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Cannabis Education at Town Hall Brands with Flower & Freedom

At Town Hall Brands we hosted (possibly the first ever?) cannabis lunch and learn…

Last year when we decided we wanted to pivot our business and extend our services into the cannabis industry, we knew that we had services to share, but we also knew we had knowledge that we need to gain first.

Over the last six months we’ve been working to gather knowledge and meet as many people as we can in the industry. This helps to build up our understanding so that when we put our experience forward with graphic design and publicity, we have a basis to put cannabis-related companies into the spotlight when legalization comes forth. In order to help our educational journey, we had maybe the first-ever lunch and learn for cannabis, for our team, hosted by Bethany Rae from Flower & Freedom.

Flower & Freedom is the brain child of Bethany, a fitness enthusiast and Australian living in Canada. When Bethany rediscovered cannabis as a health and wellness supplement in her early 30s she was inspired to create consumer education, build positive change, and promote a new approach to understanding cannabis. Bethany‘s mission is to educate people so that when they enter into the cannabis world they do so from a place of education, and they start slow and low, with micro doses, and try to go for the products that are going to be right for what they want, whether it be euphoria, relaxation, or pain management.

All nine members of our team attended the session, and we listened with rapt attention and notebooks out as she went over more than 10 different ways to consume cannabis and gave us a show and tell of the methods that are employed for consumption in the medical cannabis world. Many of these things will cross over into the recreational world when legalization occurs. No consumption took place; that is not the intention here. Bethany was very non-judgmental, and patient with the many, many questions we had.

There is still a huge stigma around cannabis, and much education (just like we received) is required. Letting people who are new to cannabis or afraid of it understand that it’s not all about getting blitzed out of your mind and going on a high trip, but rather can be part of a healthy lifestyle. For example, if you’re having deep anxiety, there's something to help you feel more calm; or if you have some pain in your knee or your hip, there are topicals you can apply on the spot; or if you’re looking to have some giggles, there’s ways to do that too.

Here is what our team had to say about the session:

“I want to thank Bethany for coming in and sharing her breadth of knowledge about cannabis with us. The presentation was thoughtfully executed, starting with the science behind this plant, to the different ways cannabis can be used, and then concluding with weighing out some pros and cons. I would recommend this presentation to anyone who is interested in learning more about this subject matter – I wish she could talk to my family! Bethany was able to break down a lot of stigmas around this industry within our team and inspired me to open up the conversation with those around me. Thank you, Bethany.” - Whitney

“I really enjoyed Bethany’s presentation! I would feel totally comfortable having Bethany speak to someone like my mom or nana about cannabis. I also enjoyed learning about some of the science behind cannabis. Bethany is very kind and relatable, and most importantly she dispels a lot of the misconceptions about cannabis culture.” - Maddie

“Bethany was knowledgeable, approachable and gave a fantastic overview of a beginner’s intro to cannabis. I liked her well-rounded self-care approach, that cannabis can be part of the solution to a healthier you, not THE solution. Starting small and slow was great advice. And I trusted her opinion as she seemed to very experienced with all the products she was talking about – good and bad. I appreciate her honesty and openness on this new and rather nerve-wracking topic.” - Felicia

For many people who are unsure about cannabis and don’t know where to start, having an in-home party hosted by Bethany or hiring her to come to your place of work like we did, offers a great way to learn and to demystify what cannabis is about.

Leeann Froese, Town Hall Brands; Bethany Rae, Flower & Freedom; and Whitney Law, Town Hall Brands celebrate cannabis education

Leeann Froese, Town Hall Brands; Bethany Rae, Flower & Freedom; and Whitney Law, Town Hall Brands celebrate cannabis education

On being named among those that lead and inspire

What a way to cap off the year!

I’m so flattered to be named among nine other dynamite women as one of 10 Women in PR That Lead, Inspire and Build Successful Brands, by Women in Public Relations North America


This has been an especially exciting year for me personally, because in January I celebrated my 20th “careeraversary”.

I started doing publicity in 1997 without any formal training (as I was hired as a marketing assistant, and marketing was my education). In those days we were faxing out press releases to a (small) curated list, creating paper press kits that went into folders and were mailed, couriered or handed out at events. (Email was just starting to become adopted and I remember trying to talk my then boss and mentor Christine Coletta into using email!) After continuing to do media relations with the wine cognoscenti as a function of my role as a marketing coordinator for the BC Wine Institute, I took college courses on weekends and evenings until I earned my PR certificate.

