Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tinhorn Creek releases big reds

Photo: Tinhorn Creek's Andrew Moon

In recent vintages, the technical descriptions for each of Tinhorn Creek’s wines have included the name of the viticulturist, Andrew Moon.

In fact, his name is placed above that of Sandra Oldfield, who is not only the winemaker but also the winery’s president.

It recognizes the impact that Andrew has made since arriving at Tinhorn Creek from Australia five years ago. He has raised the bar for growing grapes with numerous changes in the vineyards, including a compost program to add more organic matter to the winery’s sandy Diamondback Vineyard on Black Sage Road.

Thus summer, the multi-year program to convert that vineyard to efficient drip irrigation was completed. By next year, Tinhorn Creek’s Golden Mile vineyard also will be converted to drip irrigation. This saves water but it also improves the delivery of irrigation water to the vines, and thus can improve the fruit.

Anyone who has had the Tinhorn Creek wines over the past three or four vintages can taste that Sandra has been getting better grapes to work with. Even in the cool 2010 vintage and the late 2011 vintage, the reds are remarkably ripe and generous. That reflects very good viticulture.

Andrew has made Sandra’s job easier. It is not just a token gesture that his name appears before hers on the technical sheets.

The reds that have been released recently – or will be released soon – are among the best yet from Tinhorn Creek. They include the winery’s first reserve Pinot Noir. That variety is a test of viticulture if there ever was a test. Unfortunately, the wine was sold out by the time I got around to these reviews.

Given the strength of these wines, one waits with impatience for the release of the 2012 reds when there were no weather challenges getting in the way of Andrew and his crew.

Here are notes on the wines.

Tinhorn Creek Cabernet Franc 2011 ($21.99 for 1,798 cases). This wine has a terrific rustic appeal, with its brambly aromas and flavour of blackberry, black cherry and spice. The texture is big and generous. It is just a satisfying red. 90.

Tinhorn Creek Merlot 2011 ($19.99). The wine begins with bold aromas of red berries and vanilla. Bold and juicy on the palate, it has flavours of plum, currants and blueberries. The 12 months this wine aged in barrel rounded out the tannins very nicely. 90.

Tinhorn Creek Pinot Noir 2010 ($21.99). This was a cool vintage, right? Well, Tinhorn Creek grow its grapes well enough to achieve 14.1% alcohol on this ripe and juicy Pinot Noir. The wine begins with aromas of cherry, leading to luscious spiced cherry flavours and a silky texture. 90.

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Pinot Noir 2009 ($29.99 and sold out). Three months in bottle have fleshed out the silky texture of this wonderful wine. It begins with aromas of cherry, plum and spice. On the palate there are flavours of cherry enhanced with a touch of mocha and spice. 91.

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Syrah 2010 ($34.99 for 210 cases). The 14.6% alcohol shows that the winery has found a good hot site for growing Syrah. Not too many 2010 Syrahs were this ripe. There is pepper and red berries on the nose, leading to earthy flavours that include cherry, blackberry, plum, vanilla and pepper. This is a big, generous wine. 91.

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Merlot 2010 ($29.99). Here is a concentrated and ripe Merlot that is both powerful and elegant. It begins with aromas of cassis and vanilla, leading to mouth-filling flavours of mulberry and cassis. 91.

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series 2Bench Red 2010 ($29.99 for 1,172 cases).  This is a blend of 41% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Franc, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Petit Verdot. Dark in hue, the wine begins with seductively sweet aromas of cassis and blackberry. On the palate, the wine has flavours of plum, cassis, and vanilla. There is a hint of coffee and tobacco on the finish, as well as a touch of mint. The bright flavours and the moderately angular texture reflect the cool vintage. Nevertheless, this is a well-grown, elegant and satisfying red. 92.


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