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Venturi-Schulze Vineyards

August 25th, 2009 @ 11:07am (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

We pulled up to Venturi-Schulze Vineyards and were greeted by Marilyn Venturi who was about to introduce us to her family’s legacy. For 22 years she and her husband have run the winery at Venturi-Schulze, to which they have an undying commitment.

Venturi Schulze Vineyards

As we walked through her dozens of acres of vines, flanked by evergreen forests up on Cobble Hill, a member of our group asked Marilyn which grape would she grow if she could only do a single varietal. “That’s like asking which one of my children I’d like to keep,” she said with a chuckle.

Venturi Schulze Vineyards

At Venturi Schulze they have never irrigated, never used fertilizer, never sprayed with anything harsh (or that you couldn’t eat), and the run a fully sustainable operation. They encourage natural weed cover and use resources from the surrounding woods, such as nettles for the wines and making tea.

Venturi Schulze Vineyards

Standing between rows of pinot grapes, we had a discussion about Vancouver Island wines, and cooking as of late. “Chefs here don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk,” said Marilyn with regards to eating and preparing food with local ingredients. With Vancouver Island being under 50km away from Vancouver, it’s a great resource for cooks and foodies.

Venturi Schulze Vineyards

Being so used to taking wine tours operated by guides in enormous architectural facilities, it was refreshing to walk in the dirt alongside Marilyn and get a true sense of her work, dedication, and creations. “This isn’t a business, this is our life,” she told us. “This is just what we want to do.” She told us some great stories about her children growing up with the vineyard, problems with pesky rabbits, and how she’d go as far as camping out overnight among the vines to catch grape robberies in progress. Most of the time the culprits were raccoons although she said she’s always know the best grapes of the bunch because the animals would go straight for them.

Venturi Schulze Vineyards

We walked back towards the house and stopped in at the vinegary where they produce four varieties of traditional balsamic vinegar, of Modena style. We learned about the different types of barrels used, the five types of wood, the process of simmering over an open flame, and the 7-20 years it takes to age.

The room was crisp and the air was sweet with the smell of aging balsamic. There were separate barrels for each one of her children, containing their own special vinegar that has been aging their entire lives. Marilyn’s husband Giordano was born in Italy and she noted, “for him, it’s a legacy.” All of it — the vineyard, the wine making, the balsamic, and passing this on to his children and one day grandchildren. The family has invested so much into the operation that you can truly see it is a labour of love.

Some mighty big barrels

Heading into the house for some tastings Marilyn said for her it’s also about making things happen in an organic, environmentally-friendly, and sustainable manner. “I just want to prove it can be done, especially on Vancouver Island.” We sampled their Brut Naturel, their Pinot Noir, and the Brandenburg No.3. We also had some amazing sorbet made from Ver Jus (from unripened grapes) a little corn syrup, grapefruit peel and lemon peel (see all recipes here). The Ver Jus has a strong citrus taste and it would make the perfect lemon substitute for cooking with local ingredients. “When you taste this, it’s pure here,” noted Marilyn motioning to the land and region that surrounds the vineyard.

Balsamic vinegar barrels

You can stop by Venturi-Schulze for tastings which are $5 but fully refunded should you make a purchase in the shop. Calling ahead to inquire about a tour is recommended as the family is out in the vineyard most days. They would like the heads up so they can come down and greet you. All of their contact information, including a map, is available online.

Venturi Schulze Vineyards

If you can’t make it over to Cobble Hill, Venturi-Schulze wines are served at Spinnakers in Victoria, online, and some are available (along with the balsamic vinegar) in specialty shops around Vancouver Island and around the Lower Mainland. You can also catch them at various events, including the annual EAT! Vancouver festival.

I recently toured the South East portion of Vancouver Island with Tourism BC. You can read all of my posts from the trip under the tag: ‘Cowichan‘.

Workspace is Closed. Thanks for the Memories.

August 24th, 2009 @ 5:19pm (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

Workspace, shared work environment in Gastown, has officially closed its doors for good. The sudden move has left many flabbergasted as Workspace had become an institution of sharing, learning, networking, and to-die-for coffee over the years.


Photo credit: thelastminute on Flickr

The concept was simple, create a big open membership-based space with optional offices where those without actual office space could conduct meetings or do work in a professional setting. It was the brainchild of Bill McEwen who has since moved on, leaving the reigns in Dane Brown‘s hands. “It definitely hurts to have to close the doors,” he told me. “We had an amazing 3 year run. It doesn’t seem that long ago that Bill MacEwen and I were pulling all-nighters, trying to make sure everything was ready for the opening party.”


