“It may be the best wine appellation you’ve driven through but have yet to visit…” Anthony Gismondi the wine writer for the Vancouver Sun, commented earlier this month on the elegant wines of the Similkameen. He along with many other prominent wine writers across the globe have recently had our pristine Valley in their sights.
A similar perspective was reflected across the pond, “The Similkameen Valley is a peaceful yet dramatic place. Running parallel to the Okanagan, it lacks the lakes, but makes up scenery wise by being hemmed in moodily by mountains. The valley has an almost alpine feel, and I reckon this is one of the most exciting viticultural areas in Canada. As yet, however, its potential is somewhat untapped…” Wow! Jamie Goode, renown British wine critic recently visited the Similkameen and wrote about it’s huge potential. Noting, the uniqueness of our region which due to the lack of a lake effect tends to have a more extreme climate than the Okanagan. The results are larger diurnal temperature swings and frequent strong winds. The benefits of this are low disease pressure and preservation of acidity. He comments, “This is a huge advantage, because we have here a combination of what looks like quite a warm climate (in terms of growing degree days it’s the same as Australia’s Yarra Valley), with the ability to make wines that are fresh with good acidity.” Jamie concludes, “There aren’t a lot of vines here in the Similkameen – just 600 acres or so – but there’s a lot of potentially fine vineyard land here that’s not planted yet. A region to watch.”
In La Belle Province, Montreal Gazette’s wine critic Bill Zacharkiw had a similar take on the Valley’s terroir, “Another really interesting region is the Similkameen. Just to the west of the Okanagan, it has a completely different feel to the Okanagan. The wines tend to be crisper, more European, and there is very much a “vigneron culture.” You can find nearly every grape there and it seems every winery does something really well. Orofino’s gamay, Little Farm’s riesling, Vanessa Vineyard’s syrah, Courcelette’s Chasselas-based blend, Clos du Soleil’s white Bordeaux-styled — the list is long. The Similkameen is beautiful and the wines are truly worth investigating.”
We’re excited for what the future holds for our Valley. Stay tuned for more exciting developments for Vanessa (and no doubt in the Valley as a whole) in the coming year!
We were surprised and delighted to see our 2012 Syrah included in a blind tasting this spring by a small, exclusive group of wine critics in California. The judges meet annually in the quaint Sonoma wine community of Geyserville for the “Judgment of Geyserville”. Each year they select a theme, then select three examples each from various regions across North America.
This year, the theme they chose for their tasting was cool-climate Syrah, and the judges found superb examples from up and down the West Coast (California, Oregon, Washington State and BC).
They noted one of the most difficult tasks of this particular judging was defining what “cool climate” means. The participants decided that in this case, cool-climate Syrahs come from regions that have somewhat cooler and longer growing seasons but are still capable of reliably ripening Syrah grapes each vintage. The goal was to find examples of Syrah that were not big, rich and overripe. Rather, they hoped to taste Syrahs that showed complexity that goes well beyond the jammy, ripe flavours often found from inexpensive Aussie Shirazes or California Syrahs — i.e. one reason Syrahs grown in France’s northern Rhône Valley are so great is the cooler climate — and the complexity of aromas and flavours that follows.
The participants consisted of :
- Mike Dunne – longtime wine columnist for The Sacramento Bee and one of the top wine judges in California.
- Ellen Landis, master of wine, former Sommelier for the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay California, and one of the top professional wine judges in the United States, wine blogger at Ellen On Wine
- Eric Degerman, president and CEO of Great Northwest Wine, is co-founder of Wine Press Northwest magazine and a regular judge across western North America
- Andy Perdue, editor and publisher of Great Northwest Wine, is the wine columnist for The Seattle Times
- Ron Washam – former Sommelier of the Year by the Southern California Restaurant Writers’ Association, a regular wine judge for Bay area competitions, and writes the HoseMaster of Wine blog
We have summarized their interesting results (see the blog links above for the full articles), and we are thrilled that our inaugural 2012 Syrah was honoured with a silver (one of the 12 medalists). They describe the Vanessa Vineyard Syrah as:
“It is rare to find wines from the remote Similkameen Valley, which is west of the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia’s Interior region. This is a classic cool-climate Syrah with aromas of wild mushroom risotto, dried herbs, jasmine and vanilla bean. On the palate, flavors of Marionberry and dusty black cherry are backed by juicy, fine-grained tannins. This will be fascinating to taste again in another half-decade.”
We look forward to many more “judgments” in the coming months and years!