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Taking après to new heights

A typical après session, for most, involves a pint of beer and some greasy goodies (think nachos or potato skins) on one of the heated patios in Whistler village.

A typical après session, for most, involves a pint of beer and some greasy goodies (think nachos or potato skins) on one of the heated patios in Whistler village.

Now, don't get me wrong - a traditional, low-key, high-cal après session is A-OK with me. But Whistler Blackcomb is taking a new approach to après this season, introducing a series of winemakers' après sessions which feature regional cuisine paired with wines from a few of the province's great wineries: Osoyoos Larose, Nk'Mip Cellars, Sumac Ridge Estate Winery, Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate, Inniskillin, and See Ya Later Ranch. The après sessions are being held at Steeps Grill & Wine Bar in Whistler Mountain's Round House, with the most recent one taking place on Monday, Jan. 26.

In each case, Chef Randy Jones takes the time to pair the selected wines with suitable foods.

As with most winemaker events, the true beauty of this après session was the educational aspect to the meal. Clad in his ski gear, Sumac Ridge's Mark Wendenburg admitted that he'd "never done an event like this in my ski boots before," but still happily fielded many questions from curious diners, many of whom were similarly attired in their finest winter togs. He touched on everything from an overview of the province's relatively small but mighty wine industry to technical aspects of the business, like varietal grapes, soil conditions and fermenting techniques.

The meal started with a 2004 Stellar's Jay Brut, served with a duo of oven-roasted B.C. Little Wing oysters, garnished with ginger and scallion, and lychee and mandarin chutneys, and presented on a bed of rock salt. This salmon-tinged sparkling wine was a perfect complement to the spicy and sweet flavours of the oysters.

The second course, the Pemberton Valley Vegetable Curry, was served in a mug and saucer, a presentation that truly captured the "comfort food" aspect of the dish. Carrots, russet potatoes and parsnips from Pemberton were coated in a tangy sauce and cumin cucumber yogurt, and paired with an aromatic glass of 2007 Gewurztraminer Private Reserve.

Next up was an impressive plate of seared scallops from Qualicum Beach, served on a bed of fennel and Okanagan apple salad, and accompanied by yet another glass of white - 2006 Pinnacle White. A blend of seven varieties of grapes, the hints of oak, vanilla and butterscotch in the Pinnacle were a perfect pairing with the sweetness of the farm-raised, Oceanwise scallops.

By the fourth course, it was time to break into the reds. First up was the 2006 Cabernet Franc Black Sage Vineyard, a drier red that was served with a plate of thinly sliced smoked duck breast from the Fraser Valley, topped with pea greens and artisanal goat cheese.

Finally, we were onto the final course of the afternoon: Pemberton natural beef and mushroom ragu. This rich, savoury course was paired with the 2006 Merlot Cabernet Private Reserve - a richer, darker wine made from a blend of grapes from the south end of the Okanagan Valley.

As the cherry on the cake, if you will, we were presented a chocolate and berry tart to finish things off on a sweet note.

The dinner started at 2 p.m., and by the time we put down our forks, it was 4 p.m., we were full, and only a handful of diners were prepared to ski down.

The next Wine Maker's après session will feature Brooke Blair of Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate on Monday, Feb. 9. Maybe it's time to treat yourself to an extra long weekend.

Wellness on the road

Any doctor will tell you that health is more than physical fitness, or maintaining a balanced diet. Rather, overall wellness encompasses the body, mind, and some would argue, soul.

While some people have already abandoned their New Year's resolutions to improve their health, the more persistent goal-setters have an opportunity to enlist some help during the 17th annual Wellness Show, which will take place from Friday, Feb. 6 to Sunday, Feb. 8 at the Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre.

The program features 280 exhibitors and speakers who offer information and tips on healthy living for adults, children and even pets. One of Canada's leading nutritionists, Leslie Beck, will speak about heart-healthy foods and Dr. Michael Colgan will present information on hormone replacement and bone strength. Rogers Foods will also host a Healthy Baking Competition for non-professional bakers.

Tickets are $12.50 for adults, $10 for seniors and students, and $5 for kids aged 6 to 15. For more information, visit