The Similkameen Valley is located in British Columbia’s Thompson-Okanagan region, just north of the United States border. The valley is carved from the rugged, steep Cascade Mountains by the Similkameen River, which meanders through the heart of this almost 200 kilometer-long valley. The terroir is visible through the eroding rock of the mountainside and the ancient gravel beds, as well as the complex deposits of minerals and soils deposited by the glacial action.
Its climate is well-suited to the practice of sustainable crop growing. The region comprises 7% of British Columbia’s vineyards, with a total of 691 acres planted. The top planted grapes in the Similkameen Valley are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay.
The Similkameen Valley is the largest of British Columbia’s five designated viticultural areas and is its own appellation under the BC VQA laws. The grapes grown in the valley have been supplying many Okanagan wineries with high quality fruit for decades and now is home to over a dozen wineries, many of which are award-winning. Similkameen Valley summers are hot (up to 40 degrees Celsius), with low rainfall, low humidity and strong afternoon winds. These factors reduce the occurrence of crop loss to pests and diseases, and are all reasons as to why the Similkameen Valley is known as the Organic Farming Capital and Fruit Stand Capital of Canada.
Terroir & Microclimate
On the hillside overlooking the Similkameen Valley, Vanessa Vineyard grows its grapes on 75 acres of sloping, well drained, rocky terrain. The vines grow in rows of rock, stressing the plants and absorbing the day heat while imparting that warmth during the cooler nights. This gives the grapes their unique and complex character. The west-to-southwest exposure on which the rocky vineyard sits is benefitted by the afternoon sun, which contributes to lengthening the growing season and producing intensely ripe fruit, all while capturing the minerality of the soil on which it grows.
The land at Vanessa Vineyard is classified in the Grape Atlas as A1 Land, considered the highest grade of which has very slight limitations that restrict its use for the production of grapes. The soils are predominantly loam with some sand and a high rock content that creates excellent drainage throughout the property. The gently sloping terrain adds to the drainage, while also allowing the cold air from the hillside to pass over and settle down by the river, minimizing frost risk.
Practices & Techniques
Vanessa Vineyard uses drip irrigation as a water delivery method for its vines. Drip irrigation is known to be the most efficient way to supply supplemental moisture to grapevines. This watering system loses practically no water to runoff, deep percolation, or evaporation. It reduces water contact with grape vines leaves, stems, and berries, making conditions less favorable for disease development. Irrigation scheduling can be managed to meet grapevines individual demands, holding the promise of increased yield and fruit quality. Some limited areas of the vineyard also have overhead sprinklers to augment the drip system. This method is used in areas of high drainage where drip alone is not always sufficient.
Vanessa Vineyard is proud to grow five grape varieties for its estate wine.
Cabernet Franc, one of the major black grape varieties found worldwide, is primarily grown for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in Bordeaux-style wine. Vanessa Vineyard grows 15 acres of this grape variety and blends it in our Meritage varietal.
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world’s best known wine grape varieties and is recognized for its status in Bordeaux wines. The popularity of this grape variety is often attributed to its ease of cultivation, as the grape has a thick skin and its vines are resilient. Vanessa Vineyard grows 25 acres of this grape variety and blends it in our Meritage varietal.
Merlot is a dark blue-coloured wine grape that is used as both a blending grape and for varietal wines. Merlot-based wines usually are medium-bodied with hints of berry, plum, and currant. Due to its softness and fleshiness, it is known for earlier ripening. Vanessa Vineyard grows 22 acres of this grape variety and blends it in our Meritage varietal.
Syrah is a dark-skinned grape grown throughout the world and primarily used to produce powerful red wines. This grape is often used as a varietal, but can also be blended. Vanessa Vineyard grows 13 acres of this grape variety and produces a single varietal Syrah wine.
Viognier is a white wine grape that has seen a substantial rise in use in North America. The Okanagan Valley of British Columbia offers many excellent growing areas for the Viognier variety, which needs to be fully ripe for its tropical fruit and rich character to shine. Vanessa Vineyard grows less than one acre of this grape variety for blending in a small amounts into our Syrah varietal in the traditional northern Rhone style.