Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cassini Cellars - newest winery on the Golden Mile

The Cassini Cellars winery, which had its grand opening earlier this summer, is a good example of how the wine industry is changing the Okanagan landscape.

A couple of years ago, this was the site of one of British Columbia's several lavender farms. In late 2006 Adrian Capeneata (above)bought the highway-side property, sold most of the lavender plants and replaced them with vines. While the vines were getting settled in, Adrian supervised the construction of his grandly conceived winery.

The wine shop is especially grand: the primary tasting bar is 10 metres long, enough to host 25 visitors at once. There is a smaller bar at the other end of the room if there is an overflow, as is certain to happen from time to time. This high-profile winery, with its convenient parking lot, is irresistible to bus tours.

Born in Romania in 1960, Adrian is one of those larger than life individuals that winery visitors find engaging.After managing a restaurent in his native land, Adrian came to Canada in 1990, shortly after the collapse of the Communist government in Romania. He started his career here in Montreal, learning French and English, working in restaurants and repairing and re-selling used cars.

He admits to being a serial entrepreneur. Coming to Vancouver in 1993, he began selling fitness club equipment and then set up his own company to build and service such equipment.

His interest in the Okanagan began with a vacation there. Soon, he was fixing up and reselling houses in Osoyoos (his wife is a realtor).

His interest in wine has two roots. His family in Romania had a vineyard, selling grapes to a cooperative. However, his appreciation for wine developed in the years when he worked in restaurants.

In 2006, he decided to develop a winery of his own, buying the lavender farm because of the strategic location and the property's potential as a vineyard.

Having also had a construction business, Adrian took more than a supervisory role in building the winery. By his estimate, he has invested $400,000 of his own "sweat equity" in the construction.

Originally, he wanted to called it Crazy Horse Winery. The potential for confusion with Inniskillin's Dark Horse Vineyard resulted in the current name, Cassini Cellars. Cassini is the surname of Adrian's Italian grandfather.

Winemaking here is done by consulting winemaker Philip Soo (whose other clients include Noble Ridge and Dirty Laundry). Working with purchased grapes in the 2007 and 2008 vintages, he crafted a solid range for Cassini's debut season.

Here are notes on the wines. The white wines are $18 a bottle while the reds are priced in the mid-20s.

Cassini Cellars Maximus 2007 Here is the winery's flagship red blend, made with 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot and 4% Malbec. Dark in colour, this is a full-bodied wine with cassis and chocolate aromas, ripe plummy flavours with notes of minerals and tobacco. The ripe tannins account for the rich texture. The wine has a long, satisfying finish. 90

Cassini Cellars Syrah 2007 This is an excellent, full-bodied Syrah, with aromas and flavours of deli meats, black cherries and pepper (there is a hint of white pepper in the aroma). 88

Cassini Cellars Merlot 2007 Dark in colour, this Merlot has good concentration. There is a hint of cassis on the aroma, with flavours of red berries, chocolate and liquorice. 87

Cassini Cellars Pinot Noir Reserve Plump and ripe, this wine has ripe strawberry flavours that are, at this stage, a little overpowered by the oak flavours. Another year in bottle will benefit the wine. 86

Cassini Cellars Gewurztraminer 2008 A very attractive example of this varietal. The spicy aroma jumps from the glass. On the palate, there is luscious sweet tropical fruit, The finish is rich, in the style of Alsace. 88

Cassini Cellars Chardonnay 2007 This is a fruit forward Chardonnay with subtle oak. Time in bottle has allowed the citrus flavours and fleshy texture to develop.88

Cassini Cellars Mama Mia Pinot Grigio 2007 This wine's whimsical name signals that it is a delicious summer sipper with a touch of residual sweetness. 87

Cassini Cellars Pinot Gris 2008 Light and refreshing, with flavours of pear and citrus, this is the winery's drier take on Pinot Gris. 87

Cassini Cellars Viognier 2008 A lovely unoaked wine, beginning with aromas of citrus and pineapples. The palate delivers those flavours in abundance. The hint of tannin in the finish, giving the wine a nice structure, is due to the fact that Viognier has more tannin in its skins than most white varieties. 88


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