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.
Vanessa Vineyard Opens Highly Anticipated New Tasting Room in Similkameen Valley
350th Winery to Open in British Columbia
CAWSTON, BC – AUGUST 1, 2017: Vanessa Vineyard is thrilled to announce the opening of their new tasting room in the ruggedly beautiful Similkameen Valley. Inspired by the region’s natural grandeur, Vanessa Vineyard’s tasting room is elegant in its simplicity, incorporating the unique local terrain. A burgeoning appellation, the Similkameen Valley is touted as “the next great Canadian wine region.”
In celebration of Vanessa Vineyard’s opening, a ribbon cutting is scheduled from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm today with local dignitaries including MLA Linda Larson and MP Dan Albas; and a public grand opening party is planned for August 11th from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm.
“Over one million tourists will visit British Columbia wineries this year with BC wine tourism generating $246 million in revenue for the economy,” said Miles Prodan, President and CEO of the BC Wine Institute. “What’s impressive about these numbers is that most BC wineries and grapegrowers are independent, family-owned farmers like Vanessa Vineyard,” adds Prodan. “It’s exciting to see these small businesses grow and expand to offer visitors a farm-to-glass experience that showcases the wines of the Similkameen Valley.”
Vanessa Vineyard, comprising 75 acres of extremely rocky terrain, is situated on a hillside overlooking the Similkameen Valley. Planted in 2006 under the guidance of renowned viticulturists Robert Goltz and Richard Cleave, the quantity of rocks on the site initially made vineyard development exceedingly challenging. The rocks, however, are a key asset to the property’s unique terroir, allowing day heat to be harnessed and imparted throughout the cooler nights enabling the fruit to produce flavours and minerality that are truly distinctive. In 2012 the owners Suki Sekhon and John Welson transitioned from grape growers to vintners. After ensuring the fruit was of superior quality, they began crafting small quantities of fine red wine. The new tasting room is a short 19 minute drive from Osoyoos and is located at 1090 Highway 3, Cawston, BC. Daily summer hours are 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.
“Despite our literal very rocky start a decade ago in planting the land, we’re thrilled with the reception our grapes and wines received right out of the gate. From the beginning Sandhill’s Vanessa Vineyard wines, followed by our own Vanessa Vineyard wines have shown remarkably well,” said Suki Sekhon, co-owner Vanessa Vineyard. “This critical acclaim from competitions and critics, gave us the confidence to proceed with building a tasting room inspired by our strikingly beautiful Valley”.
John Welson co-owner, Vanessa Vineyard remarks, “to produce Vanessa Vineyard wines, we start with 100% estate grown grapes that reflect the unique terroir of our vineyard and then use traditional wine making techniques and blends to produce wines of original character.”
Suggested tweet: New @VanessaVnyrd Opens ‘Modern Rustic’ Tasting Room in burgeoning #Similkameen Valley #wine region, 350th BC winery http://ow.ly/thZI30e1khT
High Resolution images available upon request.
Carved from stone, fuelled by sun, a vineyard like no other. Vanessa Vineyard is situated high on a hillside overlooking the Similkameen Valley with grapes cultivated on sloping, well-drained 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. www.vanessavineyard.com
920-475 West Georgia Street | Vancouver, BC | V6B 4M9
C: +1 604-808- 6655
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.
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.
“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’re thrilled to be part of a hidden culinary and wine gem. In honour of Canada’s National Tourism Week what better time than to start planning your trip to the Similkameen? enRoute Magazine described our area as “one of the world’s 5 best wine regions you’ve never heard of” and Vines Magazine named our Valley “one of the 6 most underrated wine regions in the world.”
Recently, several publications have focused on our “obscure” region, such as SIP Northwest out of Portland which noted, “Yet the striking slopes that surround the valley almost defy belief, and the best wines achieve a degree of complexity that demands they be taken seriously.”
And Vancity Buzz suggested a hike in Cathedral Provincial Park, “Before making your way back home, visit this beautiful green space south of Keremeos. You’ll have the chance to take short or long hikes in areas filled with craggy peaks and stunning azure-coloured lakes.”
