Cassini Cellars – an undiscovered gem of the Okanagan

by CLAIRE SEAR – eatmagazine.ca

Adrian Cassini at Cassini Cellars. Photo by Claire Sear

Adrian Cassini Quick Stats:

  • Romanian by birth, Canadian winery-owner by choice.
  • Cellar rat from birth. Family owned a small vineyard in Romania. Developed palate and passion for wine as a Restaurant manager in both Romania and Canada.
  • To ensure the finest quality wines from his vineyards, chose Phil Soo as his winemaking consultant.  An award-winning decision.
  • Cassini Cellars opened in 2009 and in 2010 was named “Best New Winery” at the BC Wine Awards, followed by 8th spot on Wine Access Magazine’s coveted list of Top 20 wineries in Canada. In 2011, Cassini Cellars remained in the expanded Top 25 Best Wineries in Canada in 14th spot. In 2012, achieved 10 awards at the prestigious North West Wine Summit Wine Awards. This winery sprung out of the vineyard and hasn’t looked back.
  • Cassini Cellars remains one of the undiscovered gems of the Okanagan.
  • Varietals: Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Pinot Noir, Syrah.
  • Passion, hard work, and determination have provided the keys to success for this winemaker.

 

How did you become a winemaker?

My wife and I were living in Vancouver and fell in love with the Okanagan. In 2002, we purchased a small summer home in Osoyoos. One evening, driving back to Vancouver, I passed a lavender farm for sale and I decided to pursue both my passion and my dream. We purchased the lavender farm in 2006. We couldn’t bring ourselves to burn the plants so we put out a notice “free lavender plants” and the next day 20 to 30 cars were lined up in our drive-away. We gave away the lavender plants and planted our vines in 2007.

 

Special wine memory?

Building my winery.  Literally! With my background in construction, I worked alongside a crew of four to build the winery. All of the detailing inside the winery, I personally did by hand.   It has 21 foot ceilings and a stone and granite bar where I can fit 25 people for tasting.

 

Favorite wine region outside of Canada?  

France

 

Burgundy or Bordeaux? 

Bordeaux

 

Favorite Cocktail?

Gin & Tonic

 

What beer is currently in your fridge?

Stella Artois 

 

What were the last restaurants you ate at?  

Ricardo’s Mediterranean Kitchen in the Okanagan and Joe Fortes  in Vancouver

 

Favorite home-cooked meal and Cassini wine pairing?

Seafood platter with our Sauvignon Blanc.

 

Best thing about living in the Okanagan?

Rolling hills, warm lakes, friendly people, hot summers, and great wines.

 

Is there a similarity between Canadian Wines and Romanian Wines?

My friends and family in Romania were initially shocked when I told them I was opening a winery in Canada—Canada makes wine?  Many of my Canadian friends had the same reaction when I told them I grew up on a vineyard—Romania makes wine?  Canada and Romania sit on virtually the same parallel and can grow similar grapes. In fact, Romania is the 5th largest producer in Europe.

 

First BC restaurant to carry your wine?

The first restaurant to carry our wines and remains a loyal customer was La Bussola Italian Restaurant in Kelowna. I am also grateful to the loyal support from restaurants in both Vancouver and Whistler includingSalt,  UVABanana Leaf Restaurant,  Blue Water Cafe,  Joe FortesChop, and Hys Steakhouse.

 

Last wines you recently tasted or enjoyed?

I constantly taste wines from around the world. However, the last wine I tasted was Poplar Grove Winery’s Viognier/Pinot Gris. Excellent.

 

As of today, what is your favorite grape varietal?   Cabernet Franc.  It is a delightful grape, easy to work with and the Okanagan has the perfect growing conditions for this varietal to excel.

 

Who else makes a good Cabernet Franc in the Okanagan?

Seven StonesTinhorn Creek and Burrowing Owl all make great Cabernet Franc.

 

Do you think that the Okanagan should be known for one or two varietals?

Wine is like food.  Would you only want to eat one or two things? We are lucky that the Okanagan has many different microclimates allowing us to celebrate diversity.

 

Can you find your wines outside of BC?

Yes, we have distribution in Ontario and we have been successfully exporting our wines to Japan and China. The Canadian Embassy in Japan bought all of our exported Viognier within a week of it hitting the shelves. In 2011, we almost doubled our production. (5600 cases to 10,000 cases.) With our increased production, we will continue to focus on these markets as well as saving some in our cellar. We have sold out of wines every year since we opened.

 

With so many wine competitions, which ones do you focus on and why?

As a small winery, I choose very carefully the wine competitions I enter so that I can measure both myself and my wines. I like to ensure that my wines are providing good value.

 

You’re planting a new vineyard—what varietals?

Chardonnay, Malbec, Semillon, Cabernet Franc

 

Anything new?

We will be releasing a Muscat port style wine this year.

 

You’re planting a new vineyard – what varietals?

Chardonnay, Malbec, Semillon, Cabernet Franc

  

Your vision for the future of Cassini Cellars?

Continuing to make good wines and offering good value.

BC winemaker that you are currently taking note of? 

This winemaker who is doing “crazy stuff” and experimenting with many different varietals not seen before the Okanagan and succeeding…

 

Watch for the next wine chain to see who Adrian Cassini passes the glass to next.

Cassini Cellars

32056 HWY97

Oliver, BC, V0H 1T0

Tel: 250-485-4370

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