Wednesday, July 6, 2016

CedarCreek's good run at the Decanter Awards

Photo: CedarCreek winemaker Taylor Whelan

In mid-June, CedarCreek Estate Winery justifiably trumpeted winning a major award at this year’s Decanter International Wine Awards in London.

Here is the winery’s news release:

Kelowna, British Columbia (June 17, 2016) - CedarCreek is proud to announce that their 2014 Platinum Block 3 Riesling was named Best Canadian White Wine over 15£ at the prestigious Decanter World Wine Awards in London. Rated 95 Points, the win follows last year’s Decanter World Wine Award for their 2012 Platinum Block 2 Pinot Noir as Best Canadian Red Wine over 15£.

Block 2 and Block 3 are located in the steep-sloped, CedarCreek Home Block Vineyard, where the aspect of the land creates even higher light intensity than is usual in the Okanagan Valley, an intensity only found in Central Otago, New Zealand.

Block 3 Riesling is the oldest block planted at CedarCreek and dates to 1991. The soil beneath the vines is composed of sandy loam with a clay base. Because of the age of the vines, the roots have now reached the clay layer from which they are able to extract moisture. As such, the vines receive little to no additional water during the growing season which is unusual in the dry, arid Okanagan Valley and only intensifies the site-specific nature of the wine.

“It took us 21 years to make a single block Riesling at CedarCreek,” said winemaker Taylor Whelan. “It took that long for the grapes to start to express what we really felt was the characteristic of our land, and that is the philosophy behind our single block Platinum tier of wines. If they don’t meet that level, we can still make an excellent Riesling, but it’s not to a Platinum standard.”

The win is further reinforcement of CedarCreek’s decision to lead the way in the Okanagan toward more and more block-specific wines. “We’re really invested in a deep understanding of what our land is capable of in nuanced ways,” says Whelan. “As our vines continue to mature, most date to the 90s, and their roots reach deeper, we’re starting to see characteristics that are distinctly and unmistakably CedarCreek. We’re also blessed by an exceptional viticulture team, some of whom planted these vines and continue to nurture them. We’re starting to see the real aspects of both people and place in our wines.”

Taylor, who has been at CedarCreek, since 2012, became the head winemaker this summer, succeeding Darryl Brooker, now the chief winemaker at Mission Hill Family Estate Winery. (Mission Hill and CedarCreek are both owned by Mission Hill proprietor Anthony von Mandl.)

Taylor was born in 1985 in Campbell River. With a biology degree from the University of Victoria, he set out to be a marine biologist until he discovered that this career was not about “swimming with whales, but in real life, sitting in front of a computer, running statistics.”

Looking for a career he was more passionate about, he studied winemaking at Brock University and got a job in 2009 at Hillebrand winery, a Niagara on the Lake winery with a major sparkling wine program. His boss was Darryl Brooker, who moved to CedarCreek in 2010. Taylor followed Darryl to CedarCreek in 2012 after acquiring additional winemaking experience in New Zealand and Australia. Taylor is interested specifically in cool climate grape varieties and in sparkling wine.

The current releases from CedarCreek all have Taylor’s fingerprints on them. Here are my notes:

CedarCreek Riesling 2014 ($15.29 for 2,200 cases). The wine begins with aromas of petrol and grapefruit. These are echoed in the palate, along with notes of lime wrapped around a spine of minerality. The finish is persistent. It is worth noting that this wine is the little brother of the 2014 Platinum Block Riesling. 91.

CedarCreek Chardonnay 2014 ($16.99 for 2,260 cases). The wine begins with aromas of toasty oak mingled with pineapple. A long, slow and cool fermentation preserved the luscious fruit flavours (citrus, tangerine), lightly framed with oak and minerality. 90.

CedarCreek Platinum Block 5 Chardonnay 2014 ($27.99 for 578 cases). This wine was fermented 30 days in a combination of French oak barrels, puncheons and concrete; and was aged oi the lees 10 months in concrete and 500 litre puncheons. The aroma begins with a bready note and then opens to display citrus. On the palate, there are complex and rich flavours of apple, pear and lemon. Bright acidity gives the wine a tangy finish and ability to age. 92.

CedarCreek Pinot Noir Rosé 2015 ($19.99 for 510 cases). The wine begins with an appealing rose petal hue. The aroma is intense – cherries, raspberries – and lead to flavours of strawberry. The finish is balanced to dryness. 90.

CedarCreek Pinot Noir 2013 ($22.99 for 2,810 cases). The wine, fermented 24 days in stainless steel and aged 13 months in French oak, begins with aromas of cherry and the complexity of what is sometimes called forest floor. It goes on to deliver spicy flavours of cherry and mocha, along with a silky texture. 90.

CedarCreek Meritage 2013 ($20.99 for 1,600 cases). This is a blend of 36% Malbec, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc. It has been aged 22 months in French oak. The winery’s notes describe Malbec as the variety that “makes everyone around them better.” It is an apt term for one of the most useful varieties in the vineyard. Here, it provides a dark colour and dramatic aromas of violets, spicy dark fruit and blueberries that are echoed on the palate. The texture is rich. The flavours draw spice both from the fruit and from the very good oak. 92.


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