Photo credit: FormulaPhoto on Flickr

My first social media event was BarCamp at Workspace in 2006 and since that time I’ve had the pleasure of participating in and hosting events in this unique atmosphere. Dane’s sentiments regarding the connections and relationships formed at Workspace probably hit close to home for many. “I can’t count the number of true friends I’ve made working here or the number of friendships between others I’ve seen form over coffee or good-hearted debate. My favourite part of all this has always been the people and how they connect with one another.”

Workspace View

Greg Andrews, one of Workspace’s recent acquisitions, first learned of Workspace while living in Alberta. “I likely read [about] it on a chunky CRT in a windowless office deep inside an Edmonton office park that wasn’t within walking distance of anything meaningful except a smelly meat processing plant.” He moved to Vancouver and became of a part of the community almost instantly, thanks to DemoCamp which was being held at Workspace. “Not only [was I] amazed by the environment of an open concept minimalist loft, I was also amazed by the community and the event, that they would really just let some nobody kid who just moved here stand up and speak in front of the room. Met a handful of people that night and at following WorkSpace events that I’m pleased to still be acquainted with to this day.”

To many, Workspace has always stood out. If not due to its amazing office space, artwork, and panoramic views, but for the people. “There are many options for shared offices in the city, but the key feature they successfully cultivated (and even advertised on our cards) was community,” said Greg. “That was a bigger perk than the coffee.”

Who knows what the future will hold, as many businesses and individuals take on “virtual” office spaces but this is truly the end of an era in Vancouver.

Blogathon Vancouver participants at Workspace (6am)

“While the physical space will cease to exist, the community that made WorkSpace great is going stronger than ever,” said Dane. “I look forward to seeing members, friends, family, and anyone else who cares to celebrate at the party we’re planning next month. Details will be released in the coming weeks. It was an absolute pleasure to be of service.”

Update December 11, 2009: In a tweet from Greg Andrews: “In case you missed the subtle mention yesterday, the space formerly known as Workspace has a worthy new tenant: Pixar.”

Endangered Vancouver Island Marmot Foundation

August 24th, 2009 @ 2:41pm (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

My only up close and personal experience with a Vancouver Island marmot is toying with a stuffed plush MukMuk at the Olympic store. The endangered species, which is a recently upgraded Olympic mascot for 2010, is now facing another challenge; the Vancouver Island Marmot Foundation‘s funding has been cut by the BC government.


Photo credit: gfroese9 on Flickr

According to the Globe and Mail, “Viki Jackson, executive director of the Nanaimo-based Marmot Recovery Foundation, said last week that her organization is battling a $133,000 shortfall after a Ministry of Environment decision to chop its annual funding from the 2009-10 budget.”

mukmukslippersThe Foundation operates a Marmot Recovery Centre, manages the captive breeding program, assists the wild population and conducts research. The marmot, known as the “most endangered species in Canada” is down to a population of 200, which is up from 30 just a few years ago.

Without sufficient funding, the Foundation would be left high and dry by next year, right when we are welcoming the world and showcasing the species-inspired MukMuk.

You can educate yourself by reading up on the Foundation or by checking out this post by Vancouver Island blogger (and my good friend) Keira-Anne, which is a part of her Island Profile series.

You can also donate to the Foundation online, purchase a plush toy or sign up for the Adopt-a-Marmot program.

Fairburn Farm

August 24th, 2009 @ 10:23am (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

As our little tour van rolled up the dusty gravel road toward Fairburn Farm, I knew we would be in for a treat. I hopped out and had to let the scenery soak in a bit. We stood in front of a lovely farm house surrounded by pastures, mountains, and lush green hues that sprouted up from the ground and hung over our heads under a canopy of fruit-bearing trees.

Fairburn Farm Fairburn Farm

Mara Jernigan met us just off the porch and picked some white alpine strawberries for us to taste before we even finished making our introductions. Growing right along the house these sweet, melt-in-your-mouth berries (that resembled little bright white LED Christmas lights) were the first of many treats in store for us that day.

Fairburn Farm History

Since it was established 115 years ago, Fairburn Farm has only had two separate owners. Although the products, business, and land have evolved, the same down to earth goodness and values still exist today. The 130 acres are maintained by the Archer family who run the Cowichan Water Buffalo Dairy, while the Culinary Retreat and Guest house are under the direction of Mara Jernigan.

Mara offers culinary getaways, cooking classes, education in eating local, and was a driving force behind the slow food movement in the Cowichan region. She founded the Vancouver Island Feast of Fields, which is an annual fundraising event that connects farmers and chefs as well as farm folks and city folks — all through food.

