Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tinhorn Creek raises the Cabernet Franc bar

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards is just releasing its first Cabernet Franc under its Oldfield Series, or reserve, designation.

This is the winery’s eighth wine to get the Oldfield Series designation. The other seven are Syrah, Merlot, Pinot Noir, 2Bench Red, 2Bench White, 2Bench Rosé and Kerner Icewine.

When I tasted the Cabernet Franc, I wonder what took the winery so long. This is a terrific red. Tinhorn Creek has been making Cabernet Franc for years in its “regular” portfolio and there were plenty of vintages when the quality of that varietal at least rivalled Merlot.

I assume Merlot got its Oldfield Series tag much sooner (a decade ago!) because Merlot has been more popular with consumers. In recent years, however, consumers have been discovering how good Okanagan and Similkameen Cabernet Franc can be.

When Okanagan vineyards were being replanted in the 1990s, many producers chose to plant Cabernet Franc because it is supposed to ripen a week or so earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon. When the vines started producing, most wineries just used Cabernet Franc in blends. There have not been nearly as many champions of Cabernet Franc as there were of Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon.

Tinhorn Creek was among the handful that always made a varietal Cabernet Franc, possibly because Sandra Oldfield, the winemaker here, had started her career in the California wine industry when straight varietals were common.

The grapes for this 2010 Oldfield Series Cabernet Franc came from a 15-year-old block in the winery’s Diamondback Vineyard on Black Sage Road. The 2010 vintage was a cool vintage with a long fall. These grapes, however, were so ripe when picked on October 21 that the resulting wine has 14.6% alcohol. The wine, which was barrel-aged for 12 months and bottle-aged for another nine months, has so much texture that the alcohol is not noticeable.

This excellent wine is available at the winery and at the winery’s restaurant.

Here are my notes.

Oldfield Selection Cabernet France 2010 ($34.99 for 374 cases).  It begins with appealing aromas of vanilla, plum, black berry and black currants. There is a satisfying gob of sweet berry flavours on the palate – flavours of blackberry, raspberry, spice and tobacco. The finish just won’t quit. The wine is drinking well now but will age well for another seven years. 93.


At January 16, 2013 at 7:52 PM , Blogger We love wine said...

we wish Granite Creek well

At January 19, 2013 at 7:43 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

Cab Franc was seen as the next 'it' grape for the Okanagan back in 2006 after quite a few warm vintages. From 2007 onwards, we have been faced with far more challenging vintages (cool, poor weather) and the shine has come off of cab franc a bit. Syrah, on the other hand, has continued to make spectacular wines regardless of the vintage. Cab Franc is simply not in the same class as Merlot, syrah, or malbec. It will always be a bit more hit and miss, with only the very best sites continuing to produce great wines in difficult years. It is NOT the grape to bet the farm on (as an industry). Kudos to Tinhorn for sticking with it!


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