Similarly, Naramata’s talented and engaging Jennifer Cockrall-King has just published the ultimate self-guided food lovers’ tour of the Okanagan and Similkameen. Discover our local edible delights in this curated overview of more than 125 artisans, with 15 recommendations for the Similkameen, in “Food Artisans of the Okanagan: Your Guide to the Best Locally Crafted Fare“. One of our faves — Farmersdotter Organics in Cawston — quite possibly the most delicious homemade breads you’ll ever taste.
Heralded as the fruit stand capital of Canada and the organic capital of Canada, Keremeos and Cawston respectively, are bursting with life from the spring through the fall. Come for a visit, stay in the charming nearby lakeside community of Osoyoos and enjoy the bounty of this special little slice of terroir. (Although we do not have a tasting room open yet at Vanessa Vineyard. You can still enjoy our wines here. Our Syrah and Meritage are available at Twin Lakes Golf Resort and Local Lounge + Grille.)
Starstruck! Vanessa Vineyard Debuts at Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver With The First Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Ceremony in Canada
VANCOUVER, BC – APRIL 13, 2016: Vanessa Vineyard is honoured to debut at Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver for the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star dinner. The winery’s 2012 Syrah was chosen as the entrée wine pairing by Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver for the prestigious Forbes Travel Guide Awards Ceremony this evening, the first time it has been held outside the USA in its 58-year history.
Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver was selected by Forbes to host the annual gala celebrating the worldwide recipients of the prestigious Forbes Five-Star Hotel Rating, of which Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver is one. The evening will be attended by the 250 General Managers of each Forbes 5-Star property from around the world. It is the first time the event has been held internationally, and is a rare opportunity to showcase British Columbia to the world with a Pacific Northwest inspired evening.
Vanessa Vineyard is situated on a hillside overlooking the Similkameen Valley, comprising 75 acres of extremely rocky terrain. Planted in 2006 under the guidance of renowned viticulturists Robert Goltz and Richard Cleave, the quantity of rocks on the site initially made vineyard development exceedingly challenging. The rocks, however, are a key asset to the property’s unique terroir, allowing day heat to be harnessed and imparted throughout the cooler nights enabling the fruit to produce flavours and minerality that are truly distinctive. In 2012 the owners Suki Sekhon and John Welson transitioned from grape growers to vintners. After ensuring the fruit was of superior quality, they began crafting small quantities of fine wine for their two reds, a premium Syrah and Meritage.
The Vanessa Vineyard 2012 Syrah is a full-bodied wine with well-integrated tannins, superior structure and concentrated flavours. Black fruits, leather, white pepper, and chocolate notes fill the mouth layered over silky tannins. A small percentage of Viognier was co-fermented with the Syrah in the traditional northern Rhone style. Produced in a small lot of 200 cases, the 2012 vintage retails for $33.83 and is sold out. The 2013 vintage will be released in May and available at vanessavineyard.com, as well as select fine dining establishments in Vancouver and the Okanagan.
“We are very excited to be showcasing the Vanessa Vineyard Syrah as we host the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Awards Gala. As the Similkameen & Okanagan valleys continue to gain notoriety internationally, specifically for Syrah, we felt that Vanessa was a benchmark for B.C. in terms of its elegant styling via its Rhone Valley inspiration, without sacrificing the opulence and richness that the great reds from 2012 show. It was the perfect selection to present B.C. wine at its best for this highly influential global hospitality celebration,” said Steven Lane, Sommelier, Yew Seafood + Bar, Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver.
“A decade ago when we first started planting, we were overwhelmed by the sheer amount of rocks on the property, which covered the majority of our arable land. This has however, proven to be a phenomenal and unique attribute in the Valley with the vineyard transcending our expectations on its ability to produce quality fruit and wine,” said Suki Sekhon, co-owner Vanessa Vineyard. “We were honoured when Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver approached us to provide the red wine for their Forbes Five-Star Gala. Four Seasons extraordinary level of excellence is truly worthy of the Forbes Five-Star rating and is a perfect pairing with Vanessa.”