Unexpected Wines from Crowsnest Vineyards in the Similkameen Valley

Crowsnest Vineyards logoCrowsnest Vineyards is located near Cawston in the Similkameen Valley in south-central BC.  This valley is cooler-climate with the valley running east-west and a breeze that passes through it to help give the valley it’s character.  I was surprised that I had not tried their wines before or knew much about them, and regret it.  The winery was established in 1995 so is now 25 years old and will have quite mature vines.  When I visited their website I see that they have a bakery and German restaurant as well as a guest house.  I hope to make it out to visit them sometime this coming summer.

The wines that Crowsnest Vineyards sent to me to taste are exceptionally good and I can recommend all their BC VQA wines.

My Tasting Notes

2 White Wines

The first 2 wines I tasted are their Riesling 2018 and Gewurztraminer 2017.

The Crowsnest Vineyards Riesling 2018 is a bright medium intensity lemon colour.  It has a lighter intensity nose with a mix of youth and developing aromas of lemon, petrol and white flowers upfront with a touch of peach jam and honey at the end.  With decanting I picked up some vanilla and baked apple pie aromas as well.  The wine is off-dry with a light acidic prickle.  A light mouthfeel.  You get lots of ripe and dried apricots and honey, with a lesser amount of pears, and a touch of blossom and lychee.  With decanting you also get ripe peach flavours along with some minerality and marmalade.  This wine has a long finish finishing with sweet ripe apricots and honey and some drying tannins, so I am guessing that there was maybe some time with the must in contact with skins?  Either way, a very delicious wine that can age well for the next 2-4 years.

Rating: 4.5 stars5 stars  A solid quality Riesling with lovely aromas of lemon, petrol and white flowers.  A touch of sweetness with a light body and tasty ripe apricots, peach, pears and honey flavours.

The Crowsnest Vineyards Gewurztraminer 2017 was a complete surprise to me.  It is an aged aromatic white, which reminds me of French Vin Jaune.  I will write more about this in my article to follow. It has a deeper amber colour.  The wine has a medium intensity with aromas of lychees mixed with honeyed or dried fruits, a touch of woodiness and spearmint spice.  The wine is dry with a medium-plus body.  It is smooth as the acidity does not appear very high.  It has an oxidized fruit profile. Dried stone fruits, in particular, apricots, followed by pears, along with a touch of citrus and dried apples, light lychee and spearmint.  There are some honey tones that get stronger toward the finish.  It does finish with an oxidized fruit profile, pepper and woody, with honey at the very end.  Decanting did not change this wine so open and enjoy.  A very interesting wine, but one that you should drink soon.

Rating: 4 stars4.5 stars An aromatic white wine showing its age and what you can enjoy with age.  Dried fruits and honey on the nose and palate. Drink now.

Crowsnest Vineyards Riesling 2018 and Gewurztraminer 2017
Crowsnest Vineyards Riesling 2018 and Gewurztraminer 2017

Vin jaune is made from late harvest Savagnin grapes, a white variety in the Traminer family which is less aromatic than the better-known Gewürztraminer. The grapes are usually harvested in late October when the sugars have developed enough to have a potential alcohol level of 13–15% for the finished wine. The grapes are fermented slowly and then kept in small old oak casks that hold 228 liters (60 gallons). The casks are not topped up, as they are with most wines, so an air gap appears above the wine due to evaporation. A film of yeast grows over the wine, protecting it partially (but not totally) from oxidation. In Jura, this film is called the voile (veil), but it is similar to the more familiar “flor” in Sherry production. The voile yeast has many similar properties to “flor” but thrives better in a lower alcohol environment and develops less heavily and thickly than “flor” does.Wikipedia Vin jaune.

Comte AOP cheese (Image courtesy Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0)
Comte AOP cheese (Image courtesy Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0)

It is interesting that I picked up the similarity in aromas and flavours of this Gewurztraminer to the Vin Jaune, and then read that the grape used in Vin Jaune, Savagnin, is a white variety that is related to Gewurztraminer. Comté is one of the most widely made and famous of all the French cheeses and is a recommended pairing to Vin Jaune.  I can see that Comté would make a very nice pairing to this Gewurztraminer.

Rose and Chardonnay

My next 2 wines from this Similkameen winery is their Similkameen Sunset 2018, a rosé wine, and their Stahltank Chardonnay 2018, a Chardonnay fermented in a steel tank, unoaked.