Breakfast Frittata

We were treated to breakfast on the porch, which consisted of a free range egg frittata, a chicken sausage (pasture-raised chicken from Cowichan Bay Farm), chicken of the woods mushrooms, fresh greens, and coffee. Mara pulls in everything from corn and mushrooms, to garlic, lavender, and kohlrabi into her cooking. “When the vegetables are fresh, you don’t have to do a lot to them,” she noted adding that ideas for delicious meals just come that much easier when you have resources like these.

Fairburn Farm Garlic

Throughout our Vancouver Island tour, at each farm house, vineyard or artisan shop, everyone spoke so highly of everyone else in the community. Hilary’s Cheese served bread from True Grain, and the milk from the Water Buffalo at Fairburn Farm goes into Natural Pastures Buffalo Mozzarella (which we had on the frittata). Mara is a proud member of this community who joked, “if you marked the dollar bills [around here] you’d just see them going around and around.”

Fairburn Farm Fairburn Farm

She also orchestrated the Slow Food movement in Cowichan, helping it gain status as the first-ever North American city to be designated Cittaslow. To become a Cittaslow city you need to be approved on many levels, from sustainability and environmental impact, to signage on the roads. With an influx of big box stores in the region, Mara thought it was vital to showcase local businesses in a positive light, instead of being negative about the economic and industrial changes in the Cowichan Valley.

Fairburn Farm

Fairburn Farm is a guest house with several rooms and Mara offers cooking classes such as Field to Table, and Culinary Boot Camp. At the Boot Camp participants will learn skills such as harvesting from the garden and making home made pasta. She teaches classic French and Italian techniques but with local ingredients. Mara also runs culinary tours to Italy several times a year.

Water Buffalo

Out on the farm, Darrel Archer tended to Water Buffalo who during our visit, who were out in the oat field. He’s got such a great relationship with the animals whom he refers to adoringly like children, joking about their characteristics and quirky traits. We walked around back to visit with some of the baby water buffalo, who came bounding out of their barn like school children when we approached.

Baby Water Buffalo

We met a few more water buffalo and also got a tour of the milking operation for the production of the mozzarella cheese.

Fairburn Farm Fairburn Farm

Water buffalo in the pasture

We washed our hands after petting all the baby water buffalo and piled back into the van to head to the next stop on the tour. Rolling down the winding gravel passage that took us away from the farm a member of Tourism BC that was on the trip said it best, “at the end of every dirt road in BC there is a fantastic story.” I must agree, and the story of Fairburn Farm is definitely one I’ll continue to share.

I recently toured the South East portion of Vancouver Island with Tourism BC. You can read all of my posts from the trip under the tag: ‘Cowichan‘.

Mac Tune Up Giveaway

August 24th, 2009 @ 9:35am (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

I was converted from PC to a Mac in 2007 and I haven’t looked back. The transition took a bit of time (mostly because of my nerves and I was paranoid I’d lose all data in a big fiery mess) and I’m not sure I would have taken the plunge if not for the support and patience of my husband. Having that extra bit of motivation, or knowing you have a bit of a safety net, makes taking that leap that much easier.

How John learned to use a Mac

I was recently approached by Macinhome to do a contest involving their services and I thought it would be a great idea. I have not used their services, nor have they paid me to write this post however I sincerely appreciate “going to the pros” when there’s an issue or if you need help. Macs are incredibly user-friendly but if coming from a Windows background there is a learning curve. I’m just hoping to pass on a bit of assistance to a reader so that they can avoid some of the headaches I endured.

Macinhome is listed on the official Certified Apple Consultants list and is locally owned and operated. They also have an arsenal of Windows pros so they’re no stranger to multiple operating systems.

They offer several services including everything from iCal tutorials, to setting you up on your Mac (going from the box, to everyday use) and helping you convert from a PC to an Apple computer.

disk mode

I’m sure you could spend time trying to figure things out for yourself but having some help is always beneficial — which is why I even created a full category on my site for Mac vs PC.

The contest is for a Macinhome consultation, which will go to one reader who needs some Mac support.

Prize description:
Two hour spa treatment for your Mac, with some tutoring on getting the most from your setup – (valued at $190). An Apple-certified Macinhome consultant will visit your home to basically perform a tune up on your Mac, doing the computer equivalent of an oil change & tire rotation.

How to enter:
If you have a story about how you switched from a PC to a Mac, about why you love using a Mac, or even some of your frustrations, please share it in the comments to enter. I’ll draw a winner on Thursday, August 27th.

Ambleside Dog Park Photo Walk

August 23rd, 2009 @ 9:48am (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

We decided to do an impromptu photo walk last night and ended up at the Ambleside Dog Park. I love being over at Ambleside as you get a different perspective of the city and it’s just such a nice walk through the trees, which ends up right along the beach.

