What creates a unique place?
Like a fingerprint, each wine region is unique. It is the combination of the elements of the region such as climate (macro, micro, and change), soil conditions (macro and micro), water, and geography to name a few, and the way in which the winegrowers interact with these elements that defines place. Like a chef working with the finest ingredients or an orchestral conductor guiding highly talented musicians, the winegrower and his/her beliefs, practices and decisions take advantage of the characteristics of terroir to create wines that are distinctly from that place.
Our winegrowers understand, respect and honour this gift as they create exceptional wines.
Characteristics of our place
You know you arrived in a special place as you drive into the Similkameen Valley. There is something dramatic about the steep, rugged, rocky cliffs and how they tightly enclose the valley. Plunging fans of rock erode from the mountains to the vineyards and orchards on the valley floor below providing a clear window into how this special terrain was formed. The beauty is stunning. Raw. Natural. Rugged. The height and orientation of the surrounding mountains and shape of the valley contribute to our uniqueness.
Complex soils and minerality
Soils have been deposited from retreating glaciers, meltwaters, floods and streams. Wind-blown soils, alluvial fans and coarse rocky material have been broken down from the surrounding mountains. Our soils tend to be high in calcium carbonate and derived from limestone, schist or granite which seem to give a desirable mineral sensation to the wine. One of the most elusive and exciting elements unique to just a few regions is minerality which is something many wine lovers look for in the best quality wines. Minerality contributes to complexity, elegance and freshness, and is very often referred to by wine experts as a major characteristic of Similkameen wine.
Sunshine and heat
Nestled on the mountain plain east of the Coastal Mountain Range, the Similkmeen vineyards soak up long hours of sunlight every day. The average annual number of degree days from 1998 to 2003 was 1360 (PARC). At the peak of the season, the vineyards can get as much as two hours more sunlight per day than famed regions such as Napa Valley in California.
It is not uncommon for temperatures to rise above 40°C (104°F) on summer days and due to the high mountains on both sides of the valley, and the reflective action of the rock, the heat is held in the valley long after the sun sets. The intense heat and long hours of sunlight mean that vines work hard and long, ripening grapes perfectly.
Vineyards are situated between 400-480 metres, heights that would be considered high altitude viticulture in many parts of the world. Without a lake to moderate temperatures, it is not uncommon for summer nights to drop below 10°C (50°F). The extremes from day to night give both ripeness of fruit while retaining natural acidity to keep wines fresh.
Wind – the famous wind
A powerful wind often sweeps through the valley. Like famous world wine winds such as the “Mistral” in France and the “Tramontana” of Italy, the Similkameen wind (yet un-named) has a big impact on the grape and fruit growing region. These powerful gusts cleanse the vineyards of pests and diseases and the drying nature of it prevents mildew from taking hold.
The valley is arid and with the persistent winds reduce the moisture in the vines and the soil. These conditions reduce the need for frequent spraying and help us achieve more environmentally sensitive practices. In fact, with more than 40% of crops grown organically, this region is considered the “Organic Capital of Canada”.
The Similkameen River is the lifeblood of the valley. Running 197km (122mi) from high in the mountains to the west it winds east crossing the border into the US just south of Cawston. During the spring freshet it can be immensely powerful but given the semi-dessert conditions in the valley it can also become calm and a playground for residents and visitors alike.
We believe that the moving river, quality and composition of our water all play a part in helping us create wines that reflect our place.
Our people. Our culture. Our character.
Old world wine making regions are highly regulated with varietal techniques often being mandated. In the new world, regulations related to styles and varietals are less stringent, in part due to the independent, entrepreneurial nature of land developers, and farmers including winegrowers. This is particularly true of the Similkameen Valley.
Our winegrowers are as varied as the wines they create, from multi-generational families who settled years ago to newcomers who moved to the region because they recognized the opportunities unfolding in the Similkameen Valley. Regardless of their history, they bring a similar spirit and a passion for what they do.
The valley is alluring because of its beauty, the authenticity, a lifestyle of locally grown food and wine, and the “realness” of a place built on hard work from the ground up. But also because there is a sense of discovery, of something emerging, of things to come.
A camaraderie exists among the Similkameen Independent Winegrowers based on shared values, a desire to continuously improve and learn, a deep respect for the land which they protect and a passion to showcase the Similkameen through their wines and ciders.
Come and meet the Similkameen Independent Winegrowers.