Autumn’s Claire-ity [sic]

View south over Okanagan Lake toward Summerland, Naramata and Peachland as autumn arrives.

RBuchanan photo: View south over Okanagan Lake toward Summerland, Naramata and Peachland as autumn arrives.

Lately when it comes to my personal blog, I’ve been following the first half of Ernest Hemingway’s advice well. However, I’ve not been delivering so much on the second part of his advice to “Live it up so you can write it down.” In autumn though, along with the brisker mornings and cooler nights comes a clarity of thought. Just as the harvest comes in and the golden and red leaves tinge to brown and fall to the ground, your thoughts mature and the old baggage fades to black.

Grapes ready for harvest in Canada's Okanagan Wine Country.

RBuchanan photo: Grapes ready for harvest in Canada’s Okanagan Wine Country at La Frenz Winery .

Where I live in Okanagan wine country for many that means the real work begins. I’ll see less of my winemaker friends for a while as they divine those precious grapes into that magic elixir of BC wine we love. I use the word “divine” consciously. It’s not that I think the process just happens rather I appreciate that it takes much more than science to make exceptional wine. The best winemakers are a mix of agrarian, chemist and artist and wear the eccentricities of each in an amusing and delicious symphony. Occasionally I have had the privilege of joining some of the winemakers I know best in the harvest, the crush or some other part of the process when my schedule meshes with theirs. So, I know there’s sweat equity, long hours, sacrifice, a mess on the floor and sometimes heartache that goes into it.

It’s much the same for me as a writer. My grapes are experiences, ideas or people’s stories that I want to share. There is a process of growth which varies grape to grape before I can harvest them. Even then as I try to make something special – my wines are words – hard as I strive, some are better than others. Oh, and if you ever saw my office, you’d know there’s a mess on the floor in this labour, too! In my case, that mess is paper, books and research and it’s on the floor, desk and shelves as well. Let me explain there’s a saying that “a tidy office is a sign of a frightened mind” and clearly there’s no fear in my thinking!

Thank heavens I live where there are seasons. I feel the change within. It has been a busy season of frolicking on winery tours, reaping the knowledge of others in the Okanagan Food and Wine Writers Workshop, savouring amazing cuisine, golfing an array of courses, hiking new trails, biking pleasant pathways, swimming and scuba diving unspoiled waters and the list goes on and on. Amid all that joy has been deep sadness such as the death of some family and friends. Now it is autumn and I am ready to deal with the best and worst of it all.

Claire Festel and her dog Yukon

RBuchanan photo: Claire Festel and her dog Yukon

Tears come easily as I slip back into my routine of neighbourhood walks. My dear friend and neighbour, Claire Festel, only accompanies me in spirit now. From our first meeting, our discussions revolved around our writing. Knowing her made me a better writer. Along with the talented local author Michelle Barker, she had the idea to form our own writing practice in the style of Natalie Goldberg and I jumped at the opportunity. We often smiled that it became a “group of seven” and we were so fortunate that each and every member brought a special talent and approach that strengthened all of us. My dear and long-time friends Aggie Stevens and Sonni Bone embraced the concept and I also got to know two more remarkable writers, Norma Hill and Louise Devaux.

Photo by Michelle Barker: right to left, Claire Festel, Sonni Bone, Norma Hill, Roslyne Buchanan, Aggie Stevens, Louise Devaux

Photo by Michelle Barker: right to left, Claire Festel, Sonni Bone, Norma Hill, Roslyne Buchanan, Aggie Stevens, Louise Devaux

As a Canadian, being part of a “group of seven” holds special meaning. Quoting as a reference: “The Group of Seven was founded in 1920 as an organization of self-proclaimed modern artists. With their bright colours, tactile paint handling, and simple yet dynamic forms, the Group of Seven transfigured the Canadian Shield, the dense, northern boreal forest, and endless lakes, into a transcendent, spiritual force.” It was our goal to take that sensibility to improve our writing. Through our practice, I know I found inspiration and a deeper friendship of kindred spirits.

In the end, as Claire’s breast cancer revealed her multiple myeloma and it then gave rise to colon cancer and further complications, our writing practice went into hiatus. Still we walked regularly as our routine morphed into a protocol of Claire phoning me to say she was up for a walk and was I available? I was available as much as possible. Although I knew her condition was terminal, I did not think for a minute that she’d be gone so soon. I didn’t wait for her call as much to be a support to her as to selfishly want as much time together as possible. Yes, I served as listener as she processed the enormity of what she was going through, however, to the last day, we discussed our writing. In this post, I won’t go into the dignity and optimism of her approach to her cancer. Instead I’ll refer you to read Claire’s blog at to let her telling of it enlighten you of her inner fortitude.

