A sunny spring evening in mid-May provided a delightful opportunity to launch the work week with a Monday night Winemaker’s dinner at Fable Restaurant. Joining us at this acclaimed Vancouver “farm-to-table” venue were the owners of similarly esteemed Similkameen Valley winery Orofino Vineyards – John & Virginia Weber. With a hard attendance cap limited by the restaurant size the highly anticipated tickets had sold out within hours, overnight! Although demand for our many desirable events has consistently grown alongside the size and quality of BC’s wine industry, the number of seats in a given venue will always be a fixed factor. As the eager guests entered at precisely 6:15pm we were ushered to assigned seating where we looked forward to a five-course dinner accompanied by one of the Society’s favourite wineries.
By the date of our dinner it had been nearly four years since Fable opened on Kitsilano’s well known “West Fourth Ave”, where ardent onlookers can gaze into the glass-fronted kitchen facing the busy street. The early rave reviews have continued since then, making Trevor Bird’s ode to authenticity into a neighbourhood favourite and international inducement. The wine list at Fable includes over twenty BC wines to complement the local food, from vineyards in the Cowichan Valley to Osoyoos, and most points in between. The ripe Similkameen-centered libations crafted by the Webers are one of many staples on the list, providing the event’s Chef Max Straczek and his team with rich prospects for a focus on just one of the restaurant’s many preferred partners.
Surveying the printed menu and wine selection made it clear we would be sampling from a cellared selection across much of Orofino’s classic portfolio, with hints of surprises to come. Given the superb viticultural potential in the Similkameen Valley, Canada’s “Organic Capital”, Orofino has taken advantage of several vineyard sites since the Webers built their eco-friendly strawbale winery in 2004. Over the years a greater focus on vineyard specific wines has emerged at Orofino, and now multiple versions of certain varietals are present, including two Cabernet Sauvignon, and three Riesling. Much of the Webers' success comes from the “mad skills” of their grower partners throughout the region, and they proudly tout the pedigree of each vineyard in their tasting room and marketing. Of course the old vines of the home vineyard in Cawston also help, providing original 1989 blocks of Riesling, Orange Muscat, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.
As guests greeted one another and surveyed the relaxed decor of Fable’s intimate dining room we received the obvious welcome wine of Moscato Frizzante. What must be the final bottles from the 2014 vintage of Orofino’s charming bubbly were cracked open to reveal the growing influence a touch of Riesling brings to the Orange and Bianco Muscat blend. Estate fruit is combined with that from more junior vines of the neighbouring Hendsbee Vineyard to produce this easy-drinking summer favourite. A year in bottle provided the opportunity to enjoy hints of tropical lime amongst the orange blossom aromas as we await the upcoming 2015 release. The crisp and clean finish was nicely balanced thanks to a moderate nine grams of sugar, which John revealed would shift a little drier this year. As the weather warms fans are no doubt clamouring for restocked shelves!