Ambleside Photowalk

Ambleside Photowalk

Loving the change in seasons, I was excited to see orange on leaves although I’m not sure if it was a sign of autumn, or a scar from the heat wave a few weeks ago. Regardless, summer was definitely in full swing yesterday as we took our sunny stroll.

Ambleside Photowalk Ambleside Photowalk

Ambleside Photowalk

Ambleside Photowalk Ambleside Photowalk

Ambleside Photowalk

Ambleside Photowalk

Ambleside Photowalk Ambleside Photowalk

Ambleside Photowalk Ambleside Photowalk

Ambleside Photowalk

It was good to get more Vancouver photos into my Flickr stream since I’ve been away from the Lower Mainland so much lately. On top of that, it was really nice to slow the pace down a bit and take a leisurely evening stroll with friends.

WordCamp Fraser Valley in Surrey Today

August 22nd, 2009 @ 9:26am (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

WordCamp Fraser Valley is happening today at SFU Surrey and I’ll be giving a talk about how WordPress can go beyond being simply a blogging platform. In 1998 I worked in Surrey Place Mall, and now I’m speaking at a conference in the University that sits atop it — it’s pretty surreal.

Winterfest 2009 in Surrey

I’m really looking forward to hearing some of the other speakers who have been scheduled in beginner, intermediate, and Twitter-related tracks. In particular, the inspirational and insighful Glenda Watson Hyatt.

WordCamp Fraser Valley WordCamp Fraser Valley

WordCamp Fraser Valley

I’ll be updating throughout the day (in what a call a “Day Blog” style) so photos and updates will appear on this post as we carry on.

Twitter Feed

I did a quick interview with Gary Jones of Bluefur who is the organizer of WordCamp Fraser Valley.

He does mention that we’re running behind but I think that’s probably a good problem to have as the sessions, speakers and conversations are all really informative and positive.

I also did a quick interview with Kimm Mitchell who is @paddlinggeek on Twitter.

She’s a self-proclaimed geek (hence the name) and organized H20 Geeks, a team of dragon boaters in the Paddling for Kids fundraising campaign.

Should YVR be renamed Terry Fox International

August 21st, 2009 @ 7:24am (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

Toronto has Pearson, Paris has de Gaulle, New York has JFK, and Liverpool has John Lennon while we have Vancouver International Airport or simply, YVR.

terry fox
Photo source: wiki

Over the years many have been tossing around the idea that the three airport code letters “YVR” don’t do our region justice and recently this school of thought has been gaining momentum. It would seem the popular choice for renaming Vancouver International would be after Terry Fox — our local hero who made a big impact on the world.

Terry was born in Manitoba but he grew up in Vancouver before moving to Port Coquitlam. In 1980 Terry Fox set out to cross Canada on foot as a part of his Marathon of Hope to raise funds and awareness for Cancer research. “Terry was only 18 years old when he was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma (bone cancer) and forced to have his right leg amputated 15 centimetres (six inches) above the knee in 1977.” – [source]

He wanted to bring hope to inspire a nation by going across the country — 8,000 kms from St John’s Newfoundland to Victoria, BC. He dipped his toe in the Atlantic and set out on the journey. When he reached Thunder Bay, Ontario about 143 days in (and over 5,000 kms through) he had to stop for medical reasons. He was brought back to BC and shortly after he passed away.

Each year, to honor his legacy, Canadians participate in the Terry Fox Run to raise funds for his cause. Recently he was named one of the single Greatest Canadians who ever lived.

A website has been setup to get online signature for a petition and a Facebook group is gaining support in favour of Terry Fox International Airport.

Although he never got to dip his toe in the Pacific Ocean, his mission is legendary and lives on through education, research, and each man, woman and child who participates in the Terry Fox Run around the world.

“It occurs very rarely in the life of a nation that the courageous spirit of one person unites all people in the celebration of his life and in the mourning of his death….We do not think of him as one who was defeated by misfortune but as one who inspired us with the example of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity.” – Pierre Trudeau to the House of Commons about Terry Fox.

Despite all of this, many still feel the airport would lose an international identity without the word “Vancouver” in the name. Toronto International was renamed Lester B. Pearson International Airport (known to many as Toronto Pearson) in 1984, after our 14th Prime Minister and many others have also been renamed. However, the debate is not out of a lack of respect or honor for Terry’s legacy, but many simply see it as a poor business move when it comes to identifying Vancouver on the world stage.

Should YVR be ranamed "Terry Fox International"

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Update October 7, 2010: This is in the new again as online petitions grow. “Vancouver Liberal MP Hedy Fry said Wednesday she thinks it’s an excellent idea and said she’s looking to present a motion in the House of Commons calling for the name change.” – CBC