She died June 9, 2014 and while my husband and I attended her celebration of life and I said a few words that day, it’s only now that I am truly mourning her. Her husband Ed joined Mark and me for Thanksgiving dinner and we had a great evening. Ed had just returned from another memorial for her held up in Whitehorse, Yukon where they had lived for many years. In advance of Ed’s arrival, I have to admit I worried a little that I would be too emotional because we hadn’t seen too much of him lately. Then I realized either way it would be okay. It is the season to give thanks and to accept that summer is over.

RBuchanan photo: In happier days when Ed took us flying, Mark (left) and Ed in front of Ed's Cessna at our stop at Princeton Airport.

RBuchanan photo: In happier days when Ed took us flying, Mark (left) and Ed in front of Ed’s Cessna at our stop at Princeton Airport.

RBuchanan photo: Ready for Thanksgiving Dinner

RBuchanan photo: Ready for Thanksgiving Dinner

RBuchanan photo: My Tony's Meats organic turkey is browning nicely

RBuchanan photo: My Tony’s Meats & Deli (Penticton) organic turkey is browning nicely

In another post, I’ll talk more of our walks. How we both loved nature and how their dog Yukon was such an important part of the routine. I’ll share how much she loved Ed, her whole family and all of her friends. How we’d laugh at goofy moments and occasionally take snacks for the neighbours’ horses. I’ll talk of what a privilege it was to get to know some of her sisters, brother and extended family. I might even share some of the darker moments when she was terrified by new and aggressive dogs in our hood, when she scolded me now and again, and the melancholy day Mark drove Ed to Kelowna to send Yukon back north. For now, it’s just stage one in my “grape” crush. I’ll shed another tear or two, and embrace my autumn (Claire-ity) clarity.

RBuchanan photo: Claire Festel and Yukon on one of our neighbourhood walks.

RBuchanan photo: Claire Festel and Yukon on one of our neighbourhood walks.

RBuchanan photo: Walking with Claire and Yukon was an all-season routine.

RBuchanan photo: Walking with Claire and Yukon was an all-season routine.


RBuchanan Photo: Claire and Yukon pause for a photo.


RBuchanan photo: Claire and Yukon visit with our neighbour’s horse.


RBuchanan photo: Claire and Yukon play along when I was taking Flat Abby along on my adventures for my great niece’s school project on Flat Stanley


RBuchanan photo: Some of the neighbours we would encounter on our walks.


RBuchanan photo: The pure joy of Claire’s in visiting our neighbour’s horses.

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RBuchanan photo: Grapes at Hester Creek just about ready to harvest.

Posted in Flying, Grief, Joy, Learning, Lifestyle, Pets | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Join Taste of Yaletown to celebrate its 10th Anniversary in 2014, October 16 to 30

Join Taste of Yaletown to celebrate its 10th Anniversary in 2014, October 16 to 30.

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Taking it slow in the Thompson Okanagan

Taking it slow in the Thompson Okanagan.

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Terra Madre Day 2013 – Slow Food Thompson Okanagan


Mother Earth was smiling last evening. Since 2009, Terra Madre Day is held on December 10 to mark Slow Food’s anniversary. Food communities around the world highlight eating locally and sustainable local food production and honour that through a dedicated event or action. For Slow Food Thompson Okanagan it was an opportunity to do a little fundraising for the Convivium and celebrate the principles of Slow Food.

Talented chefs and their affiliated companies stepped up to the plate and volunteered extensive hours in sweat equity and creativity to draw like-minded diners to snag a place at the long communal table at Miradoro Restaurant at Tinhorn Creek for an amazing feast.

It was hosted by Chef Jeff Van Geest, sharing the kitchen and volunteer duties with a group of gifted chefs, and all seven pillars of the Terra Madre initiative were achieved, including:

  • · Access to good, clean and fair food
  • · Agricultural and food biodiversity
  • · Small-scale food production
  • · Food sovereignty
  • · Language, culture and traditional knowledge
  • · Environmentally responsible food production
  • · Fair and sustainable trade

The joy that comes from working together and spending time with inspired individuals poured forth from the kitchen and on to our plates. The camaraderie at the long table reverberated to those stunning rafters and added another challenge for the chefs – being heard when they were asked to come out and tell us about the dish. Even some of the heartfelt passages from Alice Waters’ book The Art of Simple Food had to be imagined rather than read. No worries though: Alice is smiling along with Mother Earth.

IMG_5051Ingrid Jarrett, Convivium leader of Slow Food Thompson Okanagan and Chef Jeff Van Geest lay the context for the special Terra Madre Day celebration.

