by Treve Ring | Boutique is almost too big to describe Little Farm, a family owned and operated winery in the striking Similkameen Valley. Unmarked by road signage, down a quiet road off the Crowsnest Highway in Cawston, you’ll come across four acres of organic vineyards, abutted by steep, rocky slopes and marked by the sole mulberry tree in the middle of the riesling block. A child’s chalkboard sign signals when their hand-built winery/tasting room/storage facility is open, a structure recently constructed next to their century-old farmhouse.
Rhys Pender MW works the estate vineyard while his wife Alishan Driediger makes the wines. They do everything themselves — sustainably, small-scale, without compromise but with minimal manipulation and intervention. Their first vintage in 2011 was more than some large wineries spill in a harvest – just 56 cases. The quantity has fluctuated with each vintage since, but the quality remains paramount. They produce only three wines: Riesling, Rosé, and this characterful, singular Chardonnay.
The wine opens with an intriguing wild herb and stone, earthy lees and floral thistles. A textured mid-palate hints to the low yields, whole cluster press and partial wild ferment that Alishan utilized, while the slicing, savoury minerality communicates the chalky, mineral-rich soils. Pressed apple, lees, hazelnuts and citrus unite through the lingering finish. Only 68 cases of the 2013 Chardonnay were produced, so scoop it if you spy it so you can glean a sense of their Similkameen. I asked Driediger to share its Message In A Bottle…
Little Farm Winery Chardonnay 2013 | Similkameen Valley, BC | $30 +841783
Straight up – why did you make this wine? I love Chardonnay! In all its incarnations. And we’ve been really interested in Chards that come from soils that are chalky and calcium carbonate-rich because we also have a high amount of calcium carbonate in our soils. I think it’s really interesting to taste the minerality in Chards from places like Chablis and Limarí, Chile. We wanted to make a Chard that shows the mineral influence of our soil and the unique terroir of the Similkameen Valley, so our winemaking is very minimal and light-handed.
Where are the grapes from? The grapes are from our 5 acre property in Cawston. We have 2 acres of Chardonnay and 2 acres of Riesling. We’re growing organically and trying to encourage lots of biodiversity in it. It’s a happy, healthy, sunny place – full of birds, insects, indigenous plants and windflowers.
Your ideal pairing with this wine would be…? Freshly shucked oysters! Or a delicious rotisserie chicken from our friend’s farm, stuffed with lemons, and really crispy skin…
Favourite BC wine, other than yours? We share a lot of meals and good wine with John and Virginia from Orofino and we love their wines. In particular, I really enjoy their Chardonnay and Home Vineyard Riesling. I think you can really taste the Similkameen in them. It’s really interesting to taste some distinct flavour similarities from our shared terroir!
What do you drink when you’re not drinking BC wine? I kind of default to Chardonnay, Riesling and Rosé when I go wine shopping. I love them and it’s interesting to see what’s going on with these wines internationally and where we fit in the scheme of things. And I also love fizzy water. We got a Soda Stream a couple of years ago and I’m always drinking fizzy water with lots of lemon in it.
The GOODS from Forbidden Fruit Winery
Cawston, BC | On the banks of the Similkameen River near Cawston, Forbidden Fruit Winery has been welcoming guests to its tasting room for ten years. The winery gets its fruit from the family-owned Ven’Amour Organic Farms, which encompasses 142 acres of orchards, vineyards and natural habitat. The farm is bounded to the east by pine and sagebrush slopes, and to the west by a cottonwood riparian forest nestled into a bend in the river.
The tasting room is in a modest bungalow. Open the door, and the character and passion of the owners Steve Venables and Kim Brind’Amour are immediately evident. Kim’s brilliant-hued paintings, mosaics designs and jewellery glow from walls and shelves, reflections of the fruits, flowers and natural landscapes of the farm.
