May 19, 2013 – Oliver Osoyoos Oyster Festival 2013
Oysters in the Desert
While I’m shocked that a month has already passed since the shucking at the Oliver Osoyoos Oyster Festival, the good news is that there’s less time to wait for next year’s event. Who knew you’d be able to get such fresh, delectable oysters in the desert?
Okay, Claire Sear, who is a sales manager at Walnut Beach Resort, Osoyoos, and EAT Magazine’s Okanagan Contributing Editor, loves bivalves, and like many of us, is pretty confident in our local fish mongers. The fine folks at Codfathers Seafood Market (Kelowna), Buy the Sea Fresh Seafood Market & Fish n’ Chip Shop (Penticton and West Kelowna) and Helen’s Seafood Cove (Osoyoos) put heart and soul into bringing in the freshest, high quality product that they can source. Jon and Anne-Marie Crofts of Codfathers, for example, are true leaders in encouraging sustainable harvesting of seafood products and promoting small artisanal fisheries. Knowing she could count on the support of these fish mongers, Claire figured “even oysters need a day in the sun,” so she enlisted a team to create the Oliver Osoyoos Oyster Festival.
From the start the plan was “to showcase the sustainable oysters produced by the farmers and guilds of the nearby West Coast together with the award-winning wines of the Oliver Osoyoos Winery Association.” This year, in its second year, the festival launched the first Canada-wide oyster wine pairing competition, which was sponsored by Codfathers Seafood Market, EAT Magazine and Walnut Beach Resort. Claire, creator of the Canadian Oyster Wine Competition, explained, “Jon Rowley of Seattle’s Taylor Shellfish Farms created the American Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition and we knew it was time for a Canadian Oyster Wine Competition given we live in a country that is one of the best in the world for producing oysters and what better place could there be to stage it than the heart of wine country.”
Open to all wineries in Canada, the inaugural competition drew over 80 entries to the eight categories and included a Wild Card category in which any alcoholic beverage produced as 100 per cent Canadian product could be entered. Judges included Rhys Pender, Master of Wine and owner of www.wineplus.ca; Mark Filatow, Sommelier and Chef www.waterfrontrestaurant.ca and Canadian Culinary Championships British Columbia winner and finale competitor; Audrey Surrao, WSET certified and co-owner www.raudz.com; Cassandra Anderton, food and wine writer and publisher of www.goodlifevancouver.com and Bradley James Cooper, Okanagan winemaker and owner Black Cloud Winery www.blackcloud.ca At Walnut Beach Resort, judges paired each wine with Marina’s Top Drawer Oysters from Outlandish Shellfish grown near Cortes Island. www.outlandish-shellfish.com
Congratulations to all the wineries that took part. Categories and winners in the 2013 Canadian Oyster Wine Competition are:
Best of Show: Winner: Blue Mountain Vineyards 2011
Pinot Blanc: Winner: Kraze Legz Estate Winery 2012;
Runner-Up: Lake Breeze Vineyards 2012
Un-Oaked Chardonnay: Winner: Poplar Grove Winery 2011;
Runner-Up: Meyer Family Vineyards 2011
Oaked Chardonnay: Winner: Upper Bench Estate Winery 2011;
Runner-Up: Dostana 2010
Riesling: Winner: Intrigue Wines, Focus Riesling 2012;
Runner-Up: Kalala Estate Winery 2010
Pinot Gris: Winner: Blue Mountain Vineyards 2011;
Runner-Up: Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2012
Sauvignon Blanc: Winner: Bench 1775 2011;
Runner-Up: Clos du Soleil Fume Blanc 2012
Sparkling: Winner: Haywire The Bub 2011;
Runner-Up: Noble Ridge Winery The One 2009
Wild Card: Winner: Cherry Point Estate Winery Gewurztraminer 2011;
Runner-Up: Tinhorn Creek 2Bench White 2011
Exciting Array of Events
The festival includes a number of great events so you’ll want to stay awhile. Walnut Beach Resort offers a special rate that’s hard to beat (In 2013, starting at $79.) Rooms are well-appointed and have kitchen facilities. There’s an outdoor pool and hot tubs as well as fitness facilities with sauna and steam shower. Weather permitting, as it did in year one of the festival, you can also lounge on its private beach.