Terra Madre Day Slow Food Dinner


IMG_5050Oh, yes, we broke beautiful bread together as well!

IMG_5057Covert Farms red and yellow beets, BC Farmstead Parmesan, hazelnut, mustard greens, petit Clos Farms black currents & basil: Brock BowesSonora Room at Burrowing Owl Winery

I haven’t been to the Sonora Room at Burrowing Owl Winery Estate Winery since Chef Bowes arrived spring 2013. This elegant dish was a symphony of intense and distinct flavours so when the restaurant reopens for the 2014 season, count me in! It’ll also be a good chance to check how Tom Di Bello is settling in as new winemaker. By the way, if you haven’t tasted Tom and Tari’s own line Di Bello Wines put that on your list, too.

IMG_5063Okanagan’s Finest Angus beef neck tortellini, smoked parsnip and apple puree, foraged mushrooms: Chris VanhooydonkArtisan Culinary Concepts

If this dish looks a bit erotic to you, let me tell you it was as satisfying as it looks! If this dish was around in time for Kim Bassinger’s big scene in 9 ½ Weeks, it might have been used instead of strawberries.

IMG_5070Spit roasted Okanagan Falls heritage breed goat, Roasted fennel with saffron & dried grapes: Dana Ewart & Cameron SmithJoy Road Catering

What more can I say about Cam and Dana’s cuisine? If you haven’t tasted their fare at the Penticton Farmers Market nor at one of their legendary dinners, you’re reading the wrong blog! Call me a groupie, I’ll carry their road gear any day for a chance to partake again and again. Who but our beloved Dana would slam on the brakes at a sign saying “goat for sale” and work through the entire process to share the whole beast? The roasted goat proved a tad tough – I guess that’s why I’ve usually found it in stews. That said, it didn’t get in the way of the artful seasoning or accompaniments. As for the fennel, the best ever!

IMG_5071With Sides including goat sausage, goat crepinette and old-fashioned cabbage with Covert Farms vegetables: Derek UhlemannCovert Farms

Farm Chef extraordinaire, Derek works with Dana to transform goat into melting morsels. He elevates the most humble of vegetables to heavenly status. I’m a professional when it comes to eating capacity but did I just see Mark dig in for another sausage and more vegetables this deep into the meal?

IMG_5072Local heirloom squash risotto, sage roasted acorn squash cubes, crispy garden sage, 10 year old aged balsamic, asiago petals: Natasha SchootenTerrafina at Hester Creek Winery

There’s risotto and then there’s Natasha’s risotto. Why did I not get the memo doggie bags were allowed? The devil is in the detail and I’d have even raided the plates for that crispy sage.

IMG_5087Fresh cheese made with Gort’s grass fed cow’s milk, Quince poached in Okanagan Spirits’ Sea Buckthorn Liqueur, chestnuts & Similkameen honey: Jeff Van GeestMiradoro at Tinhorn Creek Winery

Even as a professional eater, I’m stuffed at this stage. Then Jeff presents this delicate aria lifting simple elements to an elaborate elixir. He does so paying homage to a B.C. cheese farm that could use a boost after a tough autumn. Did I mention the seven pillars of Terra Madre?


With a long drive home, we hit the road quickly. As you can see, the enchantment of this room was hard to leave!

While a complete wine pairing was available we choose the delectable Tinhorn Creek Cabernet Franc to enjoy with the meal. Smart move.


Postscript: Ever wonder how chefs feed themselves when they’ve been slaving for days preparing a feast for the community?

These chefs let their food speak first so I left some of the photographs of them until last. You can see it’s not just Mother Earth and Alice Waters smiling.


Posted in BC Wineries, Culinary supplies, Food, Joy, Learning, Lifestyle, Restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

WBC13 Countdown – BC Winery Each Week – Posting 21

June 5, 2013 – Conference Welcome

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With great joy, I welcome the Wine Bloggers Conference to Penticton for 2013. Between #WBC12 and #WBC13, I had aspirations of introducing one of our BC wineries each week and fell short. Life just gets busy sometimes and to do our BC wineries justice, I want my research to be current. That doesn’t mean that our wineries fall short, however, quite the contrary.

If you are discovering the British Columbia wineries for the first time, I believe you will be pleasantly surprised. If you’re checking them out again, I believe you will find them even better than you remembered. BC wineries are frigging awesome!

Over the next few days, forgive me if I’m a little giddy while I sit back and watch our BC wine and culinary industry wow you.

My goal was to provide a bit of an introduction to the diverse stories of our wineries. Truly, the best discoveries are made firsthand. If I’ve helped to whet your appetite for what our wineries can offer, I’m happy.

