Friday, November 8, 2019

Tinhorn Creek at 25

Photo: Tinhorn Creek's Andrew Windsor

At a 25th anniversary dinner this summer, Tinhorn Creek Vineyards served its flagship red, The Creek, with one of the courses – and some guests complained that the estate Cabernet Franc was not being poured.

“We can never make enough of it,” winemaker Andrew Windsor says of Cabernet Franc.

Cabernet Franc has always competed with Merlot for top billing among the Tinhorn Creek reds but, until recent years has lacked Merlot’s popularity. In fact, in 2010 and 2011, the winery considered pulling out some of its Cabernet Franc and replacing it with Merlot.

That did not happen – and the winter of 2014-2015 showed what a stroke of good luck that was for Tinhorn Creek. Severe winter cold damaged and even killed Merlot while Cabernet Franc sailed through the winter largely unscathed. The dead Merlot vines were replaced with Cabernet Franc (and some Cabernet Sauvignon).

“It is probably one of the most ideally suited grape varieties for the Okanagan in terms of its ability to tolerate cold winters and to come back thriving,” Andrew says.

And as the complaining guests showed, Cabernet Franc now has a solid foothold among consumers. “It is always going to be a variety that will be in high demand,” Andrew says. “We won’t be able to make enough of it, unless we rip out other varieties and plant more Cabernet Franc.”

It would be hard to suggest what variety Tinhorn Creek might eliminate from its vineyards since all sell well. The last variety eradicated (about five years ago) was Kerner when Andrew stopped making Icewine. That block was replanted with Roussanne, a variety that produces a far better table wine, as the first released this year showed.

However, Merlot is not likely to leave the Tinhorn Creek portfolio either. “It is the most consistently best wine for us historically,” Andrew says.

Here are notes on current releases from Tinhorn Creek.

Tinhorn Creek Blanc de Noir 2016 ($35 for 70 cases). This is Tinhorn Creek’s first traditional method sparkling wine, with Pinot Noir grapes from the winery’s Golden Mile block. The wine was released for the winery’s 25 anniversary in June; another 1,000 bottles remain en tirage for the 30th anniversary. Two years of lees aging have imparted brioche and briny aromas and flavours that mingle with citrus notes. The texture is creamy. 91.

Tinhorn Creek Pinot Gris 2018 ($19.99). This wine was bottled 10 days after fermentation finished in order to preserve the freshness of the fruit. The wine, indeed, is a fruit basket with aromas and flavours of peaches and pears. 91.

Tinhorn Creek Gewürztraminer 2018 ($17.99). The wine begins with aromas of strawberry, banana and spice. It is fleshy in texture, thanks to 10 grams of residual sugar, and it has flavours of citrus. It has a lingering and rich finish. 91.

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Reserve Rosé 2018 (Sold out). This is made with Cabernet Franc. The wine, also bottled in December 2018, has a salmon pink hue and aromas and flavours of spice and orange. 91.

Tinhorn Creek Rosé 2018 Innovation Series ($32 for 150 cases). The winery employed an unusual technique to make this wine. A small vat of Pinot Noir was drained at the end of fermentation, leaving the skins behind. Fermenting Chardonnay from a stainless steel tank was poured onto the skins and left for 25 hours. Then the wine was transferred back to stainless steel to finish fermenting. The result is a dry and savoury rosé, with a pale pink hue and with flavours of pear and apple. 92.

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Reserve Roussanne 2017 ($N/A). The wine is bold and buttery, with aromas and flavours of stone fruit. The texture is unctuous and the finish is very long. 92.

Tinhorn Creek Pinot Noir 2017 ($23.99). The wine begins with aromas of spice and cherries. On the palate there is dark fruit with savoury notes on the finish. The texture is silky. 90.

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Reserve Syrah 2016 ($34.99). The wine displays the aromas and flavours of delicatessen spices and meats with a juicy palate of plum and dark fruit and a touch of white pepper on the finish. 93.

Tinhorn Creek Cabernet Franc 2017 ($24.99 for 3,322 cases). The grapes for this wine were fermented slowly (six to eight weeks) with wild yeast, allowing a gentle extraction of colour and flavours. The wine went into barrels, primarily French and Hungarian oak. The latter oak seems to accentuate the bright brambly aromas and flavours. There also are flavours of raspberry, blueberry and red currant. The texture is generous, with long ripe tannins rounded by the 16 to 18 months of barrel aging the wine had. 91.

Tinhorn Creek Merlot 2017 ($23.99 for 4,781 cases). The wine was aged 12 to 14 months in oak barrels. Deep in colour, the wine begins with aromas of blueberry and cassis. On the full-bodied palate, there are flavours of dark fruit and earthy tannins. 91.

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Reserve Cabernet Franc 2016 ($34.99 for 966 cases). This wine was aged 18 months in French oak (35% new). The blend is 88% Cabernet Franc, 11% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon. Generous in texture, the wine has aromas and favours of black cherry, plum and fig, with an extended finish. 93.

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Reserve Merlot 2016 ($29.99 for 1,764 cases). This wine was also aged 18 months in French oak (35% new). The blend is 85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot and 1% each of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. It begins with aromas of black cherry, cassis and plum. On the palate, there are flavours of plum, black currant and licorice. The tannins are firm and the wine benefits from being decanted. 93.

Tinhorn Creek The Creek 2015 ($55). The blend is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot, 7% Malbec and 3% Petit Verdot. The wine was aged for two years in barriques (mostly French and 40% new). Typical of the vintage, this swaggering wine is bold and powerful, with aromas and flavours of black cherry, black currant, plum and blueberry. 95.


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