Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Tinhorn Creek refreshes its labels

Photo: Winemaker Andrew Windsor

The wines released this spring by Tinhorn Creek Vineyards come with refreshed labels.

If memory serves, this is at least the fourth update of labels since the winery opened 23 years ago.

Regular updates to labels are not unusual among New World wineries. Blasted Church Vineyards and 8th Generation Vineyard both have had two significant label overhauls since opening, to name just two wineries.

The usual motive is to create labels more likely to resonate with youthful consumers and sommeliers. The original 8th Generation labels were quite German in style because, after all, the winery owners are from Germany. German wines do not do that well in this market because the labels strike consumers are archaic and confusing.

8th Generation, with advice from a label designer, switched to a bold, clean design recalling Oriental calligraphy. The labels make the bottles jump out on the shelves of wine stores or on restaurant tables. The design’s timeless quality makes it one of the most effective label redesigns I have ever seen in the Okanagan.

Tinhorn Creek’s varietal series of wines now come with totally decluttered labels. The labels are crisp and clean and are quite effective.

The reserve labels - the wines are released as Oldfield Reserve – now look more regal, with some gold lettering, dark hues and a depiction at the base of each label of the creek sweeping down from the mountains. If memory serves, that creek has made an appearance on all generations of Tinhorn Creek labels.

Here are some of the previous labels.

The new reserve labels create a significant differentiation between the two tiers that Tinhorn Creek offers.

Whether that will matter as much to consumers as it does to the winery is another question. Tinhorn Creek already has a well-established reputation and such a large wine club that consumers would buy the wines even if the labels were brown paper.

The current releases are all made by Andrew Windsor, the winemaker who succeeded Sandra Oldfield in 2014 when she took over the president’s role at the winery. Judging from the wines, it has been a good hire.

Andrew was recruited from Andrew Peller Ltd. in Ontario where he has been involved in making wines for the VQA portfolio for three vintages.

“We have hired him to be a winemaker and to bring in new and creative ideas to the cellar in the same way that Andrew Moon did things to revitalize our vineyards,” Sandra told me at the time of Andrew’s recruitment.  (Moon is the Australian viticulturist that Tinhorn Creek hired in 2008.)

Born in Ontario, Andrew initially studied environmental science at the University of Guelph but got a taste for winemaking in 2005 at The Ice House Winery at Niagara-on-the-Lake. He completed his winemaking degree at the University of Adelaide in 2006.

In 2008, he joined the winemaking staff at Mollydooker Wines, a McLaren Vale winery that had been started in 2005 and has made a reputation for its big red wines. He left there to join EauVivre Winery & Vineyard in the Similkameen Valley in 2010. He was immediately impressed with the potential of that valley and the Okanagan for making fine wines.

Typical for young winemakers, he set out to pack in experience, starting with working the 2011 vintage at the Pernod Ricard operation in New Zealand.  From there, he moved to France and spent six months, and another 2011 vintage, at Cave de Tain, a producer of Hermitage. On returning to Canada, he joined Andrew Peller Ltd. in Ontario in mid 2012.

“Once he was back in Canada, he really did want to be back in B.C.,” Sandra told me when she announced his hiring. “He is going to be bringing a lot new to us. He is here to do what Andrew Moon did – bring a skill set from different locations and apply it here.”

Here are notes on Andrew’s wines.

Tinhorn Creek Gewürztraminer 2016 ($16.99 for 5,500 cases). The wine begins with aromas of lychee and spice. On the palate, there are honeyed tropical fruit flavours. The soft acidity and the residual sugar combine to leave a plump, off-dry finish with lingering spice notes. 89.

Tinhorn Creek Pinot Gris 2016 ($17.99 for 7,000 cases). The wine presents in the glass with a light golden glint. The appeal continues with aromas of pear and apple mingled with citrus and spice. On the palate, there is an absolute fruit salad of flavour – pear, nectarine and citrus. The wine has generous weight on the palate, with a finish that is both luscious and refreshing. 91.

Tinhorn Creek  Oldfield Reserve Chardonnay 2015 ($34.99 for 450 cases). The wine presents in the glass with a golden hue. The aromas begin with toasty oak, vanilla and orange marmalade. (For athletes, the winery’s tasting notes reach a new high for descriptors by suggesting the aromas even include “new tennis balls.”) Those notes, minus the tennis balls, are echoed on the rich palate. Love is not a great score in tennis but it certainly applies with this Chardonnay. 92.

Tinhorn Creek  Oldfield Reserve Rosé 2016 ($19.99 for 1,100 cases). Fashionably pale in colour, the Cabernet Franc rosé begins with aromas of strawberry that jump from the glass. On the palate, there are hints of strawberry and watermelon. Just a hint of sweetness enhances the refreshing charm of those wine. 90.

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Reserve Pinot Noir 2013 ($31.99 for 850 cases). The wine presents in the glass with a dark cherry hue. It begins with toasty, herbal aromas of dried cherries, leading to classic forest floor flavours of leather, mushrooms and red berries. The texture is polished and the finish lingers. 90.

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Reserve Cabernet Franc 2014 ($31.99 for 800 cases). This ruby-hued wine begins with an appealing aroma of blackberry and raspberry mingled with vanilla. Those brambly notes are repeated in the flavours of dark fruits framed subtly with oak. Notes of spice and black cherry persist on the lingering finish. 92.

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