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Some vineyards I see from my window

As for me, I’m totally engaged and ready for #WBC13 to unfold. I look forward to meeting you and sharing some tastes.

Oh yes, and long after the conference, I intend to carry on the BC Winery postings. There’s so many of my favourites, I’ve yet to cover!


Rbuchanan Another BC sunset IMG_8169

Full DisclosureHere’s a review of the wineries covered to date. You’ll just have to keep reading to meet more. I have preliminary research on 19 more entries that I had in my planning chart and everyday I discover another I want to share!

Posting Number & Date Winery Comments
1. 2012-09-05 Quail’s Gate Winery
2. 2012-09-12 Naramata Tailgate Party
3. 2012-09-19 NkMip
4. 2012-09-26 Orofino Vineyards
5. 2012-10-03 Ruby Blues Winery
6. 2012-10-10 The Vinegar Works
7. 2012-10-17 Bonitas Winery
8. 2012-10-24 SummerGate Winery
9. 2012-10-31 Dirty Laundry Vineyards
10. 2012-11-07 Tasting Room Radio
11. 2012-11-14 The Festival of the Grape
12. 2012-11-21 The Magic of Naramata Bench
13. 2012-11-28 Township 7 February 26, 2013
14. 2012-12-05 Tinhorn Creek Vineyards March 5, 2013
15. 2012-12-12 Eau Vivre Winery April 2, 2013
16. 2012-12-19 Upper Bench Estate Winery April 12, 2013
17. 2012-12-26 Cannery Brewing April 16, 2013
18. 2013-01-02 Oyster Festival May 19, 2013
19. 2013-01-09 Apples and Quails B&B May 24, 2013
20. 2013-01-16 BlackCloud May 28, 2013
21. 2013-01-23 #WBC13 Welcome June 5, 2013
Posted in Lifestyle | 2 Comments

WBC13 Countdown – BC Winery Each Week – Posting 20

May 28, 2013 – Black Cloud Winery

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Not all of our wineries in British Columbia are businesses with tasting rooms that you can visit. Bradley Cooper and wife Audralee Daum own and operate Black Cloud Winery, which has been described as a “virtual winery”.

When I look up the definition of the word “virtual” in such resources as my trusty old tattered Oxford Dictionary or The Free Dictionary online, it’s not a perfect fit because you can “actually” taste the wine. And when you do get that opportunity, its quality is truly tangible.

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While you can’t travel to Black Cloud Winery as a destination, you can purchase the exquisite pinot noir wines online and join the Cloudy Day Wine Club. Just the other night we enjoyed a lovely bottle of Altostratus which paired heavenly with a hearty smoked salmon dish. You’ll also find Black Cloud selections on the wine list in a number of fine restaurants and stocked in some of British Columbia’s specialty wine stores.

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Despite all of this virtuality and cloudy references, the story of how Black Cloud Winery emerged in the Okanagan atmosphere is an authentic industry story. Brad is the winemaker at Township 7 Vineyards & Winery. With a background in journalism and restaurants, his journey to become a world-class winemaker over almost two decades is an interesting read on his LinkedIn profile. As described by him, he went from cellar monkey to cellar technician at Hawthorne Mountain Vineyards (1998-2002) now See Ya Later Ranch, and took Okanagan College’s first winery assistant course. He honed his skills in New Zealand and Washington State, USA, before becoming winemaker at Stag’s Hollow Winery (2003-2005), consulting winemaker Stone Mountain Vineyards Canada (2005-2008), consulting winemaker at Hijas Bonitas Family Estate Winery (2006-2008), and consulting cider maker at Daum Cooper Winery Services Ltd (2010-2011) working with the team at Raven Ridge. His profile also includes chief imaginist, winemaker, writer, speaker and traveler since January 2010 with Churnbucket, a creative umbrella organization for concept development. It was through his consulting work that Black Cloud surfaced.

The story goes that an Okanagan Falls winery project for which he was consulting collapsed financially and he was paid with 80 cases of pinot noir he had made in 2006. When he informed wife Audralee, he recalls her reaction as saying that just when things were looking great, another black cloud comes over. Thus, the name became Black Cloud Winery and partners Audralee and Brad bought additional inventory and began marketing the label. Township 7 owner Mike Raffan agreed to license Black Cloud under Township 7.  Pinot Noir grapes are sourced from other vineyards to make the wine. This way, Brad remains winemaker for Township 7 and consults on its projects while he and Audralee build the Black Cloud brand. Everybody wins. Pinot Noir was not a focus at Township 7 while it is a passion for Brad and Audralee so there’s no conflict of interest. And from the beginning, Brad had great success making wines for Township 7 such as his 2006 Reserve Chardonnay Harmony One, which won Best Chardonnay in Canada 2008 at the All Canadian Wine Awards. (Note: Township 7 was subject of my post February 26, 2013.)

