Monday, May 11, 2015

Orofino Vineyards at 10 years

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 vineyards.

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.

Orofino Red 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.

Orofino Scout 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.

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