June 4, 2017 Missive from J.K. Farm
It has been a cool and wet spring. There is no doubt about it. April showers brought May showers. Now we are into June and it is still raining. It has been a challenging year for farmers and grape growers to get into the fields without carrying around great clumps of clay in their boots. One grower acquaintance of mine told me that there was more precipitation in the first week of May this year than in the sum of the months of May –September last year. The opposite end of the spectrum last year with historical low water table levels being recorded all over the province.
Today I contemplate going into the vineyard to continue pruning the vines. If things dry out a little bit, it promises to be a good year. The vines are loaded with nascent bunches of fruit. It remains to prune each vine to establish the right architecture so that each will produce a limited number of bunches with the highest potential for quality and ripeness.
I contemplate as well the weekend that has just passed. Many stars aligned on Saturday evening as we prepared our weekly celebration of terroir based gastronomy. Tamarack Farms owners, Richard and Nancy Self graced our table with their presence and that of one of their lovingly raised lambs. It was a distinct pleasure for my team to prepare three separate dishes honouring this beautiful creature. My longtime friend and winemaker Charles Baker was in the house representing his own Riesling wines as well as several from the Stratus Vineyard portfolio. When we reached the cheese course, I introduced Georgs Kolesnikovs, founder and chair of the Great Canadian Cheese Festival. He, in turn introduced cheese maker Jean Morin of Fromagerie du Presbytère and Marie-Chantal Houde of Fromagerie Nouvelle France. Both were presenting cheeses that had just won awards this weekend at the Great Canadian Cheese Festival. To round things out for this evening of gastronomic delight, Emma, Anthony and Hannah from the Greenhouse Juice Company, a maker of fresh, organic juices were at the table. We were treated to a complete palette of juices that were delicious on their own and served as wonderful non-alcoholic options to the beautiful wines that Charles had brought.
For those who have been following us on Instagram, you may have observed the progress we have been making in building a clay, wood fired bake oven in the style of rural Quebec circa 1800. We are perhaps one week away from firing it up for the first time, but that did not stop us from producing our first sourdough loaves for this dinner. Chase Collins-Chandler has been honing his baking skills at Blackbird Bakery. He brings this excellent education to the baking bench in the kitchen at the farm. If the quality of the bread we served on Saturday is any indication, the season bodes well for baking in our new oven.
Today though, I take off my apron, leave my knives in the kitchen and walk into the vineyard and work in the vines. I test the earth around the vines. The rain has let up for a sufficient amount of time. There is no mud caked on my boots. As I work, I am reminded that it was this dream, this possibility of planting a vineyard and raising vines to make wine that first brought me here.
Saturday June 3rd, 2017
Charles Baker Wines
The Great Canadian Cheese Festival
Hors d’Œuvres on the Ridge
JK Fries with Two Sauces
Duck Confit and Sour Cherry Croquette
Cured Tomato and Pesto Crostini
Hot Smoked Whitefish Canapé
2016 Stratus Wildass Rosé Niagara Peninsula VQA
Dinner in the Loafing Barn:
Celebration of Tamarack Farms Lamb
Perch Terrine with Wild Salad and Sorrel Dressing
2013 Charles Baker Riesling, Picone Vineyard Vinemount Ridge VQA
2016 Stratus Rosé Niagara Peninsula VQA
Spicy Lamb Sausage
2016 Charles Baker Riesling Ivan Vineyard 20 Mile Bench VQA
Roast Lamb. Gratin of Potatoes
2014 Stratus Gamay Niagara Peninsula VQA
Highlights of the Great Canadian Cheese Festival
2016 Stratus Gewürztraminer, Niagara Peninsula VQA
Rhubarb Granita and Semifreddo
2015 Stratus Botrytis Affected Semillon, Niagara Peninsula VQA
Coffee or Tea
photos by @jodickins