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.
Vanessa Vineyard is proud to announce Howard Soon as our Master Winemaker. A pioneer in the BC wine industry, he has been awarded with innumerable accolades and established many firsts in the province, including the first to release a series of single vineyard designated wines.
“I’ve worked with Vanessa Vineyard grapes since its founding, and believe it is unlike any other vineyard due to the site’s unique topography, climatic conditions, and soil types – the perfect combination for making truly distinctive wine. When we first started getting fruit from Vanessa for Sandhill Wines we saw the potential, and when I tried our first vintage of Cabernet Franc I was blown away.” said Howard Soon, Master Winemaker. “I’m excited to go back to the workbench, it will be refreshing to be hands-on with these small productions. I believe this special terroir is the best site for growing premium reds in Canada.”
Vanessa Vineyard is situated high on a hillside overlooking the Similkameen Valley with red grapes cultivated on sloping terrain. The vines grow in rows of rock, absorbing the day heat and imparting that warmth during the cooler nights, thus bestowing complex flavours and minerality that are truly distinctive. A burgeoning appellation, the Similkameen Valley is touted as “the next great Canadian wine region.”
Viticulturist Robert Goltz comments, “I’ve been planting vines in the Okanagan for over 40 years and in the Similkameen since the NAFTA grape pullout. From the start, we recognized the Vanessa site was ideal for premium reds, there is just so much sun exposure in the summer and the rocks were both a huge problem and an advantage.”
“Over the past decade we’ve worked closely with Howard. He helps growers and everyone else excel at their craft in the expertise he provides. He is unique among winemakers in giving us such incredibly detailed feedback on exactly what he’s looking for on the palate so that we can make changes in the vineyard to meet the precise flavour profile he’s trying to achieve in the fruit. Now that he’s with Vanessa, he will have even more freedom to continue this,” Goltz said.
“We aspire to produce the best red wines in the country and are proud to have a winemaker of Soon’s expertise on our journey. With this premier site and an extraordinary winemaking and viticulture team, we can craft profound wines that reflect this truly distinctive vineyard,” said Suki Sekhon, co-founder Vanessa Vineyard.
A living legend, for over three decades Howard Soon has been on the leading edge of winemaking innovation. Originally a brewmaster, a taste for more creativity saw him join the fledgling BC wine industry in 1980. Amongst numerous other milestones, Howard was the first winemaker in the province to receive a Gold Medal at the Chardonnay du Monde in France; release a series of single vineyard designated wines; and sweep the Canadian Wine Awards receiving Red Wine of the Year, White Wine of the Year and Winery of the Year — the only winery to ever win all three. Most recently, Soon was recognized at the 2015 Vancouver International Wine Festival Celebrating Excellence Awards with the highly coveted Spirited Industry Professional. His collaborative relationships with growers led him to Vanessa Vineyard in 2006, where working with their viticulture team, he oversaw the planting of their vineyard. He subsequently purchased the vast majority of their grapes for his highly-acclaimed Sandhill Vanessa Vineyard wines. In 2017 Howard “retired” after 37 years with one of Canada’s largest wine companies to focus on truly small lot winemaking as Master Winemaker for Vanessa Vineyard.
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.