Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Orofino raises the profile of single vineyards

 Orofino's John and Virginia Weber

There is a new feature in the tasting room at Orofino Vineyards at Cawston: a mural showing the location of the various Similkameen vineyards from which the winery buys grapes.

It reflects the special determination by winery owners John and Virginia Weber to make vineyard-designated wines that show off the terroir and also raise the profile of their growers.

“We are doing more and more of that single vineyard designation on the labels,” John says. “We had done of a bit of that in the past but now it is a focus here.”

With the exception of the Merlot Orofino buys from the Oak Knoll Vineyard in Kaleden, the winery relies on Similkameen grapes.

“I love the grapes and I love the wine,” John says of the Kaleden Merlot, which goes into a wine called Red Bridge Merlot. “But I am a Similkameen guy.”

Six Similkameen vineyards currently supply Orofino, which made 5,200 cases in 2012. The winery’s own 5.5-acre vineyard includes blocks of five varietals planted in 1989, along with replacement blocks planted at various times since 1999. The latest addition, in 2010, was 0.6 acre of Petit Verdot.

The other vineyards, all fairly close to the winery, are:

  • Passion Pit Vineyard, with 1.5 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon planted in 2007. The vineyard is operated by growers Greg Sanderson and Joyce Barton, long time Cawston orchardists. This vineyard gets its name from an old gravel pit once frequented by romantic teenagers.
  • Scout Vineyard, a 4.2-acre property beside the Similkameen River where owners Murray and Maggie Fonteyne grow Syrah, Riesling and Pinot Gris. Orofino takes all of the grapes.
  • Celentano Vineyard, owned by Carmela and Antonio Celentano, has a half acre block of mature Gamay that Orofino has been buying since 2007.  They also grow Riesling but it is under contract to a major winery.
  • Hendsbee Vineyard, with 8.2 acres of vines, is right next door to Orofino. The owners, Lee and Cheryl Hendsbee, are veteran orchardists who began converting their mixed orchard to grapes in 2006. Orofino buys all of the fruit.
  • Blind Creek Vineyard, a 70-acre Cawston vineyard from which Orofino gets small lots of Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay.

The wines that Orofino has released this year (or will release this year) include all of the individual vineyard names on the labels for the first time. It shows commendable sensitivity by the Webers to acknowledge to people on whom they rely for quality grapes. “If they get kudos like that, the growers buy into the program,” John reasons.

One outcome of this program is that Orofino released three different Riesling wines from the 2012 vintage. The differing characters of each Riesling more or less drove the vineyard-designate decision. It began when John decided to his Old Vines Riesling in barrels while fermenting the two other Rieslings in stainless steel. Previously, the wines were blended.

“I kept the Scout and Hendsbee Rieslings separate in tank,” John says. “The differences became so apparent that we decided this is an opportunity to showcase vineyards and styles. The styles are very different.”

Here are notes on the Rieslings.

Orofino Hendsbee Vineyard Riesling 2012: ($22 for 300 cases). The vineyard has two blocks of Riesling (clones 239 and 21B) planted in 2006 and 2008. The wine, with 12.9% alcohol, is a racy and dry Riesling, with aromas and flavours of lime and with a spine of minerals. 90.

Orofino Scout Vineyard Riesling 2012: ($22 for 250 cases). “Not everyone likes searing dry Riesling,” John concedes. “You reach a slightly larger audience when you leave a bit of residual sugar in it.” This wine, with 12% alcohol, has 18 grams of residual sugar, more than twice as much as the Hendsbee. This helps to propel aromas of fruit and apples, along with juicy apple flavours. But the natural acidity balances this wine very well. 91.

Orofino Home Vineyard Old Vines Riesling 2012 ($29 for 100 cases). This elegant wine is totally hand crafted. “It was barrel fermented in three old French and one new acacia barrel,” John says. “Half of that was fermented with commercial yeast and two I let go on their own. It was the first time I had ever done anything like that. There was lots of lees stirring.” This is an age-worthy dry Riesling with intense flavours of citrus and with a textural richness that elongates the finish. 92.

Orofino Riesling 2011 ($20). This vintage is still available and worth picking up because it shows what an extra year in bottle can bring. The wine begins with classic petrol aromas. The texture is rich with flavours of citrus. The finish is dry but the extra year has softened the acidity very nicely. 90.

Here are notes on the other current Orofino releases.

Orofino Muscato Frizzante 2012 ($25 for 500 cases). This is the second vintage of a carbonated sparkling wine that was a big hit in its first vintage, so much so that the winery has almost stopped making a Muscat dessert wine. “We do a tiny production of late harvest as well from our vines, but we prefer to drink bubble to late harvest,” John says. The blend is mostly Muscat but with a critical splash of Riesling and Pinot Gris, which bring up the acidity. This is a charming fruity wine with a crisp, refreshing finish. 90.

Orofino Blind Creek Sauvignon Blanc 2012 ($23). This Loire style wine has herbal aromas and flavours, along with grapefruit and grapefruit rind and with a crisp dry finish. 90.

Orofino Blind Creek Chardonnay 2011 ($25). This vintage is close to sold out but the 2012 is in bottle. Forty percent of this wine was fermented on older American oak. Intentionally, the wine was not encouraged to undergo malolactic fermentation. As a result, the wine has bright, refreshing flavours of apple and citris with just a touch of sweet oak. 90.

Orofino Pinot Gris 2012 ($20). This is a three-vineyard blend. The herbal aromas likely reflect the Similkameen terroir. On the palate, the texture is rich, with flavours of pear and apple. The finish is crisp. 88.

Orofino Celentano Vineyard Gamay 2012 ($23 for 100 cases). This wine was fermented and matured in steel and was bottled five months after harvest to preserve its freshness. The wine has aromas of red cherries and flavours of plum with sage and pepper on the finish. This charming Beaujolais-style red should be especially delicious with a bit of chilling. 90.

Orofino Home Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011 ($32). The winery has five clones of Pinot Noir, giving John a good palate of flavours to work with. The wine was made in the traditional gentle Burgundian style (lightly crushed grapes in an open-top fermenter). The wine was aged 16 months in French oak and was bottled unfiltered and unfined. It shows aromas of strawberry, with spicy cherry flavours and a lovely silky texture. 91.

Orofino Scout Vineyard Syrah 2011 ($29 for 225 cases). This elegant, medium-bodied Syrah – again unfiltered and unfined – has bright peppery cherry aromas and flavours and supple tannins. With 13.4% alcohol, it is not the powerhouse that a hotter vintage would have yielded, but it is a food friendly wine. 91.

Still to come from Orofino this year is the next vintage of Beleza, the flagship Bordeaux red, along with the 2011 Red Bridge Merlot, a pair of single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons – and 70 cases of Petit Verdot Hendsbee Vineyard 2010. Usually, the Petit Verdot all is blended into Beleza but when the 2010 Beleza was put together, three barrels of Petit Verdot were left over.

So we kept the wine in barrel for an extra six months,” John says. “It spent 26 or 28 months in older barrels. It is a very old world style of red. We are pretty keen on it.”

1 comment:

Citizen 11 said...

I'm personally a big fan of the Moscato Frizzante. It's the perfect sushi wine. Highly recommended.

My tasting notes: