There is a valley in the south central province of British Columbia that has been blessed with the ability to produce grapes that contain the amazing juice resulting in award winning wines. The Similkameen Valley is a pristine stretch of vineyards, set amongst the dramatic backdrop of rugged mountains.
The Similkameen is a narrow Valley which runs from the desert like region of Osoyoos along Highway 3 to the historic town of Princeton, some 100 km (60 mi.) away The valley has mountains to north and south with the Similkameen River on the valley's bottom. The valley receives very little rain or snow. Most of the vineyards are on the north and east slopes.
The Similkameen is historically known for its Gold Mines, Western Heritage and ranching. The city of Keremos is known as the Fruit Stand Capital of Canada. Approximately 40 % 0f all farms here are organic. The valley has 2.000 hours of sun shine and 180 plus frost free days, making excellent growing conditions. The valley has 247 acres of vineyards found between Keremeos and Richter Pass.
Keremeos the largest town is about 348 Km from Vancouver. Keremeos is a vibrant agricultural community located in the beautiful Similkameen Valley of British Columbia. The area has a well deserved reputation for producing fruits and vegetables of exceptional quality. The Valley is also home to a large cattle ranching community featuring a Hereford Bull Development Station. Horses are also prominent in the Valley, with Quarter Horses, Arabians, Appaloosas and Paints just to name a few. Keremos is known as the Fruit Stand Capital of Canada and is rapidly becoming known for it wines.
Cawston is located just east from Keremeos by around 8 km (5 miles) and west of Osoyoos by 36 km (22 miles) on Hwy 3. It too is a major Agricultural centre and numerous vineyards.
The wine history of the valley began back in 1978 with St. Laszlo Vineyards Estate Winery. The winery located near Keremeos has operated under the direction of Winemaker Joe Ritlop and now his son Joe Jr. Some historians credit Joe Ritlop with producing Canada's first icewine. If he did it was not sold commercially.
Crowsnest Vineyards which opened in 1995 was one of the first to establish a name outside of the Valley. The winery is named after Highway #3, which is also known as Crowsnest Highway. It is the only winery in the valley to have a restaurant.
Forbidden Fruit Winery is a family owned and operated boutique winery located on Ven’Amour Organic Farms, a certified organic tree fruit farm, vineyard and nature estate along the banks of the pristine Similkameen River in Cawston. They established a outstanding reputation for fruit wines. The farm was established in1977. Kim Brind'Amour and Steve Venables are the owner/managers Their son Nathan has started to produce grape wines under the Dead End Cellar label.
Robin Ridge Winery which started in 1996 by the Cottrill Family uses the Geneva Double Curtain Trellis style to allow more light into the fruiting zone while at the same time increasing the surface area of the canopy. This allows the grapes to become optimally ripe producing intense and unique flavours.
The early 2000s saw a number of new wineries opening in the Valley.
Nested among the almond and walnut trees of the Similkameen is Canada's first and currently the only strawbale winery,Orofino Vineyards. The winery opened in 2005 and has produced a number of award winning wines.
Seven Stones Winery opened in 2007 and has become one of the Valley's best known wineries. Steve recently build old world style storage caves. Thes not only provide excellent wine storage but a great location forevent hosting.
Eau Vivre Winery & Vineyards in Cawston is owned by Dale Wright and Jeri Estin, who were born and raised in Saskatchewan. They have been presented with three Lieutenant Governor's Award for Excellence in British Columbia Wines.
Cerelia is a family run winery, dedicated in both the vineyard and winery. They opened their doors at the end of July ‘09. Cerelia is owned by David and Peggy Mutch – Dennis and Roxanne Mutch – Megan Mutch and Corey Witter. Megan Mutch is the winemaker with John Weber as consultant.
Ann Sperling is one of Canada’s celebrated winemakers. She has helped put the Valley on the world map by producing wines for Clos du Soleil. In 2006 Spencer Massie and a small group of professional business people saw the potiential in the Valley opening the winery. In 2015 they opened brand new facilities. 2015 was also a good year for the winery when it came to accoldaes and awards.
Another success story coming out of the valley is the that of the Swiss family Baessler who came from Switzerland to Manitoba to BC and started Corcelettes Estate Winery. Some of their wines are just sensational.
Rustic Roots Winery in Cawston opened their fruit winery in 2008. The family has been farming the valley since the mid 1800s. In the last few years they have won over 45 awards for their wines.
One of the more recent wineries to open Little Farm Winery, their first vintage been 2011. The winery is owned by Rhys Pender MW and Alishan Driediger. They love the Valley and here is where they wanted their winery. The property was purchased in 2009. Vineyard planting took three years. Rhys and Alishan have been in the wine industry for a long time with their business Wine Plus+ doing education, consulting, writing, judging.
View from Seven Stones Winery
Corcelettes Estate Winery
enRoute magazine identified the valley as “one of the world’s five best wine regions you’ve never heard of.” Perhaps they should have followed this website. New wineries are continuing to open in the Valley, Sleeping Lady Winery,Vanessa Vineyards,Vineglass Renewal Resort and Hugging Tree.
date of report January 16th 2016