As a proud member of the Similkameen Independent Winegrowers, we are grateful to call the Similkameen Valley home to Vanessa Vineyard. By learning more about the valley we hope you’ll appreciate the region and its wine even more!
Similkameen Valley refers to the region in and around the basin of the Similkameen River, located in the Thompson-Okanagan region immediately north of the United States border. The valley is carved from the rugged, steep Cascade Mountains by the Similkameen River, which meanders through the heart of this almost 200 kilometer-long valley. The terroir is visible through the eroding rock of the mountainside and the ancient gravel beds, as well as the complex deposits of minerals and soils deposited by the glacial action.
As one of the original areas of British Columbia to be prospected, farmed, and ranched in the mid 19th century, Similkameen is a special historical region in the province. In fact, the valley is regarded as one of the two foundations of the province’s orcharding industry, dating back to an original 30 acre lot of fruit trees being farmed and harvested in the 1860s.
Characterized by its rugged terrain and intense summers, Similkameen has evolved into BC’s largest designated viticultural area and the Organic Farming Capital and Fruit Stand Capital of Canada. The region’s topography, climate, and soil types provide the perfect foundation for producing unique wine and have led Similkameen to be touted as the next great Canadian wine region.
With over a dozen wineries spanning 691 acres, there is so much to experience as you travel through the rustic region. The top planted grapes in the Similkameen Valley are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay.
As we move past Thanksgiving, our team continues to be thankful for the recent awards that our current vintages have received:
Vanessa Vineyard Meritage 2013 and Syrah 2013 both won GOLD at the 2017 Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition. The 2017 Awards result page on their website states:
“The wines of British Columbia found an appreciative audience with the judging panel, which awarded 16 gold medals to Canadian entries, four of those being unanimous double golds. Perhaps even more impressive was that 11 of those gold medals went to work with red wines, including six focused on Bordeaux varieties. Howard Soon, one of Canada’s most respected winemakers, heads up Vannessa Vineyard Estate Winery in the cooler Similkameen Valley west of the Okanagan Valley. His 2013 Meritage and 2013 Syrah each merited a gold medal.”
In the wine industry, October is often referred to as “The Month of Merlot”.
We are also honoured that our 2014 Merlot continues to receive some stellar reviews:
Beppi Crosariol, lifestyle columnist for the Globe and Mail wrote: “The 2014 Merlot is a blend of 85 percent Merlot and 15 percent Cabernet Franc, with a smooth, luscious texture carrying flavours of ripe plum, currant jam, cocoa, tangy cedar and toasty oak. Well structured.” 90 points.
The Merlot accolades continued with John Schreiner: “This is the first single variety Merlot from Vanessa. The wine shows good concentration, with aromas of blackcurrant, black cherry and spice, all of which is echoed in the dried fruit flavours on the rich palate.” 92 points.
To view more of our awards and accolades, please visit our website here.
Industry Night – July 27, 2017
Industry Night was a special invitation to friends in the wine industry and affiliated businesses. An opportunity for all of them to view our new facility, taste our wines and tour our spectacular property.
Media Launch – August 1, 2017
The official Media opening of the Similkameen Valley’s newest tasting room was held on August 1st. Guests had the pleasure of meeting owner Suki Sekhon and the rest of our team and enjoyed a tour of our unique property aptly described by Howard Soon as “a vineyard unlike any other in Canada, it’s the best site for growing premium vinifera reds”. That was followed by the ribbon cutting ceremony, and an afternoon where the guests enjoyed our exclusive wines. It was wonderful to receive great feedback from the attendees on the Tasting Room design and the flavour profiles of the wines.
Grand Opening – August 11, 2017
The grand opening party of Tasting Room was a friends and family event held on August 11th. The design of the Tasting Room is inspired by the region’s natural grandeur. Its elegance is in its simplicity, incorporating the natural mosaic of the land and integrating our distinct rocky terrain.
The guests tasted our exclusive wines, along with delectable local cuisine, and enjoyed lively music. Guests had the opportunity to meet the team and have the pleasure of having special bottles signed by owners Suki Sekhon and John Welson.
From the Vancouver Sun, a fantastic recipe for two by Steven Raichlen that they recommend with our 2016 Rosé. Steven Raichlen is widely regarded as America’s foremost authority on live fire cooking. The five-time James Beard award winner has a new cookbook out: Barbecue Sauces, Rubs and Marinades. As the Sun notes, the Project Smoke celebrity chef is in the Barbecue Hall of Fame, so you can trust him. This light meal employs a unique post-grilling marinade for super fresh flavour.
Wine columnist, Anthony Gismondi writes on the Vanessa Vineyard Rosé wine pairing… “A richer Tavel style gives this savoury, spicy, dark berry flavoured rosé all it needs accompany the beef and seasoning in a Thai salad.”