Art of the Oyster
The signature event is called the Art of the Oyster and a work of art it is! This is the second year we attended this festivity and barring any unforeseen circumstance we’ll be first in line for it again next year. Last year I got to cover it for Savour Magazine. Oyster creations are featured from the area’s best restaurants and chefs which are paired with wines from participating wineries of the Oliver Osoyoos Winery Association. Effingham Oysters, Outlandish Oysters, Codfathers and Buy the Sea were on hand to provide freshly shucked oysters. As you sipped and sucked your way through the various stations, background melodies by nHarmonix Music added to the decadence.
Oyster stations included Artisan Culinary Concepts, Sonora Room at Burrowing Owl, Patisserie d’ Vallee, Mica Restaurant at Spirit Ridge Resort, Miradoro Restaurant at Tinhorn Creek Winery, Terrafina Restaurant at Hester Creek Winery, Covert Farm Family Estate, Watermark Resort, and Walnut Beach Resort. To accompany these succulent creations wine stations included Castoro De Oro Winery, Covert Farms, Fairview Cellars, Gehringer Brothers, Hester Creek Winery, Inniskillin, Maverick Estate Winery, Nk’Mip Cellars, Oliver Twist Winery, Platinum Bench Winery, Silver Sage Winery, Stoneboat Vineyards, Intersection Winery, and Tinhorn Creek Vineyards.
Miradoro Long Table Dinner
We also attended the Miradoro Table Dinner, which was a special long table dinner held at Miradoro Restaurant at Tinhorn Creek that celebrated the oyster. Once again Jon and Anne-Marie Crofts of Codfathers were serving freshly shucked oysters along with the wine samples. Chef Jeff Van Geest and his kitchen presented a wonderful array of oysters dishes and you had the option of wine-pairing or you could order your Tinhorn Creek wine of choice. OK Wine Shuttle offered transportation $20 per person return from Walnut Beach Resort and throughout the festival, private wine tours could be arranged in advance.
Miradoro at Tinhorn as a setting
A toast to Chef Jeff Van Geest
Thursday, Medici’s Gelateria, Oliver, offered an oyster shucking station for lunch while Terrafina at Hester Creek held “Under the Tuscan Sun” – pizza and oyster tasting highlighting new releases from Hester Creek and its bubbly neighbours. On Friday, events included a luncheon at Dolci Artisan Fare with freshly shucked Codfathers oysters paired with a glass of Young & Wyse wine and the South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce’s Oyster Brew Party held at Spirit Ridge Conference Centre. Ticket price of $25 included entertainment, complimentary glass and three samples from local vendors showcasing food, beer, cider and wine along with fresh oysters from Effingham Oysters and Codfathers. Saturday in addition to the Art of the Oyster Signature Event that we attended, there was the option of Kayaking with HooDoo Adventures, the Amateur Shuck & Suck Competition hosted by Helen’s Seafood Cover and the Sage Pub, or a Cooking Class with Private Dinner at Hester Creek with a focus on oysters with Chef Jeremy Luypen and Winemaker Rob Summers.
With such great support from local producers and President Holly Plante (co-owner Unveil Shuttles) and members of the South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce, just in its second year the Oliver Osoyoos Oyster Festival was a resounding success. I can hardly wait to see what’s up their sleeves for next year! It was a great way to shake off the remnants of winter blues, celebrate spring and get set for wine festival and summer activities.
Special rates are provided at golf courses in the area during the Oliver Osoyoos Oyster Festival. The South Okanagan Golf Trail offers excellent golf with options for all levels of players. Given many of these courses are open almost year-round and are in great condition in April when golf courses in many areas of Canada aren’t even open yet, there’s even more incentive to take in this fun festival.
Wine Competition Bonus
Bradley James Cooper, Okanagan winemaker and owner with Audralee Daum of Black Cloud Winery www.blackcloud.ca was one of the Canadian Oyster Wine Competition judges. Lucky for Mark and me, he and Audralee inherited some remnants of opened wine left from the judging. They generously invited us after our afternoon of grazing at the Art of the Oyster to join them to polish off some wine along with snacks Audralee put together. Such a fine couple!
Before we headed home the next morning we dropped into JoJo’s Cafe for its bargain breakfast sandwich – a truly satisfying way to say goodbye to oysters for awhile. While you’re attending the Third Annual Oliver Osoyoos Oyster Festival, you’ll want to add JoJo’s to your list.
See Other Posts about the Oliver Osoyoos Oyster Festival
Twylla Campbell of weirdandwonderful.ca: OOOysterfest 2013 – Celebrating Oysters And Wine In The Okanagan
Cassandra Anderton: examiner.com article
Keith Lacey in Osoyoos Times: Oyster Festival Overwhelming Success