Everyone deserves a little something sweet…

As a chef with a conscience, I endeavor to cook as seasonally as possible: a lot of rutabaga and parsnip in the winter – a lot of strawberries and fresh tomatoes in the summer. That being said, every once in a while, we all deserve something special~!

Roast pineapple with toasted coconut, yoghurt and berries. Photo © 2014 Kristof Gillese

Roast pineapple with toasted coconut, yoghurt and berries. Photo ©2014 Kristof Gillese

And so when I found out that we had family coming to dinner a few days ago, off I went to the local stores to see what was bright, fresh and exciting. Huge pineapple on sale? Brilliant! I knew right away that a curry-fest was in order and, because I hail from Irish lineage, I also knew that I could get away with deviating from the normal “butter chicken”.

Well the meal was a success (*curry recipe to follow in another article) but dessert was the thing that really stopped conversation and got the table down to some serious eating! And looking at the photo now, I can remember how it even tasted better than it looks. Seriously.

But you know me, I simply can’t conceive of creating a beautiful meal without a beautiful beverage to compliment. And instinctively I wanted something sublime to finish the meal: a dessert wine that was going to have as much impact on the palate as this dessert has on the eyes. There was one wine that sprang to mind immediately: the Vista D’oro (eponymous) “D’oro”: a fortified walnut wine from Patrick and Lee Murphy.

Patrick Murphy of Vista D'Oro.

Patrick Murphy of Vista D’Oro Farms & Winery.

When I was out to visit Patrick last summer we had the better part of a lazy afternoon to walk the fields, chew the fat, and reminisce. We’ve known each other for several years and so it is with a certain pride that I listened as he explained the growth in sales… Patrick and Lee are bastions of quality in a wine-region (Langley) that even within BC is “snubbed” a little. Outside of BC? Outside of Canada? Unknown and certainly unrecognized.

But the first time I tried the wines of Vista D’Oro I knew that there was something special here: contemporary Pinot Noir, lush dessert wine, and now even branching into Sherry! It was the “D’Oro” though that I remembered for years after that first tasting. I remembered because it was the first time my wife went to a tasting with me and told me *(husbands: you know what I mean) that “we were buying it”.

It was a bit over $50 at the time. More money than I think my wife had ever spent on a half-bottle of wine. We kept that bottle far longer than I wanted to; always putting it back on the shelf for “a special occasion”. And there I was just a few months ago, walking with Patrick as he told me that all of his customers were doing exactly the same thing: saving the bottles rather than drinking them. This meant slow sales and the Murphys needed a solution.

Solution? Drop the price: from $50+ to under $40; and listed in the BC government stores as well, which meant that anyone anywhere in BC could find it or get it. And whilst $35 still isn’t an inexpensive treat after dinner, it is reasonable enough that clients started drinking the wine rather than just shelve it for when the relatives come calling. More people drinking the wine meant more people wanted to drink the wine! Result? Vista D’Oro is finally starting to bask in the glow of well-earned admiration from paying customers.

Still not convinced? When you stop by for a visit, make sure you ask about Patrick’s tomatoes (there is a waiting list of A-list Vancouver chefs) or the stunning preserves which you can enjoy on the deck of the tasting room.


Vista D’Oro “D’Oro”

91+ points, Excellent Value

Marechal Foch, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, infused with estate walnuts, fortified with 100% pure, gluten-free, BC grape spirit


In the glass this appears to be another quality example of fortified wine from Portugal. Then I remind myself that it is, in fact, from Langley, BC. The aromas offer stewed plum, cherry compote, dried savory herbs and warm/dusty earth… the only give-away is the trademark Vista D’Oro musky perfume in the background; like walking through an Arabic coffee shop and smelling the hookah-spice from the night before. The sweet palate is classic port-styled as well, with many of the aromas being mimicked perfectly (always a sign of professional quality) as well as a distinct note of fresh currant bread and finishing with a dab of spicy pepper. Absolutely excellent balance, structure and concentration; I enjoy the fact that, though a dessert wine, this is medium bodied and doesn’t weigh too heavily on the palate. Tastes like more!


Grilling pineapple is nothing new, but the addition of a hint of vinegar brings the entire dish into balance. I love sweets, but sweet upon sweet just dulls the taste buds. Try this new approach, this healthy approach, and discover a quick and (relatively) easy dessert that wows!

RECIPE (4 portions)

Roast pineapple with toasted coconut, yoghurt and berries. ©2014 Kristof Gillese

Roast pineapple with toasted coconut, yoghurt and berries. Photo ©2014 Kristof Gillese

1 medium to large pineapple, skin-off

2 fl oz apple cider vinegar

4 Tbsp brown sugar

2 Tbsp  rough chopped almonds or pecans (optional)

2 cups   Greek yoghurt

1 cup     fresh berry sauce

2 Tbsp   toasted coconut


· cut large circle slabs out of the pineapple, about 1” thick

· remove the inner core; I use a shot-glass with a cloth over-top and it works perfectly

· warm the vinegar and brown sugar together just until the sugar dissolves

· put the pineapple slabs on a baking sheet, brush the tops with the sugar solution until all four pieces are thoroughly coated *(optional: top with rough chopped nuts)

· turn the oven broiler to high. Broil minimum 5 minutes or until the sugar is brown and caramelized

· being very careful because nothing burns worse than caramelized sugar: remove the pineapple from the oven and plate

. fill centre core with Greek yoghurt. Top with berry sauce and toasted coconut

Bon Appetit~!

So enjoy your meal with great wine and family or friends. Treat yourself, spoil someone else, and above all: savour the moment~! Many thanks to Patrick and Lee Murphy at Vista D’Oro for being so generous with their timewww.vistadoro.com

As always, I look forward to your thoughts, comments and questions. Here, or:

on Twitter@AStudentofWine

on Facebook @ www.facebook.com/TheChefandTheGrape

About Author


Kristof Gillese: trained chef, certified wine steward, journalist and proud father. In these articles it is the human story that takes priority: to tell the tale of common people accomplishing uncommon goals. In the world of wine these tales are prolific. It has been Chef Kristofs privilege to have worked with luminaries such as Pierre-Henry Gagey of Maison Jadot, Nik Weis of St Urbans-Hof, Ray Signorello of Signorello Estates and Ezra Cipes of Summerhill Pyramid Winery; leaders in the industry. With almost 3 decades of experience working with the synergy between food and wine, Chef Kristof is proud to share the stories of these amazing stewards of the land. These articles are written with a profound reverence for the family aspect to winery culture as, to this writers understanding, nothing has ever had a more far-reaching effect than the love and devotion for a parent to a child. All great wineries are built by parents for their children and it is because of this that Chef Kristof writes.
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