Thai Grilled Beef Salad Recipe:
- 1 lb (454 g) skirt steak
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 tbsp (60 mL) canola oil
- Bibb lettuce
- English cucumber
- Cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh mint leaves
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) Thai or regular basil leaves
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) cilantro leaves
- 1 jalapeno, minced
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped peanuts
Preheat grill on high. Season beef with salt and pepper. Drizzle with oil. Brush grill with oil and grill steak until cooked to taste, 3 or 4 minutes a side. Rest meat 1 minute. Thinly slice and toss with two thirds of the Thai Flavour After Marinade. Arrange lettuce, sliced cucumbers and halved cherry tomatoes on a platter. Top with beef, herbs and peanuts. Serve with remainder of marinade.
Thai Flavour After Marinade
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2-inch (5 cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 stalk lemon grass, peeled and minced
- 2 tbsp (60 mL) cilantro root, washed and minced (optional)
- 5 tbsp (75 mL) sugar
- 1 tsp (5 mL) black pepper
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) fish sauce
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) lime juice
In a bowl, combine garlic, ginger, lemon grass and cilantro. Sprinkle with sugar and mash. Add fish sauce and lime juice and set aside.
It’s the first day of summer and we’re celebrating all things barbecued. We’d like to share a classic recipe that is fantastic with our Meritage. This dish is courtesy of one of our favourite steakhouses, Gotham. Our full-bodied Cabernet based blend pairs beautifully with the rich and meaty flavours of this well grilled steak.
lots of butter
cracked black pepper
good quality steaks at least 2″ thick
- Turn bbq on high, put cast iron skillet on grill, close lid and leave it for fifteen minutes. preheat oven to 500.
- Sprinkle steaks with salt and pepper, then brush with canola oil.
- Scoop pad of butter in pan and let melt, place steak in pan and add more butter. (Expect a great deal of smoke, (this is why you are outside!)
- Add more butter and flip steak, add more butter and leave for a minute, do not let butter dry up.
- Remove steak and allow it to rest on the cooling rack
- Just before serving dinner place all the steaks on the rack in the oven on a cookie sheet and leave it for 1 1/2 minutes, serve.
We’re honoured that our grapes are so well received by the critics. With 75 acres planted, we’re not able to use all the fruit for our own winery and sell some to a very select few local wineries. Their single vineyard Vanessa wines are achieving incredible acclaim. This past spring, renowned British wine critic Jamie Goode visited BC for the Vancouver International Wine Festival and had the chance to taste a range of local wines and wrote of the Sandhill Vanessa Vineyard Syrah 2013,
“Sweet and textured with ripe black cherry and berry fruits with some lovely olive and pepper notes. Some dried herbs and spice, with a savoury, mineral intensity to this wine. Warm but with some peppery notes of cool climate. Lovely stuff. 93/100”
Similarly, renowned Canadian wine author John Schreiner recently wrote,
“Sandhill now sources some premium reds from Vanessa Vineyards in the Similkameen. This 100-acre vineyard has relatively young vines but it holds the promise of high quality wines as well. Certainly, the flavour profile differs from Phantom Creek. That simply underlines the Sandhill philosophy of making single vineyard wines that display the terroir and individuality of each and every vineyard…
Sandhill Small Lots One 2016 Vanessa Vineyard (barrel sample). This wine is a co-fermented blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Early in its aging process, this is a promising successor to the previous succession of Phantom Creek wines. The profile seems brighter, with minty and floral aromas and with brambly flavours. 90-92.”
Kudos to Howard Soon, winemaker Sandhill Wines for his repeated honours with our fruit!
We are proud to support the Rick Hansen Foundation in their gala charity fundraiser this weekend. Vanessa Vineyard is a sponsor of An Evening with Rick Hansen & Friends at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia this Friday June 2. We will be pouring our wines in their International Wine Tasting Room to a sold out room of 250 guests. The exclusive evening with Rick Hansen is in celebration of the 30th Anniversary of his Man In Motion World Tour and in support of the Rick Hansen Foundation. Festivities include a cocktail reception, sensational entertainment and an opportunity to bid on unique and extraordinary experiences at their live auction. Some of the live auction highlights include:
- 2018 Super Bowl Package for Two
- 60th Anniversary Grammy’s In New York City Package For Two
- London, England, NFL Football and Premier League Football Package for Two
- 2017 NFL Mexico City Trip for Two
- Hollywood Movie With A Speaking Role In The Voyage Of Doctor Dolittle Starring Robert Downey Jr.
- New York City Theatre And Concert Package For Two
- Seattle Seahawks VIP Game Experience And Dinner For Eight
Proceeds will help advance the Foundation’s mission of access and inclusion for people with disabilities.
We started over a decade ago on the principle of growing and selling high-quality red wine grapes that reflect its terroir. We’ve achieved that goal and are now building a new tasting room in the beautiful Similikameen Valley to showcase our wines from one of the most unique vineyards in Canada, and accordingly are hiring!
