Friday, February 5, 2021

Class of 2020: Horseshoe Found Winery

Photo: Winery owners Pavel and Michaela Horak
Horseshoe Found Winery, which Pavel and Michaela Horak opened last fall near Cawston in the Similkameen Valley, may be British Columbia’s smallest winery. In the 2020 vintage, the winery made 4,500 litres of wine, the minimum allowed under a winery license. So far, just two wines have been released from earlier vintages. Don’t look for the winery to get much bigger. “No, we will not do that because we would like to stay small, and maintain production between 4,500 litres and 6,000 litres, so we can focus on the quality of what we would like to do,” Pavel says.
The winery fulfills a dream inspired by his father’s fruit wines and by Pavel’s blackberry wine when, as an immigrant from Czechoslovakia (as the Czech Republic was known then), Pavel established a home in New Westminster. Trained as a mechanical engineer, Pavel, then 24, slipped out of Czechoslovakia in 1980. He spent six months in Austria, securing his visa to come to Canada – and straight to Vancouver. “I was always attracted to Canada's west coast,” he explains. “This was in my opinion the best choice because of the scenery, weather, nature, and opportunities.” In Vancouver, Pavel had a 20-year career with Creo Inc., a Burnaby producer of digitized plates for the printing industry. The company was taken over in 2005 by Kodak which then moved the production to Mexico four years later. Creo’s former owners established a new company, Kardium Inc., which makes medical products to deal with atrial fibrillation. Pavel joined that company in 2007, working there fulltime until 2016 and parttime now that he and his wife have dedicated themselves to the winery.
Home winemaking in New Westminster, where they had built a house, nourished Pavel’s ambitions. Once they realized that the Lower Mainland is less than ideal for viticulture, they began search for property in the interior. “We decided to get out of the city and go to the Okanagan, or somewhere where we can actually grow grapes and make wine,” Pavel recalls. “We travelled all the way to the Kootenays. The Okanagan seemed to be very expensive. Then one day, we drove through Cawston and saw one property there, the one we have now. It was more expensive than we thought but we fell in love with it, put an offer on it and got it. We bought it in 2006.” The property has then a hay field. Many years earlier, Pavel learned, it had been a rodeo ground. That explained why, when he was digging holes for vineyard posts, Pavel turned up a number of rusty horseshoes. That is also why he and Michaela have named the winery Horseshoe Found. The labels were designed with input from Pavel’s artistic father-in-law in Prague, Jarda Vsetecka. Pavel drew on his experience in the graphic arts industry to finish the design. There was one helpful suggestion from a neighbour who pointed out that the horseshoe was upside down on the original design. In equestrian circles, that is considered to be bad luck. Pavel turned the horseshoe the right way up – to keep the luck from falling out.
“It was a gradual project because I was still working in Vancouver fulltime in the high tech industry and travelling to Cawston every weekend,” Pavel says. “We developed it little by little. There was an old barn and an old house, all of which had to be renovated. We started with the barn; and then the house. And we developed plans for the winery underneath the house. In between we prepared the field for planting.”
They have planted about three acres (there is not much room for more vines), settling on the varieties they like to drink. There is a block of Gew├╝rztraminer, a small block of Muscat, 300 Cabernet Sauvignon vines, and an acre of Pinot Noir. “Pinot Noir is the holy grail of winemaking, in my opinion,” Pavel says. “It is a problematic grape to grow, but when it grows well, you can make some fantastic wine.” To ensure that the wine is that good, the Horaks have engaged a consulting winemaker, Anthony Buchanan. He is currently the winemaker at Desert Hills Estate Winery and he has his own label as well. In the past, he has also consulted with Eau Vivre Winery. By coincidence, Eau Vivre is just across Highway 3 from the Horseshoe Found Winery. “I must say that he taught me a great deal of skills,” Pavel says. “This is important as we are focusing on quality throughout the process starting from vineyard and ending in a bottle.”
The vineyard is managed by Michaela. Formerly a stage actress in Prague, she now runs her own home-based accounting service in Cawston. “All our activities around vineyards including planting, cultivation, weed control and nutrients are based on biodynamic and organic practices,” Pavel says. “We are not certified organic, but we certainly follow all practices as we believe in nature, good bugs, and harmony between all living organisms. Weed control is all manual, and we do not use chemicals.” He believes that “excellent wine starts in the vineyard and to keep vines happy it takes time and effort and if done right all these activities will be positively reflected in wine terroir. This is also why we are not planning to expand as we want to enjoy all work when we do it ourselves. This way, for example, we can properly balance each vine in terms of production and future growth. Michaela as vineyard manager can carefully plan all vineyard activities like pruning, applying organic sprays, and nutrients. Each year is different, and that is the beauty of it.”
Here are notes on the wines.
Horseshoe Found MuscGewurz 2019 ($27). This is a blend of Gew├╝rztraminer and Muscat. It begins with a clean, spicy aroma. On the palate, the spice mingles with stone fruit flavours. The finish is dry. 90.
Horseshoe Found Pinot Noir 2018 ($37). The wine. which was aged 16 to 20 months in neutral oak, is appealing fruit-driven Pinot Noir. Silken in texture, it has aromas and flavours of cherry and raspberry. 90.

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