Friday, April 2, 2021

 Cactus Club Cafe

Mornings do not always start out to be perfect. On this particular day, our toaster decided to give up the ghost. We decided to check out new ones at the nearest Canada Tire.

After searching through the kitchen section we finally found the toasters. Canadian tire stores always seem so messy and overbearing with inventory piled everywhere. After mulling over the selection we decided that nothing was quite right for us and left the store. 

To reach Canada Tire there is only one way in and one way out. This route took us by the Southpoint Cactus Club. WE noticed the parking lot seemed pretty empty and they had a very large patio. Outdoor dining here we come!

We parked close to the door. As we approached the restaurant a staff member came out opening the door with a big smile and a greeting. Once inside a second staff member also greeted us and asked for our name and phone number. So far perfect Covid-19 protocol. The staff member escorted us to or table on the patio. She chatted with Barbara as we proceeded.

Shortly after been seated our waitress arrived. She was very cheerful and a delight. We ordered a glass of Synchromesch Riesling 2020 from the Okanagan. A little sweet but otherwise a good wine. The wine list had 6 BC wines. 

Barbara had "The Rocket Salad" Parmesan-crusted chicken breast, arugula, baby gem tomatoes. red onions and lemon caper dressing. The portion was quite large. The salad was quite delicious. The chicken was extremely tasty.

I ordered the Jack Daniel Ribs with Ceasar salad and sea salt fries. Oh so good! The BBQ sauce balanced out the sweetness of the Reisling quite nicely.

As we relaxed and enjoyed our lunch we notice several dishes of Sushi been ordered. The plate looked quite attractive. 

It was an enjoyable lunch on a very nice patio with excellent service. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Corlan Vineyard’s owners, Pat and Selwyn Jones
Small But Proud Gulf Island Wineries.It is not easy to start and operate a winery or cidery on an Island. Yet a number of hard-working individuals have chosen to do so.

The Gulf Islands are located between Vancouver Island and the lower British Columbia mainland in the Salish Sea. There are 12 islands located in the Southern end of Georgia straight. Eight of which are considered to be inhabited. Seven have wineries. Saturna Island has a vineyard but no winery.

Lasqueti Island with a population of fewer than 450 people is located in Georgia Straight north of the Gulf Islands. It has a winery called Old McDonald's Farm. The owners are Mike Mudy and Cindy Craven.

The largest and most populated Island is Salt Spring Island. It has three wineries Two are well established Gary Oaks and Salt Spring Island. In 1999 Marcel Mercier and Elaine Kozak purchased 100 acres on the Island and started Gary Oaks winery. In 2016 they retired selling the winery to Naline Samuel.

Joane and Devlin McIntyre found Salt spring Vineyards in 2008. Paul Troop is the winemaker. Since the island is a busy tourist community the winery is kept busy.

Mistaken Identity was among the original wineries but closed and later sold becoming Kutatas Wines.

Perhaps the most successful winey is Sea Star Estate Farm Winery and Vineyards. They are located on Pender Island. Pender is a popular summer retreat. 

Now we come to the wineries you may never have heard about.

Chateau Beaufort Vineyards Noble Wines is located on Denman Island. The winery is owned by Max Campellde Wedges and Linda Elgert. They started by growing Maréchal Foch at their Vancouver home before moving to Denman in 2006.

The first winery on Deman was Corland Vineyards planting starting in 2006. The winery is owned by Pat and Selwyn Jones. Selwyan moved from Britain to Vancouver Island in 1980. After working for the government in Forest restoring he started Sylvan Vale Nursery. Here he grew and sold grape vines before moving to Denman.

On Thetis one of the smaller Islands is Domaine Jasmin owned by Denis Gagnon. Vines were first planed in 2006 after two years of clearing the land. Sadly we believe the winery is now closed.

On Quadra Island is Southend Farm Vineyards. The winery is owned by  Ben McGuffie and Jill Ogasawara. 2011 was their first estate harvest from their own vineyard. They grow Ortega and Dornfelder.

Gabriola Island a short distance from Nanaimo is home to Ravenskill Orchards. Under Ravenskill is Gabriolia Cider. The orchard has over 1,000 trees across two acres, with 25 different varieties of apples. The owners are Keith and Marti MacKenzie. 

Hornby Island Island has about 1060 residents. Hornby Island also has more parks than any other Gulf Island including Helliwell Provincial Park, Big Tribune Provincial Park, Mount Geoffrey Regional Park and Fords Cove Marina. They have ( or had)  three wineries, Hornby Island Winery, Little Tribune Farm and Vineyard and Isla de Lerena. 