We’re seeking a Tasting Room Manager commencing May 1, 2017. We’re looking for a passionate person with hospitality management experience. Some benefits to the position besides a good salary and fantastic new tasting room: promote “absolutely stunning” 95+ points wine, work with fun/smart people, plus as Wine Enthusiast Magazine noted — we’re situated in “the next great Canadian wine region” — only 20 minutes from Osoyoos, 15 minutes from Keremeos. For the full job description please contact Sandeep Sangha.
The world’s best wine growing appellations have relatively poor, inhospitable soils, which while not ideal for most types of agriculture, are perfect for growing vinifera grapes. One of the most important factors in the terroir of a vineyard is the dirt, or should we say rocks? At the heart of our vineyard, it is mostly rocky/stony soil. Due to the quantity of rocks on the site, our vineyard development was initially challenging and actually broke our industrial-sized rock crusher! Although at first viewed as burdensome, the rocks have became a key asset for the soils.
Vineyard soils have a major influence on wine character and taste, hence the French expression, goût de terroir or “taste of the earth”. Grapevine roots are remarkable, they can penetrate dozens of feet into soil in their search for water and nutrients, and they continue to grow throughout the vines’ lives. This means that the physical properties of the soil are important and its minerality fundamental to growing premium grapes.
Gravel soils allow for superior drainage, which is paramount to the vines and grapes. Winemakers are so convinced of this, some have gone to extremes to study the differences. Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon fame, for example conducted a wacky experiment adding rocks directly to wine to investigate their influence on flavour, which he believes added, “far more complexity and greater persistence on the palate”. UK wine writer Jamie Goode explores this in depth in his book, The Science of Wine from Vine to Glass.
Although we do not literally add rocks to our wine, the abundant rocks in our soil at Vanessa beneficially act to stress the vines. They also reflect sunshine to the leaves and berries, and allow the day heat to be harnessed and imparted throughout the cooler nights, thereby aiding in the ripening process. Additionally, our gentle sloping hillside and southwest exposure are optimal for the vines as they directly benefit from the afternoon sun, which contributes to the lengthening of the growing season and the production of intensely ripe fruit. With these factors the fruit is able to capture the minerality of the soils on which it grows that are unique to the land, and allows Vanessa Vineyard to produce fruit of the highest quality, with flavours and minerality that are distinctive.
It is this delightful sensation of minerality that is so prized among many wine enthusiasts and with Valentine’s approaching, we love that we have a stony heart…
Véraison, the French viticulture term for the change of colour of the grapes, signifies an exciting time in the vineyard — the onset of ripening. Veraison represents the transition from berry growth to berry ripening, and many changes in berry development occur. In addition to the transition in colour from green to purple, throughout the process they also increase in volume, weight, sugar content and softness. After veraison, the berries are pliable, fruit acidity decreases and sweetness accumulates.
We saw veraison start in our Vanessa vineyard last month. Later in the ripening process flavour maturity will also take place with the formation of flavour and aroma compounds — or “phenolic ripeness”. (Phenols are complex molecules, including tannins, in the grape skins that can contribute bitter flavours. As grapes ripen, they change from green and bitter to pleasantly astringent, to soft and ripe-tasting.) The whole process takes about six weeks with the balance between sugar, acid, and flavour compounds ultimately determining the pick date.
The interval from veraison to harvest is naturally different for each varietal, and is primarily dependent on heat accumulation and crop size. Merlot for example takes fewer heat units to ripen than Cabernet Sauvignon. Knowing the ideal time to harvest begins with tasting. Our winemaker is looking for specific flavours in each variety. In addition to tasting the grapes, we measure sugar levels, pH and acidity to also help us determine when our fruit is ready to be picked.
So far for 2016, the vintage is looking great and we are excited for harvest later this fall. Renowned local Master of Wine Rhys Pender writes about the vintage:
“It was looking like 2016 might be one of those very hot (too hot) vintages as the early budbreak and then hot temperatures through April, May and most of June had grapes rushing towards ripeness. The growing degree days were ahead of any other year on record. Mother Nature then stepped in and July ended up being the fourth coolest in Summerland and the third coolest in Osoyoos since 1998. This welcome cool weather and some unseasonal rainfall really put the brakes on the ripening and probably turned the vintage from a potentially dangerously hot one to an almost ideal one. The grapes’ flavour complexity seems to develop more if the growing season is stretched out a bit longer, and the cool July helped to do just that. August saw temperatures back to their normal levels and ripening resumed at a steadier pace. Although temperatures cooled down in early September and there were a few showers and some worried farmers, things have picked up again and the forecast for the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys is sun and mid-to-high 20s for the next 10 days at least. That will make the vintage shape up very nicely indeed…” Read more of Rhys’s comments on the Wine Align website.