Monday, December 6, 2010


Alrighty, this post is for another BC wine. It might, however, be one that isn't likely going to be a regular addition to The List. Not because we didn't enjoy the wine - far from it. It's just that there are only two wineries to be found in the Kootenays and I don't know that I've ever seen wines from either one of them in Vancouver - or even the Okanagan for that matter.

Back in the summer, when we were visiting Boo's mom at Sparrowhawk in the Slocan Valley, we wandered over to the local general store/mini mart. It just also happens to act as an outlet for the provincial liquor board. Lo and behold, what do I find on the cash counter, along with the penny candy and assorted sundries, but a bottle of "local" wine. How could I say no? After all, this whole blogging adventure is meant to discover what's out there and have some fun with wine.

667. 2007 Skimmerhorn Marechal Foch (Creston Valley - BC)

Now, Skimmerhorn isn't really all that local. The Creston Valley is a couple hours and an entire mountain pass away. There is one closer winery in the Trail area, but there aren't exactly a bunch of other wineries in this part of the province; so, it can be considered about as "local" as they get. The Creston Valley has a long history of agriculture and tree fruit, but wine grapes is something new. On the other hand, Creston has been long known as the home of the Columbia Brewery and Kokanee Beer, but commercial wine is a whole other thing.

Wine scribe, John Schreiner, has written that the Hoag family, owners and proprietors of Skimmerhorn, have 20 years experience in apples, cherries and other fruit trees, but they found that market prices for apples weren't meeting production costs in this 21st Century. Although they considered the possibility of starting a cidery, the Hoags felt that it might be a more fortuitous outcome to give grape growing and wine a go. So, in 2003, they started replacing their fruit trees with grapevines.

Realizing that the region only has a short, intense growing season, they needed to focus on earlier-ripening varietals. Along with Pinot Noir and whites like Pinot Gris, Ortega and Gewurzt, they planted Marechal Foch - the little known French hybrid grape that still has a bit of a life in BC.

They also knew that they were going to need a consulting winemaker to get them off the ground. Believing that it might be difficult to locate an Okanagan winemaker to help just when those winemakers would be at their busiest time of year back in the Okanagan, the Hoags looked to the Southern Hemisphere and found a Kiwi, Mark Rattray, who agreed to oversee the first three vintages and consult thereafter.

This 2007 vintage was their first and we were nicely surprised by the wine. It was much fuller than we'd expected and had a pleasant nose and taste. I've read that the quality of Marechal Foch fruit can be highly dependant on the age of the vines. Considering that these vines couldn't be more than four to five years old, I'd be happy to come back and try another vintage as the vines become more established.

I'm not so sure that we'll run into those wines that often, if at all, though. The winery only makes 3000 cases and that production is popular throughout the region. We just don't see it down in the Vancouver market and, unfortunately, we likely won't be up in that neighbourhood in the foreseeable future. Boo's mom has since moved away from the Kootenays and our visits up there may be no more. That summer visit was unknowingly my last and, because of that fact, I'm throwing in a gratuitous Christmas photo of Mom Mary's beloved Sparrowhawk from a couple years back. It's one of my favourite seasonal shots and I figure Skimmerhorn earned it.

Here's wishing them good luck at establishing a whole new wine region for the province.

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