Photo: Rocky Creek's Mark and Linda Holford
Good weather in May means at least two things in the Cowichan Valley
The warm sun means a timely bud break and a good start to
the growing season.
Secondly, it is the start of the wine touring season. Rocky
Creek Winery is among the producers that have just opened tasting rooms for the
Linda and Mark Holford opened this boutique winery in 2005,
operating for the first several years from a home in suburban Ladysmith. This
required them to function under a commercial license since they had no vineyard
In 2008, they moved to a three-hectare rural property south
of Duncan where
they have planted a vineyard and converted to the more advantageous farm-based
license. Their current property also is much better suited for wine tourists,
for hosting tastings, winery dinners and whatever other events spring from
They supplement the varietals grown in their own vineyard –
which include Maréchal Foch, some Blattner varieties and blackberries – with
purchased fruit from other Cowichan vineyards. In 2012, as an example, they
were able to purchase Siegerrebe grapes, releasing their first varietal from
this fruit. It is a terrific wine.
Here are notes on the current releases.
($22). This early-ripening white is so aromatic that it is
notorious for attracting wasps to the vineyard. You understand the lure when
you nose and taste this wonderfully spicy fruit salad of a wine. There are
aromas of tangerine, Chinese pear, green melon and apple, leading to flavours
of grapefruit, honeydew and Chinese pear. The dry finish is tangy and very
refreshing. Here is an exotic wine to enjoy on its own or with Asian cuisine.
Rocky Creek Pinot
Gris 2012 ($22). The delicate pink hue signals that this wine has had skin
contact, a technique to increase the aromas and flavours. It works! This wine
has appealing aromas of rhubarb and citrus. There are generous flavours of
rhubarb, lime and apple. The finish is tangy and refreshing. This is a
delicious wine. 90.
Rocky Creek Robin’s Rose 2012
($19 for 55 cases). The winery
listened to its customers and finished this wine a trifle sweeter that the
previous vintage. However, the balance is so subtle that those with a palate
for dry rosé wines will still enjoy this. Light and cheerful with 10% alcohol,
this Pinot Noir rosé has aromas and flavours of strawberry and elements that
are reminiscent of fruit candies. 88.
Rocky Creek Pinot
($26 for 320 cases). The 2011 vintage on Vancouver
was so cool that some producers did not even try to make a
Pinot Noir. Mark Holford had the patience to squeeze out the maximum hang time,
making a wine with 12% alcohol. It has spicy strawberry and red cherry aromas.
It is light on the palate, with tastes of strawberry and mocha and with a silky
texture. There is also a hint of greenness, which is to be expected from that
vintage, and will benefit from some bottle aging. 87-89.
Rocky Creek Wild
Blackberry N.V. ($25 for 600 cases of 500 l bottles). The website does not
say whether this wine was fortified to 16% or fermented naturally to that level.
I suspect the latter because there is no sharp alcohol bite on the palate. The
wine begins with spicy blackberry aromas (as you would expect). On the palate,
there are appealing sweet berry flavours, with a rich texture. The balance is
excellent: the wine has just the right touch of sweetness. This is a wine to go
with savoury pâtés and with chocolate. 89.