Photo: Orofino's John and Virginia Weber (courtesy Orofino Vineyards)
John and Virginia Weber, the owners of Orofino, were wine
industry novices when they moved from Saskatchewan
in March, 2001, to take over a 4 ½-acre vineyard near Cawston.
“We spent the first year on a huge learning curve,” remembers
John, a former teacher. Virginia
is a nurse.
They opened the winery 10 years ago, becoming arguably the
most successful winery in the Similkameen. Today, Orofino is producing about
5,000 cases of wine a year. All but one of the wines is from Similkameen
The portfolio of 14 wines spans an impressive range,
including a sparkling wine, single vineyard Rieslings, Chardonnay and Pinot
Gris. This spring, the winery has released five reds from 2012, an excellent
vintage in the Similkameen and Okanagan valleys.
Here are notes on the wines.
Orofino Pinot Noir
Home Vineyard 2012 ($32). Five clones of Pinot Noir are combined in this
complex Pinot Noir. It begins with aromas of strawberry and cherry accented by
the so-called forest-floor notes prized by aficionados of Pinot Noir. The
flavours are rich and toasty, with earthy notes of strawberry and leather. The
texture is firm but beginning to evolve toward silkiness. 90.
Bridge Red 2012
($25). The grapes are from a
Kaleden vineyard. This is a bold Merlot, beginning with aromas of cassis, black
cherry and vanilla. On the palate, there are flavours of black cherry,
blueberry, chocolate and vanilla. The latter note and the svelte texture result
from aging this wine 20 months, without racking, in French and American oak. 89.
Orofino Passion Pit
Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
($29). The name recalls the uses of this
vineyard when it was still a gravel pit. Now, it grows exemplary Cabernet
Sauvignon. It is one of the hottest sites in the Similkameen Valley
this wine has a robust 14.9% alcohol. The colour is dark. Aromas of vanilla,
dark fruits including black cherry and sage brood in the glass. The palate
shows rich, almost porty, flavours recalling fruit cake. All of this revolves
around a bright core of sweet cassis. Twenty months in French and American oak
have given this wine a svelte texture. There is a note of cracked black pepper
on the finish. A tour de force. 92.
Vineyard Syrah 2012 ($29 for 500 cases). Dark in colour, the wine pulls you
in with aromas of black cherries, prune plums, deli spices and white pepper. That
leads to a full-bodied red with earthy and gamey flavours supporting spicy
black cherry notes wrapped up with pepper. This was aged 20 months in barrel,
mostly French. Once again, the wine shows Orofino’s signature polished texture,
with a long juicy finish. 91.
Orofino Beleza 2012 ($34).
This is Orofino’s flagship Bordeaux
blend from an excellent, ripe vintage. The alcohol is a robust 14.8%. The wine
is a powerhouse of almost port-like fruit that creates a rich, intense
mid-palate. It begins with aromas of dark fruits and chocolate, leading to
flavours of plum, black cherry and chocolate, with a touch of sage on the
finish. The blend is 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 10% Petit
Verdot, each aged separately for 20 months in French oak before blending. 92.