Photo: Eau Vivre Winery
Eau Vivre Winery has put the spotlight on Similkameen Valley
grapes with its current releases.
Of course, Eau Vivre, which opened in 2009, is based on a
vineyard near Cawston. The one-hectare estate vineyard, planted primarily to
Gewürztraminer, only supports a portion
of the winery’s production, which reached 3,000 cases in 2014.
However, there has been a significant expansion of vineyards
in the Similkameen, enabling Eau Vivre to purchase grapes from its neighbours.
The 2014 B.C. Wine Grape Acreage Report, compiled by Lynn
Bremmer at Mount Kobau Wine Services, reported 657.6 acres (266.1 hectares) of
vineyard in the Similkameen. That has tripled from her 2006 census, when just
335.4 acres were under vine in the valley.
With just 15 wineries in the Similkameen, most of those
vineyards sell fruit to Okanagan wineries. There is, in fact, a long history of
that, and for good reason. The quality of Similkameen fruit is very good.
Just ask J-M Bouchard, the winemaker at Road 13 Vineyards
near Oliver. In recent vintages he has begun buying grapes from Blind Creek
Vineyard, a large and relatively new Similkameen vineyard. J-M just raves about
the quality of the grapes.
“If there is a vineyard which is going to stand out in five,
10 years in B.C., that will be it,” he told me during a tasting last fall.
There are 45 vineyards in the Similkameen and Blind Creek is
not the only powerhouse. The recently released reds from Vanessa Vineyards –
soon getting its own winery license – included a knockout Syrah and an
Dale Wright and Jeri Estin, the proprietors at Eau Vivre,
have benefited from the increasing number of suppliers in the valley. There is,
however, competition for the grapes. While Dale was able to get all the Pinot
Noir he needed in 2013 from the Similkameen, he has had to return to Okanagan
sources for that variety. He began buying Okanagan Pinot Noir in 2008.
“All the other grapes are strictly from the Similkameen Valley
,” he adds quickly.
Here are notes on the current releases.
Eau Vivre Sauvignon
Blanc 2013 ($17 for 311 cases). Grapes from two Keremeos vineyards went
into this wine. Whole clusters were pressed to ensure the purest of juice. The
juice was fermented at a cool temperature two more than two weeks and then
spent two months on light lees, stirred every two months. The result is an
elegant Sancerre style white with aromas of lemon, lime and herbs. On the
palette, there are herbal flavours along with notes of guava and green apple.
The finish is crisp and, with a moderate alcohol of 12.2%, the wine is
Gewürztraminer 2013 ($17 for 210 cases). The wine begins with aromas of
spice and grapefruit, leading to flavours of herbs, orange zest and lychee.
There is good weight on the palate, with an excellent balance between the
acidity and the residual sugar, creating a finish that seems dry. 88.
Eau Vivre Riesling
2013 ($19 for 303 cases, $450 for 23 19.5 litre kegs). But for the
specifications provided by the winery, one might not have guessed that there is
15.6 grams of residual sugar here. The bright acidity – 10.1 grams – provides
such an exquisite balance that the finish of the wine seems crisply dry. The
wine, with just 11.3% alcohol, begins with honeyed aromas of petrol and citrus,
leading to flavours of lime, lemon and green apple. 90.
Eau Vivre Pinot Noir
2013 ($21.90 for 600 cases). The winery, having won a Lieutenant Governor’s
Award with an earlier vintage, has made Pinot Noir one of its flagship reds.
This vintage is bold and juicy, with concentrated aromas and flavours resulting
from cold-soaking the grapes four days before fermentation and then punching
down the cap in the open-top fermenters during 16 days of maceration. The wine
has aromas of vanilla and black cherry and this is echoed on the palate. The
wine was aged 10 months in French oak; 21% of the barrels were new and
contributed aromas of toast and bacon fat. The texture is silky. The wine is simply
Eau Vivre Cabernet
Franc 2012 ($22 for 205 cases). This wine begins with aromas of raspberry
and blackberry. On the palate, there are flavours of blackberry, black cherry
and mocha. The tannins are ripe but the texture still is firm enough to support
cellaring this up to five years. There is a hint of cedar on the finish. 89.
Eau Vivre Buddhafull
2010 ($26). Don’t be put off by the pun that serves as this blend’s name.
The wine is serious. It is a blend of 52% Cabernet Franc, 27% Cabernet
Sauvignon, 15% Malbec and 6% Syrah. The wine has had sixteen months aging in
barrels (mostly French). It begins with aromas of black cherries, red berries
and vanilla, leading to flavours cherry, black currant, plum and mocha, with a
hint of spice and cedar on the finish. The tannins are ripe, but firm enough to
allow the wine to develop further in bottle over the next two or three years.