Monthly Archives: January 2010

Draught Horses and Dirty Laundry – c’est chaud

Martin and Joel setting up a shoot.

The last few months I’ve been busy with a new project that is very exciting. Along with my friend Martin ( I am making a documentary film on the wines of the Okanagan. So far we’ve had nothing but positive interest in the project and I look at it as a great new opportunity. I’ll give periodic updates on how we’re progressing but today it occurred to me just how diverse the wineries are out here in BC. There’s a real spirit of adventure and newness that you don’t feel so much in France. Kind of normal when you learn that quality wine’s only been made here for less than 20 years. Compare that to over 2,000 years in France.

One encounters just about every type of major grape variety up and down the valley. Growers are experimenting to the max  to find the best clones and the best sites for each. Some are pushing the limits truly into orbit by planting mediterranean grapes like Cinsault, Grenache and Tempranillo. Who knows? Maybe global warming will turn this arid valley into a hotbed for southern French grapes but for now the risk is high and a bad freeze like we had in December 2008 can wipe out the less hardy varieties.

I’ve also met many fascinating wine makers on my travels up and down the valley. How about a retired Israeli fighter pilot who makes stunning Viognier and Pinot Noir ( Or the Punjabi immigrant who’s making great organic Pinot Gris yet doesn’t drink wine at all (

Tilman and his horses hard at work

And then there’s Tilman Hainle. He’s made wine for many firms over the years but today he is back at his small family farm near Peachland. He and partner Sara Norman created the Working Horse Winery as a showcase for organic and  bio-dynamic methods. As the name implies, a beautiful pair of Suffolk draught horses supply the muscle at WHW. Talk about a low carbon footprint or should I say hoofprint!

Dirty Laundry makes three Gewurztraminers

As for dirty laundry, I’ve got lots but in the Okanagan everyone knows about the liquid Dirty Laundry. This dynamic little winery in Summerland – gotta love that name – has proved a point that in order to rise above the pack in the new world, the marketing and the look have to be special. A few years back Dirty Laundry  had a long, difficult to pronounce German name and was not hugely successful even though the wines were solid. In 2005 the winery changed hands and a new name was chosen from a rather steamy detail of Summerland’s pioneer past. It seems there was a Chinese laundry in the village at one time that not only starched shirts but provided other services that left customers hot under the collar! The locals referred to it as the Dirty Laundry. Since the name change the winery sells out of most of their wines quickly. The latest addition to the portfolio is a red blend called Bordello and I think it is likely the only wine in the world that comes with a magnifying glass attached!




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Grazing is for Cows

French fast food photo: Vincent Dancer

I’ve lived here in the wild western mountains of the interior of British Columbia now for about 3 years. We came here from the south of France where we lived comfortably for 13 years. The cultural shock was as you might imagine pretty complete. And none more so than the way people here consider food and drink.

In France food and wine are a source of national pride, an integral part of daily life and something the French don’t mess with. Here discussion of food and wine comes way down the list for most people, after hockey scores, the Olympics  and the latest TV scandals. Canadians work very hard and days tend to start early. So what do Canucks do to kick-start their day? They flock to Starbucks or Tim Horton for the morning drug of choice; a big mug of steaming coffee. Unlike France, where everyone sits at a café to down their espresso, Canadians get their java to go. And for many the grazing attitude continues all day long.  Only at night can most people have a more relaxed, communal meal with family, that is if everyone is home at the right time!

The same kind of system applies to many school kids.  They start early and finish early and have a minimal amount of time to eat. There is no city-wide system of school cafeterias such as one finds in France. Most kids just brown bag it. What goes into those bags can vary from quite healthy to downright disgusting. My son has a friend who eats a peanut butter sandwich every day throughout the year. Or another who survives (not sure this is the best word) on MacDonald’s fare almost every day. How can we be one of the richest countries in the world and yet feed our children so poorly? We’re giving our kids terrible eating habits that encourage obesity and will eventually create a huge burden on our already over burdened health care system.

Just try to take a bit more time the next time you have a nice meal as a family. Be in the moment and really taste the food. Savour it. Breathe it in. Enjoy it completely with focused delight and give thanks to God, the earth, the rain, the sun and our amazing world that came together to put it on your plate.




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Exploring the Soul of Food and Wine

Today I figure is about as good as any other to get off my butt and jump into the blogosphere. The subject choice was easy to make. Food and wine. But I’m not interested in starting another recipe blog. There are more than enough of them out there already.

Real Food Warrior (RFW) is a meandering forum of all that is interesting, beautiful, bizarre, moving and sometimes shocking in the realm of food and wine. I want to discuss the themes and trends of today and look at how the choices we make today will affect life on this small green planet in the middle of space in the future.

For example, in the west but especially in America overweight or obese people represent over 65% of the population. And many of those people are on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder. If they could eat better, healthier food they would but much of it is too expensive. It’s just another way to separate the rich from the poor. For those of us who can afford fresh vegetables, fruits, quality meats, fish and so on it’s as if we’re running on super premium gas. We build stronger, healthier bodies and tend to do better in school and work.  Financial success brings a lot of material rewards, cars, boats and other toys but I wonder if it doesn’t come at too high a cost. Stress is a part of life today. Busy people run from daycare to work to meetings, to classes and then home to bed. Many cram a bite to eat on the run and then a quick dinner at home before settling down with their favourite TV show. Life can go on like that for a long while and some get used to it but for many the bubble bursts with either burnout, depression, divorce or substance abuse the result.

For much of the rest of the world life is about surviving from day-to-day; scraping together a meal for a family where no supermarkets exist, no lush green pastures, no orchards.  This huge disparity from our world to theirs is unacceptable. The world as I see it is very much out of balance. Problems like global warming and all the radical changes that result are frankly quite scary but not because solutions don’t exist. They do but the political elites don’t seem to take the problem seriously. I hope it won’t take a major catastrophe for world powers to act.

What can we do? Start by treating our amazing planet earth as our home and not our slave. Reduce our carbon footprint (walk, bike, skate or run to get the groceries or to go to work). Plant a garden or a planter garden and support local farmers as much as possible (I just can’t give up chocolate overnight) for the stuff you can’t grow yourself. With a bit of help even a total newbie can learn how to start a small garden. As well as eating food that you grow you’ll find your body will appreciate all that digging, weeding, watering and harvesting. Getting the hands dirty is just so good for the soul too. I can feel the stress levels going down just writing about it!

Here are a few of the themes I want to explore:

  • the effect that first industrialization and now globalization is having on the food and wine of the planet
  • the slow and local food movements and how they are encouraging consumers to think about how they eat and the positive and negative effects our choices generate
  • nutrition and food education for all but especially for underprivileged citizens
  • innovators in food and wine; biodynamic and organic cultivation
  • profiles of food and wine artisans who respect nature and strive for excellence
  • photographs, videos, prose, paintings etc that focus on food and wine

I want RFW to be as interactive as possible as well. Let me know what you think about any of my posts.



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