When we left the BC Wine Institute I remained working for Christine Coletta & we started doing marketing and PR for other wineries in Canada, and for wine regions beyond. My last name was still Clemens then, and I was among maybe three other people in the country who were doing wine-related publicity. (There were other publicists at the time but there were very few solopreneurs and primarily just agencies were doing PR.)

Over the 16 years of working for and then becoming business partners with Christine Coletta, I went from doing marketing and PR, to helping create and build brands from the ground up. In 2013 when Christine and our other business partner Julian Scholefield went to run her Okanagan Crush Pad winery full time, my husband Andrew von Rosen and I opened our agency. We hired talented people to do the PR, and I am now a director of PR activities rather than doing one-on-one publicity myself.

I’m super proud of the relationships I have created with the media, but I’m even MORE proud of my PR team, who day after day reach out to establish more contacts, and forge strong relationships. These relationships are with people and outlets who support us to help us tell our client stories, and we are so grateful.

Now as we are winding down to say goodbye to 2017 we see the increasing niche publications, the dominance of the influencer (and let’s see where that goes) and then the shrinking but strengthening of many mainstream media outlets. We are refining our team, and need to remain nimble in order to get stories out there.

It remains my perpetual aspiration to inspire. I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings.

Celebrating International Women's Day #WithTownHall

Happy International Women's Day! 

With a number of our clients and team members being women, we want to celebrate International Women’s Day by highlighting the leadership and dedication of the women in Town Hall Brands' circle. Most of all, we invite you to help us celebrate and recognize these incredible women for their hard work and achievements.

Thank you ladies for everything that you do! Here is what the women #WithTownHall had to say about being a woman in the work force, what International Women's Day means to them, and why it's important to celebrate this day together.










"To me, the meaning of this day is as diverse as the individuals who celebrate it. It's about giving recognition to the women who inspire us, reflecting on our past struggles and achievements, planning for positive change in the future, and making the commitment to invest in the untapped potential and opportunities for future generations of women."










"The biggest challenge is the pressure I put on myself to exceed my own expectations in all aspects of my life. Trying to not only balance, but exes, in the multiple businesses, industry boards, volunteer activities, and family obligations, sometimes leaves very little time to take care of myself."









"Can you imagine not being able to vote? No, me either! International Women's Day reminds us where we've been and how far we've come, it celebrates all women, especially those that blazed the trails and fought for gender equality."










"International Women's Day is hugely important to me because it acknowledges that the fight for women's equality is far from being over. The community that has risen from today's feminist movement has not only inspired me to lift up other women, but to never stop learning about women's struggles around the world instead of focusing on issues solely on issues solely in my own line of vision."










"International Woman's Day is a remind that our fight is not over, and that we cannot take our rights for granted. I think this is incredibly important, especially in today's political climate. Women around the world still do not have social, political, and economic equality. Violence against women is not only a problem abroad, it is also not being adequately addressed in our own country. I believe it is essential to have a day dedicated to confronting and finding solutions to these issues."










"International Women's Day is a day to celebrate all women - all of the accomplishments we have made, as well as the work that still needs to happen to be seen as equals." 










"My biggest challenge of being a woman in the workforce has been having my voice heard and sticking to a good work/life balance."










"I find it disheartening at times that we still need a day to call attention to our worth. That said, it means we have an official day to gain attention and celebrate women and their accomplishments the world over. It is a time to reinforce the love for the sisterhood."










"International Women's Day is a celebration of every step that we have taken in bringing equality to not only women but every individual in our society. As well, a reminder that together, we are stronger and we can make a positive difference in each other's lives."

TOWN HALL BRANDS JOB POSTING: Agency Administrator and Marketing Assistant


JOB POSTING: Agency Administrator and Marketing Assistant

UPDATED November 20:

Thank you to all who have submitted applications.

We will contact only those selected for interviews.

Good luck, and thank you for your interest in Town Hall Brands.


posted October 17, 2016


Town Hall Brands is a full service agency specializing in beverage, food and hospitality. Services include strategy, branding and graphic design, packaging, media relations, social media outreach, and special events. With a specialization in beverage, food and hospitality, we deliver projects that inspire and celebrate the good life.

We are hiring for an agency administrator and marketing assistant:


Please download the posting above.

If you want to work in east Vancouver with a small team of professionals, send us your resume with salary expectations.

Please send a cover letter and resume by November 18, 2016 to

We hope to find a person who would like to grow with us. Thank you for your time in reviewing the post for this position.

Only those selected for interview will be contacted.


By Leeann Froese

Do you know Rhône Valley wines?

It turns out, I know less than I thought.

Thankfully, at a trade event earlier in September at Vancouver’s Maenam restaurant, Michelle Bouffard, president of the local chapter of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (CAPS), hosted and presented a discovery workshop and tasting, to help bring some Rhône knowledge back to the forefront.


