Thursday, October 20, 2016

Tinhorn Creek's quartet for the fall of 2016



This year, I have been struck by the number of wineries that are celebrating anniversaries of 20 or 25 years.

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards planted much of its vines in 1993 and opened the winery in 1995, putting in the middle of anniversary dates. It is, however, one of the senior wineries in the business.

That longevity is positive for several reasons.

First, it shows that the British Columbia wine industry is solidly successful, and not just for wine but for leading edge practices.

Secondly, it means wines are being made with grapes from mature vines which just deliver more flavour. The four wines reviewed here are from 17 or 18-year-old vines.

Regarding being on the leading edge, Tinhorn Creek was the first Okanagan winery  to achieve a carbon neutral status.

The winery explains this on its website:

We’re not just smart, we’re Climate Smart.

In 2007, Climate Smart and other programs like it came on the global scene as a tool to teach businesses about measuring, reducing, and offsetting their corporate carbon footprint. This is what’s so smart about it: the measuring.

It’s challenging to know if what we’re doing is effective…if we don’t measure our process before, during, and after. Climate Smart gives us the tools to identify our contribution to the carbon problem; better yet, they show businesses like us how to reduce that footprint and what we can do to help offset it.

We calculate greenhouse gas emissions produced by the winery as a whole, not just parts of it. Then, we target areas to cut emissions – with the goal of being 100% carbon neutral. Where we can’t avoid using energy or generating some waste, we do as many beneficial things as we can, where we can.

The result: Canada’s first carbon-neutral winery. Now it’s time to go a step further.

in the vineyard.

Our farm truck and tractors run on biodiesel. In fact, we were so early on this one that we couldn’t find a regular supplier. So we installed a holding tank at our Diamondback vineyard. There still aren’t many of us operating with biodiesel, but we hope that will change soon.

Our compost pile has increased while our landfill trips have decreased. This might not seem exciting to many people, but it gets us going. The bigger – and healthier – our compost pile, the more nutrients we have to feed our vines and the fewer items heading to the landfill. In fact, our compost area is part of our vineyard tours.

in the cellar

85% of our bottles are lightweight glass. This is a huge percentage for a winery making 35,000 cases each year. Between the locally sourced bottles (within 400kms, approximately) and the reduced weight, we use less fuel to get the wine into the bottle and onto your table.

take me to your web-leader

As a business, we need to get the word out on what we’re selling. It’s the way we survive. Traditionally, tourism and sales based companies often use media to help generate traction in print, and online. One of the biggest challenges with spreading the word about our product is that it needs to be tasted and experienced.

Instead of always travelling to media – or bringing them to our winery – we started host web-tastings rather than rack up mileage. We’re still developing this, and measuring its efficiency.

We’ll continue to measure ourselves and target more areas to cut emissions. If you have a suggestion for us, we’d love to hear it: send us an email.


Here are notes on the wines. Prices do not include tax.

Tinhorn Creek Chardonnay 2015 ($19.49 for 1,866 cases). This is as seductive a Chardonnay as I have tasted in a while. The wine was carefully assembled from early harvest and later harvest grapes. The former was fermented in stainless steel with cultured yeast. The later harvested fruit was fermented in barrel with wild yeast and also allowed to go through malolactic fermentation. The result is a wine brimming with citrus and tropical fruit flavours with a touch of vanilla and biscotti. It has a long sensual finish. 92.

Tinhorn Creek Cabernet Franc 2014 ($21.99 for 3,916 cases). This bold, ripe red reflects the great 2014 Okanagan vintage. These grapes were fermented slowly with a combination of wild and cultured yeast and then aged 14 to 16 months in barrel. The wine begins with aromas of herbs and cranberries leading to brambly and cherry flavours mingled with vanilla and cedar on the finish. 90.

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Merlot 2013 ($26.99 for 2,076 cases). This is 95% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 1% Syrah. The wine aged in French oak (30% new) for 18 months and then another year in bottle before release. Dark in colour, it begins with aromas of black currants, plum, black cherries and spice. That is echoed on the palate, along with flavours of espresso and dark chocolate. Tasted the second day, the wine also revealed flavours of plum jam. Decant the wine for immediate drinking. 91.


Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series 2Bench Red 2013 ($30.49 for 1,684 cases). This wine is structured to cellar 10 or 15 years, so it needs to be decanted for current consumption. It begins with aromas of black currants, mint, herbs and cigar box. With breathing, the wine shows blueberry aromas as well. This is all echoed on the palate, along with notes of dark chocolate and black olive. The wine also aged 18 months in French oak barrels (30% new) and a year in bottle before release.  There is a lot of upside here for those prepared to cellar the wine. 92-94.

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