During the first weekend of June the three couples who make up our monthly wine club spent a few days touring some of BC’s greatest wine regions together. With six people plus a seven-month-old baby we found ourselves renting the largest SUV available to haul ourselves and all our gear (much of it baby-related) to the Interior and back. Naturally we also needed to ensure room for at least a few bottles... or cases of wine. With everyone and everything strapped in we set out early on a Friday morning with the beautiful Similkameen Valley in our sights via the southern route to the Okanagan. Before detailing the exciting Similkameen wineries we visited on our way to Osoyoos I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a picture summarizing our pit stop in Hope.
After a couple more pit stops to keep everyone’s favourite youthful soldier-of-fortune - and the rest of us – refreshed, we finally entered the lush green hills of the Similkameen Valley and began seeing our first vineyards. Our first visit was at the winery and vineyards of Lawrence and Sharon Herder on the upper bench of Keremeos. The Herders demonstrated their generous hospitality by sampling most of their wines, including one of the consistently best value Meritage reds in BC. What captured our hearts the most was the rich and complex small lot Estate Pinot Noir (only 68 cases produced), which quickly made for the first purchase of the trip for all of us.
Lawrence graciously took us on a quick tour of the winery and vineyards, and shared a couple of tank samples, including a very promising Cabernet Sauvignon destined for an upcoming vintage of theJosephine blend. We then headed outside for a few swings on the entertaining chipping green while admiring the view across the valley. Having enjoyed the company and the supremely relaxing venue so much it pained us to leave, but fortunately we had some delicious liquid mementos with which to begin filling the car.
With contentment rapidly kicking in we drove down the road to Orofino Winery, a favourite spot that we have visited more times than any other in fact! The night before we left for the trip, I had the chance to speak with owner and winemaker John Weber at Bel Café during the release party for his wine collaboration with Hawksworth Restaurant. John and his wife Virginia were headed to Vancouver Island for the weekend, but I was pleased to be introduced to Assistant Winemaker Aaron Godard, who assured me he’d be back at the winery and ready to open the tasting room by lunchtime the next day.
As some of us enjoyed the company of the Weber's dog Cooper we simultaneously took in the new releases such as the 2010 Red Bridge Merlot and Scout Vineyard Syrah, plus the new 2011 whites - Riesling and Pinot Gris. I was very happy to pick up both Syrah and Merlot, adding a fourth vintage to my vertical of Red Bridge. Last year Orofino’s first vintage of Syrah won the top prize at the Canadian Culinary Championships, so adding the delicious follow-up to my collection was an easy decision. I was also extremely lucky to pick up one of the very last bottles of 2010 Pinot Noir - now sold out - which comes from a mix of multiple clones out of the estate vineyard. Last but not least, the six of us added a half-case of the new Moscato Frizzante to our order, having enjoyed it immensely at our recent wine club dinner. Without delay, another chilled bottle of Frizzante was opened for immediate consumption with our picnic lunch. We dined in the sunshine behind the wine shop while trying - and failing - to exhaust Cooper with a spirited game of fetch. It was another delightful first day experience that left us wishing we could stay and admire the scenery for hours.
With the afternoon already maturing we regretfully only had time for one more stop in the wonderful Similkameen Valley before crossing the last line of hills on the way to Osoyoos. It didn’t take much convincing on my part to guide us to Seven Stones Winery south of Cawston. Unfortunately owner George Hanson was out of town but we still enjoyed samples of his new releases, and the ladies all picked out beautiful jewellery for purchase from the tasting room. I was particularly pleased to have arrived with the proper timing to acquire a bottle of the recently released 2010 Syrah (only 53 cases made) and the 2009 Speaking Rock Cabernet Sauvignon, an exceptional, very cellar-worthy wine according to John Schreiner. Some day my timing will be fortunate enough to get a bottle of George’s reserve Meritage, “The Legend”, or his Late Harvest Merlot, both of which were sold out by the time of our visit.
Upon arriving in Osoyoos we took a short detour before checking in to our suite at Watermark Beach Resort, with a hop across to the other side of the lake for a visit to Moon Curser. Proprietor Chris Tolley joined us in the tasting room with news that his wife Beata - with whom I’d been corresponding on Twitter - had just been hit in the eye with a ball during family game-play, and so had to give her regrets! Chris walked us through the extensive list of newly released wines, most of which I already had my eyes set on for the cellar. New to Moon Curser this year are single varietal Petit Verdot and Malbec, both produced in small quantities of 200 cases or less, just like the delicious Tempranillo. John Schreiner reviewed all the new releases in detail shortly after our return, with particular praise for the Viognier, Afraid of the Dark white blend, and Petit Verdot, although in his opinion all nine are gold-medal calibre wines. I didn’t hesitate to pick up a mixed six-pack of 2010 reds for my collection, including Border Vines, Dead of Night (Syrah/Tannat), Malbec, Petit Verdot, Syrah, and Tempranillo.
We managed a short photo session in the Moon Curser vineyards (forgive me for yet another baby picture; and she’s not even mine!) before wishing Beata well and leaving to check in to Watermark. Our spectacular three bedroom penthouse suite gave us plenty of room to unpack and admire our rapidly growing collection of wines as everyone freshened up for dinner at Tinhorn Creek’s Miradoro Restaurant. The gorgeous view across to the Black Sage Bench from Miradoro’s dining room, along with a bottle of Oldfield Series 2Bench Rosé to start the meal put us all in great spirits. A tasty dinner paired with plenty more Tinhorn Creek favourites - including a finale of delicious Kerner Icewine - left us all looking forward to the next day of wine touring after a good night’s sleep, staring with a return to Tinhorn Creek!