40 industry professionals: sommeliers, retailers, and media representatives alike, were joined by representatives of the Rhône Valley, Laure Vaissermann and Virginie Charlier, marketing and communication director of Inter-Rhône. Upon arrival to the event, each guest cracked open a fortune cookie, and inside was the name of one of five teams named after a few of the region’s famous varietals: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Marsanne and Roussanne. Once randomly teamed up we tasted 12 wines from the Rhône Valley during a blind taste test. Our goal was to guess the appellations or varietals as part of an interactive challenge under the evocative theme “So you think you know Rhône?”

It turns out, I do not.

I was on Team Grenache, with notable trade #winelover -s including Noel Hollet, Rachel von Sturmer, Iain Philip, Ron Wilson, and Si Man Lee. I was impressed by the tasting ability and knowledge at my table, although the table discussion revealed that my team members, like me, were also not 100% confident.


Created from a range of 21 different varietals, Rhône Valley Wine wines are renowned for their depth and distinctiveness. The reds range from round and fruit forward, to full bodied and structured; the whites are floral and fruity or full bodied and deep, and there are dry rose wines as well, that range from fresh and bright to spicy.

It’s all about the blend; and while there are many varietals, for example, most blended reds are a combination of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. The wines’ blends and flavour profiles depend on what area or village they are from and the related terroir, as well as the laws from each area as it relates to how much % of varietal is allowed in each blend.

Once we heard from Michelle about the regions, blends and laws, we blind tasted and were quizzed, with our answers submitted electronically and then displayed on a screen for all to see. I was not doing well at all, and my teammates were doing only slightly better.

I did OK on identifying the building blocks of the wines; identifying the acid, alcohol and tannin characteristics, but that is where my success ended…

Luckily the results were collected and posted by team, so no one saw that I only got a few of the questions right. I am sure that I brought my team’s score down, and here I publicly apologize to them!

Where I really fell down was aligning the wine characters to their origin. Related: I have a lot of dusting off of my WSET notes to do!

Even seasoned experts can still learn something new about Rhône Valley Wines,” said Michelle Bouffard.

I wasn’t alone; there seemed to be collective groans in the room each time an answer was revealed. The fact that so many of us got responses incorrect provided a great chance to discuss why – for example why Ventoux in the foothills offers wines so different from the full-bodied and round Gigondas wines from further south.

Some other teams did much better, voting as a group and doing very well. Congratulations to Team Marsanne on earning bragging rights!

Bouffard adds “The region’s diverse appellations, soil types and flagship varietals make it a key wine region. What really turns heads are the wines’ versatility, as they pair wonderfully with a wide range of dishes, such as Maenam’s Asian specialties.”


After the tasting and quiz was done and the whole room seemed collectively deflated, our moods were revived by the chance to taste these wines again and openly discuss, this time knowing what we are reaching for, and also now accompanied by hand-passed bites from chef Angus An.


  • Ranks 2nd among French AOC vineyards in terms of volume;
  • 388 million bottles sold in 2015;
  • Over 50% of total production is certified organic;
  • 1 bottle of Rhône Valley Wines AOC is enjoyed worldwide every 12 seconds;
  • Over 10 years, the volume of Rhône Valley Wines exports to Canada has increased by 41%;
  • In 2015, 11% (in volume) of French table wines in Canada is from Rhone Valley Wines. An overall 20% increase in BC sales of Rhone Valley Wines during 2015 to 2016.

Disclosure: As a member of CAPS BC, I was an invited guest at this event, and I thank Rhône Valley Wines for the chance to taste and learn. For more information on Rhône Valley Wines, visit


Ghosts in the Original Grandpère Vineyard

"There's history in those vines, that tell the story of  Amador. There's ghosts in that vineyard." - Marc McKenna, winemaker, Andis Wines As part of the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference held in Lodi, California, some of us were able to secure a spot in the Amador County pre-excursion. Among many other delicious wine and winery events, we were treated to a speed-tasting session in Plymouth, at the original Shenandoah School House, built in 1876. Surrounded by rows of dusty vines, eight wineries poured special flights of wines that showcased the best of Amador wine country. Within these selections were three old vine Zinfandels from three different producers, sourced from one vineyard that pre-dated the schoolhouse itself, Shenandoah Valley’s Original Grandpère Vineyard.

