Sunday, October 2, 2011

Promotions and new releases at Tinhorn Creek

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Photo: Sandra Oldfield (credit to Chris Mason Stearns)

Just in time for the fall Okanagan Wine Festival, Tinhorn Creek Vineyards has released its three premium red wines and its regular Merlot.

The regular Cabernet Franc, also reviewed here, was released in August.

These are all first-rate wines and they come in what has been an eventful year at this south Okanagan winery.

Two developments stand out in particular. In June the winery announced quietly (on its website and not with a widely distributed news release) that winemaker Sandra Oldfield had also become the winery’s president and chief executive.

This may actually be a new position at Tinhorn Creek. A corporate profile that the winery published in 2007, for example, showed Kenn Oldfield, Sandra’s husband, as general manager while Calgary partners Bob and Barbara Shaunessy are listed as proprietors and Sandra as winemaker.

In 2008 Shaun Everest, the winery’s former marketing manager, became general manager. Judging from a reference in a winery news release last year, Kenn Oldfield’s new title is chairman.

Since the management at Tinhorn Creek has always been somewhat collegial, perhaps one need not attach that much weight to titles. Even so, Sandra’s title of CEO underlines the leadership she has brought to the British Columbia wine industry.

Born in California but a Canadian citizen since 2002, Sandra became Tinhorn Creek’s winemaker in 1995 while still studying at the University of California in Davis. She finally found time in 2002 to complete the work needed for her master’s degree in enology.

The other development at Tinhorn Creek this year was the opening in April of Miradoro Restaurant at the winery. Operated in partnership with Vancouver restaurateur Manuel Ferreira (owner of La Gavroche), Miradoro has been busy all summer, serving excellent cuisine in a room with a view to die for.

The new restaurant has solidified Tinhorn Creek’s status as a destination winery.

For most consumers, the wines are reason enough to visit this hillside winery. Cleverly, the restaurant is licensed to sell the wines for takeout at tasting room prices when the wineshop is closed.

The winery releases its wines in two tiers, with the reserve tier under the label, Oldfield Series. Here are my notes.

Tinhorn Creek Merlot 2009 ($18.99 for a production of 8,878 cases). This is a big, ripe red with more than enough fruit and richness to absorb the 14.8% alcohol without a trace of hotness. It begins with aromas of currants, blackberries and sage. The palate has layers of fruit flavours – blackberry, black cherry, plums – with a touch of sweet tobacco on the finish. The wine manages to be accessible as well as complex. While it is drinking well now, it will cellar nicely for three or four years. 90.

Tinhorn Creek Cabernet Franc 2009 ($19.99 for a production of 5,172 cases). On occasion, Sandra has remarked that this is her favourite red. The winery’s Cabernet Francs have been consistently tasty (with the exception of the 1999, a really tough vintage for everyone). This is a big ripe 14.8% alcohol red, with brambly aromas and flavours. The winery’s own notes speak of “forest floor” characteristics. I grew up on the Prairies where there were no forests. I find raspberries and red currants and an appealing vibrancy. 89.

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series 2Bench Red 2008 ($34.99 for a production of 731 cases. The second vintage of Tinhorn Creek’s new Bordeaux red, this is a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc, each of which was fermented separately and blended later. The wine had 18 months in new French oak and was aged in bottle another 18 months before release. This is a rich and concentrated red, with 15% alcohol that, once again, is not obtrusive. It begins with aromas of mint, black currants and black berries and has flavours of plum, cherry and cassis. Prairie people will also recognize a robust hint of chokecherry. 91.

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Merlot 2008 ($27.99 for a production of 1,200 cases). This is a blend of 87% Merlot enhanced with 11% Cabernet Franc and 2% Syrah. The wine also had 18 months in French oak (a mix of new and old) and about 15 months in bottle before release. Rich and with 15% alcohol, this is a sturdy wine, as I discovered by chance. I began making notes prior to a bit of travelling and then a head cold. A partial bottle went into the refrigerator. To my delight, it was still delicious week later. The wine begins with a dramatic aroma of herbs, plums and currants and delivers juicy flavours of plum, currants, black cherry, blueberry, chocolate, leather. There is even a hint of pepper on the finish. 92.

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Syrah 2008 ($34.99 for a production of 528 cases). The winery has only begun making Syrah in recent years, with very good results. This dark-hued wine (alcohol is 14.1%) begins with the classic aroma of pepper and red fruit. On the palate, there are flavours of black cherry and fig, with leather, black liquorice and pepper on the finish. Think of the elegance and minerality of a Rhone Syrah. 92.


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