The Okanagan Spring Wine Festival each year signifies the opening of many wineries that have been closed through the winter, as well as the release of new wines; mainly whites and rosés, but also some reds. This year, and for the second year in a row, J and I got our tickets for Seven Stones Winery’s Syp Syp Syrah event in Cawston, in the Similkameen Valley. We headed out early on a beautifully sunny day and made a few stops on the way to Cawston, starting with the annual open house at S.O.R.C.O. (the South Okanagan Rehabilitation Centre for Owls). We were able to see the different buildings and enclosures that house owls and other birds of prey that have been injured or orphaned, including a brand new clinic building that is currently under construction. There is also a breeding pen for Burrowing Owls on site that is run by the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of BC. Pilot is a Burrowing Owl that is used for educational purposes and he was on hand for all the visitors to be able to see a tiny live Burrowing Owl up close (no touching the owl though). The annual open house at S.O.R.C.O. is an opportunity for the public to see what goes on behind the scenes but is also a fundraiser to help raise money to keep up the facility and to continue to help the population of owls and raptors in the Okanagan, as it is a non-profit organization that does not receive government funding. A great selection of items was on offer in the silent auction that day; sadly my bids got me nowhere.
Continuing on from S.O.R.C.O., we stopped in briefly at Stoneboat Vineyards and Church & State Wines to stock up on some wines that had recently been consumed from the cellar, before heading over Richter Pass to the beautiful Similkameen Valley and Seven Stones Winery. After parking in the vineyard (no mean feat in a sports car!) we were greeted in the tasting room by George and Jessie and encouraged to try some wines in order to decide which bottle we’d like to select for our meal. The 2011 Pinot Noir Rosé is light and crisp, with flavours of strawberry and citrus. The 2009 Chardonnay is big, rich and buttery, with flavours of pineapple and citrus and some nice minerality. The 2009 Speaking Rock Pinot Noir really stood out for me, with its earthiness and flavours of cherry, raspberry and baking spice – delicious! The 2008 Meritage is just getting better with age. A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, the tannins are beginning to soften but this is still a really big wine with rich flavours of cherry, plum, cassis and a bit of coffee on the finish. The 2011 Syrah is not as peppery as the 2010 and the flavours are still a bit tight, however this is not surprising as it had only been bottled two days before the event! I look forward to seeing how it develops after sitting in my cellar for a while. Since the Pinot Noir was the favourite of the day, we chose a bottle of it to accompany our lunch and headed into the winery for the meal. The food was once again provided by Mobile Morsels Fine Foods & Catering and Derrie Selles did a wonderful job! The menu consisted of:
Morsel’s Artisans Bread with Balsamic & Olive Oil
Roasted Beets & Garlic, Goat Cheese and Organic Greens with Caramelized Apple Vinaigrette
Pork Parcels with Apricot Sauce
Dijon Parmesan Lemon Panko-Crusted Chicken Breasts
Zucchini Collars Stuffed with Ricotta Lemon Carrot & Dill
Roasted Rosemary Potatoes
Profiteroles filled with Orange Custard, topped with Orange Chocolate Sauce
Once most people had finished their meal, George and Jessie toured the room, pouring everybody a glass of the newly-released 2011 Syrah to toast and celebrate. George was also proudly showing off his new underground barrel-vaulted caves that have been built over the winter that will house a special tasting room as well as the barrel cellar. It is linked to the crush pad by a stair, as well as a lift for the barrel racks, and George has private direct access to the caves from his house – a true “Man Cave”! The caves are nearing completion, awaiting the installation of lighting and speakers, for which George has partnered with the Bose Corporation, with the caves becoming a showroom for some cutting edge sound technology. I look forward to some events that will be held in these new caves.
