Photo: CedarCreek's Darryl Brooker
Earlier this year, the Fitzpatrick family sold CedarCreek
Estate Winery to Anthony von Mandl, the owner of Mission Hill Family Estate.
The recent releases from CedarCreek show that the
undisclosed purchase price bought a solid portfolio of wines. Darryl Brooker,
CedarCreek’s Australian-born winemaker, remains in charge of the cellar. In
fact, Anthony like what he tasted well enough that, shortly after the takeover,
Darryl was sent to Germany
for a few weeks to add to his fine touch with Riesling in the cellars of top
German Riesling producers.
Darryl joined the winery in 2010. Soon after getting there,
he began making vineyard-designated wines. CedarCreek has several excellent
blocks of mature vines at the winery’s so-called Home Vineyard. Darryl has
identified these to produce wines of such quality that they have been released
under the winery’s Platinum tier, as its reserve wines are called.
Comparing the winery notes on these wines with earlier
vintages reveals that Darryl has tweaked his winemaking practices to raise the
complexity of the wines across the board.
One: fermentation times are long, which means the whites are
fermented cool and, in some cases, with slow-working native yeast.
Two: a portion of most of the whites is now fermented in
oak. Tom DiBello, his predecessor, also liked some oak fermentation with Pinot
Gris but his Ehrenfelser and Rieslings in 2009 – as an example, - were
fermented in stainless steel.
Both Tom and Darryl are very good winemakers but with
somewhat different styles. I liked Tom’s wines (he is now doing good work at
Burrowing Owl). I am intrigued at where Darryl is taking CedarCreek. I’ll bet
Anthony von Mandl is as well.
Here are notes on some of the current releases.
“Block 5” Platinum Chardonnay ($29.95 for 526 cases). A wine with the
vivacity of very good Chablis, this Chardonnay celebrates the fruit flavours
that this block of vines delivers. The wine was fermented 60 days in 500-litre
oak puncheons with wild yeast, and aged another 10 months on lees in those
puncheons. There is negligible oak
flavour but there is a superb texture to help soften bright acidity. The
winemaker allowed no malolactic fermentation, not wishing to take anything away
from the bright aromas and flavours of lime and pineapple. This is an
outstanding Chardonnay. 93.
Platinum Viognier ($24.95 for 765 cases). One-third of this was fermented
in a 660-litre concrete “egg”, one-third in a large oak cask and the remaining
third in neutral oak. The concrete egg is crucial to developing the almost creamy
texture of this wine. It begins with honeyed aromas of apricot and pineapple
and delivers rich apricot flavours to the palate. The wine has a good backbone
and a ripe 13.9% alcohol, with a long rich finish. 92.
“Block 3” Platinum Riesling ($24.95 for 550 cases). I imagine Darryl took a
bottle to Germany,
showing the producers a very good Okanagan version of a racy Mosel Riesling. It
has aromas and flavours of lime. It has a bracing tangy finish, the result of
having 12.3 grams of acid per litre. But that is nicely balanced with 14.5
grams of residual sugar. The wine has a Mosel-like alcohol of only 8.8%. As
tasty as the wine is now, I would suggest aging it for two or three years,
totally developing its potential. 92.
Riesling ($17.95 for 2,010 cases). This Riesling also has a comparatively
low alcohol (9.9%), with a little less acid and residual sugar. In the glass,
there are alluring aromas of Sultana raisins, leading to flavours of lime and
lemon. While the aroma suggests the wine will be sweet, it is in fact balanced
to be crisply dry, with a good backbone of minerals. 90.
Ehrenfelser ($18.95 for 2,800 cases). Most of the grapes for this wine come
from a Westbank vineyard that was planted in 1977. CedarCreek unlocked the
exuberant fruity aromas and flavours in 2002 by removing some of the canopy and
exposing the grapes to more sunlight. The wine subsequently acquired a cult following.
The wine begins with appealing aromas of
fruits … perhaps a touch of lychee and white peach. It delivers a fruit
bowl to the palate, everything from apples and lime to white peaches. About 10%
was fermented in French oak (the rest in stainless steel) and that seems to
have added a complexity that was missing in earlier vintages, when the wine was
simply a fruit bomb. It is balanced to finish dry. 90.
Gewürztraminer ($17.95 for 2,200 cases). Here again, 10% was fermented in
French oak. The wine begins with characteristic aromas of spice (the winery
says nutmeg) and delivers rich flavours, almost nutty, with a hint of ginger on
the finish. There is just a touch of residual sugar but the spiciness gives the
wine a dry finish. 90.
CedarCreek 2013 Pinot
Gris ($17.95 for 6,470 cases). Fermenting a portion in French oak – 15% in
this wine – seems to be one way in which Darryl raises the complexity of his
whites. The texture of this elegant wine is rich. It begins with a hint of
almond and apple on the nose and delivers flavours of pear, with enough acidity
to leave the wine refreshing. 90.
2012 ($17.95 for 2,041 cases). There is six percent Pinot Gris in this
wine, which was fermented in a combination of stainless steel and oak and aged
11 months on the lees. The aroma of pineapple and citrus is fresh and
appealing. There are flavours of citrus with a hint of apple and a lovely kiss
of toastiness from the lees. This is an excellent fruit-forward Chardonnay
where the oak is very subtle and is mainly there to add texture. 90.
CedarCreek 2013 Rosé ($17.95
for 395 cases). I note that the production has been reduced from 700 cases in
2012. I hope that does not mean the bloom is off the popularity rosé wines have
enjoyed for a decade. CedarCreek’s previous vintage was too dry, with only 5.7
grams of residual sugar against bracing acidity. This vintage, with 9.1 grams
and lower acidity, is altogether more charming. Made with Pinot Noir, it has
that lovely Provence
hue. It begins with aromas of strawberry, delivering those flavour to the
palate, along with a silky texture. The winery should have made more. 90.