Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Tinhorn Creek's Andrew Windsor shows his stuff

Photo: Tinhorn Creek winemaker Andrew Windsor (courtesy Hawksworth Communications)

In the summer of 2014, Andrew Windsor joined Tinhorn Creek Vineyards as winemaker. He took over from Sandra Oldfield, who had been winemaker since 1994 until her promotion last year to become the winery’s president.

The recent releases from Tinhorn Creek provide a very encouraging glimpse of Andrew’s talents. The three whites from 2014 are impressive. One waits with anticipation for the release of the 2014 reds.

Lest one gets carried away, it is worth noting that Korol Kuklo, who was Sandra’s assistant winemaker, remains in that position. She would have been involved in the wines as well, although the specification sheets for the 2014 wines all credit Andrew as winemaker.

His background was well laid out in the press release the winery issued in April 2014 when his hiring was announced.

“Andrew’s experimental and innovative new ideas fit perfectly with our approach over the last 20 years of continually evolving and moving forward with our winemaking,” says Sandra. “Andrew’s worldly view will ensure a fresh direction as we continue to work dynamically to create our spectacular wines.”

Ontario-born Andrew’s first taste of wine was a friend’s parents’ attempt at homemade wine but it didn’t put him off and he went on to take a course in wine whilst studying Environmental Science at the University of Guelph. In his twenties Andrew met Jamie McFarland of The Ice House Winery, who invited him to assist with his ice wine project in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Andrew had a sharp taste of the winemaking world when he was called to start picking grapes at 3 am in minus 12C weather.

Heading to warmer climes, Andrew gained a Masters of Oenology at the University of Adelaide in Australia in 2006 and then took on an Assistant Winemaking role at Mollydooker Wines in McLaren Vale, where he lived on the beach and cycled to work through vineyards filled with kangaroos.

Working closely with Viticulturist, Andrew Moon and Assistant Winemaker, Korol Kuklo, Andrew will be overseeing the winemaking process from vines to bottle. He brings with him a wealth of experience, having worked in wineries in the Okanagan, Marlborough in New Zealand and the Northern Rhone in France before returning to Canada to work as VQA Winemaker for Andrew Peller Ltd. in Niagara.

“France taught me that wine is not just a science but an art form, a culture and an expression of a place. Wine has the ability to take you to a place in the world without leaving your home,” says Andrew. “I want to make the best wine in Canada and the only place I can do that is the South Okanagan.”

The press release omitted that Andrew already had some winemaking experience in this region. He spent 10 months at EauVivre Winery & Vineyard, starting in July 2010, before taking a job in New Zealand.

For a winemaker in his mid-30s, he has tons of experience. He may be heading into his best, but also his toughest, vintage in 2015. The forest fires that broke out last week in the Oliver area (Tinhorn Creek’s property was spared) have covered the vineyards with smoke. The risk is that the grapes, which are ripening unusually early, will pick up smoke taint.

One only hopes that the smoke is not too thick and not too persistent.

Here are notes on Tinhorn Creek’s current releases.

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series 2Bench White 2014  ($19.99 for 1,600 cases). This complex blend is 30% Sémillon, 25% Chardonnay, 23% Sauvignon Blanc, 12% Viognier and 10% Muscat. Portions of the wine were barrel-fermented with wild yeast. The wine appeals immediately with aromas of hazelnut, tangerine and toasted oak. The wine is rich and satisfying on the palate, with flavours of tangerine, guava and ripe apple. The elusive hint of hazelnut returns on a finish that goes on and on. 92.
Tinhorn Creek Chardonnay 2014 ($16.99 for 1,900 cases). This wine appears to be partially barrel-fermented. The oak is so well integrated that it is barely perceptible. The texture is generous and the flavours are mouth-filling. The wine begins with lovely aromas of citrus and apple, leading to tropical fruit flavours and a crisp, refreshing finish. 90.
Tinhorn Creek Gewürztraminer 2014 ($14.99 for 4,800 cases). This is a gold medal winner in national wine awards, deservedly so. It has aromas of spice and lychee. On the palate, there is a medley from fruit flavours, including lychee, peach and grapefruit. The hint of residual sugar, very well balanced with moderate acidity, gives the wine a rich texture. The finish just goes on and on. This is one of Tinhorn Creek’s finest Gewürztraminers. 91.
Tinhorn Creek Merlot 2013 ($17.49 for 9,136 cases). This wine won a bronze medal at the San Francisco International Wine Competition. Frankly, with its 17-year-old vines and good viticulture, Tinhorn Creek could do better. This is an easy-drinking, medium-bodied wine with aromas of cherry and oak, flavours of red fruit and soft, ripe tannins. I liked the wine but would have liked it better if the fruit were more concentrated. 88.
Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Syrah 2012 ($30.49 for 180 cases). This gold medal winner is available only to members of Tinhorn Creek’s wine club. What they are getting is a big, solid wine with meaty aromas mingled with red fruit. On the palate, there are flavours of cherry, blackberry and vanilla (thanks to 18 months oak aging). There is an earthy spine of minerality, adding to the concentrated and age-worthy texture. 90.


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