The Crowsnest Similkameen Sunset 2018 I believe is a blend of Pinot Auxerrois and Pinot Noir grapes.  It has a bright orange colour with a pink tint.  The wine has youthful, fresh red fruit aromas, strawberries in particular, and has a citrus zest edge.  I also picked up some candied red fruit aromas as well.  With decanting the aromas were a touch lighter.  The wine is off-dry, medium-bodied with a round mouthfeel and alight acidic prickle that smooths out on your palate. I enjoyed the nice texture of this wine in my mouth.  It has a mix of crisp red fruits, strawberries and raspberries, together with candied red cherries.  Light, lifted fruit flavours.  It finishes with mouthwatering acidity and flavours of crisp red fruits and a touch of floral and minerality.  Decanting gave the wine a slightly lighter mouthfeel. A fun, gulpable rose wine.

Rating: 4.5 stars A light, bright, refreshing rose wine to enjoy.  Slightly off-dry.  Harmonious fruit, acidity and sweetness.

The Crowsnest Stahltank Chardonnay 2018 is a very elegant wine.  It is a bright clear medium-intensity lemon colour in the glass.  Youthful, light aromas blending white flowers, peach, pear, and touches of butterscotch and bramble leaf.  With decanting you get lots of citrus, apple and pear aromas.  The wine is very slightly off-dry with medium-plus body and semi-round, more precise in its focus.  With decanting this wine gets softer and rounder in your mouth.  The flavours are understated and a mixture of lemon, pear and apple with a touch of blossom and bramble leaf.  With decanting you get stony minerality and more lime skin flavour.  It finished with mouthwatering acidity, roasted pears, pepperiness and a hint of lime skin.  Highly recommended.

Rating: 4.5 stars Elegant, understated aromas and flavours, showing citrus, pers, and butterscotch.  A short decant brings more aromatics and makes it rounder and softer in the mouth.

Crowsnest Similkameen Sunset 2018 and Stahltank Chardonnay 2018
Crowsnest Similkameen Sunset 2018 and Stahltank Chardonnay 2018

Pinot Noir and 2 Merlots

Crowsnest Vineyards Pinot Noir 2016 is deep garnet in colour, with consistent colour from the core to the rim.  It does have a pretty nose; youthful. Very floral along with ripe plums, raspberries, candied cherries and vanilla. With decanting the wine becomes more aromatic with raspberries, red fruit and bramble fruit, while the floral component lessens. This wine is dry and starts off angular but with a bit of air opens up and gets rounder and fuller-bodied.  But interestingly has a light mouthfeel.  Medium-plus bodied with medium acidity and medium fine-textured tannins.  Ripe raspberries on the palate blended with floral, tart and sweet red fruits, sweet spices, vanilla, and then some pepperiness toward the finish.  The wine has a medium-plus length finishing with red cherries, raspberries and floral flavours. Nutmeg on the very end.  There is more acidity than tannins to this wine to provide structure.  Decanting makes this wine have a rounder and bigger mouthfeel, and you get more ripe raspberries and oak on the palate.   A quality Pinot Noir.

Rating: 4.5 stars A quality Pinot Noir that decanting open up.  You get ripe plums on the raspberries on the nose that continues to the palate, then add red cherries and sweet spices.

Next, I tried 2 Merlots.  One is their 2016 Merlot and the other their 2014 Family Reserve Merlot.  Youth and maturity!
First, for youth, the Crowsnest Vineyards Merlot 2016 is deep garnet in colour, about 90% opaque, translucent to the core.  It has youthful, medium intensity aromas that are quite fruity with ripe plums and miscellaneous red fruits, along with prominent sweet spices, nutmeg in particular. This wine is slightly off-dry with a lighter overall feel with acidity tannins and alcohol. It is round and silky smooth with a medium body.  Mostly ripe plums and sweet spices with a lesser amount of red fruits.  I pick up minerality and pepperiness on the mid-palate that continues to the finish.  Light oak.  It has a medium-plus length finishing peppery with red fruit and red cherries and nutmeg.  A slightly off-dry finish.  A youthful fruity Merlot.
Decanting this wine made a big difference.  On the nose, I was getting cedar, sweet spices, in particular nutmeg, capsicum, black pepper, and dark fruit aromas.  The wine had a feel mouthfeel and firmer tannins.  It was a much bolder wine with decanting, which I recommend.


