Photo: Winemaker Darryl Brooker
Darryl Brooker, the Australian born
winemaker who joined CedarCreek Estate Winery in the spring of 2010, has now
begun to release the wines from his second Okanagan vintage.
Both were challenging vintages but the
evidence is in the glass that Darryl, who was new to the Okanagan, was on top
of both – especially 2011. Even though that spring was late and cool, the rest
of the year had conditions that produced superb aromatic whites and Pinot Noir,
the flagship wines at CedarCreek.
CedarCreek president Gordon Fitzpatrick
quietly beams with pride releasing wines like that in 2012. The winery is
celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and wouldn’t mind making
You could argue that the winery is even
older. Under its founding owners, it opened in 1980 at Uniacke Wines. The
winery struggled – they all did in the early years – until Ross Fitzpatrick
bought it late in 1986, relaunching it the following year as CedarCreek.
Ross, a successful mining executive and
later a senator, had grown up in the Okanagan and was returning to his roots.
His son, Gordon, joined the winery in 1996. That was a baptism of fire: 1996
was such a cold and late vintage that Gordon recalls picking Riesling grapes
during a November snow storm.
Over the years, CedarCreek has employed
legendary winemakers. Kelowna-born Ann Sperling made several good vintages
before moving to Ontario
in 1995. (She is back working with Okanagan wineries again, including
family-owned Sperling Vineyards.)
In 1998 the winery recruited Kevin
Willenborg from the Louis M. Martini Winery. He is believed to have been the
first graduate of the University of California’s renowned winemaking school at Davis to work in the
Okanagan. When he went back to California
in 2000, he was succeeded by Tom DiBello, another UC Davis graduate.
Tom stamped a style on CedarCreek in the 10
vintages he spent there. The winery was Canada’s winery of the year twice
during that decade.
No wine had more of Tom’s fingerprints than
its Ehrenfelser. An aromatic fruit bowl of a wine, it has a cult following.
Darryl, of course, had never made Ehrenfelser before coming to
CedarCreek. Born in Canberra in 1973, he made
wine in Australia, New Zealand and Ontario before coming to the Okanagan. Around
the world, there is only a modest acreage of Ehrenfelser, a vinifera cross
developed in Germany
and named for castle ruin near Rüdesheim.
Soon after arriving at CedarCreek, Darryl started hearing consumers
telling him: “Don’t ruin the Ehrenfelser.” When he made a drier style in 2010
than the previous examples, “that’s when the death threats started to roll in.”
He is joking but he also listened to the consumers. The 2011 version
has a little more residual sugar and less acid than 2010, resulting in more
punch to the fruity aromas and flavours. It is still versatile with food while
delivering the expected basket of fruit.
CedarCreek’s followers are now
awaiting the release of the winery’s 2010 Pinot Noir because Darryl made
changes in the choice of barrels and in the general style. Those wines should
be released by this autumn.
And keep on eye on future Pinot
Noir and Chardonnays. The winery will be building a new crush facility
dedicated to these varietals.
Meanwhile, here are notes on
the 2o11 releases to date.
CedarCreek 2011 Riesling ($17.90 for a production of 1,355 cases). Darryl had grapes available
from two mature blocks: from vines planted in a Westbank vineyard in 1979 and
from vines planted on CedarCreek’s vineyard near Kelowna in 1991. He decided to pick the
grapes on flavour, not on the numbers. So this wine ended up with 10.8%
alcohol, 12.2 grams of acid per litre and 18.45 grams of residual sugar. He
also fermented the wine very slowly, at cool temperatures, for about 60 days.
The result is a tour de force with tangy lime and grapefruit flavours, with
weight on the palate and with superb balance. As good as it is now, it will age
very nicely for another two or three years. 91.
CedarCreek 2011 Ehrenfelser ($18.90 for 1,140 cases). There will
certainly be no death threats for this juicy, tropical white with citrus aromas
and flavours of pineapple, apricot and pink grapefruit. 89.
CedarCreek 2011 Gewürztraminer ($17.90 for 2,053 cases). The surprise in
the winery notes is that 10% of this wine was fermented in French oak (not
new). It was a good trick, adding to the viscous texture. The wine begins with
aromas of spice and rose petals, continuing to flavours of lychee and spicy
grapefruit peel. 90.
CedarCreek 2011 Pinot Gris ($17.90 for 6,100 cases). A quarter of
this wine was fermented in French oak; 10% of the juice was left on the skins
overnight. The result is a rich, complex
Pinot Gris with flavours of pear and ripe apple. 90.
CedarCreek 2011 Rosé ($17.90 for 630 cases). The wine was made by bleeding some juice from
every lot of Pinot Noir that was crushed last fall and fermenting the juice
like a white wine. The skin contact has given this wine a lovely dark hue.
There are aromas and flavours of cherry, raspberry and strawberry, with a touch
of residual sugar to plump up the fruity flavours. 90.