The End of an Era for B.C.’s Harper’s Trail

Earlier this month it was announced that, after 16 years, British Columbia’s Harper’s Trail Winery will be closing by June of this year.  Owners Ed and Vicki Collett will open their tasting room in May for one final month before retiring and moving on to the next stage of their lives.  Along with the current vintage, Harper’s Trail will now be releasing an exclusive collection of library wines.

Having previously visited both Australia and Chile’s wine regions and seeing how similar their climates are to that of the Thompson River Valley, Ed recognized the possible success of starting a vineyard in the Kamloops area.

The Colletts were the first participants in the development of the Thompson River Valley wine region, even though they had no previous vineyard or winemaking experience.  The couple relied on advice from several industry veterans who helped set them on the right path.  As a result, the Thompson Valley wine industry emerged and developed into an official wine appellation.

The Colletts purchased the property in 2007, planted the first vineyard block in 2008, and opened Harper’s Trail, which was Kamloops’ first winery, in 2012.  Since then, Harper’s Trail has become a 5,000-case producing winery that generates 100% estate grown wines on the vineyard’s 25.5 acres.   The winery has earned many top honours in prominent national and international wine competitions.  Most recently, at the 2022 National Wine Awards, Harper’s Trail won a gold medal for its 2019 Chardonnay Sparkling and a silver medal for their 2020 Silver Mane Block Riesling.  At this past year’s All Canadian Wine Awards, Harper’s Trail received gold for their 2019 Chardonnay and silver for their Field Blend White.

In preparation for their pending retirement, the Colletts hope to find a successor to purchase the winery and further enhance it.  In case you have a desire for taking on such a challenge, the winery is listed with realtors Cushman & Wakefield. 

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The Mystery of French Wine

In France the varietal of grape a wine is made of is seldom indicated on the label.  Instead, the French tend to identify flavour by the region from which the wine was produced.  Because of this, people often shy away from buying French wine.  However, the mystery of French wine can be solved by simply knowing which grapes are grown in each region.  To assist you, most wine and liquor stores arrange their French wines by region.

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The Alsace region is located in the northeastern region of France between the Vosges Mountains and the Rhine River.  Historically, Alsace was part of Germany, which influences the types of grapes grown in the region. It is home to single varietal white wines including Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Sylvaner.  The wines cover the spectrum, ranging from dry to sweet.


The Beaujolais region is known for growing the Gamay grape, which has bright acidity and low tannins.


Bordeaux is France’s largest and most renowned wine region.  It is known for its red blends highlighting Cabernet Sauvignon on the Left Bank and Merlot, Pomerol and Saint Emilion on the Right Bank.  The white varietals of Bordeaux include Barsac and Sauternes grapes.


Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, referred to as Chablis, are the standard grapes grown in the Burgundy region.


The Champagne region is renowned for its sparkling wines produced from one or more of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier.


The Loire Valley stretches from the Auvergne region to the Atlantic Ocean.  It produces most of France’s white wine. The white varietals of the Loire include Chenin Blanc (called Vouray), Sauvignon Blanc (referred to as Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé) and Muscadet.  It is also known for the red varietal, Cabernet Franc.


Provence is the oldest wine region in France.  It is the only region that specializes in Rosé wines.


Syrah and Viognier are the highlights of the northern part of the region while Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre are prominent in the south.  Mourvèdre is the dominate grape in Châteauneuf -du-Pape.  Blending of the grapes results in rich reds and vigorous whites and rosé.

Final Thoughts

Once you know which regions grow your favourite grapes, it is much easier to find a suitable bottle of French wine to enjoy.

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Hot Toddy

The recipes for a Hot Toddy seem to be as numerous as the legends telling the tale from which it originated.  One suggestion is that it began in Edinburgh, Scotland where pubs began mixing Scotch whisky with a splash of hot water.  The water was said to have come from the largest well in the area, Tod’s Well, thus supposedly giving the drink its name. This form of Toddy was very popular during the 18th century when it was often used to help counter the cold weather.

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The English from the times of Charles Dickens also seem to lay claim to the origins of the Hot Toddy, with images of cozy firelit parlors in Dickensian London, as well as flu remedies being conjured up by little old grandmothers in shawls.

Yet another theory is that the Toddy was invented by an Irishman, Dr. Robert Bentley Todd, who, according to legend, had a cheerful view of medicine, prescribing his patients a mixture of hot brandy, water, cinnamon and sugar as a general cure-all.  If nothing else, his patients were most likely a happy lot.

Although these all make for great stories, the history of the toddy can be traced to India and a 17th-century Hindi drink called “taddy” that is made from fermented palm sap. The oldest record of the recipe is from 1786, where it was described as liquor mixed with hot water, spices and sugar.  British Food History suggests that taddy was used by British officials in India to water down expensive imported English beer. Over time, spirits, sugar, ginger and lime were adapted into the mix. The recipe then seems to have traveled to Scotland and England, ever changing along the way.

Today there are many versions of the Hot Toddy.  Here are a couple to consider:

Traditional Hot Toddy

  • Hot water
  • 2 ounces whisky or rum
  • ½ teaspoon sugar (or more or less to taste)
  • Scrape of nutmeg (optional)

Heat water to boiling.. Measure whisky into a tall mug. Fill to the top with hot water and spoon in sugar, stirring to blend. Grate some nutmeg on top if desired. Drink hot.

Classic Hot Toddy

  • 1 shot (25-30 ml) whisky (or rum or brandy)
  • 2 tsp honey or sugar
  • Juice of quarter of a lemon
  • 75-100 ml hot water (or tea)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
  • 1 slice of lemon
  • Freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

Put whiskey, honey or sugar, lemon juice and most of the hot water, or tea, into a small glass or coffee cup. Stir with a cinnamon stick or a spoon to dissolve the honey.

