New this year from Orofino Vineyards is a delicious blend called White Bridge White.
The wine is a partner to Orofino’s Red Bridge Red, a Merlot-based blend that the winery, which was opened in 2005 by John and Virginia Weber, has made almost from the start. Earlier vintages included Merlot from a vineyard in Kaleden. For several years, Orofino has been making its wine exclusively with Similkameen fruit.
The wine gets its name from a well-known covered red bridge near Keremeos.
“There is a white bridge here, not just a red bridge,” John says. “It is the one that goes to the rodeo ground. It is an old bridge as well. We were looking for a name for the white blend. It is solid name, true to our region; and it fits well with Red Bridge which has become a popular wine for us.”
Coming also from Orofino is new nomenclature on the wine labels: John has begun codifying the sub-appellations from which he gets his grapes.
The Similkameen Appellation so far has no official sub-appellations and there appears to be little industry movement in that direction. That is not stopping John from drawing attention to the valley’s unique terroirs
“Our tiny little valley, which is 24 km long, has some fairly distinct growing areas,” he believes. “Consumers want to know about that.”
Look for these names to appear on Orofino labels in the future: Cawston Bench, South Cawston Bench, Cawston Flats, Keremeos Bench, Keremeos Flats and Olalla Gap.
John already names the vineyards on his labels. There are noticeable differences, for example, between his Hendsbee Vineyard Riesling (grown on a bench near the winery) and the Scout Vineyard Riesling, grown on the Cawston South Bench in the valley. He wants to make the differences more noticeable to his consumers.
This champion of the Similkameen sub-appellations, formerly a teacher, arrived in the valley in March, 2001 from Saskatchewan with his wife Virginia, a nurse. They took over a 1.8-hectare (4 ½ -acre) vineyard near Cawston that had been planted in 1989. “We spent the first year on a huge learning curve,” John remembers. Original thinkers, they used straw bales to build an energy efficient winery and tasting room. Solar panels added in 2012 make Orofino, and its two new vineyard suites, almost energy self-sufficient.
The winery today has eight acres of vineyard and John farms or buys fruit from an additional 20 acres, all in the Similkameen.
Here are notes on the current releases.
Orofino White Bridge 2017 ($20). This is a blend of 50% Pinot Gris, 35% Muscat and 15% Riesling. The wine begins with ar0mas of spice and citrus, leading for flavours of pear and citrus. A hint of residual sugar adds volume to the texture and the aroma, but the wine is balanced to finish dry. 91.
Orofino Hendsbee Vineyard Riesling 2016 ($22). This elegant wine, fermented in stainless steel, has aromas and flavours of lemon and lime. A slight hint of petrol has begun to emerge. The concentrated texture has a backbone of minerality. The finish is dry. 92.
Orofino Scout Vineyard Riesling 2016 ($22). The Scout Vineyard is a hotter site than Hendsbee. This wine, partially fermented in concrete, has aromas and flavours of citrus and ripe apples. The wine is slightly off-dry. 92.
Orofino Wild Ferment Old Vines Riesling 2016 ($29). This wine, from a 1989 block of Riesling at the winery, was fermented entirely in barrel. The wine fills the palate richly with flavour – peach, citrus and honey – around a spine of minerality. 92.
Orofino Pozza Vineyard Cabernet Franc Rosé ($40 for a magnum). Pale in hue, the wine has aromas and flavours of raspberry and cranberry, with an earthy minerality on the dry finish. The winery made 750 ml bottles for restaurant clients but bottled magnums only for sale in the wine shop. 91.
Orofino Home Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 ($32). This wine was fermented with wild yeast and aged 14 months in older French oak barrels, thus preserving the fruit. The wine has aromas and flavours of strawberry, mingled on the palate with hints of spice and chocolate. 91.
Orofino Scout Vineyard Syrah 2016 ($29). The remarkable Scout Vineyard, near Cawston, produces excellent Syrah as well as Riesling. Europeans would be perplexed to fine those varieties growing side by side – but the Similkameen is unique terroir. This dark wine begins with appealing aromas of smoked meat, plum and black cherry. These are echoed on the palate, along with a touch of white pepper on the finish. 91.
Orofino Beleza 2015 ($34). This is Orofino’s flagship Bordeaux blend – Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. It begins with cassis and dark fruit aromas, leading to flavours of black currant and a compote of dark fruit with a hint of vanilla. This is an elegant wine that will age very well. 94.
By John Schreiner
reprinted with permission