Saturday, November 15, 2014

Tinhorn Creek releases its 2Bench Red 2011

In September, Laughing Stock Vineyards hosted a vertical tasting of every vintage of Portfolio from 2003 to 2012.

A more detailed discussion of that tasting is still being worked on. However, one conclusion is worth keeping in mind as we begin to see the release of 2011 reds from other wineries in British Columbia.

As everyone knows, 2010 and 2011 were cool vintages. So was 2004. Yet those were three of the tastiest wines in the Laughing Stock range.

The lesson is that well-made reds from cool vintages will benefit from bottle age but will show as well as wines from warm and generous years like 2012. The latter vintage shows an in-your-face opulence and is probably the wine to drink while waiting on the 2011s.

The wines from cooler vintages are likely to have brighter fruit and more acidity that warm vintage wines. The acidity means the wines will be tight and lean when young. But they don’t necessarily stay that way with appropriate bottle age.

These reflections are generated by a bottle of Tinhorn Creek Vineyards recent release of its Oldfield Series 2Bench Red 2011. This is arguably the winery’s flagship red.

Tinhorn Creek began making this blend in 2007, calling it 2Bench Red because fruit is sourced both from the winery’s Black Sage Road vineyard and from its Golden Mile vineyard. “Only upwards of 10% of that wine will come from the Golden Mile Bench,” Tinhorn Creek president Sandra Oldfield says. “But those components from the Golden Mile Bench, the Malbec and the Petit Verdot, are pretty unique on this side.”

Prior to that vintage, all of Tinhorn Creek’s reds were single varietal wines. In 2007, the owners decided they understood their vineyards well enough to do what the Bordelaise do: select good blocks of fruit and put together an age-worthy blend.

While the early blends were anchored with Cabernet Sauvignon, the winery has responded to the conditions in each vintage – blending more Merlot or more Cabernet Franc if that yielded the better blend. Early vintages were aged in French and American oak. More recent vintages have all been aged in French oak only.

“We age the wine three years before we release it,” Sandra says. “We don't release any of this wine before its third birthday.”

That is why we are just now seeing the 2011 vintage. But that is prudent, especially since 2011 was comparatively cool. This wine would have been very tight a year ago.

It is still tight enough. However, I double-decanted the wine and I finished the bottle on the second day. The object was to accelerate the aging. That is not to discourage you from drinking it now but only to encourage you to cellar it.                    This wine has a lot of upside if you lay it down for another three to five years.

That was the lesson learned from the Portfolio vertical. That winery’s 2004 was tight and lean on release. With bottle age, it has fleshed out and, at 10 years, is appealingly vibrant and fresh. Tinhorn Creek’s 2Bench red should enjoy a similar evolution.

Here is my note.

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series 2Bench Red 2011 ($29.99 for 1,446 cases). The blend is 39% Cabernet Franc, 35% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Petit Verdot. It begins with aromas of cherry, cassis and plum. There is an elegant core of sweet fruit on the palate, including cassis, raspberry and plum, with a touch of tobacco and cola on the finish. The texture evolved from lean to medium-bodied with decanting, portending how this will develop in your cellar. 91.

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