WBC16 Andis Grandpere

County records suggest that the site was first planted to vine in 1869 (although some speculate that it may have been planted as early as 1865), but give or take a few years, this planting features the oldest living Zinfandel vines in the state. Originally planted by members of the Upton family, the vineyard changed hands over the years, eventually ending up in the hands of Terri and Scott Harvey, who purchased the site in 1984. At the time, the pair were married, and Terri tended the vines while Scott was a winemaker for a number of local wineries, including Santino, and later Renwood, where he utilized some of the Original Grandpère Vineyard’s low-yielding fruit. While at Renwood, cuttings were taken from the old vines and grafted to phylloxera-resistant rootstocks to create what is now known as the Grandpère Vineyard. Scott departed Renwood in 1995, and his marriage to Terri ended shortly thereafter as well. A trademark dispute ensued between Terri and Renwood, but once the Amador dust had settled, Terri was allowed to maintain the legacy of the site by naming it the “Original” Grandpère Vineyard.

Even though the fruit was sold to various commercial and amateur wineries for White Zinfandel in the 1980s, vigorous pruning and careful vineyard management drastically reduced the vineyard yields, while increasing its potential quality. Today, in a unique arrangement I’ve not heard of anywhere else, just four wineries are allowed to source grapes every vintage – Scott Harvey Wines, Andis Wines, Vino Noceto and C.G.Di Arie Winery. What’s most interesting is that each winery does not have one specific parcel or set of rows they are allocated to use, therefore their lot rotates every year.

WBC16 Scott Harvey 1869

I compare this civilized collaboration to the out-dated French Napoleonic laws of succession and inheritance, where an individual’s assets are divided between each child in equal shares, resulting in smaller and smaller parcels of land being passed to the next generation. Coupled with sky high federal inheritance taxes, the situation in premium winegrowing areas of France has become challenging and confusing. But the spirit of collaboration in Amador (even between divorced, but now friendly couples) results in some of the most complex and tasty wines in California.

Of the four wineries currently producing wine from the Original Grandpère Vineyard, we tasted selections from three. The Andis Wines 2012 Original Grandpère Zinfandel was first: delicate, but with rich tannic structure, this Zin showed notes of raspberry, black pepper and grilled red meat. I liked the way it showed now, but thought that a few more years in bottle would bring out lush fruit flavours. From the same vintage, we next tried the Vino Noceto OGP Zinfandel. Winemaker Rusty Folena suggested that the wine has a mind of its own, and he favours non-interventionist winemaking techniques, allowing the vintage to express itself. Quite frankly, this philosophy was shared among the other Amador wineries, who also respect the vineyard enough to let it do its own thing. I thought that the Vino Noceto wine was similar to the Andis Zin, but with notes this time of a more pungent white pepper, balanced with sweeter red fruit flavours. Finally, we tried the 2008 vintage of “1869” from Scott Harvey Wines, poured by Scott himself. “Every layer of soil gives the wine a different dimension,” he said. Indeed, this expression cast off overtly spicy notes in favour of fresh, bright flavours of pomegranate, cherries and sweet earth, as if still wet from a recent rainstorm.

WBC 16 Vino Noceto

Special thanks to the Amador Council of Tourism, the Amador Vintners Association and to all the wineries for allowing us to taste the living history of this special region.

Coffee and Town Hall Brands

By Kathleen Beveridge Today is National Coffee Day or as Howard Schultz would say, "I can't imagine a day without coffee."


That being said I am not a coffee drinker, my choice of hot beverage has always been tea BUT there is something to be said about the smell of coffee brewing, the sounds of a coffee shop and the time spent with a warm mug in hand with friends, family and co-workers.

What I've noticed since joining Town Hall Brands last year is that our team loves coffee and that coffee is integral to our creative process to ensure we provide the best work for our clients. Whether creative design or communications you can bet each team member has a cup of coffee on their desk bringing focus and creative stimulation.

Now there has been studies that say coffee does not increase creativity however, for the team here I'll respectfully disagree. Coffee keeps us fueled up and when we need those mental breaks the walk to the coffee shop usually clears the mind enough that productivity is when returning to our desks.

In case you were wondering here's how the each team member enjoys their coffee!


I like my coffee with just a little bit of milk and I like it to be strong. When I have a latte I like four shots of espresso and soy milk. No sugar. I'm sweet enough.


Depends on whether it’s good coffee or not. If it’s good coffee it’s black.


Often. With lots of cream.


With two (almost) vegans and one with dairy allergies in the house, we rarely have regular (cow’s) milk in the fridge, even though that’s my personal preference. That, and half a teaspoon of brown sugar. Always brown. I rarely get a hot cup of coffee at the home office, but my Stanley mega-thermos keeps it hot enough for the commute to Town Hall HQ. Other than that, I have a Nespresso ‘pixie’ which has served me well for years. My favourite pod is the Arpeggio. It’s intensity is 9/10. Just like me. And for the record, being environmentally-conscious, we scoop the grinds in the compost and recycle the aluminum. Love you, mother nature!


