Posts Tagged ‘orofino’


September 28, 2016

It’s Fall, and many people will be visiting wine country for festivals and to taste wines! So here are a few tips before you go…and some recommendations on where to go if you are visiting wineries in BC.

1. Remember it is harvest season – seems simple, but it is important…as much as wineries welcome you at this time of year, they are also getting ready – or even starting – to harvest this year’s vintage! That makes it very busy and stressful at all wineries. Keep that in mind if you get the sense your hosts have other things on their minds!

2. Fewer is better – whether it is the number of wineries or wines (or both), go for quality, not quality. No matter how good a taster you are, “palate fatigue” can set in pretty quickly. So pick the wineries you want to see in advance, and even the specific wines you want to taste. That will lead to a better experience.

3. Spit if you can – I know some people think it is gross, but spitting will really help you taste better – and more – wines. All wineries will have spittoons, and those leading tastings will actually be thankful if you spit.

4. Only buy if you really want to – unless you have unlimited resources, it’s okay to be choosey what you buy (if anything). Wineries won’t be insulted, particularly these days as most of them charge a tasting fee anyway. If you like it and can afford it, then buy it. Otherwise, don’t worry about it!

5. Taste and move on – finally, whether you are visiting wineries or going to a big tasting, don’t linger in the tasting line! Taste, maybe ask a question, but then move…you can always come back to taste more wines. One of the things that drives me and many “winos” crazy is people who just stand there for 10 or more minutes talking to the host or each other. That just backs up the line and gets people mad. So move it!

And as for tasting here in BC? Here is a short list of wineries to visit (or whose wines to taste) from our main regions:

1. Penticton/Naramata – La Frenz, Howling Bluff, Nichol, Marichel, Kettle Valley, Moraine
2. Similkameen – Eau Vivre, Orofino
3. Okanagan Falls – Blue Mountain
4. Southern Okanagan – Burrowing Owl, Nk Mip, Quinta Ferreira, Church & State, Moon Curser
5. Vancouver Island – Averill Creek, Rocky Creek, Vignetti Zanatta
6. Fraser Valley – Mt. Lehman, Vista d’Oro, Domaine de Chaberton

Enjoy the Fall!



Syrah/Shiraz…France, Australia, North America…what’s the difference?

September 14, 2016

As usual, I have been drinking a lot of Syrah lately, and continue to be amazed at how different the style of the wine can be depending on where it is made/what winemakers want to do with it.

Most people are probably familiar with the Syrah/Shiraz differences…same grape, but made in a different way. Syrah is typically full of peppery black cherries, touch of earth, a bit lean (but not unripe) and no oak at all. Shiraz, on the other hand, is often a fruit bomb – blackberry jam, so ripe it almost appears sweet, and the oak appears as vanilla.

Syrah is most famous in France (northern Rhone, to be specific, where it makes such famous wines as Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, Cornas and Cote Rotie). And Shiraz, of course, is almost synonymous with Australia.

But both styles are also made elsewhere, and can be dead ringers for those made in these homelands. Washington State, for example, makes some great Rhone style Syrahs, and I am very proud to say that BC does as well! Cassini Cellars, Moraine, Quinta Ferreira, Moon Curser…all are very nice. And the best is by Nichol Vineyards, which at 8 yrs old is almost indistinguishable from a Crozes Hermitage.

Interestingly, when made elsewhere, Syrah can taste almost totally different!

One of my favourites is California, where many producers balance the Northern Rhone style with additional ripeness (but not the jamminess of Shiraz). Ojai is a good example. But this style also appears elsewhere, including in my home province, where Orofino makes a stunningly ripe wine!

I have also found that when Syrah is made in Italy, Chile and South Africa, it often takes on much more earthiness, and herbalness (if oak is used to age the wine). These wines aren’t my style, but some people swear by them, particularly because the latter examples can be great bargains.

In general, I find that oak — at least overt oak — doesn’t add to my enjoyment of Syrah, adding too much of the Bordeaux style herbs and woodiness.

But that is just me! The important thing is to know the different styles of Syrah, find out what you like, and then follow your style…it may appear in a whole bunch of places you never thought of!



June 5, 2013

As you leave Penticton to visit the southern Okanagan wineries in Oliver and Osoyoos, most people take Highway 97 as that is the most direct route. However, a couple of years ago I tried out Highway 3a so I could go through the Similkameen Valley. And not only was it a beautiful drive, I found – for me – a new wine region, with some fabulous up and coming wineries! There are, literally, only a handful, so you can taste at almost all of them if you want. But if you are limited for time, check out three for sure that are making some of the best wine in BC.

1. Eau Vivre

What a revelation Eau Vivre was! Like all wineries in the Similkameen, it is small and the tasting room the front room of the proprietor’s house, but the wines are good to amazing (the latter being the Pinot Noir) and the prices ridiculously low for the quality.

For whites, Eau Vivre has Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer, and both are worth tasting. The latter, in particular, is nice, made in a classic Alsatian style. But it is the reds that I come for! They have a Bordeaux blend (called “Bhuddaful) and, the piece de la resistance, the Pinot Noir (which last year one a Lieutenant Governor’s Award). It is a beauty – a mix of California and Burgundy, with ripe but not jammy red cherry fruit and spice. I’m not sure of the aging potential yet, as there are only three vintages, but the ’08 is still drinking nicely. And only $19!!!

2. Orofino

If you are have time to stop at another Similkameen winery, definitely make it Orofino. It is bigger than Eau Vivre with a more elaborate tasting room, but some of the wines are just as good.

For whites, there is Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, with my favourite being the Riesling. It is made in a Alsatian style, full bodied and super ripe. Also, Orofino makes a vintage sparkling Muscat (called Moscato Frizzante) that is quite amazing! For reds, I like the Syrah and Pinot Noir the best. The former is French in style, the latter a cross between Burgundy and California.

3. Robin Ridge

This is the definition of an unobtrusive little winery! You turn into a driveway with vines on both sides, and pull up to a regular house. Inside is the tasting room, where you will find some solid – and good value – red and white wines.

For the whites, its Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay, with the former being my favourite – made in the Alsatian style, with nice lychee aromas and medium body. For reds there is Merlot, Pinot Noir and Gamay, and I particularly like the last two. The Pinot Noir, while not as outstanding as the Eau Vivre (and a couple of bucks more), is still a great buy. It is a Cali/Burgundy cross with ripe red cherries, earth and spice, and enough tannin to age and develop for a year or two.

So there you have it…a wine trip through the Similkameen Valley. Enjoy!