Similkameen Valley Part 1

 Hello, all you fine folk! I've got a 2 parter coming up for you because what started as a simple, 2 winery visit ended up turning into a 4 winery plus an incredible lunch extravaganza so rather than bombard you with everything at once, I figured I'd split it up nicely for you! That being said, I still have a lot to say about them so these will be some slightly longer posts.  This will give the wineries the attention they deserve because let me tell you, I was pleasantly surprised by all of the different places I visited! We both were! Oh, that's right, we have a special guest for the next two blog entries! Chris came for a visit and it was actually his idea in the first place to go to the Valley! Without further ado...the wineries!

Winery #1: Hugging Tree Winery

This was the first winery that was not on the original itinerary! It came recommended to us by our friend, another Chris! (It's very confusing, I know). Friend Chris actually owns a winery in Calgary called City and Country Winery (you should check it out also) and Hugging Tree is where he buys some of his grapes from! So naturally, we had to visit! Hugging Tree is a family-owned and operated winery that started off selling grapes. Their first vintage wasn't actually until 2012 and their tasting room opened in 2014. They've moved around a bit, but I think they've finally found their home! Their wine is excellent and they have some exciting things coming up so I will definitely be following them to see what comes next! Now for the wine:

1. 2018 Viognier

It's no secret that I love Viognier, it's one of my favourite varietals so I was very excited that we got to try 2 different vintages of this! First up was the 2018, these grapes were hand harvest and had lots of lees contact (lees are deposits of dead yeast or residual yeast, don't worry this is very common and not as gross as it might sound). Because of the lees contact, this wine had a gorgeous, creamy mouthfeel. There was a lot of citrus in this wine, some nice grapefruit, some apricot and honeysuckle. 

2. 2016 Viognier

Once again, I love Viognier. This one had your very classic, full mouthfeel which is why I always tell people that Viognier is the white wine for red wine drinkers because it gives you the same body and has more substance than a lot of white wines. This one had less of the citrus notes and more of the stone fruit, with peach, apricot and some nice pear notes in there as well. This one also had just a really nice, long finish to it. 

3. 2018 Rose

Hugging Tree makes their Rose with a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with the Cab being pressed first and their skins being taken out last, so the Rose has a lot of those Cab characteristics to it. I'm so happy that Rose has stopped being such a trendy wine and that the wineries who care about their Rose are finally getting a chance to shine because those sweet, tart Roses really are not my favourite. Hugging Tree makes a great Rose! It starts off incredibly fruity with some nice red fruit like raspberry and strawberry, but then has a nice, dry quality to it so you're not totally overwhelmed with it. Super well-balanced. This is most definitely a patio sipper!!

4. 2016 Rose

Another Rose! This one was so nice to look at, it had this gorgeous orange/rusty colour to it which I haven't seen in Rose before but believe, me I saw it a lot this day! Also, an aged Rose? So cool! Have never had a Rose that was more than a year old before! This is absolutely a food-pairing, full-bodied wine. Had a lot of nice grapefruit and green bell pepper on the palate and had more of those aged notes like tobacco leaf, with some pepper notes as well. 

5. 2015 Cabernet Franc

Chris and I both loved this wine! Which is funny because we found out after we tried it that these were the grapes sent to Friend Chris to put into his Similkameen Rose, which is also one of our favourites! This had lots of juicy, red fruits like strawberry, plum and currant but also had some more earthy, mossy notes to it. Had a nice mouthfeel to it and had a beautiful finish. Chris and I absolutely both bought a bottle of this wine! This wine would taste amazing with something with a lot of spices, maybe some grilled pork with a black pepper, thyme and oregano spice rub.

6. 2016 Moonchild Merlot

This is Hugging Tree's flagship wine! Rightfully so because this was a delicious Merlot. I'll be honest though, everytime I drink Merlot I can't help but think of Paul Giamatti in Sideways. This Merlot is full of beautiful, dark fruit like black cherry and black plum, even some notes of vanilla in there as well although this very very lightly oaked. The tannins feel so smooth in your mouth and the finish is nice and long. I don't know why, but this feels like the perfect winter wine to drink when it's cold and snowy outside but inside you have the fire going and the Christmas music is playing in the background while you cook dinner.

7. 2015 Telltale

This is a very nice blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet France, Malbec and Petite Verdot Had a beautiful deep colour and the wine gives a lot of darker fruit like black plum, black currant, boysenberry. There's some slight oak on it that gives it just a nice smooth texture when it's in your mouth and ensures that the tannins are not overbearing at all. 

8. 2014 Telltale

The final wine! And the earlier vintage of the previous wine! This has the same blend of grapes, however there is more Petit Verdot than Malbec in this one (the 2015 had more Malbec than Petit Verdot). This was such a beautiful wine, with lots of red cherry, black currant and some spicy, herbal notes. This one is definitely a bit earthier than the 2015. Something Brad (who I'll talk about in a second here) told us was that this is one of those wines you can open and just leave for a day or two and it will still taste just amazing. 