COFFEE IS MY EVERYTHING. IT DESERVES ALL THE ALL CAPS. I need it to be piping hot, fresh ground, and something like Kickinghorse, Ethical Bean or Salt-Spring. I like cream and sugar in it (not too much of either).


Americano black.


Tea please! Any and all kinds. Or if I have to choose a coffee make it sickly sweet-Pumpkin Spice Lattes, Mocha's, Carmel Machiattos. I may love the smell but the taste not so much.


Office coffee with 2 creams every morning. Sometimes with sugar if I’m feeling lazy and go to a café.


I like plain Jane drip coffee with almond milk and HONEY.

Cheers to National Coffee Day! May your day be filled with your favourite brew.

WBC16: Connection & Engagement

By Sujinder Juneja We’ve said this many times before, including in a post directly following the 2015 event, but the Wine Bloggers Conference is more than just a conference, it’s a community. I’ll come back to this idea of “community” in a moment.

Leeann and I from Town Hall Brands attended the 2016 showcase in Lodi, California (August 11-14). This was my fourth conference in a row, and Leeann’s fifth. For the first time though, I was honoured to be asked by conference founder Allan Wright to moderate a panel discussion in front of an audience of 300 or so bloggers, journalists and other wine professionals. Gulp! Yes – I was thrilled to be asked and I was also nervous as heck. But more than that, I knew right away that I wanted to make it special, for both the audience and the panellists themselves.

Sujinder at WBC16

My panel was a dream. I got to moderate the Panel of Wine Blog Award Winners, featuring five winners of the 2016 Wine Blog Awards. The awards have been in place since 2007 (the year before the first Wine Bloggers Conference), honouring excellence in online wine writing. This year’s panellists included Sophie Thorpe from Berry Bros. & Rudd, Mary Cressler from Vindulge, Jill Barth from l’Occasion, Susan Manfull from Provence Wine Zine, and Jerry Clark who received Best Blog Post of the Year.

Within my job in communications, yes, I do get to talk about wine and winemaking all day long, helping to celebrate the stories behind the labels of our passionate winery clients. But any success we have with the media comes down to the relationships and connections we build with the writers, editors, and producers that help share our client achievements. Within this panel and within the audience itself, I wanted to make sure to build that same connection and engagement.

First step: Google “how to moderate a panel.”

Check. This gave me the structure I needed to follow.

Second step: Arrange for some one-on-one time with each of the panellists in advance so that we could get to know each other better and to flesh out ideas for discussion.

Check. This, to me, was the most valuable part of the panel, as it connected us in a way that the audience could see, and that we could feel onstage. In each of our private discussions, we shared ideas, laughs and stories that solidified our personal connections, making us part of that community I mentioned earlier.

I will share that I was personally impressed and inspired by each of the very deserving award-winners, and what I was able to learn from each of them was a gift. Here are some of the gems that I took away from each of them:

WBC Panel Selfie

Sophie Thorpe: Maybe it’s the Brit in me (my mom is from Reading, England) but I LOVE Sophie’s dry sense of humour, which you can see both on the BB&R blog and on her own, Raised on Champagne. She taught me the subtle excellence of opening the curtain to show the personality behind the writer, and how to let her readers know that they’re in on the joke, shared just between you and them.

Mary Cressler: Mary’s love of wine, photography, food and her family (not necessarily in that order) are infectious. The first time I saw Mary’s photos… the light, the texture, the delicious mouth water-inducing amazing-ness of her work, I knew that better was possible. It will take me some time to get even close to Mary’s talent, but she motivates me to try.

Jill Barth: Once you start reading her blog, L’Ocasion, you won’t stop until hours (maybe days) later. In fact, I whiled away about 45 minutes just prepping to write this little intro! Arguably, that is what made Jill a double award-winner this year: the ability to draw in her readers in such a way that they are sucked down this wine-filled rabbit hole of stories and adventures.

Susan Manfull: ‘P’ for Provence and ‘P’ for Passion. Susan has a heart of gold, which is easy to tell by speaking to her, or by reading her work. The tender care that she puts into each article is wonderful. Our first phone call could have gone on for hours, it was such a joy to speak to her.

Jerry Clark: One of my favourite pieces of wine writing, Jerry’s award-winning piece was evocative and emotional. He invited us into an intimate world, which all of us, including non-wine lovers, can relate to. His thrilling use of the written word remains incessantly inspiring.

