Thursday, August 4, 2011

CedarCreek's 2010 show the hand of a new winemaker

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Photo: Schloss Ehrenfels gave its name to a grape

When a winery changes winemakers after a decade with a really skilled winemaker, there is always some apprehension until the new winemaker’s first wines are released.

Winemaking at CedarCreek Estate Winery was taken over before the 2010 vintage by Darryl Brooker. He succeeded Tom DiBello, a University of California graduate who had been there since 2000.

Judging from the winery’s first 2010s, CedarCreek remains in very good hands. The cool 2010 vintage was a challenging one, with bracing acidity. In the whites and the rosé wines, Darryl has handled the acidity very well. We wait with interest to see his touch with the reds.

Darryl was born in Canberra in 1973. He developed an interest in wine while serving in the Australian Navy – where tours of duty included visits to wine regions around the world. He left the navy to get a wine science degree at Charles Sturt University and a graduate diploma in wine business from the University of Adelaide.

He started his winemaking career in the vineyards at Mountadam Vineyards in the Barossa Valley and then spent four years at Villa Maria Estates Winery in New Zealand before moving to Ontario.

He came to Canada in 2003 to supervise building and launching Flat Rock Cellars near Jordan. Flat Rock, a producer of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling, is a leading edge Ontario winery with gravity-flow architecture designed for gentle handling of grapes.

In 2005, Darryl became the winemaker at Hillebrand Estates Winery, Andrew Peller Ltd.’s premium boutique winery near Niagara-on-the-Lake. He has supervised the winemaking at Thirty Bench Winery, another boutique winery and a Riesling specialist that Peller bought several years ago. He moved to the CedarCreek cellar in May, 2010.

As CedarCreek president Gordon Fitzpatrick explained, Darryl “set out to express more character in our white aromatics.” This involved longer and more gentle press cycles and cooler, slower fermentations. It was certainly not the easiest year in which to put a stamp on the wines. Nature did that by handing him the coolest year, and one of the latest, in a decade. The Pinot Gris, for example, was picked a month later in 2010 than it was in 2009.

Here are notes on the Brooker wines released so far.

CedarCreek Pinot Noir Rosé 2010 ($17.90 with a production of 470 cases). Surprisingly, this is the winery’s first rosé, or so the winery says. Surely, they made one in the 1980s after Senator Ross Fitzpatrick acquired the property – although pink wine was not as popular then as it is now. The winery’s notes describe this as CedarCreek’s “acoustic” Pinot Noir, in the fanciful sense that a song played or sung acoustically is “a simpler, somehow purer version.”

This rosé is made from juice bled from Pinot Noir after five to seven days of cold-soaking on the skins. This is a common technique of having your cake and eating it. The juice drained from the tanks makes a lovely rosé while the juice that remains to ferment on the skins is darker and richer.

This is a lovely wine for summer, beginning with an attractive rose petal hue; aromas and flavours of strawberry and cherry. The balance of sweet fruit and acidity is perfect, yielding a refreshing finish. 89.

CedarCreek Riesling 2010 ($17.90 for a production of 1,650 cases). Darryl had plenty of experience making good Riesling wines in Ontario. It shows with this wine, one the Okanagan’s best 2010 Rieslings.

Perhaps it was the year, but the technical specifications are markedly different from the 2009 Riesling. That wine, from grapes picked in mid-October, ended up with 7.9 grams of acid and 7. 54 grams of residual sugar per litre; and was fermented to 13.7% alcohol.

The numbers for the 2010 wine are nothing short of astonishing. It is finished with an acidity of 12.2 grams, almost enough to scour the enamel from your teeth. What makes this wine work is the brilliant balance: it also has 16.5 grams of residual sugar and 11.3% alcohol. This gives the wine delicate weight on the palate and recalls some fine German Rieslings I have tasted. The fresh lime flavours are savoury on the palate. The finish, thanks to the balance, seems almost dry. 91.

CedarCreek Ehrenfelser 2010 ($18.90 for a production of 1,158 cases). Since the 2002 vintage, when the winery vastly improved how the grapes were being grown, this has become CedarCreek’s cult wine. Chances are that Darryl had never had to make Ehrenfelser before; not many wineries anywhere make it. The grape was developed years ago in Germany and is named after a lovely ruined castle beside the Rhine.

This wine, which some argue may be the best of the world’s limited numbers of Ehrenfelser, is dramatic as ever. It is a bowl of fruit, mostly apricots, in the bottle. The acidity is higher – 11.3 grams in the 2010 versus 7.25 grams in the 2009 – but the residual sugar is similar. As a result, the 2010 seems drier on the finish than the 2009. 89.

CedarCreek Pinot Gris 2010 ($17.90 for a production of 4,150 cases). The winemakers at CedarCreek have always sought to bring a little complexity to Pinot Gris by fermenting a modest portion in barrel. Darryl added a further tweak to the 2010 by including 12% Chardonnay in the blend and leaving in 7.9 grams of residual sugar, balancing 8.92 grams of acidity. The 2009 Pinot Gris, by comparison, had 7.1 grams of acidity and negligible residual sugar.

I no longer remember the precise taste of the 2009 Pinot Gris – obviously, it was dry- but I can say that the 2010 is delicious, with aromas of apples and pears and flavours of peaches. It is at the same time full on the palate and crisp on the finish. 91.

CedarCreek Gewürztraminer 2010 ($17.90 for a production of 1,369 cases). Here is a warning to Gewürztraminer lovers: CedarCreek made only half as much Gewürz in 2010 as in 2009. This wine has the classic bouquet of rose petals and spice. On the palate, it has almost the oily richness and spiciness of an Alsace Gewürz rather than the core of sweet lychee fruit that some rival Okanagan Gewürztraminers show. 88.


At August 4, 2011 at 2:49 PM , Blogger CedarCreek Estate Winery said...

Oh these wonderful aromatic whites are excellent for summer sipping! Thanks for the detailed reviews. The forecasted 30 degrees for the next few days in Kelowna are making these fresh aromatics fly off the shelves!


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