Steve purchased the property in 1977 and by 1984 it was a certified organic farm. On most summer days, Steve is behind the tasting-counter so visitors can hear first-hand how the wines are made and how the winery developed. Forbidden Fruit is best known for its stellar fruit wines with cheeky titles such as “Crushed Innocence”, “Adam’s Apple” and “Pearsuasion”. “Caught”, an apricot mistelle, recently won a Gold Medal at the 2014 WineAlign National Wine Awards. Read more
We’ve invited the Similkameen Valley’s Clos du Soleil to join the Wine & Spirits section of our GOODS program as a recommended local winery. They are now proud members of Scout, and as such we will be sharing their news and employment needs on our front page in addition to hosting a page for them in our archive of local and independent goodness. We thank them for their support and for making BC a more delicious place to be.
2568 Upper Bench Road | Keremeos, BC | V0X 1N4
Telephone (250)499-2831 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Web: www.closdusoleil.ca | Twitter | Facebook
Tasting Room Hours: 10am-5pm Every day except Tuesday (May through October)
Outside of these tasting hours, please call 250-808-7744 to book an appointment
The People Who Make It Happen
Spencer Massie- Managing Director and Cellar Rat
Michael Clark- Managing Director and Winemaker
Ann Sperling- Winemaker and Viticulturist
Les Le Quelenec – Managing Director- Alberta
About Clos Du Soleil
We are committed to making handcrafted, limited production wines in the heart of the Similkameen, which we have been doing since 2006. This starts in our organic and bio-dynamic vineyards in Keremeos,which showcase the unique terroir of the Similkameen Valley, where we grow only the famous varietals of Bordeaux, allowing us to create complex and structured New World wines infused with Old World spirit that are full of ageing potential.
The flagship White Label wines of the winery are our Signature red blend, Capella white blend and the Saturn dessert wine. The Signature, is a blend of all five varietals originally found in Bordeaux: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot, and Malbec.
This allows us to create a sophisticated and elegant Old World wine that also bursts with the concentrated fruit of the best of the New World. The Capella is blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion in the tradition of the finest Bordeaux Blanc. It is Clos du Soleil’s ultimate expression of Sauvignon Blanc, elegant yet rich, and made for ageing. Saturn is our homage to the dessert wine of Bordeaux, Sauternes. This wine is pure enjoyment notes of mandarin orange and crême brûlée on the nose, with flavours of vanilla and lime peel, with bright acidity that creates a wine that is hedonistic now, but will develop more complexity as it ages.
Our Black Label wines, Fumé Blanc, Rosé, and Célestiale, are high quality wines that are designed for every day enjoyment. The Fumé Blanc is made for oysters, our Rosé is summer in a bottle, and the Célestiale is a full bodied fruit driven perfect for the BBQ.
We also celebrate our growers who provide us vintage after vintage with world class fruit, with our Grower’s Series of wines, including our award winning Middle Bench Vineyards Pinot Blanc and Guild Vineyards Merlot.
Signature 2011 – Silver Medal at the National Wine Awards of Canada 2014
Saturn 2011 – Silver Medal at the National Wine Awards of Canada 2014
Capella 2011 – Best White Wine in BC, BC Wine Awards 2013
Rosé 2012 – Best Rosé in BC, Okanagan Spring Wine Festival 2013
Growers Series Pinot Blanc 2012 – Best Pinot Blanc in BC, Okanagan Spring Wine Festival 2013
The GOODS from Orofino Strawbale Winery
Cawston, BC | The WineAlign 2014 National Wine Awards of Canada results were just announced and the Similkameen Valley’s Orofino Winery ranked 18th amongst all of the wineries who competed from across the country. The 2014 edition of The Nationals were the biggest yet with over 1300 wines submitted. “It is a big honour to be recognized at such a high level against the best wines from the best wineries in the country,” says owner/winemaker John Weber. “Our little team here at Orofino works hard to make wines that show off the terrific vineyards in this unique appellation of the Similkameen Valley. It is all about the grapes grown in our neighbourhood.”
Orofino grabbed one of the coveted Platinum Medals for their 2013 Celentano Vineyard Gamay. Only 14 Platinum Medals were handed out to the top 1% of wines in the competition. In addition to the Platinum Medal, the Gamay received the 4th highest score of all BC wines entered in the competition. Head judge and Vancouver wine critic Anthony Gismondi stated “If you want to know why the Similkameen Valley is special, buy this wine.”
Orofino also received a Gold Medal for their 2013 Old Vines Home Vineyard Riesling and a Silver for their 2013 Scout Vineyard Riesling. “Riesling is a focus here at Orofino, so it is so great to win medals for those,” says co-owner Virginia Weber. “People know to come here for great Riesling.” The 2011 Passion Pit Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2011 Scout Vineyard Syrah also won medals, bringing home a Bronze Medal for both. All of these wines were grown in Cawston Vineyards.
Orofino Winery is situated on a mature six acre vineyard on the Cawston Bench in the Similkameen Valley. The focus is on making single vineyard wines that show off the special places where they were grown. The eco-friendly winery was built using a straw bale construction method that used 890 bales to make up the walls. A solar power project was completed in 2012 and the wineshop and some of the production facility is run by solar power. Read more
by Treve Ring | From the stony, steep sided Similkameen Valley comes this single vineyard Cawston Gamay from Orofino. Planted in 1999 on sloping Stemwinder soils and granitic shale (gamay crushes on granite), this pale cherry-hued red should be your summer go-to.
Orofino Celentano Vineyard Gamay 2013
Because it’s hot out! You don’t want a giant, chewy, sweat-beading, muscular, heavy, oaked red. Too much work! You want this bright, fresh, light red – tart and earthy rhubarb acidity to refresh you and your palate, and finely spiced tannins to take on your dinner. This savoury, lissom red is laced with cured meats, wild strawberry, a swipe of stony minerality throughout, and an alluring bitter cherry note on the finish. Serve slightly chilled, and this versatile wine will suit anything from grilled pizza to charcuterie to salmon. Only 100 cases produced, so get on it.
I put 5 questions in front of winemaker, sports coach dad, fellow ping pong advocate, outdoor pizza oven afficianado, Similkameen stalwart and co-owner, along with his equally active wife Virginia, John Weber.
Straight up – why did you make this wine? We started taking these grapes in 2007. This style came out in 2010. We just loved the freshness and unmasked fruit that comes from these grapes. We started drinking a lot of Cru Beaujolais and thought we might try to imitate that style and see what we could do in BC with Gamay.
Where are the grapes from? A little vineyard about a 5 minute walk from the winery. It is owned and managed by an Italian couple Antonio and Carmela Celentano. They grow mostly Riesling but have a tiny little section of Gamay that comes to us. Shale and rocks all over the place. It is a stunningly beautiful vineyard. We make around 100 cases a year.
Your ideal pairing with these wines would be…? Summer. We chill it down just a bit and barbeque some sausages or roast a chicken in our cob oven. It is also a terrific Thanksgiving turkey wine with savoury stuffing.
Favourite BC wine, other than yours? Our friends Rhys Pender and Alishan Driediger from Little Farm Winery just down the road from us are making delicious Rieslings and Chardonnays – wines that have Similkameen Valley written all over them.
What do you drink when you’re not drinking BC wine? Can I say BC craft beer? Our cellar has a good mix of old world stuff. Chablis, Cru Beaujolais , Loire. We have a soft spot for dirty Spanish wines. Things with a little bit of funk are always fun to try and talk about. We drink Rieslings from Australia too.
The GOODS from the Similkameen Wineries Association
Keremeos, BC | Ladies and gentlemen, start your grills! The Similkameen is about to name a new Similkameen BBQ King! The annual Similkameen BBQ King event will be held on Saturday, July 12th 9pm at the historic Grist Mill & Gardens in Keremeos. This truly unique Similkameen wine and food experience is a competition where 9 featured chefs compete for the coveted title of Similkameen BBQ King or Queen.
This event is a competition where 9 competing chefs will create unique dishes for guests using organic ingredients from local farmers in the heart of Canada’s organic capital. Attendees at the event will go from station to station enjoying the foods prepared by each chef, along with Similkameen wines specifically paired to go with each dish, and then all attendees get the opportunity to cast their vote for the best wine and food pairing.