RBuchanan photo Township7 IMG_7347

Mike and Brad giving a media session at Township 7

As a former journalist, Brad is a great writer so rather than me telling you my version of the daily trials and tribulations in starting your own winery, I urge you to follow Brad’s blog

I will add that I’m proud to know Audralee and Brad. Here’s wishing them silver linings in all the clouds that they encounter – and hopefully, some gold as well! These are engaged citizens who have a dream and are incredibly down-to-earth people. Audralee balances another career while supporting the Black Cloud initiative. You’ll see them out supporting charities, community events, local farmers and chefs, other wineries, breweries and distilleries at every opportunity. Oh, yes, and did I mention they like to have fun? Brad was founder of our Okanagan Burger Tour, an open group on Facebook. Most burger tour stops you’ll find them both in attendance – sometimes with son Ben, expounding on the virtues of a fine burger and sharing a few laughs.

RBuchanan Black Cloud Winery - 6 at OKBurger Tour Burger55 IMG_8208RBuchanan Black Cloud Winery - 7 at Burger 55 IMG_7737RBuchanan Black Cloud Winery - 8 at OKBurgerTour 1 IMG_0537

Okanagan Burger Tour

Brad is a social media marvel so you’re probably already following him @Blackcloudwine or @Bradinator and if you haven’t had a chance to meet him in real time, watch for him at the Wine Bloggers Conference. Don’t leave Penticton without snagging a bottle or two, or at least a taste, of Black Cloud!

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Black Cloud Winery

1450 McMillan Avenue, Penticton, BC V2A 8T4

Phone: 250-490-7314

Twitter @blackcloudwine

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Posted in Alcohol, BC Wineries, BC Winery Each Week, Beverages, Drinks, Joy, Learning, Lifestyle, Restaurants, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

WBC13 Countdown – BC Winery Each Week – Posting 19

May 24, 2013 – Apples & Quails Bed & Breakfast

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When you’re exploring our amazing B.C. wineries, you need a great place to stay. While touring the Bottleneck Drive and other wineries of Summerland, here’s a quaint bed and breakfast you’ll want to consider – Apples & Quails Bed & Breakfast.

Ming and Walter Stein were destined to be the hosts of Apples & Quails Bed & Breakfast. While they didn’t really have aspirations of becoming proprietors, they planned to retire to the Okanagan. When their favourite place to stay during their visits came up for sale, the move came quickly and retirement plans changed. Passionate about the local wine scene and cuisine, their decision has been embraced by guests.

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Recently, I was invited to an Open House and got some insight into a stay there including a tour of the well-appointed rooms and a scrumptious breakfast. Ming and Walter are perfect hosts and work well together in the kitchen. The aroma of coffee, freshly ground from beans of a local roaster, filled the air. We were beckoned to immaculate place settings and served a delicate crepe bursting with apple-cinnamon flavour. To garnish the plate was a fresh apple – not just a random slicing, however, it was expertly carved by Walter to resemble the entertaining quails roaming the yard. The breakfast was a clever and lip-smacking apple and quail theme. Walter joked as the quails seemed to appear on cue, “We have them on payroll to delight guests”. While it’s clear from its web site and Facebook page that breakfasts vary according to what’s fresh and available locally, the photographs reveal that there’s always something tantalizing to anticipate.

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Ming and Walter are a wealth of knowledge on the area, not only drawing from their past vacationing experience but keeping up-to-date as engaged citizens. They are members of the Summerland Chamber of Economic Development & Tourism and make a point of touring the area and keeping in touch with what’s available for leisure activities in the Okanagan. Apples & Quails was a 2013 Talk of the Town Award Winner for Excellence in Customer Service.

While you might want to lollygag on site all day, it is within easy walking distance to town. It’s also close to the KVR Trail for biking and hiking, and just across from the entry to the popular Giant’s Head Mountain hike for another stunning vista.

Perennially popular, see what guests have to say about their experience on sites like TripAdvisor.

Apples and Quails Bed & Breakfast
12014 Trayler Place
Summerland, Okanagan, BC V0H 1Z7

Phone: 778-516-6300
Toll free: 1-855-751-8220

Twitter: @applesandquails

Rbuchanan Apples&Quails 23 IMG_4798

Hosts: Walter and Ming Stein

Posted in BC Wineries, BC Winery Each Week, Bed and Breakfast, Food, Learning, Lifestyle, Travel, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments