Thursday, May 2, 2013

Rocky Creek Winery releases in 2013

 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 season.

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 there.

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 their imaginations.

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.

Rocky Creek Siegerrebe 2012 ($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. 90.

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 Noir 2011 ($26 for 320 cases). The 2011 vintage on Vancouver Island 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.


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