George Hanson, President of the Similkameen Wineries Association explained, “We are so excited for our upcoming Similkameen BBQ King event which is our annual, signature event. It is held at the gorgeous Grist Mill and Gardens in Keremeos. It is an extraordinary evening and a very special Similkameen experience!”
The first hour of the event, from 5-6pm, will feature wine tastings from our Similkameen wineries and some delicious appetizers from local chefs including Benja Thai, Branding Iron and Tree to Me. And then the competition begins at 6pm!
The 9 competing chefs are:
• Chris Boehm from Burger 55
• Jason Hartl from the Delta Grand Okanagan
• Natasha Schooten from the Grist Mill
• Brent Pillon from Hillside Winery & Bistro
• Lee Humphries from Local Lounge & Grille
• Jeff Van Geest from Miradoro Restaurant at Tinhorn Creek
• Shayna Merritt from Shayna & Shulman Culinary Adventures
• Justin Paakkunainen from Walnut Beach Resort
• Adair Scott from Watermark Beach Resort
In addition to the amazing food and wine at this event, there will also be live entertainment by Ajna featuring home-town favourite, saxophonist and music educator Jonnie Bridgman who is returning to the Okanagan/Similkameen for his second annual summer tour with the Ajna Jazz Trio. Jonnie is really looking forward to performing in his hometown of Keremeos at the Similkameen BBQ King. Ajna is a creative, modern collective of accomplished jazz musicians. They deliver a no-limits performance of innovative original jazz and unique interpretations of classic standards. They will be joined by a special guest vocalist, Corrine Painter, to keep you singing and swinging all night long.
There will also be a silent auction that is a partial fundraiser for the Grist Mill, which is a Heritage BC site. Hanson expanded, “We are starting to get in some absolutely amazing prizes for our silent auction, many of which are unique wine and food experiences themed around the competing chefs and our member wineries.” Hanson continued, “This award-winning event sold out last year and we had to turn people away at the door. Read more
Photos & Video
Nine of the Similkameen wineries have joined together to form the Similkameen Wineries Association (SWA) to help put the spotlight on the exciting developments in this region. Clos du Soleil, Eau Vivre, Forbidden Fruit, Orofino, Robin Ridge, Rustic Roots, Sage Bush, Seven Stones and VineGlass are working together to welcome everyone to the beautiful Similkameen Valley!
About the Similkameen Wine Region
Soak up the sunshine and dare to dream while meandering through the vineyards of the family-run boutique wineries of the Similkameen. Sip award-winning wines with the winemakers while learning about their love of the land in one of the hot spots for grape and fruit wine in British Columbia. Discover for yourself why this special little wine region was named by enRoute Magazine as “one of the world’s 5 best wine regions you’ve never heard of!” This little patch of vineyards and orchards in the hot, dry and sunny Similkameen Valley is turning out some stunning grape and fruit wines.
There are currently over 600 acres of vineyards in the Similkameen and a large number of orchards. In fact, the region is considered to be the organic farming capital of Canada with an estimated 42% of all crops grown organically. This is due to the ideal conditions of dry heat, long hours of sunlight and the famous wind that whips through the valley keeping out pests and diseases.
The Similkameen Valley has been growing fruit and grapes for many years, but it is only recently that there has been a rapid expansion in the number of wineries. Prior to this, many of the grapes were sold to Okanagan wineries and contributed to a number of award winning wines. Now the awards are piling up for wineries in the Similkameen! Hundreds of medals have been awarded to Similkameen wineries over the past few years.
On the second Saturday each July, we join together for a very special event called the Similkameen BBQ King. Guests enjoy an extraordinary summer evening savouring the award-winning wines from nine of the Similkameen wineries and nine distinguished chefs who are vying for the title of Similkameen BBQ King. Passion and expertise rule the competition as some of the most sought after Chefs from BC prepare a plate of locally grown food for each guest. This award-winning event is held in the lovely outdoor gardens at the historic Grist Mill and Gardens in Keremeos. The Similkameen is becoming one of Canada’s premier wine destinations.