Isla de Lerne is the smallest winery catering to the many campers that visit the Island. The owner is Phil Davie. Recently they have added pizzas. They are open daily.

Hornby Island since 1999 the founders and owners, John Grayson and Joan Costello have been producing delicious fruit wines. ports and sherry made with local fruits and berries. 

Little Tribune has closed once again confirming the difficulties of operating a winery on a small island. It reminds you that before success often comes failure. Despite the hard work and passion, some changes can not be overcome.

Paul Nursey, the CEO of Destination Greater Victoria, says the Island's tourism industry was the first to be affected by the COVID-19-induced slump, and will likely be the last to fully recover. 

Working a winery is not the easiest task nor the most profitable especially when your small and working in a region not known for its wines fighting for any market share you can get. The COVID-19 pandemic has also amplified the problem, as many businesses on the Southern Gulf Islands have been hit incredibly hard due to a massive drop in tourism this past summer. 

We tip our hats to the men and women of the Gulf Island Wineries.

Monday, March 15, 2021

 They Call The Wind Maria

Saturday was a lovely sunny day in the lower mainland of British Columbia. We had high hopes for Sunday. Sunday was our dear friends Ken's birthday. Following Dr Henry guideline we could celebrate the event outdoors in Ken and Jane's backyard.

Sadly the day would turn out to provide the worst weather in weeks.  A cold wet windy day. The wind reminded me of the song They Call the Wind Maria. How were we going to celebrate the day and yet stay within the guidelines?

The wind was not really strong enough to call it Maria but it was cold. The solution hold the small party in the garage with the door open.

Ken backed his classic Beaumont out of the garage for the event.  Tables and chairs were set up. The wine bottles arranged along the garage shelf. We were all set.

We started the celebration off by presenting Ken with his gift. A bottle of fortified wine Tribute from Chaberton Winery. Barbara and I had recently visited the winery and tasted this amazing port-style wine.

For those who prefered red Jane and Ken provided a very nice 2017 Interurban Cabernet Foch from Seaside Pearl. I was the only one preferring White. I enjoyed the Secret Society from Black Market winery.

Jane provided a hot Crack Dip appie made with cream cheese, ranch dressing, sour cream, bacon bits and green onions. It was indeed good!. There were asl cheese and crackers.

We finished off the event with coffee and Wonder Balls. 

Despite the cold, the rain and the wind it was a memorable and successful birthday party for 4. 

Monday just like Saturday was a beautiful Sunny day.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

 Blind Tasting

Now that was fun. Barbara and I decided to do a blind tasting diner. We brought out from the cellar a few bottles of wine from our 2020 Okanagan trip. We were excited.

Dinner would be BBQ Baby Back Ribs, potato wedges and glazed carrots. 

To start the event we brought some exotic cheese and coconut shrimp. We decided upon three wines for the blind tasting.

Folonari Valpolicella Ripasso

Corcelettes 2017 Merlot

Skaha Vineyards - Impulsion 2016

The first wine we served was the Corcelettes Merlot. Our wine connoisseurs were amazing. They quickly identifying it as a BC wine and from the Similkameen. 

The second selection was the Italian wine from Valpolicella. They knew it was from Europe.

The third wine from Kraze Legzs Skaha vineyards the Impulsion they knew once again it was a BC wine.

All three wines received high praise. To pick a winner it was close. Two votes for the Impulsion and one vote for the other two wines. 

It was now time for dinner. Where it seemed like the Impulsion and Corcelettes Merlot were quickly gone. 

Just to stir the pot I opened a bottle of  Time White Meritage Oh so good! We all like this one!

Dinner was followed by carrot cake and Skaha Vineyards (port-style) Flying Change. A wonder wine.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

 No Can for Me!

Great wine by its nature is mysterious, unpredictable and perhaps ultimately unknowable.

“Romance and wine encompass not only all of the senses but the mystery, history, science and art. We may never fully understand either, but sure do like trying.”

– Joy Merrilee, Winemaker, Shannon Ridge

The romance of wine begins in the vineyard and ends with a bottle of fine wine been properly served. A waiter stands by your table. They present the bottle to you. Your anticipation is highlighted. The cork is popped. Your mouth waters. You look across the table at the one you love.

The waiter pours a tasting into your glass. You smell the sweet wine. You node your approval. The waiter pours the wine and wishes you "Bon Appétit.

So now you replace that with a can of wine been popped on the table before you.

