article by Carole Beaton
Learning by drinking BC wine.
VinAmité Cellars opened in 2015 and is a passion project of the Coulombe family. Situated just south of the town of Oliver, “friendship and wine” is hiding in plain sight along the highway and is gathering a following for the lovely wines they are producing. Full disclosure: I am one of the fans of this winery.
Ray and Wendy Coulombe connected in Montreal, Canada, married, ran an advertising/marketing business and started a family, then decided that after twenty years it was time for a change. After doing some exploring of North America, they discovered Oliver, British Columbia. Here they settled on about five acres of neglected vineyard and studied, considered, and got their hands dirty as they learned about their boutique property’s terroir, growing grapes, and making wine.
Joined by their daughters Catherine and Nathalie, with Catherine becoming the winemaker, they now produce both white and red wines, as well as a port style wine. Catherine’s background was originally in food preparation in high-end catering, but after taking courses in Montreal at SAQ, WSET3, and visiting many wineries, she was able to take over from consulting winemaker Philip Soo in the 2016 vintage and is producing elegant wines. They do reach other small vineyards to source more grapes with many of those being at the Osoyoos end of the valley.
They have an outside patio, used for tastings, that overlooks their vineyards. It is possible to purchase cheese and Charcuterie, including the pictured collection, to create your own take-away picnic. With COVID measures in place, the tasting fee includes an etched Riedel wine glass as your souvenir to use with the memorable wines you are quite likely to purchase.
Showing that “small is the new big” they only produce about 2,000 cases in total, yet include Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Viognier, Gamay Noir, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot, bottled as varietals. The portfolio also includes blends to create a white Chanson d’Amour, a red Petit Claret, or the rich Compass and Hidden Corner, the last being their Bordeaux style blend.
But where to start in your tasting? Catherine is often found in the wine shop and loves to share her enthusiasm with guests. Be prepared to learn so much when she is available, and to have a good visit. The tasting includes six wines of your choice from the wines available. If you bring a friend, you are usually able to taste through all of their wines. Be warned: you will have a tough time choosing one favourite!
Aware that the Pinot Gris and Rose had already sold out, we started with the light and flavourful Chanson d’Amour (Song of Love). Floral yet with light fruit notes, this is an easy wine to sip and enjoy
. The 2018 Chardonnay that we enjoyed next was a winner for me. Although it spent 14 months in French oak, there was no overwhelming wood flavour as can be the case. Lemon meringue pie, butterscotch, a bit of spice; I really liked this one.
The Viognier was poured next. Peaches, pears and more - and was that a nice caramel- honey on the finish? There is a body to this white wine yet it is dangerously easy to drink!
If the 2018 Gamay Noir is still available, it offers a Beaujolais style wine with a light but complex flavour that goes beyond the first tastes of cherry and raspberry jam.
We then moved on to three of my favourite VinAmité wines and, as usual, they did not disappoint. The first is the Petit Claret and this year’s blend is 66% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Franc. Of course some went home with me!
The two other red blends were just released so we were able to try those as well. The 2018 Compass is a blend of Merlot, Cab Sauv, Malbec, and Cab Franc, with the tasting notes suggesting flavours ranging from black currant, clove, mocha, and more. This is a delicious blend.
We also enjoyed the 2018 Hidden Corner. I have some of the past vintages tucked away as this is a wine that can age. It is a blend of Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Delicious on its own, it will be a wonderful pairing with meat. Still to be released is the 2018 Petit Verdot, a 100% varietal with only 80 cases produced, so I have a reason/excuse to go back.
As a plus, we were able to taste the unfiltered, fortified wine – Ouest. This year’s release has been aged five years and is a blend of Syrah, Cab Franc, with a distilled estate Cab Sauv adding the punch. Yes, I have added one to my wine rack!
It is always a pleasure for me to stop in and see what is being poured at VinAmité Cellars, and I highly recommend that you too stop in and see why their wines keep being sold out!