Located 3.5 hours east of Vancouver along beautiful highway 3, and just 30 minutes from Penticton and Osoyoos, the location makes the Similkameen the perfect weekend adventure or the perfect first stop on your Okanagan wine getaway! Kick back, relax and enjoy a glass of wine while you discover the hidden gem called the Similkameen Valley.
The Similkameen Valley: The new frontier | Macleans
Okanagan spring reveals secrets | Vancouver Sun
Similkameen BBQ King | Vines & Designs
Similkameen Wineries Awarded 37 Medals | BC Wine Lover
Similkameen wineries enjoy success at Kelowna culinary event | BC Local News
BCs Similkameen Valley Proves Itself To Be Intriguing Wine Region | Georgia Straight
From Vernon in the north to Osoyoos in the south, we love exploring the Okanagan. It has everything that we love and enjoy in life, chief among them being great food, breathtaking (and accessible) landscapes, and a variety of local crafted alcoholic beverages.
In the Okanagan at the moment (our HOOD palettes are ever-changing), we’re seeing the blue sky, sandstone, and green grass of Mission Hill; rural community mailbox green; four shades of peach; the sand at Naramata’s 3 Mile Beach (clothing optional); Painted Rock “Red Icon” 2011; the crushpad at Orofino; Haywire “Pink Bub” 2012; “K” Cafe signage tri-colour; Miradoro exterior; Road 13 proprietor Mick Luckhurst’s most excellent moustache; the tractor at Meyer Family Vineyards; sunny day view of Skaha Lake from God’s Mountain; and the green branding of Joiefarm.
DAY DRUNKS FLOATING THE PENTICTON CHANNEL
A WHOLE LOT OF ALBERTANS LIVING IN LARGE HOUSES
FOSSIL HUNTING ON THE ROAD TO THE DOMINION RADIO ASTROPHYSICAL OBSERVATORY
GOOD PERUSING AMONG THE STACKS AT THE BOOKSHOP IN PENTICTON
A LOT OF BEAUTIFULLY RESTORED AMERICAN CLASSIC CARS
AFTERNOON PICNICS AT COVERT FARMS
THE BIGGEST CULINARY COMPETITION IN CANADA
GOOD SNOW AND PERMANENT 90′S TIME WARP AT BIG WHITE
BEACH-FRONT CAMPING AT STUNNING HAYNES POINT
VINTAGE ADIDAS GAZELLE SNEAKERS HANGING FROM ROWING SHELLS AT THE EL DORADO
GOOD DOWNHILL TUMBLING ON THE GROUNDS AT MISSION HILL FAMILY ESTATE
THE PRIVATE BEACH AT WALNUT BEACH RESORT
AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS ON OSOYOOS LAKE
TOURING AND TASTING CANNERY BREWING & TREE BREWING
THE WEIRD SALT CIRCLES OF SPOTTED LAKE
GO KART RACING AT THE PENTICTON SPEEDWAY
PEACH MILKSHAKES AT THE “K” CAFE IN KEREMEOS
SUPERFOOD SALAD AT SUNSET ORGANIC BISTRO
WINES FROM 120 DIFFERENT WINERIES
CHICKEN CONFIT POUTINE AT RAUDZ REGIONAL TABLE
BRATWURST AT THE PENTICTON FARMER’S MARKET
BRIOCHE FRENCH TOAST BRUNCH AT QUAILS’ GATE’S OLD VINES
THE FRIED SQUID AT THEO’S
SMOKED BACON AT DOLCI
GRILLED THREE CHEESE SANDWICHES AT BRODO
LATE SUMMER SUPPERS ON THE TERRACE AT MISSION HILL
FRESH OYSTERS AND MIGNONETTE AT WATERFRONT WINES
EATING DIVERSE BBQ AT THE SIMILKAMEEN BBQ KING COMPETITION
TIGER BLUE CHEESE AT POPLAR GROVE
JOY ROAD SUPPERS ON THE CLIFF AT GOD’S MOUNTAIN
ANYTHING BY CHEF JEFF VAN GEEST AT MIRADORO
- The Nk’mip Desert is technically not a desert, but rather a shrub-steppe.