“I would not like them here or there. I would not like them anywhere. I do not like canned wine. I do not like them Bob I Am.”

Give me a fancy glass give a bottle of wine, Give me the perfection of wine properly chilled, popping of the cork, the care of carefully pouring the wine. 

How do you measure your success as a winery by the quality of your wine or the dollars in your bank account? What do you take the most pride in

Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It's quite simple, really: Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn't at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, so go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that's where you will find success."

To me, a wine in a can is a fad that makes for a quick sale. An idea that will in time fade, just as it has before. Canned wine is not a new idea. Its been done before. It's been done in France, in Australia, in China. In America, where it has come and gone.

"Wine speaks to all the senses: the eyes behold the colour, tone, and shade; the nose, the bouquet, the fingers and lips caress the cool crystal; the ears delight in the subtle swishing of the liquid; the tongue rejoices in the reward of a rich harvest." - Mary Lou Posch, wine lover.

Can a can bring all senses into play! 

To your average wine drinker who buys their wine in the local grocery, the can may be okay. If you wish to cellar your wines. buy a bottle.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Be Creative!

Sometimes I have to wonder about the wine industry. Some wineries go out and hire a marketing firm or creative design to come up with their winery logo and or design their wine labels. Then tell me why do so many winery labels look alike?

Take a close look at Phantom Creek and Copper moon. Not much of a difference. Chances are there will be no mistake as to which one you purchase the real difference is in the quality and cost.

The O Brien Estate bears a resemblance to three Canadian labels. I found all these labels in less than five minutes. Image how many more identical labels I could find if I went through the entire state of California.


These last two use the O symbol but they do look a bit different, however once again I quickly found 4 more wineries using a simple O. Image how many I could find if I really put my mind to it.

Does the same thing happen with winery names? Yes, it does, for a quick sample of this, I found four Larch Hill Wineries around the world and two O Shaughnessy wineries in Napa Valley. Blackwood and Ironwood are popular too. Using a tree on the label, a few wineries use almost the identical symbol here too.

DO you find it confusing?? I did receive an e-mail just last week from a lady in Ontario. A friend told her about a wine she really likes but forgot the name. She was able to describe the label. Sadly the wrong wine was purchased. 

If you Google wine labels with horses you get 5,860,000 responses many of which look alike. Try Butterflies far more butterfly labels and even harder to tell some brands apart.

If I was off to the store and my wife says " Bring home a bottle of the wine I like you know its the one with the Kangaroo on it". I am almost 100% likely to bring home the right wine. But If she said the one with the O on it, I may get the wrong wine.

Ok, so a few wineries around the world use almost identical logos. What I do not understand is the winery that uses the almost identical symbol of the older winery down the road?

Now just for the fun of it try to see how the symbol used by numerous BC wineries is overused.

Friday, January 29, 2021


Alebrije Kitchen + Bar

The newest restaurant on White Rock's beach goes by the name of Alebrijie Kitchen + Bar. A delightful Mexican restaurant owned and operated by Mexican Canadians family. Alebrijie had only been open for five days when Barbara and I visited on January 29th.

We received a warm welcome from two staff members; we later learned our server was also the manager and co-owner by the name of Diego Castillo. What a wonderful friendly attitude this young man processes; we could have chatted with him all evening. 

We were seated in a comfortable COVID compliant booth beside a window with a great view of our famous White Rock Pier, perfect! No sooner did we sit down when Diego placed a tray of homemade tortilla chips and salsa in front of us. Barbara was so impressed with them she ordered some to take home. It turns out Diego's mother makes the salsa and chips on site.

As happens with many new restaurants the liquor license was still pending. We settled for Mexican coffee which was excellent and brought back memories of the coffee we used to drink on our visits to Mexico. Our cups were kept full all during our meal.

Choosing what to eat took a few minutes; the menu is quite extensive. After much debate and some welcome advice from Diego, Barbara settled on the prawn tacos and I went for the steak fajitas, we were not disappointed with our choices.

The meals were well presented, most delicious, we were more than happy. We enjoyed the hospitality, food, and seaside view. The restaurant's interior is decorated with beautiful Alebrijie. Alebrijies are brightly coloured Mexican folk art sculptures of fantastical (fantasy/mythical) creatures.

By not having margaritas we were able to use the calories saved and splurge on dessert; we shared a chocolate impossible cake.  We are sure that when we return, the license will be in effect, and we can skip dessert for a classic margarita!  But don't wait for the liquor license, get on down to the restaurant and enjoy the food, service and ambience!