Overall, the greatest thing I took away from these talented people is that a gifted wine writer, especially an award-winning wine blogger, is one that gives of themselves, that opens up in a personal way, revealing details not only about their subject - whether it be about a particular wine, an international travel adventure – but one who shares details about themselves. It is this, among many of the other things I learned above, that I hope to incorporate into my own blog when it launches this Fall.

See you in Sonoma at WBC17!

Disclosure: In exchange for a reduced rate to the Wine Bloggers Conference, attendees are required to write at least three blog posts about the conference either before, during or after.

Finding Wine Culture in Amador

By Leeann Froese Finding Wine Culture in Amador

Amador County landscape

I feel pretty lucky that on the eve of my 20th year in the wine industry that I've had the chance to taste wines from all over the world, and had the pleasure of visiting wine regions in a few different countries. What I am focused on these days as I look at the different regions is to see how they build their culture, welcome wine visitors, and how the people live and work.

For a pre-excursion leading up to the 9th Annual Wine Bloggers Conference, I was delighted to visit and learn about Amador, a region I previously knew nothing about. I am pleased to share brief impressions of the Amador County wineries.

Wine Bloggers Conference Pre Excursion to Amador and our amazing driver, Chip

A flight to Sacramento puts you within an hour’s drive to this small region, which is relatively unexplored by Canadians, but definitely belongs on a wine tourist’s map. The landscape is peaceful, with grassy foothills and winding river canyons, all backed up by the Sierra Mountains.

The towns in the Shenandoah Valley have a gold rush heritage look

The Amador Vintners have 45 member wineries with tasting rooms in the Shenandoah Valley, the historic towns of Fiddletown, Sutter Creek, Amador City, and other surrounding areas. Each of these small towns have an ‘old timey’, historic feel, as the region first rose to notoriety in congruence with the 1849 gold rush.

Families (or young men) from all over Europe came to California to settle and seek fortune. One of the major demands of many primarily young, single men was a steady supply of alcohol. In response, farmers of Italian, Serbian, Iberian, French, and German background planted grapes. Vineyards emerged, and several wineries sprouted up - many of whose vineyards are still in use by wineries today.

Amador Vineyards - head trained

As this region was founded, there were many languages spoken, common diligent work habits developed, and one thing was for sure: they all shared a passion to turn the grapes that the granite-rich, sandy loam soils gave them into delicious wines to be enjoyed by all.

While the wines were plentiful and appreciated, the Amador wine region took a huge downturn, as most wine producers in the USA did during Prohibition. Fortunately, the region squeaked through. Home winemakers, permitted to make 200 gallons of wine each, kept the grape growers above water. All available grapes were scooped up and sold off nationwide, but times were lean.

According to Amador historian and author Eric J. Costa, between the repeal of Prohibition and the late 1960s, most grapes grown in Amador wound up in large tanks in bulk wine production, and only a small percentage of the grapes grown were kept and vinfied by small family wineries as premium wine.

This is still the case with many grape growers today but in 2016, the industry has evolved to have second and third generation owners, and those who have moved to the region for investment or second careers, all with an eye to excellence in wine production. Amador wineries’ acreage in 2016 is around 3,800 acres of vineyards with varying production numbers each year. The 2015 grape crush totaled 3,867,710 tons, down 7 percent from the 2014 crush of 4,144,534 tons.

The Birthplace of Zinfandel

Well suited to the sunshine and soils, Zinfandel has dominated Amador plantings from the beginning: Amador County is home to the oldest Zinfandel wines in America, with documented plantings dating back to the 1850s. Included in this is the Original Grandpère Vineyard, planted in Amador to Zinfandel before 1869, making these vines more than 140 years old. This low yield, 10-acre vineyard is home to the oldest documented Zinfandel vines in California, and today’s owner, Terri Harvey, supplies grapes only to a select few Amador wineries.

Throughout the region, there are other plentiful plantings of the American heritage Zinfandel, as well as varietals from all over the world, reflective of those that settled the region, including Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Barbera, Grenache, Petite Sirah, and more.

Community Club

As far as Amador’s wine culture is concerned, with a relatively small geography and a shared goal to grow the best grapes they can, there is a strong level of cohesion among wineries. In order to keep the community connected, wineries hold industry nights, community potlucks, and other activities that bring together the people who live in all these little towns throughout the valley.

A vintner we met, who stood out for sharing best practices, is Dick Cooper.