Taste and see if you need to add more water.

Garnish with a lemon slice, the cinnamon stick and a few rasps of freshly grated nutmeg.


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Spain’s Sherry Region

One of the more notable wine trends during the last few years has been the resurgence of fortified wines such as sherry.  Sherry is no longer viewed with the stuffy Old-World sentiment as it once was.  I personally remember as a child seeing sherry being served in tiny ornate crystal glasses to elderly visitors.

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Sherry is a unique wine that is exclusively produced in the wine-growing region of Jerez, Spain, located in a triangle of land formed by the towns of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María.  Sherry has been produced in the region since the 8th century but it was the British who began exporting it after conquering Cádiz in 1587.  They called it sherry since it was easier to pronounce than “Jerez”.

The process of producing sherry is very complex. The wine is fermented and placed in a ‘solera system’ which are barrels that are stacked up on their sides in a pyramid-like shape. Yeast develops on the wine, known as flor, which stops the wine turning to vinegar and adding extra spice and flavour to the wine. The wine gets transferred from the top of the Solera system down through each layer over time, blending with older wine each time to create a complex ageing process. Alternatively, sherry can be aged oxidatively, by being left in contact with the air.

The ancient ageing process combined with the diverse fortification methods and the microclimate within each town is what creates the different sherries. Most dry sherries use the Palomino grape variety, where the sweet ones tend to use Moscatel or the Pedro Ximénez grapes. Below are the most famous sherry styles.

Dry Sherry Wine

Dry sherries are good to drink as an apéritif and should be served chilled. The dryer the wine, the cooler the temperature should be. Finos and Manzanillas generally remain around five years in the ​solera ​system, whereas Amontillados and Olorosos spend ten or more years.


Fino is the driest of sherries. Fino sherries have a light body and a low alcohol content, which ranges between 15 to 17%. It tends to lose its flavour after it’s opened, so it’s best to drink it straight away and is best chilled.

Fino pairs well with salty foods such as olives, almonds and Spanish jamón. It also goes well with seafood and sushi.


Manzanilla is a type of fino made exclusively in the town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. The ageing process is similar to Fino, but the proximity to the sea and the humidity results in a paler wine with salty notes. It should be served chilled and within a day or two after opening.

Recommended food pairings are similar to Fino.  It goes well with olives, almonds, Spanish jamón, fried fish and seafood such as shrimp or raw oysters.


This wine begins as a Fino, ageing first under the ​velo de flor​ (protects the wine from air and imparts its own crisp, saline flavour) for four to six years and then through oxidation. This last stage allows the wine to develop more nutty flavours such as almond and hazelnut. The wine has an amber colour and it can vary between dry or medium-dry if mixed with a small amount of Pedro Ximénez grapes. It has an alcohol level of 16% to 18%.

​Amontillado will pair well with pork and rabbit or bird meats such as chicken, turkey or quail.


This sherry has more of a full body. It has a dark golden colour and notes of dried fruit and spices. Olorosos spend about six to eight years in the solera​ and has an alcohol content of between 18% to 20%.

It pairs well with grilled red meats, game, aged cheeses and mushrooms.

Palo Cortado

Palo Cortado is a rare kind of sherry that usually occurs by accident.  It begins as a Fino and then develops more like an Oloroso. The result is a dark-coloured wine with great body. It has an alcohol level of between 18% to 20%.

Suggested food pairing include the same foods that compliment oloroso or amontillado, as well as game meats, nuts, vegetables and blue cheese.

Sweet Sherry Wine

Regarding sweet sherry, the name of the grape is often used along with the word “crema”. Sweet wines can range from pale cream, which is sweetened Fino, to cream, which is sweetened Oloroso.  There’s also “medium” which is usually referring to a sweetened Amontillado. All these wines contain around 15.5% to 22% alcohol.

Sweet sherries pair well with desserts, foie gras or mature cheeses such as blue cheese.

Within the sweet sherry realm, there are two other sherries, Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel (also spelled Muscatel), which are named after the grapes used in their production.

Pedro Ximénez

This is a sweet sherry with a honey-like consistency. It is the product of 85% of Pedro Ximénez grapes which are dried in the sun for about a week. It is considered to be a dessert wine and has an alcohol level of 15% to 22%.  It will pair well with blue cheese, almond tart or vanilla ice cream.


Like Pedro Ximénez, Moscatel sherry will consist of a minimum of 85% of Moscatel grapes. The grapes are dried in the sun before being pressed and added to a solera​.  Moscatel goes well with ice cream or a fruit tart.

Sherry wine cellars are referred to as bodegas.  Some of the best bodegas are located in:

Jerez De La Frontera

  • Bodegas Fundador: Established in 1730, it’s the oldest bodega in Jerez. 

  • Gonzalez Byass:​ Also known as Tio Pepe.  It began in 1835 and produces a variety of sherries, but it’s renowned mostly for its Fino styles with salty and citrus notes.

  • Emilio Lustau:​ Lustau is a large bodega in Jerez founded in 1896. It produces a wide selection of sherries.

  • Bodegas Tradicion: The wine making process follows traditional guidelines, with sherries kept in their natural state, without additives or filtering.

Located in Sanlúcar De Barrameda

  • Barbadillo:​ This bodega has existed since 1821.

  • Hidalgo: ​Sherry has been produced at Hidalgo since 1792, and since then the business has been passed down through the same family.

In Closing …

It’s time to move on beyond the former stereotype that sherry is only for our elders.  It is in fact a drink for all.

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