Photo: Tinhorn Creek Vineyards
Tinhorn Creek Vineyards president Sandra Oldfield was a
leader in the successful initiative to create the Golden Mile sub-appellation
The irony is that Golden Mile might not appear on many of
Tinhorn Creek’s labels because this winery also has a 100-acre vineyard, the
Diamondback Vineyard, on Black Sage Road.
Two of the most recent releases, the 2Bench White and the
Syrah, are made with fruit from both Tinhorn’s Golden Mile vineyard and its
Diamondback Vineyard. Hence, the term 2Bench (there is also a red), since the
grapes come from two benches.
The winery’s efforts on behalf of the sub-appellation may
benefit its peers, however, if consumers begin looking for wines from that
In its media kit, Tinhorn Creek includes some useful
background on the sub-appellation.
The 50-acre Tinhorn
Creek Vineyard is in the Golden Mile Bench sub-appellation.
The Golden Mile Bench
starts at Fairview Road in Oliver and extends south to Road 13. Although this
area measures longer than a mile, it was first referred to the “Golden Mile” in
the mid-1940s as it gained its reputation for its rich farmland.
In the late 1910s, the
area was divided into plots for soldiers to farm upon returning from World War
I. An open irrigation canal (“the Ditch”) that was completed in 1929 between
Vaseux Lake and Osoyoos turned the arid land into a lush area suitable for
ground crops and tree fruits in the mid-1930s.
At the same time an
old mine site reopened and the area enjoyed an economic boom. The reputation of
this farming community combined with the area’s history of gold and silver
mining led to the area’s name “Golden Mile.” The area became a highly desirable
viticulture site beginning in the late 1960s when vineyards were first
The Golden Mile Bench
is located on a bench above the valley floor, and the elevation makes it
significantly warmer than the valley floor. These features also help the
vineyard escape damaging spring and fall frosts. The Tinhorn Creek vineyard
site enjoys the early morning sun exposure. By late afternoon, the sun dips
behind the hills, providing cool summer evenings [and] allowing grapes develop
their exquisite flavours.
To the west of the
vineyards lies the Thompson Plateau. The sun goes behind this ridge early in
the day relative to the other side of the valley. The vineyard can be in shade
as early as 17:00 in the summer months, making it a cooler, slower ripening
area. The downward slope of the vineyards provides good airflow and, mainly due
to water drainage, varietals ripen differently uphill versus downhill.
The soils on the
Golden Mile Bench consist primarily of rocky clay loam soil, characteristic of
the Golden Mile Alluvial fan. In fact, the stone archway above the winery
entrance was constructed with rocks from the Gewürztraminer vineyards. These
heavier soils are more difficult to plant due to the large number of rocks; but
the soil holds moisture longer, so less irrigation is required.
fertilizer is needed due to high nutrient content and vines grow more
vigorously in these conditions. As a result, the vineyard team does shoot
removal and leaf thinning during the summer to keep the fruit exposed to the
sun and to ensure the vine is in balance.
The previous owners
planted Pinot Noir in 1989, Merlot between 1989 and 1991, and Kerner and
Chardonnay in 1990. Today, there are eleven varieties of grapes planted at this
site including Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Syrah, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc,
Malbec, and Petit Verdot.
Here are notes on the current releases. Note the three are Oldfield Series
wines, as Tinhorn Creek
designates its reserve tier.
Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series 2Bench White 2015
($19.99 for 1,500 cases). This blend is 29% Chardonnay, 27% Sauvignon Blanc,
26% Viognier, 13% Sémillon and 5% Muscat. The wine’s lovely aroma of tropical
fruit is immediately appealing. The nose is followed by almost honeyed flavours
of passionfruit and cantaloupe. The opulence and the richness on the palate
create the impression of slight sweetness even though there is almost no
residual sugar, just luscious fruit flavours. The creamy texture is modified by
the backbone of the Viognier. 93.
Tinhorn Creek Merlot
($20.49 for 9,105 cases). The varietal has long been one of Tinhorn
Creek’s most popular reds. This release reflects a fine ripe vintage that
produced a concentrated, full-bodied Merlot with ripe, juicy flavours of spicy
black currant and black cherry. 90.
Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Cabernet Franc 2013
for 520 cases). Aged 18 months in barrel and one year in bottle, this has
matured to a wine of elegance. It begins with spicy aromas of dried cherries
and raspberries, leading to flavours of spicy red fruit with a hint of vanilla
on the finish. 91.
Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Syrah 2013
for 762 cases). Remarkable effort went into the making of this sultry wine.
Before the wine had completed fermentation, it was pumped into older barrels to
complete malolactic fermentation. The wine was then left on its lees for 18
months to mature in barrel. Then it was bottled and aged another year before
release. Consequently, the tannins are soft and polished. The wine begins with
an earthy and smoky aroma mingled with rare steak and pepper. On the palate,
there are flavours of plum, blackberry and licorice with a light touch of black