Rating: 4 stars4.5 stars A youthful fruity Merlot with lots of ripe plums and sweet spice flavours upon first opening.  Decanting makes this wine bigger and have deeper dark fruit aromatics and flavours.


Now for maturity, the Crowsnest Vineyards Family Reserve Merlot 2014 is deep garnet in colour with slight bricking.  It is approximately 95% opaque and translucent to the core.  Medium-plus intensity developing aromas showing cedar, leather, ripe black fruit and plums, with lesser amounts of kirsch cherries and vanilla.  A deep, expressive nose.  This wine is dry and round, fuller-bodied with a silky mouthfeel.  The tannins are firmer than in the 2016 with some chalkiness.  Red fruit, tea leaves, cedar or Old World oak, and a mix of ripe red and black fruits.  A hint of floral and a touch of sweet spices.  It gets a little peppery on the mid-palate but then fades before the finish.  A longer finish with lots of lingering red fruits and cedar, a touch of sweet oak.  Drying tannins on the finish but still overall soft.  A classic mature Merlot to drink right now.  Decanting did not really change this wine.  I guess with maturity you don’t need to change; you are perfect as you are.


Rating: 4.5 stars5 stars A classic mature Merlot with lots of complex dark fruit and plum aromas and flavours, mixed with cedar, sweet spices, and leather.  Drink now.
Crowsnest Vineyards Pinot Noir 2016, Merlot 2016, and Family Reserve Merlot 2014
Crowsnest Vineyards Pinot Noir 2016, Merlot 2016, and Family Reserve Merlot 2014

Sparkling Wine

Crowsnest Vineyards The Nest 2018
Crowsnest Vineyards The Nest 2018

My last wine to taste was the Crowsnest Vineyards The Nest 2018 which is a blend of Pinot Auxxerois, Chardonnay, and Riesling.  It is a lighter, bright straw colour.  It gets quite bubbly in the glass once poured, and the bubbles dissipate quite quickly.  The wine has a medium minus intensity youthful nose showing crisp apples, pears and citrus with a hint of green fruit.  The wine is a little off-dry with fuller body as the wine is quite bubbly upon first tasting it.  Lots of medium-sized creamy bubbles on your tongue to start. The wine has medium-plus acidity.  Flavours of mixed stone fruits, citrus, crisp apple and grapefruit rind and some toastiness.  I may also say it has some steeliness to it.  Medium-plus length finishing with citrus, rind and bramble leaf and a touch of sweetness.

Rating: 4 stars4.5 stars A good quality Prosecco style sparkling wine with lots of crisp apple, pear and citrus flavours.  A touch of sweetness.

Where Can I Buy These Wines?


Save-on-Foods: Penticton, West Kelowna, Lakeshore, Orchard Plaza, Kamloops, and Prince George Last Call Liquor Mart, Fairview Liquor Store, Public Liquor Store, Cask & Barrel Kelowna, The Crossings, Monashee’s, Liquor Whse @ Village Green, Vernon Sq. Liquor

Lower Mainland:

North and West Vancouver: Liberty Wine Merchants on Lonsdale Spirit of Mount Seymour Liquor Store Village Liquor Store (Taphouse) Park Royal Vancouver: Crosstown Liquor Store Kitsilano Wine Cellar Libations Liquor Store, King Edward Liberty Wine Merchants, Granville Island Liquor Barn, Cambie St, Sheraton Fine Wines Steamworks Liquor Store Viti Wine, Beer and Spirits, West Coast YVR Liquor Store

Metro Vancouver:

Central City Brewery & Distillery Liquor Store, Surrey Liberty Wine Merchants, Ladner Metro Liquor Tsawwassen, Tsawwassen

Vancouver Island:

Save-on-Foods: Parksville, Cambell River, Sidney Cork and Barrel Spinnakers James Bay Spinnakers Vic West. Luckys L S in Nanaimo Merecroft Village in Campbell River Oyster River L S Leeward L S Courtenay

Author: mywinepal
Drink Good Wine. That is my motto and I really want to help you drink good wine. What is good wine? That can be a different thing for each people. Food also loves wine so I also cover food and wine pairings, restaurant reviews, and world travel. Enjoy life with me. MyWinePal was started by Karl Kliparchuk, WSET. I spent many years with the South World Wine Society as the President and then cellar master. I love to travel around the world, visiting wine regions and sharing my passion for food & wine with you. Come live vicariously through me, and enjoy all my recommended wines.