I first discovered Orofino Vineyards through a glass of juicy, plump Merlot. The wine got my attention as, at the time, I was not particularly in love with that grape from the Okanagan - too many were green and unripe. But the Red Bridge from Orofino changed my mind. After tasting their Merlot, I wanted to find out more about this winery. It was time to get on the road, go to the Similkameen Valley, and investigate.
When I got out of the car, Cooper, a beautiful golden retriever, welcomed me. Kids were running around and the scenery was stunning. John Weber, the owner, opened the door and asked me if I was ready for an apéro (apéritif). To my surprise, he was not offering me a glass of Orofino. I was greeted with a delicious glass of Crémant de Bourgogne. We sat at the kitchen counter talking about which of the great wines of the world he likes to drink, and the regions that he likes to visit.
Perhaps this is what distinguishes the very best wineries from the rest; the hunger to understand the best wines of the world. These wines become their benchmark. It is especially important in new wine regions.
Neither John nor his wife, Virginia, come from a wine background. Both from Saskatchewan, they came to the region in 2001 and fell in love with it. They bought land in Cawston and, as we say, the rest is history. In the past, they both spent a lot of time travelling abroad. I believe it had a big influence on their vision and how they approached their new venture. With minimal intervention, John and Virginia craft wines that express the terroir of the Similkameen Valley. The strong winds, and the temperature difference from day to night, are responsible for the great vibrancy and tension in the wine. I call it energy. To explore more about what makes the Similkameen Valley unique, read Kurtis' post from Monday.
Orofino wines are consistently well made and they get better every year. The Riesling is an all-time favourite, and I was happily surprised by their 2012 Pinot Noir. It has a beautiful silky texture with bright, savoury, red cherry, and strawberry notes. A charmer!
My visit to Orofino ended up with a ‘make your own pizza’ dinner. John and Virginia have perfected the dough recipe, and you couldn’t hope for a better outdoor pizza oven. It's the real deal.
Welcome to My Wine Canada, Orofino. Thrilled to have you on board! Santé!
Michelle Bouffard is a wine educator and journalist who splits her time between Montréal & Vancouver. She co-owns the Vancouver-based company ‘house wine’ and is the president of the BC Chapter of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers. She Tweets @michellebwine and Instagrams @michellebouffard.