- Calona Wines, founded in 1932, is the oldest continuously operating winery in BC.
- Chef Dana Ewart of Joy Road Catering always wears two different coloured socks.
- Only three nest sites of the endangered Burrowing Owl have been discovered since 1928. They now only exist at “reintroduction sites” near Kamloops and Haynes Lease.
- The masks on Tantalus Vineyards’ wine labels are by Tahltan-Tlingit carver Dempsey Bob.
- The Kettle Valley railway was launched in 1915 but was abandoned in 1989.
- Michael Dinn and Heidi Noble, owners of Naramata’s celebrated Joiefarm winery, are both veterans of Vancouver’s restaurant industry.
The GOODS from Orofino Strawbale Winery
Cawston, BC | Orofino is a premium family owned and operated winery located in the magical Similkameen Valley just a half hour from both Penticton and Osoyoos. Orofino is on the hunt for someone to join their team as our Collector’s Club Manager. The successful candidate will join the small family of people who run Orofino and will specifically be in charge of all aspects of their growing wine club.
We invite anyone who has shown some crazy innate abilities to organize, communicate, and think out of the box. Experience with marketing, event planning, Microsoft Office, and retail sales is a must. Knowledge and appreciation of wine and the BC wine industry is a valuable asset as well. This salary position has flexibility in hours and may be suited to part-time or full-time employment. This is an opportunity to become fully embedded into the workings of one of Canada’s premium boutique wineries! Interested? Send a resume or get more details at admin [at] orofinovineyards.com. Read more
The GOODS from Orofino Strawbale Winery
Cawston, BC | Orofino is once again hosting their annual “Orofino Crush Pad Winter Classic” event. The winery will be open for a festive holiday weekend in the Similkameen Valley from 12pm to 4pm on December 6th, 7th and 8th. We invite everyone to taste through a few new wine releases and check out the wineshop for holiday gift ideas.
There will also be many opportunities to grab a stick for some pick-up hockey on the crush pad. Nothing too strenuous and definitely nothing too serious! Stickhandle around until exhaustion hits and then trade in your stick for a glass of wine or a hot chocolate and marshmallows done over an open fire. Read more
The GOODS from Orofino Strawbale Winery
Cawston, BC | This unique event celebrates the beauty of the Similkameen Valley in all her forms. The evening will consist of a five course meal using only the best foods provided by artisan producers from within a 1.6 mile radius of Orofino Winery. Each course will be expertly crafted by superstar chefs Cameron Smith and Dana Ewart, owners of the highly regarded Joy Road Catering Company. Delectable surprises, unique produce and world-class flavours will be paired with Orofino`s best wines including library selections. Bus transportation will be available from both Penticton (40 min.) and Osoyoos (30 min.) this year. Price per round trip ticket is only $25. Please join us in our beautiful winery courtyard for an enchanted evening of fine dining, remarkable wine, and good company! Details after the jump… Read more
The GOODS from Orofino Strawbale Winery
Cawston, BC | In 2005 we opened our winery with a tiny amount of wine for sale. We have grown quite a bit over the past decade but the commitment to our portfolio of wines remains the same. We focus on making vineyard specific wines. Wines of place. Wines that could not be made anywhere else in the world. Wines worth collecting.
This journey continues and has led us to the creation of our Collector’s Club. Our hope is to offer membership to something that simplifies the acquisition of our wines, but also adds to the experience of all things Orofino. We want to share our knowledge and insights on the workings of the vineyards, the winery and all aspects of the wine experience. Of course, the best way to share things with other like-minded people is to throw a party and we plan to offer some exclusive club events so we can show off what we do here in the magical Similkameen Valley! Read more
We’ve invited Cawston’s award-winning Eau Vivre Winery to join our GOODS section as an excellent maker of local wine. They are now proud members of Scout, and as such we will be posting their news in addition to hosting a page for them on our awesome, curated list of independent goodnesses. We’d like to take this chance to thank them for their support, and for making BC a more delicious province.