Artisan Vinegar in the Okanagan

The Vinegar Works at Valentine Farm

Vinegar -one of the most important discoveries in food history dating back to ancient times and used around the world by almost every nationality, is often ignored and given little recognition, with the exception of Italy’s Balsamic Vinegar. But things are beginning to change. Vinegar now has its own International Vinegar Festival hosted by the tiny town of Roslyn in South Dakota, started in 2000 by the Vinegar Man, aka Lawrence Diggs, an international Vinegar Consultant, founder of Vinegars Connoisseurs International, the International Vinegar Museum and one of North America’s biggest advocates of vinegar. The festival is now celebrating its eleventh year.

The Wall Street Journal announced this year that “vinegar is the key difference between amateur chefs and great chefs.” Vinegar, not the commercial vinegars which are usually made in less than 24 hours and are perfect for cleaning floors, but rather the artisan vinegars, handcrafted and carefully aged in small batches, are one of the best ingredients to bring out flavor in almost any dish- sauces, meats, casseroles, salads, soups, vegetables and fruits. A well-stocked selection of artisan vinegars- red wine, white wine, tarragon, and fruit infused are a must for any pantry. As a teaspoon or two of vinegar goes along way, artisan vinegars are a good investment for home chefs and for those on low sodium diets a wonderful substitute for salt.

The Okanagan is home to artisan vinegar makers Kim Stansfield and John Gordon, owners of “The Vinegar Works” at Valentine Farm. Almost everything grown on their ten acre certified organic farm including grapes, apricots, raspberries, tarragon, and elderberry is used for making their handcrafted vinegars. Their passion for vinegar begins in making their own estate wine and yes there’s a lot more to vinegar than “sour wine”. The aging of their vinegars in either oak or stainless steel depending on style is taken as seriously as wine-making. The average time for each vinegar release from start to finish is four years and like cult wines some of their vinegars including the Wild Elderberry Vinegar are sold out immediately upon release. All of their wonderful vinegars are “estate grown” and one hundred percent organic.

A repeated request from several of the Okanagan’s best chefs (devoted clients) led to the creation of Vinegar Works own VerJus- perfect for wine country because it provides the necessary acidity for salads, condiments and deglazing but does not taint the taste of wine. Verjus is made from pressing unripe grapes (or sour fruit like crab-apples) and is used in both Middle Eastern and French cuisine. Vinegar Works uses both their Pinot Meunier and Gewurztraminer grapes that are cut away from the vines during their pre-harvest crop thinning for making their VerJus. Try Verjus as a subtle replacement for lemon juice – wonderful in Hollandaise sauce, salads and on seafood. Unlike vinegar, VerJus does have a shorter shelf life of about 3 months and needs to be refrigerated.

Part of the Bottleneck Drive wineries, the Vinegar Works tasting room is a must visit. Both Kim and John usually work the tasting room and will personally take you through a tasting of five or six of their vinegars. Bestsellers include Pinot Meunier Red Wine Vinegar, French Tarragon Infused Wine Vinegar, Raspberry Fruit Infused Wine Vinegar and White Balsamic. For ideas on how to spice up your cooking with vinegar visit Kim Stainsfield’s blog: Vinegar from Vinegar Works can be purchased directly from their farm, at selected retailers in British Columbia, or online at

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