Monday, October 5, 2015

Dead End Cellars spawned by Forbidden Fruit

Photo: Steve and Nathan Venables and Kim Brind'Amour

Since opening in 2005, the Similkameen’s Forbidden Fruit Winery has earned a reputation for high quality fruit wines.

However, the winery has quietly diversified into grape wines, first under its own label and now with a companion label just launched: Dead End Cellars.

Owners Steve Venables, Kim Brind’Amour and their son, Nathan, initially added grape wines to their portfolio to satisfy the consumers who had ventured all the way to this secluded winery and found just fruit wines.

“When we first opened, we started getting the Europeans,” Steve recalls. “I remember the big campers pulling in and the Germans walking in. “I like reds!” I thought he has come all the way down here and he is going to be disappointed. Well, I had my cherry port. Other than that, it was sorry, we do fruit wines. And I thought I should have something for everybody.”

The winery started several years ago with its Earth Series wines, with some of the profits going to charitable purposes.

Now the winery has launched an entirely new label, Dead End Cellars, which is destined to evolve into a separate label under Nathan’s direction.

It came about after Forbidden Fruit bought a neighbouring property last fall, south of its orchard and vineyard at a “dead end” against the U.S. border.

Steve, who moved to his Similkameen property in 1977, has been farming this nearly adjacent property since 1979 for the elderly residents.  He had even planted grapes there and had expressed an interest in buying it. Last September, after the death of the last resident, the estate sold it to him.  

The attraction, aside from the one-acre vineyard, is the massive house built there in 1979 on top of an original log cabin. The house fronts onto the Similkameen River. Nathan believes the ground floor (of three floors) will make an excellent tasting room. A red seal carpenter by trade, he has renovated the building.

Three wines have been released so far under the Dead End Cellars label. (I cannot track down the price to go with the reviews.) The wines, like everything from Forbidden Fruit, are organic. Steve and Nathan have sourced some of their organic grapes from organic growers in the Okanagan to supplement their fruit.

They plan to develop more vineyards. “We hope to plant another 2 ½ to 3 acres next spring,” Steve says. “We are looking at some Tannat, probably some Riesling and Pinot Gris; and maybe Merlot.”

They also have eight or nine acres on the Forbidden Fruit farm that is available for vines.

“We are taking a different direction,” Steve says. “It is kind of Nathan’s baby, although we are all partners.”

Here are notes of current releases.

Dead End Cellars Skrewd 2014. This is a blend of Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris. It delivers tons of fruity aromas, followed by flavours of grapefruit, apple, peach and nectarine. The wine is so fruity that the finish seems of dry. That’s not sugar, that is fruit. 88.

Dead End Cellars No Return 2012. This is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. It has aromas and flavours of red and black currants, cherry, vanilla and chocolate, with cherry and raspberry on the finish. The texture is juicy. 90.

Dead End Cellars Game Over 2012. This is a delicious blend of Tannat and Malbec. Dark in colour, it has aromas of plum, blackberry and black currant. On the palate, there is a cascade of red berry flavours with black cherry, blackberry and chocolate on the finish. 91.

Forbidden Fruit Adam’s Apple 2013 ($18.95). This dry apple wine is made from six varieties (not named on the label) which makes for complexity. The  apple aromas and flavours are intense, with a focussed purity. The wine has good weight. The finish is crisp and lingering. 90.

Forbidden Fruit Pearsuasion 2013 ($18.95). This dry pear wine is made from two varieties of Asian pear: Shinsiecki and Kosui. Forbidden Fruit grows these in its organic vineyard. The aromas and flavours are quite exotic, with notes of banana, cantaloupe and, of course, pear. The wine has good weight and the finish is crisply dry. 90.

Forbidden Fruit Plum Noir 2013 ($24). The winery set out to challenge Pinot Noir with a wine from a blend of European and Asian plums. The wine begins with a smoky aroma. On the palate, the plum flavours have an earthy undertone (in Pinot Noir, this would be called forest floor). Oak aging and the natural plum tannins give the wine a moderately firm structure. 88.

Forbidden Fruit Cherysh 2013 ($19.95). This is a rosé wine made with cherries. The fruit defines the aromas and the flavours. The bright acidity gives the wine a tangy and dry finish. 89.

Forbidden Fruit Pomme Desiree 2014 ($($29.95 for 375 ml). This is an iced apple dessert wine that holds its own against any Icewine. The aromas are fresh, with hints of bake apple. On the palate the apple flavours are rich with a lingering caramel note on the finish. The balance is exquisite: the wine has sweet but by no means cloying. 90.

Forbidden Fruit Impearfection 2014 ($21.95 for 375 ml). This Asian Pear dessert wine begins with exotic, spicy aromas, going on to flavours that simply explode on the palate. The wine is a tropical fruit basket of pears and mango, with a long finish of wildflower honey. 92.

Forbidden Fruit Plumiscuous 2014 ($26.95 for 350 ml). In fruit wine terms, this is a mistelle – a wine to 17%. The plum flavours are intense and there is lingering sweetness on the finish. The wine is nicely balanced and can be sipped on its own. I like the recommendation on the back label: make a vodka martini with this. 90.

Forbidden Fruit Sauvidal 2014 Earth Series ($22). This is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Vidal. It begins with aromas of lime and pineapple, leading to ripe tropical fruit flavours with a persistent finish. The texture is juicy and the balance leans to dry. 90.

Forbidden Fruit Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Earth Series ($26). This wine begins with aromas of vanilla, cassis and bell pepper. There are flavours of black currant, blueberries and vanilla. There are long ripe tannins, with the firm backbone one expects in a Cabernet. Decant this wine. 89.

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