Speaking of Brad! He is the winemaker for Hugging Tree and was the one who walked us through this tasting, which is pretty incredible! You can really hear his passion for the wine as he's describing them, plus who knows more about a wine than the person who made it? It was such a cool opportunity and I'm so glad we visited Hugging Tree!

Winery #2: Orofino Vineyards 

I'm going to stop telling you all when it's a first time winery for me because there's going to be quite a lot of them! Going forward I will only inform you when it's a revisit! Winery #2 on our Similkameen day was Orofino Vineyards. I'm not kidding when I say it felt like I had stepped onto a Tuscan Winery, this place was absolutely gorgeous and transported me right back to Italy. Something very cool about this winery is that both the tasting room and their office building are 100% solar-powered! Onto the wine:

1. 2020 Cabernet France Rose

Ok you guys. This has got to be the most interesting Rose I have EVER tried. They grow these grapes specifically to be put into a Rose, it has a gorgeous orange/salmon colour and the notes on this wine are so unique! The first thing you get when you smell is, I'm not even kidding, jalapeno. It's the weirdest thing to smell on a Rose but it works!! The wine on a whole is very herbaceous, but there's enough fruit and floral notes in there to give it a great balance. I've never tried anything like this before and neither had Chris so naturally we both had to get a bottle!

2. 2018 Hendsbee Riesling Clone 21B

Alright, I had never heard the term "Clone" before moving to the Okanagan and I was super confused by it, but just so you guys don't have to do the research, here is a one-sentence explanation of what a Clone is: A grape clone is a cutting taken from an existing vine that is then grafted onto rootstock. That's all you get so if you want a lengthier explanation just leave a comment and I'll respond! Back to this wine! This is a Mosel-style Riesling, which I always prefer because the Germans just know how to do Riesling better than anyone else. This is a nice off-dry style with lots of minerality, nice pear notes with just a hint of stone fruit in there. The acidity of the wine really balanced out the slight sweetness, making for an excellent wine!

3. 2019 Chardonnay

Each winery I go to they ask if I want to try the Chardonnay and I always say I don't like Chardonnays and then they insist on bringing me the Chardonnay! I think I might be becoming a Chardonnay drinker...damn. This Chardonnay was aged in 100% French oak, 20% of it being new. On the nose it had that buttery popcorn smell but some floral notes as well. In the mouth you do get those butter notes right away, but it disappears and literally transforms in your mouth into a more fruity and floral wine!

4. 2019 Gamay

I LOVE GAMAY!! I have yet to find a Gamay I don't enjoy. It's honestly just a perfect wine that works with any situation. If you've never tried one before, Orofino makes basically a perfect version of Gamay. This was beautiful with lots of red fruit on the nose, raspberry and cranberry. It has a very nice, smooth mouthfeel. Very light but just bursting with flavour.  I read on their website that this wine gets more attention from wine writers than any of their others and it's easy to see why!

5. 2019 Few and Far Between Merlot 

This was a very special wine we got to try! Right now it's only available for Wine Club members, but they had a bottle open in the tasting room! Another cool fact about this wine was the label for this and the next wine I'm going to talk about was designed by our wine taster! This is one of those reds that can cellar for about 10 years. It's full of beautiful cherry and fig notes and the tannins feel so good in your mouth. Another thing that makes this wine so exclusive is normally they put all their Merlot into blends. I believe this is only the second time they've made a Merlot!

6. 2019 Few and Far Between Syrah

Syrah is another wine that I just love all the time. This one was no exception! This was aged in oak for 18 months and also had some time in concrete! It has lots of dark fruit like black cherry and dark, juicy plum. There were also some tobacco notes, a hint of black pepper and some nice anise in there as well. This one also had a label done by our taster! You can see in the picture how beautiful it is! The one for the Merlot was similar but in blue!

7. 2018 Beleza

This is Orofino's flagship wine! It's a Bordeaux-style blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot! This is another red wine that can easily cellar for about 10 years or so. This had very nice, rich dark fruits with lots of dark cherry, and you can really taste the oak on this wine with some nice hints of vanilla and nutmeg. This is a very full-bodied wine with gorgeous, smooth tannins.

That's all for Orofino! Our taster, Coranne, was amazing! She knew a lot about the winery and the wine and made sure we had a great time! She's also just really cool because she created those two wine labels and if I'm not mistaken, she's going to have a third one out there soon! 

This concludes Part 1 of our Similkameen adventures! In Part 2, we get to 2 more wineries plus one of the best lunches I've ever had. Stay tuned! 


  1. Hi Jillian, this is Jillian testing to see if your comments work

  2. Sounds like a great area to visit, must put on the next trip to B.C.!!


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