Saturday, September 10, 2016

Tinhorn Creek on the Golden Mile sub-appellation

Photo: Tinhorn Creek Vineyards
Tinhorn Creek Vineyards president Sandra Oldfield was a leader in the successful initiative to create the Golden Mile sub-appellation in 2016.

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 designation.

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 established here.
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.
Additionally, less 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 2014 ($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 ($31.99 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 ($31.99 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 pepper. 92.

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