GOODS: Orofino’s 2009 Syrah Takes Gold Medal At Canadian Culinary Championships

Orofino is located at 2152 Barcelo Road in beautiful Cawston, BC V0X 1C2 | (250) 499-0068 |

The GOODS from Orofino Strawbale Winery

Vancouver, BC | Orofino’s 2009 Syrah won the Gold Medal at last weekend’s Canadian Culinary Championships in Kelowna. Winning chefs from 9 different regions across the country battled head to head to see who would win the gold, silver and bronze medals for top chef in the country. At the same time a trio of esteemed wine judges evaluated over 29 wines involved in the CCC events and judged Orofino’s Syrah to be top wine of the weekend.

“It is quite an honour for our winery in the Similkameen to be chosen as the gold medalist at this event as it was judged by some of the best palates in the country.” Says John and Virginia Weber, owners and winemakers. “We’d like to congratulate Murray and Maggie Fonteyne of Cawston’s Scout Vineyards for their terrific work in growing these grapes for us. This was their first crop of Syrah so we are very excited about syrah and its potential here in the Similkameen. These types of accolades bode well for future vintages!”

This is Orofino’s second win at the Gold Medal Plates, as their 2009 Riesling won top wine of the night in the Saskatchewan regional competition held last October. Details after the jump…

Orofino was invited to participate in the VIP reception before the big Gala Dinner as the 8 wineries of the Similkameen Wineries Association all poured wines for over 300 people showcasing all that this unique Appellation can do.


2152 Barcelo Road | Cawston, BC V0X 1C2
Telephone: (250) 499-0068


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The People

Owners: Virginia and John Weber
Winemaker: John Weber


John and Virginia Weber both grew up in Southern Saskatchewan far away from anything to do with grapes and the wine industry. The closest they ever got to wine production was the jugs of chokecherry wine John’s parents made in their basement. Virginia studied nursing and became a registered nurse and John received a Bachelor of Arts in English and then went on to finish an Education degree from the University of Saskatchewan. Both got the travel bug and spent the majority of the two years after university travelling and working abroad. It was on these travels that their affair with the world of wine was cultivated. Virginia spent time as an au pair in France and then nursing with a non-profit organization in the slums of India. John travelled in Europe, studied French in Southwest France and bartended in England. He had two separate experiences with development work in Brazil. The first working with street kids in the poor Northeast and the second with a Brazilian organization that worked with subsistence farmers in the poorest part of Brazil. After these experiences, the two of them settled down and took teaching and nursing positions around Swift Current , Saskatchewan. They then met the Similkameen Valley in 2001. The desire to try something new, their love of wine and the beauty of the Similkameen convinced them to purchase a vineyard and move from Saskatchewan to the Similkameen Valley to try something new. They quickly fell in love with the area and its burgeoning wine industry.


The 6 acre Orofino vineyard was first planted in 1989 making these vines some of the oldest in the valley. It still has some original blocks including Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Riesling and Muscat. Replacement blocks include some Merlot (1999), Pinot Noir (2002 and 2008), and Petit Verdot (2010). Vines are grown in sandy loam with no rocks found for at least 2 feet. After that it is all river rock and gravel. The bench is prime agricultural land and has a proven track record for growing premium grapes.


The Orofino winery buildings were constructed in 2004/2005. It is Canada’s only winery built out of straw bales. The eco-friendly design consists of two buildings adjoined by a breezeway. We chose this building method after much research and planning. “Earthy” 21 inch thick walls provide superior insulation qualities – ideal for manufacturing constant barrel room temperatures and for keeping us cool in our desert heat. The buildings are beautiful and very unique. We are licensed so visitors can purchase wine and enjoy a picnic amongst our vines, almond, walnut, and oak trees. The wineshop is stocked with hard to find artisanal food products that enhance the visitor’s experience. Salts, olives, chocolate, olive oil and specialty vinegars are all available.


Orofino produces small lots of premium wines from both estate grown grapes and from small vineyards tended by some of the Similkameen’s best farmers. The grapes and the terroir are a big part of Orofino’s success. We consistently produce a portfolio of award-winning wines that include our Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Red Bridge Merlot and a Bordeaux blend we call ‘Beleza”. Other ridiculously small lots of various wines are also produced such as our Gamay and fabled late-harvest Muscat. Our wines have won multiple gold medals at the All Canadian Wine Championships as well as other respected competitions.

The 1.6 Mile Dinner

Orofino hosts the annual 1.6 Mile Dinner every summer. This is a hyper-locavore experience as everything consumed that night is produced within 1.6 miles of the winery. It is a truly enchanting evening of fine-dining, our best wines and the magic of the Similkameen. It is well-worth a planned visit!

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