Sunday, December 14, 2014

CedarCreek Platinum Pinot Noir twins

 CedarCreek winemaker Darryl Brooker

One of winemaker Darryl Brooker’s peers, in a private conversation, recently singled out CedarCreek Estate Winery as one of the five best Pinot Noir producers in the Okanagan.

The other four in this person’s view are Blue Mountain Cellars, Quails’ Gate Estate Winery, Meyer Family Vineyards and Tantalus Vineyards. I am not sure how he missed Foxtrot Vineyards and a few others.

However, I agree that Darryl raised the bar with the winery’s premium Pinot Noirs in 2011 when he stopped blending all the best grapes into a single reserve, or Platinum, wine. In that vintage, and again in 2012, he has bottled the two best blocks, Block 2 and Block 4, as separate Platinum wines. They are distinctively different and they are both very good.

CedarCreek was purchased early this year by Anthony von Mandl’s winery holding company. Not only has Anthony retained Darryl; he also had him handle the 2014 vintage was the new Martin’s Lane winery, a Pinot Noir and Riesling specialist. Anthony has built the Martin’s Lane winery almost next door to CedarCreek’s East Kelowna property.

CedarCreek has a track record of good Pinot Noir from this vineyard. The winery began releasing Platinum Pinot Noir in 1998, with the grapes from Blocks 2 and 4 almost always blended.

“Block 2 and Block 4 are the two best blocks and the oldest blocks,” Darryl says. The blocks are less than 200 metres apart but the soils and the elevation differ. Darryl immediately noticed the distinctive differences between the blocks. In 2010, he made separate lots of wine from each block and considered releasing them separately. However, he was new at the winery. Hesitating to change established procedures, he blended them into a single Platinum Pinot Noir.

It was a good wine but the personalities of the individual blocks were lost. So in 2011 and again in 2012, he has bottled them separately.

The difference is dramatic. Block 2 Pinot Noir is a “feminine” wine while Block 4 Pinot Noir is darker, more tannic and, in a world, “masculine.” This may create a dilemma, forcing collectors of CedarCreek’s Platinum wines to settle on a preferred style. I would want both and I would pair them with different food; in fact, I would be happy to drink Block 2 on its own.

Here are notes on those wines and also on two other current CedarCreek releases.

CedarCreek Chardonnay 2013 ($18.95). Darryl set out to balance the fruit and the oak in making this wine. Some of it was aged in a 2,250 litre oak foudre, essentially a large French oak barrel. Thus the wine benefited from the impact of the barrel on texture without being overwhelmed by wood. The wine has appealing aromas of citrus and apples with the tiniest hint of oak. The flavours echo that. This medium-weight wine has a finish that is crisp and refreshing. 91.

CedarCreek Merlot 2012 ($19.95 for 3,500 cases). The blend is 91% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon. Unusual for a wine of this price, this Merlot spent 20 months aging in French oak. The winery’s view is that a full-bodied red needs that much time in barrel even if it ties up capital. The wine is still tight and should be decanted; I found it tasting richer on the second day. There are aromas of spice, red fruit and chocolate, leading to flavours of black currant and blackberry. 88.

CedarCreek Block 2 Pinot Noir 2012 ($44.95 for 380 cases). This is the pretty wine of the pair, with complex  aromas of spice, cherry and strawberry and intense flavours of cherry and strawberry. The flavours are bright and vibrant and the finish is elegant and silky. 92-94.

CedarCreek Block 4 Pinot Noir 2012 ($44.95 for  376 cases). This is the brooding, full-bodied partner, with aromas of cherry and chocolate. The palate is packed with red fruits (cherries, cranberries, plums). There seems to be more minerals in the backbone and slightly firmer tannins, a structure that suggests good ability to age. 92-93.

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