I’m back. No, no, stop the music; put away the Sharpies®. It’s not that big of a deal.
It was a very good trip to the Okanagan Valley last week. By my calculations, 27 meetings in four days and according to my mileage receipt, 2258 kilometers driven.
My colleague and I met many wonderful people, five vineyard dogs (ranging from a wiener dog to a bull dog, to a Burnese mountain dog), dropped in on nearly two dozen wineries big and small, and even did a construction walk-through of an unopened hotel. We were privy to several great rumors, gossip and new product launches, and tasted several great wines. Amongst my favorites were Road 13‘s new pinot noir rosé (2008 vintage), Laughing Stock‘s 2006 Blind Trust red and Portfolio, and the seminal summer sipper, Tantalus‘s 2007 old vines riesling. Our best meals were had at Burrowing Owl‘s Sonora Room (I make a point of stopping there every time I’m in the valley and I never leave disappointed), and the new RauDZ.
RauDZ, I suspect, is a conciliatory transformation of the now-gone Fresco (probably the best value fine dining I’ve ever enjoyed). Fresco was certainly the best restaurant in the Okanagan Valley, in my opinion, and maybe a little too good for the valley given the fact that it closed. RauDZ is still owned and operated by chef-owner Rod Butters and his wife Audrey, and mandates itself as an upper-casual establishment catering to walk-in traffic only, featuring LCD TVs (even in the open-air kitchen) and booth seating. The menu consists of several traditional appetizer dishes, a healthy number of entrées and a great selection of wines and beers. I noticed several hold-overs from the Fresco menu, including one of my favorites, the crab cappuccino soup. Ingredients hold true to the previous philosophy as well – all are locally sourced, organic and seasonally inspired. I love Butters’ steadfast attitude towards traditional menus with traditional portions and a focus on simplicity and quality ingredients. All to often these days, contemporary or modern restaurants interpret “contemporary” and “modern” as meaning “small plates.” Small plates are meant for sharing, they say. Well, I don’t like sharing at restaurants. I see something I want to eat, and I want a meal’s worth of it. Small plate philosophy might work in Spain, where patios stay open through 2 AM and the sherry and wine flow like the ocean’s tides, however most restaurants adopting this philosophy that I’ve been to take the opportunity to serve you very little for a hefty sum, and that drives me crazy.
Tough times have hit the Okanagan wine industry in different ways. Some aren’t seeing much change, though they are being extremely conscious of YOY and quarterly performance. Others, in particular the big boys, are in the midst of upper-tier layoffs, which caught us by surprise. I think it has to do with their inability to react quickly to sales figures versus smaller wineries who are largely owner-operated. Thus, they’re guessing and preparing for the worst. For the most part winery sales are flat over last year, which everyone seems happy about. As we heard from one winery, “flat is the new up.” Good for a few laughs anyway. It is early in the year still, but these numbers provide wineries an opportunity to make changes now before the tourist season truly kicks in over the next couple of weeks.
I turned 30 last Friday. Yep, the big three-oh. The legitimacy of adulthood. Really though, it’s not a big deal. I’m a big believer that age is a state of mind, especially true when you see young people making a name for themselves and climbing ranks, or early aged seniors departing the earth unexpectedly long before they ought to. That’s the excuse I use, anyway, when trying to rationalize my age amongst innumerable older co-workers. Put in frank terms, the fact that there are able-bodied 90-year olds out there and 60 year olds passing away, means there are people not yet born who will not out live me, and others who will make greater strides before they themselves turn 30.
For better or worse everyone I encounter is surprised to learn I am only as old as I am. I’m flattered, but it’s usually a bit awkward to work my way out of the humility that it seems to generate. Same holds true for my wife. She couldn’t wait to turn 30 this past February, because in her position and given her age, she’s not often taken seriously when she meets people (much to their disadvantage). More of a personal frustration than anything, but still…
BC goes to the polls today, and while I can’t say I’ve been keeping up on the election, it’s probably safe to assume that Gordon Campbell’s Liberals will eek out a victory. It’s probably worth another post, but I find it interesting that BC’s Liberals govern as more of a centrist or slightly right-of-centre party, whereas Alberta’s Liberals are certainly centrist or even left-of-centre. The spectrum orientation isn’t dependent on the party name it seems. Depending on where the competing party stands, there really aren’t any hard and fast rules as to what their policies ought to look like.
I’ll have some photos of my trip to the Okanagan on my online photo gallery soon. As always, you’re invited to follow me on Twitter. It’s a great way to amuse yourself with my ambiguous views on each day’s trivial thoughts and events.