dozen. The bottle of wine has one glass left – maybe. Total elapsed time – less than fifteen minutes.

Okay, one of the things I was counting on is that there usually aren’t a lot of people who eat raw oysters, so I’d probably have most of them for myself. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Went back the next day to get some more but there were none left. Nothing, nada, zip. Susan will probably think this is justice served.

Susan’s Note:

Yup. I’m trying to hide the snigger – but not too hard. What more need I say?

The Details You Need To Know:

The Wine: Chateau Chasseloir Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur Lie. Lots of lemon and lemon peel with a tangy, mineral finish. Perfect raw oyster wine. Available in Vancouver at Marquis Wine Cellar for $19.95.

The Oysters: European Flats (ostera edulis) also known as Belons or French Plates. Slight copper color, sweet with a slight copper finish, with just a touch of brine. Somewhat rare in North America. When they’re available, we usually find them at The Lobsterman on Granville Island.

For a great reference book on everything to do with oysters check out The Hog Island Oyster Lover’s Cookbook published by Ten Speed Press that we reviewed in June. Available in Vancouver at Barbara Jo’s Books to Cooks or through

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Sipping Riesling with Johannes Selbach

I’m still on the quest for one of the Toro wines from Frank’s Spanish Wine Educators course. Nothing at the BC Liquor Store, nothing at the two private wine stores located geographically closest to home. By the time I snag a scarcer-than-Toro-wine parking spot outside the Kitsilano Wine Cellar – one of my favourite though slightly farther away private wine shops – I’ve become what diplomatic friends call “focused.” The less diplomatic ones tend to use the term “obsessed.”

“It’s a great day for tasting Rieslings,” says a cheery woman with suspiciously frizzy, red hair and a glass already in hand. Like there’s a bad day for Riesling? It takes a second to register that I’ve apparently stumbled on an unexpected in-house tasting. Okay, time for a detour from the Toro especially since, according to my chatty, beaming companion, the vineyard owner himself, Johannes Selbach – “such a lovely, daaarling man” – is pouring. Hey, serendipity is good.

All four wines are from the Selbach-Oster winery in Germany’s Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region – one of the world’s prime Riesling areas. Selbach-Oster has been growing grapes there since the 1600s and Riesling is the only wine they produce. Frank’s going to be really choked he missed out on this one.

Halbtrocken Riesling 2005 (1-Litre)
A popular restaurant offering in Germany, this wine gives plenty of slate on the nose. Dry, firm, and “crunchy” as Johannes describes it. Good acidity but certainly not overpowering – great to have on hand for when guests show up unexpectedly. Solid value at $27.99

Zeltinger Himmelreigh QBA Riesling 2001
A bit fruitier and rounder, this wine presents more petrol on the nose and more sweetness on the palate. I attempt, without success, to find the hint of fizz Johannes experiences but we soon settle for simply agreeing this is a pleasing, comfortable wine – especially at the price point of $17.99.

Bernkaestler Kabinett Riesling 2005

Big mouth feel ensures this wine would pair well with a diverse selection of foods – pastas, tomato and vinaigrette salad, and paella. Easy to see why, at $22.99, this is Selbach-Oster’s most popular wine.

Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Spatlese 2003
“A big step up” Johannes says as he pours the last wine. No kidding. Immediately presenting the nose-tickling petrol fragrance that’s synonymous with classic Riesling, this old vine beauty is well balanced, rich, and complex. Peaches dance at the back of the tongue like kids playing in an orchard where fruit laden branches dip low to the ground. Thanks to the hot 2003 summer, there’s a mouth-cleansing acidity that would pair well with a broad range of foods… or simply with the delights of good company. Definitely one to stock at $39.99.

Epilogue: Kitsilano Wine Cellar does indeed have some of the elusive Toro wines – two in fact. Two bottles of the 2003 Vetus are already tucked away for the next barbeque, but they are sharing shelf space with a couple of newly discovered whites from Selbach-Oster. Like the woman said, it really was a great day to savour some Rieslings.