CedarCreek winemaker Darryl Brooker
One of winemaker Darryl Brooker’s peers, in a private
conversation, recently singled out CedarCreek Estate Winery as one of the five
best Pinot Noir producers in the Okanagan.
The other four in this person’s view are Blue Mountain
Cellars, Quails’ Gate Estate Winery, Meyer Family Vineyards and Tantalus
Vineyards. I am not sure how he missed Foxtrot Vineyards and a few others.
However, I agree that Darryl raised the bar with the
winery’s premium Pinot Noirs in 2011 when he stopped blending all the best
grapes into a single reserve, or Platinum, wine. In that vintage, and again in
2012, he has bottled the two best blocks, Block 2 and Block 4, as separate
Platinum wines. They are distinctively different and they are both very good.
CedarCreek was purchased early this year by Anthony von
Mandl’s winery holding company. Not only has Anthony retained Darryl; he also had
him handle the 2014 vintage was the new Martin’s Lane winery, a Pinot Noir and
Riesling specialist. Anthony has built the Martin’s Lane winery almost next
door to CedarCreek’s East Kelowna
CedarCreek has a track record of good Pinot Noir from this
vineyard. The winery began releasing Platinum Pinot Noir in 1998, with the
grapes from Blocks 2 and 4 almost always blended.
“Block 2 and Block 4 are the two best blocks and the oldest
blocks,” Darryl says. The blocks are less than 200 metres apart but the soils
and the elevation differ. Darryl immediately noticed the distinctive differences
between the blocks. In 2010, he made separate lots of wine from each block and
considered releasing them separately. However, he was new at the winery.
Hesitating to change established procedures, he blended them into a single
Platinum Pinot Noir.
It was a good wine but the personalities of the individual
blocks were lost. So in 2011 and again in 2012, he has bottled them separately.
The difference is dramatic. Block 2 Pinot Noir is a
“feminine” wine while Block 4 Pinot Noir is darker, more tannic and, in a
world, “masculine.” This may create a dilemma, forcing collectors of
CedarCreek’s Platinum wines to settle on a preferred style. I would want both
and I would pair them with different food; in fact, I would be happy to drink
Block 2 on its own.
Here are notes on those wines and also on two other current
2013 ($18.95). Darryl set out to balance the fruit and the oak in making
this wine. Some of it was aged in a 2,250 litre oak foudre, essentially a large
French oak barrel. Thus the wine benefited from the impact of the barrel on
texture without being overwhelmed by wood. The wine has appealing aromas of
citrus and apples with the tiniest hint of oak. The flavours echo that. This
medium-weight wine has a finish that is crisp and refreshing. 91.
2012 ($19.95 for 3,500 cases). The blend is 91% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc
and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon. Unusual for a wine of this price, this Merlot spent
20 months aging in French oak. The winery’s view is that a full-bodied red
needs that much time in barrel even if it ties up capital. The wine is still
tight and should be decanted; I found it tasting richer on the second day.
There are aromas of spice, red fruit and chocolate, leading to flavours of black
currant and blackberry. 88.
CedarCreek Block 2
Pinot Noir 2012 ($44.95 for 380 cases). This is the pretty wine of the
pair, with complex aromas of spice,
cherry and strawberry and intense flavours of cherry and strawberry. The
flavours are bright and vibrant and the finish is elegant and silky. 92-94.
CedarCreek Block 4
Pinot Noir 2012 ($44.95 for 376
cases). This is the brooding, full-bodied partner, with aromas of cherry and
chocolate. The palate is packed with red fruits (cherries, cranberries, plums).
There seems to be more minerals in the backbone and slightly firmer tannins, a
structure that suggests good ability to age. 92-93.