Between the grapes
I was breathing heavily and feeling sweaty when I finally made it up to the top of the hill. It was a warm day, and even though the cover of smoke from the bush fires dampened the hardness of the rays of the sun, it also made it difficult to breathe. It made me wonder for a moment why I had decided to cycle through the steep hills of Kelowna.
But after yet another hill I found the winery I was heading to. And fortunately the efforts were worth it. The location of the estate was well chosen, on top of a hill with a view over the vineyards and the Okanagan lake. I have to admit that unfortunately it was almost impossible to see the lake, since the thick smoke covered everything. But from what I could see it seemed like a beautiful location. And the wine tasting certainly was amazing. Here in Canada I have usually been drinking beer. It tends to be the cheaper option, and in fact Canadians are extremely enthusiastic about local breweries and craft beers. So I have tried many interesting and good beers, including with hibiscus and coffee flavours. But to be honest, my favourite drink will always be a good glass of wine. And to my surprise, the wine I tasted in Kelowna was the first really good Canadian wine I tried. Telling this to a lady who worked in one of the wineries I visited, she just laughed and told me they drink the majority of the wine they produce in that area themselves. So apparently that´s why I hadn´t had any good Canadian wine so far.
After having visited four estates and done tastings in three of them, I felt like I started to get a good impression of this wine region. Clearly a lot has changed since the wine production in the Okanagan valley started with the production of sacramental wines in the mid-19th century. The most interesting thing I tried was a red icewine, powerful and not too sweet, which is apparently mainly produced in Canada. But I´ve had both good red and good white ones. It didn´t make cycling back to the hostel particularly easier, but at least I could cycle back with a happy and fulfilled feeling. But maybe next time a ¨gravity assisted¨ wine tour, where you only have to cycle downhill?
It is not only the wine itself that I like in wine regions though. I always think vineyards are absolutely beautiful. And fortunately I could still see the vineyards well, despite the smoke that was hiding the view on the lake. The vineyards and their grapes, not yet mature but some already getting colour, made me decide to bake this bread with fresh grapes. It is a good snack with a glass of wine. The best is to enjoy it while still warm. Preferably with some butter, good olive oil, or a nice cheese.
Grape and walnut bread
Ingredients (for 1 small bread)
- Flour – 250 grams
- Dried yeast – 1 sachet, around 2 teaspoons
- Lukewarm water – approximately 150-200 ml
- Walnuts – shelled, 50 grams
- Seedless red grapes – small bunch
- Rosemary – small bunch
- Anise seeds – 1 heaped teaspoon
- Salt – 1 teaspoon
- Sugar – 1 teaspoon
- Olive oil
First of all, take the rosemary needles off their sprigs and chop them into small pieces. Chop the shelled walnuts as well.
Combine the flour with a good teaspoon of salt, the rosemary, and the walnuts in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and place the yeast and a teaspoon of sugar in the well. Add a little bit of lukewarm water, and leave this for a few minutes until the yeast starts to react and makes the water foamy. Start adding the water bit by bit while kneading the dough. Continue adding water and kneading until you have an elastic, soft dough. Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it on a clean, flat surface for a few minutes, until everything is fully combined. The exact amount of water will depend on factors like the flour you use and the humidity of your kitchen, so it can differ. When the dough is too sticky, you can always add a bit of extra flour. Once the dough has been kneaded well, grease a bowl with a bit of olive oil and place the dough in the bowl, covered by a damp cloth or some plastic wrap. Leave the dough in a warm place to rise for about an hour and a half.
Meanwhile, slice the grapes in half and combine them with the anise seeds.
When the dough has rested, take it out off the bowl and place on a clean surface. Knead the dough again, and then carefully fold the grapes through. You can basically stretch out the dough, place some of the grapes on one side and fold the other side over. Repeat this until you have as many grapes as you like in the dough. Knead carefully until the grapes are scattered throughout the dough. Grease a baking tray with a bit more olive oil. Shape the dough into a round bread shape, and place on the baking tray. Leave this to rise for another half an hour.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 220°C. Bake the bread for around 25 minutes, until golden brown. Take the bread out of the oven and let it cool down slightly.