Photo: Winery owners Pavel and Michaela Horak
Horseshoe Found Winery at Cawston in the Similkameen Valley, which opened last year, does not have a tasting room.
However, don’t be deterred from making an appointment to visit. Pavel and Michaela Horak, the owners, are a charming, down-to-earth couple, hardly the sort to throw visitors off the property. It is just that it is not practical for such a tiny, two-person winery to man a tasting room.
Horseshoe Found is one of British Columbia’s smallest wineries. In the 2020 vintage, the winery made 4,500 litres of wine, the minimum allowed under a winery license. 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.
A check of the website provides the addresses of wine shops and restaurants that stock Horseshoe Found wines. Because the wines qualify for VQA, you might even find some in the Save-On-Foods wine shops.
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.
In 2006, they found and purchased what was then a hay field near Cawston. Many years earlier, 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, inspiring the winery’s name.
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.
Pavel and Michaela 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 Gewürztraminer, 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.”
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 two recently released wines.
Horseshoe Found Viognier 2020
($25 for 48 cases). Pavel was able to purchase some topnotch Viognier grapes from a Similkameen grower. The wine had four months aging in barrel. This shows the classic tropical fruit of the varietal: aromas and flavours of guava, mango and apricot. The texture is rich and the finish lingers. 92.
Horseshoe Found Pinot Noir 2020
($38 for 162 cases). This wine was made with estate-grown fruit. It fermented on the skins for 10 days, with indigenous yeast, and was aged 18 months in new and used French oak barrels. Silky in texture, the wine has aromas and flavours of cherry with a touch of forest floor on the finish. 90.
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