by Lauren Mote
As soon as I started at the Refinery, and figured out how to use my email program, the first email I opened was a congratulatory note from Angelina at Vista D’Oro Vineyard down in Langley. Apart from the sentiment I received in the email, it was also an invitation to participate in Vista D’Oro’s First Annual Cocktail Competition – and I love a good contest. I immediately wanted to be involved. The catch? Creating a summer classic using their flagship fortified walnut wine as the main player. The walnut wine is a blend of Northern and Central Okanagan black grapes, marechal foch, merlot and cabernet franc, as well as the signature taste and texture from Fraser Valley green walnuts. With a percentage of Okanagan brady added to the mix, this rich liquid will spend 13 months in French and American oak, before reaching its bottling around 17% abv.
This past fternoon, we all arrived in “farm-style” with our dogs, and bartending equipment. After some mingling over coffee and homemade tea biscuits, it was time to start. A brief tour of the estate left most of us begging to buy a farm, with our concrete jungle of Vancouver being a distant memory.
Walnut trees, Asian pear trees, vinifera vines, and plum trees litter the land, surrounded by bright green grass, the greenhouse, the barn, the main house, and the vinification facility (where there also exists a cooking school and kitchen on the second floor, and a market-style gift shop on the main level). What seemed like an endless array of fresh herbs, and plants barracade the front of the vinification facility – this lot is an aspiring farmer’s dream come true.
With the sun shining down in our favour, we head into the wine room, and check out some young, “far-from-release” wines, merlot and syrah; both were exquisite. With the addition of cured meats, pickled onions and asparagus, cheeses and crackers, we thought we were well taken care of – and then came the barbecued sausages. Nice touch. We were all lucky enough to have a sneak preview of their gewurztraminer and rose as well – both were delightful.
Time to shake:
Dani from DB Bistro – her cocktail was a resurrgence of an old school classic – a cobbler. A blend of walnut wine, fresh oranges, angostura bitters, hibiscus syrup, and walnut wine/grappa compote; served over hand crushed ice in a rocks glass.
Trevor from The Granville Room – an ode to his parents backyard in the Okanagan. Freshly muddled white peaches, tequila, blue agave syrup, egg white, and a walnut wine float; served “as is” right out the shaker into a Mason Jar. Cute presentation.
Lauren from The Refinery – a traditional approach to what I would love to drink. Walnut wine, Lillet fortified wine, maraschino liqueur, lemon juice, sugar, and an egg yolk; served straight up in a martini glass.
Giovanni from Campagnolo – a spin on a classic Italian cocktail, the negroni. Equal parts gin, walnut wine, and Cinzano Orancia, and finished with a splash of Fee’s Orange bitters.
Jay from Voya Restaurant – the favourite amongst many bartenders, and especially Jay – old fashioned. Bourbon meets maple syrup, Fee’s Whisky Barrel aged Old Fashioned bitters, ice, a walnut wine float, and finished with both orange and lemon peels.
Judges: Chef Robert Belcham (Fuel/Campagnolo), Chef Gord Martin (Bin 941/942), Chef Stephane Istel (DB Bistro Moderne), Judith Lane (Food and Wine writer), Lee Murphy (Chef/Owner), Patrick Murphy (Winemaker/Owner).
In the end, all the cocktails were different, delicious and really beautifully executed. As the judges digress, it was a close race, but in the end it would be Jay Jones that would win the case of Walnut Wine and the covetted “Golden Rooster” until next year’s event.
Congratulations to Jay Jones!
Vista Doro Farms
20856 4th Avenue
Langley, BC, Canada
For order inquiries please email Lee & Patrick at: