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Grape Grower & Vintner Success

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Howard Soon in barrel room

Howard Soon in barrel room

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!

A Taste of Similkameen Elegance

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Jamie Goode - Cawston“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!

Judgment of Geyserville

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Judgment of Geyserville 2016We 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!

How to Grill a Moose

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steaks-with-mushroom-sauceIt’s Victoria Day weekend and officially barbeque season! What could be more Canadian than grilled moose steaks?

Our co-owner John Welson has shared his recipe for how to grill a moose, which he pairs with the Vanessa Syrah.  This full-bodied and earthy red is a delightful match to the strong flavoured game and mushroom elements of the meal.

Originally published in Western Living Magazine, this meat lover’s dish is fantastic with a porcini sauce drizzled over the grilled steak. His chef’s tip – keep in mind that wild game is low in fat and easy to overcook; thus he recommends not to cook beyond medium-rare.

NOTE: if you don’t have a hunter in the family, the moose can be substituted with venison (perhaps a bit easier to find) or traditional beef steaks. If desired, you can also replace the porcini with portobello mushrooms.

Serves: 4

Wine Marinade
2 cups Vanessa Vineyard Syrah
1/4 cup olive oil
2 carrots chopped
1 onion chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup chopped parsley
freshly ground black pepper
1 sprig fresh rosemary, crushed and chopped
2 large or 4 small moose or venison steaks (a tbone or porterhouse cut is best)
olive oile

Simmer wine for 10 minutes over low heat to cook off alcohol; allow to cool.
Mix all ingredients in stainless steel, add steaks and cover bowl; marinate overnight in fridge.
Remove steaks, preserving marinade. Pat steaks dry and brush with olive oil. Grill over hot coals, turning only once. Allow meat to rest on a warm plate for 10 minutues before serving.

Porcini Sauce
1 cup boiling water
2 cups dried porcini
reserved wine marinade
1/4 cup demi-glace
2 tbsp flour
1-2 tbsp soft butter

Soak dried porcini in boiling water for 15-20 minutes; drain and reserve liquid. Coarsely chop porcini and set aside. Reduce reserved marinade by half in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add porcini soaking liquid and reduce again by half. Add porcini, stir in demi-glace and simmer for 5 minutes. (Note: you can make your own demi-glace by cooking 1 cup of good quality beef stock in a saucepan over medium heat until it reduces to 1/4 cup.) In a separate pan, toast flour over medium high heat until golden, tossing so it won’t burn, about 2 minutes. Put toasted flour into a small bowl and work in butter to make a paste or roux. Slowly add paste to sauce until it thickens, stirring constantly. Serve over grilled steaks.

Chat with Brian Parker of Gotham Steakhouse

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Gotham Steakhouse, located at 615 Seymour Street in Vancouver, is one of the city’s premier steakhouses. The beautiful art deco-inspire space boasts an extensive wine list that includes our very own Vanessa Vineyard 2012 Syrah. We recently had the chance to sit down with Gotham manager, Brian Parker, to talk all things wine and steak.

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Wine Tasting – You’re Doing It Wrong

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You may be great at drinking wine – but do you know how to taste it? Here are the top tips we’ve found on how to properly taste wine and impress your friends in the process.

So you’ve read our blog post on serving temperature, decanting and glass choice HERE. And you’ve read all about aerating your wine in our blog post HERE. So now you’re ready to taste it! Start by making sure you’re out of the way of other odours and that you’ve cleansed your palette – you want to be able to concentrate on the wine at hand.Read More

Aeration – When, Why and How?

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Aeration is often touted as a ‘must-do’ for wine enthusiasts looking to get the most out of their wine – but what is it really all about?

Aeration is the process of letting a wine ‘breath’. When you pour wine, the wine is suddenly exposed to oxygen. The level of oxidation that occurs can play a role in how the wine actually tastes – it allows the wine’s aromas to open up and the flavour profile to soften and improve. The difference in aroma and taste will vary with types of wine, age of the vintage, and level of tannins. Reds usually require more aeration than whites, older more than young, and wine with higher tannins more than those with fewer tannins. The more dense and concentrated a wine is, the more it will benefit from aeration.Read More

What is a Syrah?

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Have you ever wondered what a Syrah wine is? Or whether it bears any similarity to a Shiraz or a Petite Sirah? Let us walk you through a brief history of Syrah so you can become a well-versed wine enthusiast.

Syrah is one of the darkest red wines you can find today. It is full-bodied and has a medium to high level of tannins, depending on the terroir it is grown in. While flavours vary in Syrah wines, those that are often noted include dark berries, pepper, chocolate and espresso. In our Vanessa Vineyard 2012 Syrah, notes of black fruits, leather, white pepper, and chocolate fill the mouth over silky tannins.Read More

Wine 101: Learn the Basics, Look like a Pro

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Whatever the occasion, impress your guests by following these basic tips for a perfectly served wine. It will make you look and feel like the ultimate host.

Have you ever been underwhelmed by a well-rated wine? Odds are that one of the following steps was missed by the server. Many factors go in to how a wine tastes – from the serving temperature to the type of wine glass you use. Here is a brief overview of tips, from the Wine Spectator, to help you bring out your inner sommelier.Read More

Our Rocky Roots

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So what does it really mean for our wines to be ‘true to the heritage of its terroir’?

The ‘terroir’ refers to the natural environment that a wine is produced in. This includes the soil condition, topography of the land and the local climate. Each of these factors play a role in creating a unique taste and flavour for that particular wine.

Vanessa Vineyard is fortunate to be located in the beautiful and expansive Similkameen Valley in the Thompson-Okanagan region, just north of the US border. With 691 acres planted, comprised of several award-winning vineyards, the valley has a unique terroir that is very well suited to growing grapes. The summers are hot, with low rainfall, low humidity and strong afternoon winds, which reduces the chance of crops being lost to disease or pests.

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