After the Syp Syp Syrah event we carried on up to Cawston to visit a few other wineries, starting with Eau Vivre Winery. I had ordered a library pack of Pinot Noir that I needed to pick up, plus I was looking forward to trying a few new wines. Dale & Geri welcomed us in the tasting room and we began our tasting. The 2009 Chardonnay is a nice balance of oak and fruit. The 2009 Gewürztraminer is tasty, with full flavours of lychee and rose petal. The Lieutenant Governor Award-winning 2009 Pinot Noir is long since sold out, but Dale poured some of the 2008 Pinot Noir to compare against the 2010 Pinot Noir. The 2008 is quite soft and smooth, with cherry and raspberry notes. The 2010 is very tasty with lots of bright cherry and some toffee notes. The 2010 Malbec is full of dark fruit, leather and a hint of chocolate. Dale took us back into the cellar to taste a couple of wines that winemaker Anthony Buchanan has been crafting from the 2012 vintage. The 2012 Riesling had just recently been filtered and was awaiting bottling. It has great crisp apple and lime notes. The 2012 Cinq Blanc is a blend of Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat, Chardonnay and Riesling. It has beautiful aromatics (the Muscat really shines through) and nice crisp acidity. I can see myself enjoying several bottles of this through the summer on the deck!
Orofino was our next stop and, as usual, it did not disappoint. Aaron and Carly were in the tasting room and guided us through the new wines. The 2012 Moscato Frizzante has tiny bubbles, crisp acidity, the lovely Muscat aromatics and a dry finish. The 2012 Pinot Gris had about 8 hours of skin contact which contributes to a lovely mouthfeel; this is a crisp, tasty Pinot Gris. The 2011 Blind Creek Chardonnay is partially oaked – one third spent 8 months in French oak. It is a nice balance of citrus flavours and a bit of spice. The 2011 Home Vineyard Pinot Noir is a beautiful ruby colour and is quite full-bodied for a Pinot. The majority of the vines are 23-24 years old and they are giving this wine some great complexity. Great flavours of cherry, raspberry and spice. The 2010 Red Bridge Merlot comes from Chris Scott’s vineyard in Kaleden. It has a hint of mint on the nose, with cherry and plum. This wine is still quite young and could definitely do with some more time in the cellar. The 2011 Slow Vineyard Syrah is delicious with rich full flavours of dark fruit and white pepper and a long finish.
Our last stop of the day was at Rustic Roots where Sara Harker greeted us and offered a flight of wines paired with specially crafted nibbles. How could we refuse?! Before we started the pairings we sampled two of the sparkling wines on offer. The 2011 Pippin is a fresh and crisp sparkling wine made of 70% Pippin apples and 30% Nectarine. The 2011 Fameuse is my favourite of the sparkling wines at Rustic Roots, made of 70% Fameuse apples from a tree that is almost 100 years old and 30% Santa Rosa plums. It is delicious and creamy with flavours of red fruits and a hint of caramel. The pairing menu consisted of six wines, each paired with a complementary amuse-bouche. The 2010 Apple Pear, made with 5 varieties of apple and 3 varieties of pear, is very similar in flavor to an unoaked Chardonnay, with crisp acidity and aromas of apple and a hint of spice. It was paired with tasty curried cauliflower, topped with fresh pea shoots. The 2011 Cherry, made of Lapin, Lambert and Sour cherries, has rich earthy flavours – dark fruit with hints of smoke and leather. This was paired with some greens, topped with goat cheese, candied pecan and a balsamic reduction. The 2012 Plum Rosé, made of 5 varieties of plum, is off-dry but has great acidity to balance it. It has candied strawberry and tart plum flavours. This was paired with Gone Crackers topped with Comox Brie’s pepper camembert and Vista d’Oro’s Rhubarb Vanilla compote – YUM! The Apricot dessert wine is made of 3 varieties of apricot and has a lovely nose, with flavours of apricot, orange and spice. It was paired with a Carrot Cake mini-cupcake. The Santa Rosa Plum dessert wine is so delicious! It is a wonderful balance of sweet and tart and was paired beautifully with a chocolate ganache-dipped strawberry. Last, but not least, we tasted the Mulberry Pear, which is made from mulberries that have been dried out to concentrate the sugars and acidity, then added to grain alcohol to steep. The pears are crushed, pressed and partially fermented, until the fermentation is halted by the addition of the mulberry-alcohol blend which fortifies the wine to 18% alc/vol. This wine is then oak aged and the result is fabulously delicious! This was paired with chai biscotti, topped with blue cheese and fig. These pairings were absolutely fantastic, as were the wines. I must try to replicate some of the dishes for my next dinner party!