Jeri Cooper Swift and Dick Cooper

Dick Cooper, 77, was encouraged in the late 1970s by his father Henry “Hank” Cooper to get into grape growing. The Cooper family originally arrived in the foothills in 1919, and had a long history of farming tree fruits and nuts. So what started with five acres of Barbera grew to become Cooper Vineyards, and over the past 35 years Dick has worked to share all that he has learned along the way with those around him. In addition to his own vineyards, he has designed, planted and managed at least another dozen vineyards in Amador and El Dorado County. Known locally as the “Godfather of Barbera”, he has made many friends and earned the respect of the industry. Dick has provided cuttings, grapes and advice for much of the Barbera grown in the foothills, was an instrumental person in the establishment of the Amador County Wine Grape Growers’ Association, and has written a book on the relationship between viticulture and Amador County soil. This helpful openness to others, and willingness to share resources has helped build the community, and unified Amador growers.

Cooper’s daughter Jeri Cooper Swift, who was our tour guide on our excursion bus, recalls the ways in which the community and culture grew up with and around her. “The Shenandoah school house is the local meeting place once a month (but not during harvest),” she shares. “My grandmother Ruth Deaver Cooper, my grandfather Henry Field Cooper, also my father, Dick Cooper, and all of us kids, along with all the other farmers and their families - would go to a potluck dinner once a month. We called it ‘community club’.”

Shenandoah School House

Our wine bloggers conference pre-excursion visited this one-room heritage school house for a meet and greet with several of the area winemakers. It was special for us to have a peek at this historical location, experience the community vibe and get a sense of the cohesive nature of the winery personnel.

Also in attendance at the meet and greet was a winemaker who openly shared his practices and experimental techniques: Mark McKenna from Andis Wines. On the flipside of nearly a century of the Cooper’s farming is the comparatively new Andis Wines, who bring a modern approach to Amador County's winemaking region. Using both traditional and innovative winemaking approaches, such as wine aged in concrete (an old world practice made new), McKenna has quickly garnered huge scores with critics, and is leading a New World approach to make modern wines, with an integrated respect for and knowledge of, classical tradition and style. Sourcing grapes from the onsite estate vineyard as well as from several growers in the area allows Mark the opportunity to relationship build and share.

my selfie with Mark McKenna at Andis wines in front of their concrete egg fermenter

So whether it is several decades of farming like the Coopers, or new practices in the cellar such as at Andis, the winemakers of Amador work together to grow, learn, taste and celebrate each other. This region may be small, but the culture is strong.

Have you noticed a camaraderie and strong culture in any of the regions you visited? Please, tell me about it...


Wines tasted:

2012 Andis Wines 1869 Original Grandpere Vineyard Zinfandel

Planted in 1869, the Original Grandpere Vineyard is the oldest documented Zinfandel vineyard in America, with only four wineries having access to its crop. This is a bold wine, with prominent ripe red fruit, pepper and spice. Only 150 cases made.

2013 Cooper Vineyards St. Peter’s Church Zinfandel

This consistently awarded wine offers subtle fruit on the nose and a medium-bodied layered palate of berry and spice with balanced acid and tannins, and long finish.

Disclosure: In exchange for a reduced rate to the Wine Bloggers Conference, attendees are required to write at least three blog posts about the conference either before, during or after.

Getting Social with the Variety - the Children's Charity Show of Hearts

By Leeann Froese It is not every day that someone gets to celebrate their 50th anniversary!!!

The 50th annual Variety Show of Hearts Telethon takes place on Valentine’s weekend, airing on Global BC February 13th and 14th.

The Social Lounge team selfie from 2015: Marc Smith in foreground, and in the back from left: Leeann Froese (me), Scott Graham, Host Rebecca Bollwit, and John Beihler


Do you know? Sometimes BC families require medication, equipment, or accommodation while they are receiving treatment in hospitals outside of their own communities.

And sometimes, specialized therapy, medicine or tools to help children can make all the difference in young lives.

Variety the Children's Charity steps in to help make sure that families get the help that they need. They make a big difference in families and help children across the province.


With this in mind I am super proud to participate for a second year in the Miss 604 Show of Hearts Social Lounge.

Respected and widely followed blogger Rebecca Bollwitt, a.k.a Miss 604, has proudly come on board once again as a sponsor of the Social Lounge, to lead the way with live and interactive social media updates.

The hashtag is #SOH50 and we hope you'll join the conversation by including @Miss604 and @Variety BC in your tweets.

There will be other bloggers and local social media personalities included in the social lounge such as photographer and foodie Scott Graham from What’s for Lunch BC, tech blogger and one of the world’s top 3D printing authorities John Biehler, travel blogger Marc Smith of 30 Day Adventures, blogger Ariane Colenbrander of Vancouverscape; and Christina @thevalleycharm will be tweeting too.

