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