Friday, June 29, 2018

CedarCreek heads toward organic viticulture

Photo: Winemaker Taylor Whelan

Winemaker Taylor Whelan’s covering letter with CedarCreek’s spring release includes a titillating forecast that the construction at the winery is nearly concluded.

“We are in the home stretch of the last 18 months of construction as our team here prepares for the largest opening of a winery property since Mission Hill Family Estate was unveiled nearly 20 years ago,” Taylor writes.

He was referring to the new tasting room and restaurant that has risen at the winery, replacing an old cottage once used for winery offices. During the past two seasons, the extensive construction at CedarCreek almost certainly discouraged some visitors from navigating the parking lot.

Soon, they will find good access again, with a larger tasting room and a year-round restaurant. Since June 1, CedarCreek has offered lunch in the Vineyard Terrace, a stopgap – however pleasant – until the restaurant is open.

Taylor’s letter also draws attention to a pair of important changes in viticulture and in winemaking.

First, the 50-acre Home Vineyard is well along in its transition to organic production, which began in 2017. CedarCreek plans to get organic certification in 2019 for that vineyard.  The winery is also moving toward organic viticulture in its Osoyoos vineyards.

“The changes in the vineyards and the grapes themselves are dramatic,” Taylor writes. “We’ll be talking to you more about that as our 2017 wines emerge from the cellar in the coming months.”

Second, Taylor draws attention to the increasing use of oak with the wines, but not to make the flavours taste oaky. “By fermenting a portion of our aromatic whites in neutral oak barrels, the oak imparts texture, rather than flavour, letting the fruit shine on the palate,” he writes.

As it happens, the current release includes several 2017 wines and they certainly are full of flavour. Here are notes on the wines.

CedarCreek Estate Pinot Gris 2017 ($18.99 for 3,104 cases). The winery gets grapes both from its home vineyard in East Kelowna and from its Osoyoos vineyards, giving the winemaker ripe flavours with crisp acidity. Some 29% of this wine was fermented in neutral oak to add texture; the rest was fermented in stainless steel. The wine begins with appealing aromas of pear and apple. On the palate, these join with citrus to create a medley of tropical fruit. The finish is crisp and refreshing. 91.

CedarCreek Estate Riesling 2017 ($18.99 for 1,125 cases). This wine begins with lovely aromas that are at once floral and citrus. There are intense flavours of lemon, lime and tangerine. The aromas and flavours are fleshed out by the 19.2 grams of residual sugar which is well balanced with 10.6 grams of acidity. The result is a lingering finish that seems dry. With just 10.5% alcohol, the wine, even with its intensity, is light and elegant. 91.

CedarCreek Estate Gewürztraminer 2017 ($18.99 for 830 cases). Taylor and his winemaking crew have given a lot of respect to this varietal, starting with crushing the grapes by foot and then allowing the juice to macerate on the skins for 12 hours. A third was fermented in barrel to add texture (the wine has a fatness on the palate). The wine begins with aromas of ginger and lychee. The flavours are a medley of spiced pear and apple. There is a touch of warmth on the palate from the 14% alcohol. With a dry finish, this an Alsace-style Gewürztraminer for food, not for the mid-afternoon tipple. 90.

CedarCreek Platinum Block 5 Chardonnay 2016 ($34.99 for 756 six-packs). This wine was fermented with wild yeast in French oak barrels and puncheons. It also aged 10 months in oak. The wine begins with aromas of mango, apple and very subdued oak. On the palate, the flavours hint at lemon and apple. The texture is pleasantly full but good acidity leads to a refreshing finish. 93.

CedarCreek Platinum Block 1 Pinot Noir Rosé 2017 ($29.99 for 784 cases). This is likely to top-priced Okanagan rosé – but the wine delivers! The wine resulted from picks 10 days apart. The earlier harvest captured herbaceous flavours will the second captured ripe fruit flavours; both picks were combined in this wine which was fermented 89% in stainless steel, 11% in oak. The colour is fashionable pale (but not anaemic). There are aromas and flavours of strawberry, watermelon and pink grapefruit. The flavours persist on the finish. 93.

CedarCreek Estate Meritage 2015 ($24.99 for 2,168 cases). The blend is 38% Malbec, 37% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. The wine was aged 20 months in French oak. What makes this wine stand apart is that it is anchored by Malbec. That variety contributes a deep colour and a powerful perfumed aroma of plum and blueberry. On the palate, the wine is bold and generous, with a medley of dark fruit flavours that persist on the finish. 92.

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