We’ll all be monitoring the #SOH50 tag, replying, interacting, and leading a few fun campaigns throughout the weekend.

And I will be there on Saturday and Sunday #withTownHall, phone charged up, posting and tweeting on behalf of both @TownHallBrands and my own handle @leeannwine

Tune in on Valentine’s weekend to see how your donations make a difference and follow @VarietyBC on Twitter and Facebook for more information.

I hope that you will join the conversation, and I hope you will make a generous donation!


5 Ways To Survive a Dining Crawl

By Leeann Froese As part of the 2016 Dine Out Vancouver Festival there are 'brunch crawls' taking place on the weekends. They are put on by Vancouver Foodster and are along the lines of a regular dine around series he does throughout the year called Tasting Plates.

There are two left this weekend: in Yaletown and on Main Street - and you can watch for future similar events even when Dine Out is over.

This was my first dine around event... where you have a small bite at each place you go to. These bites can be something that the restaurant usually features on their menu or is a mini or modified version of a regular menu item. The idea is to give you a peek at what the food at the place visited is like. It's a great way to be exposed to places you might not have visited before, or to have a snack at some of your favorites.

I'll explain what I got to taste and where we went to to follow, but first I thought I would give some helpful tips from what I learned - my top five ways to survive a dining crawl.

1. Dress for the Weather Because you are moving from one location to the next, and often on foot, you want to make sure that you are dressed appropriately. You want to make sure that if it's going to be sunny that you've got your sunglasses and a hat, or if it's raining make sure you're wearing something waterproof and that you have your umbrella with you just in case. It also pays off to wear layers because on the day that we did our crawl, it was sunny, windy, and also had a little bit of rain. It's not recommended that you wear high heels; comfortable shoes that you can walk in are definitely the way to go.

Oh, and wear stretchy pants... see #2:

2. Be Hungry Arrive with an appetite. With several stops to be made on a crawl, even if you are having a small bite at each, they do add up and you do get full. While some stops want to offer you seconds or give you a large plate of food to taste, I recommend that you pace yourself.

3. Be OK With Carbs Bread, waffles, crackers, etc. are great vessels to carry or hold other ingredients and flavours. Be prepared for there to be some sort of carb at each stop; if not part of the main taste, then at least to hold something else.

4. Keep An Open Mind A favourite saying of mine is "you get what you get, and you don't get upset". This can't be more true for a dine around or crawl situation. While in some cases you get to see the menu in advance, sometimes there are last-minute substitutions and not every menu item is going to meet your particular dietary restrictions. Also you might be visiting a place for the first time and unfamiliar with their menu, so be ready to taste something new-to-you and take a risk on some ingredients you might not ever have before.

5. Don't Be in a Hurry With four hours to cover a neighborhood, it offers plenty of time and you don't need to worry that you won't get to fit in every stop. Taking time to talk to the people at each location and learn more about what they are doing is complimentary to them, and they appreciate it. Also you can gain a sense of the kind of regular business they do when you see what they have to offer. Some places will be busier than others, and you can be prepared to wait in a line, or potentially even wait for somewhere to sit. You can't let this frustrate you; you have to just take it in as part of the pace of the experience.

In short, for my first experience doing a brunch crawl I thought it was overall a good one. For a brunch crawl I would've liked to have an egg; I was surprised that no one served any kind of egg dish beyond quiche.

But what I did receive was yummy waffles, bagels, pancakes, and French toast. And I can't forget coffee; we had some great coffee! To follow is the detail of what each location offered, and I invite you to go out and try one of the spots yourself when they're open for regular business.

Here's the recap of my first crawl:

I was lucky enough to be the guest of Karl Kliparchuk  - Karl is an educator who also hosts the popular website My Wine Pal.

Here's the order we did our stops in and what we had:

Bean Around the World

Bean Around the World Brunch Crawl

Bowen Island Pizza Co - in collaboration with Cobs

Brunch Crawl YVR 2nd Stop

Apricot French toast with strawberry reduction.


Two Daughters Bakeshop

Two Daughters Bakery Dine Out Brunch Crawl

Cook Culture

Red lentil pancakes with haskap & maple syrup smoothie with banana, mango, rooibos, coconut



Chef Cook Culture

Echo Cafe

spinach tomato and feta cheese quiche / Waffle BLT: bacon lettuce and tomato waffle special pesto mayo on top of fresh Belgian waffle / savory scone: fresh baked cheese and green onion

Rosemary Rock Salt

Dill pickle lox and cream cheese on poppyseed bagel with capers, red onion, lemon and dill pickle / vegan cashew spread on rosemary rocksalt bagel / Montreal smoked meat sandwich on sesame bagel with mustard