Spring was in its early glory as I headed down to the Similkameen this month, the fruit trees boasting a colourful canopy of pink blossoms, the sun showing its renewed strength. 

It’s a stunning drive weaving your way into the heart of this tiny but mighty valley. Industry leaders have long recognizance this unique terroir with its distinctive character, sense of place, and that perfect duet of climate and soil. The region has almost ideal conditions: a long and hot growing season, dry, windy conditions, and rich soils. 

At its southern gateway from Highway 3 is Cawston, known as the Organic Farming Capital of Canada, boasting farm-gate markets, bistros and farm-to-table restaurants, orchards and organic vineyards. I’m looking forward to venturing back again in the peak season for some fresh and tasty produce, knowing it is healthy and sustainably grown. 

In 2022, the BC government approved a special wine label, “Similkameen Valley” for vintages created in the area, designated an official sub-geographical indication. 

For Clos du Soleil, wine labels will also be marked “organic.” With the recent certification of the La Côte vineyard, Clos du Soleil now boasts four estate-owned vineyards that are not only 100% organic but farmed bio-dynamically. 

For winemaker and managing director Michael Clark, every bottle of wine should reflect its place of origin. 

“Organic farming helps us achieve exactly that, all while keeping the land we live and work on at the forefront of our care and ethos of giving back to the earth, he says. “The end result of farming our vineyards organically — including La Côte — is that we are able to thoughtfully and sustainably produce wines that are elegant and age-worthy, tasting unmistakably of the Similkameen.

Located just down the road from the Clos du Soleil Estate Vineyard on the Upper Bench of the Similkameen Valley, Clos du Soleil purchased La Côte Vineyard in 2018. At that time, the team immediately began converting the vineyard to organic and biodynamic practices, in line with the winery’s existing viticultural methods. 

“It a philosophy of producing wines which speak strongly of terroir and place, and the care we put into both our winemaking and our stewardship of the land,” says Clark.

On a whim, a passionate group of six friends touring the area impulsively purchased a vineyard, giving birth to Clos du Soleil in 2006. The group has grown to nearly 16, and while not technically family-owned, the small, tightly-knit team feels like family to the staff and patrons. The tasting room is open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tastings are offered on a reservation basis, with online booking at closdusoleil.ca.

For the spring, pick up the 2022 Rosé ($28.90) crafted from Malbec grapes harvested from the organic La Côte vineyard. This nuanced and dry rosé’s fruity notes add some fun to the wine’s earthy elements. A small percentage (9%) of Sauvignon Blanc adds more aromatics and acidity.

While red wines may dominate the market, the thirst for white wines (perfect for summertime) is growing worldwide. Top Sauvignon Blanc wines from prized terroir across world wine regions have always been sought after, and Clos du Soleil should be on that list. Their signature white, La Capella, is always a sellout. 

They are currently pouring a 2022 Fumé Blanc ($24.90), an aromatic, full-flavoured Sauvignon Blanc-Sémillon blend. Pale-gold in the glass, this white Meritage saw extra time on the lees to offer fullness and ripe fruit aromas of citrus that continue onto the palette with just a subtle hint of oak. Juicy and crisp, refreshing yet elegant.

The newly released 2020 Signature ($55.90) is a Bordeaux-inspired blend full of promise. So snap up this beauty now but give her some time in the cellar (three to five years; more if you’re patient). The Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc blend with a touch of Malbec and Petit Verdot was fermented using only native wild yeasts to reinforce terroir expression. After a gentle pressing, the wines were aged for 16 months in 100% French oak barrels, with only select barrels chosen for this wine.

Happy spring wine touring.

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