If there is a mantra that best describes Creekside Estate Winery it would this, now stamped on every bottle of the sleek redesigned label: “Serious wine from an irreverent bunch.”
Serious and irreverent have always been woven into the fabric that is Creekside, a non-conformist style and vibe that is carried through from winery to marketing. These guys and gals know how to have fun in the cellar and, thankfully, it’s carried through on the marketing end. It’s the perfect marriage of making and selling wines by committee. A committee that’s primarily made up of Rob Power, the winemaker, and his winemaking team, and Matt Loney, the marketer and the man who has captured and projected that aura of irreverence that is Creekside.
It is proudly on display in the new bottle label packaging, a year in the making. It’s a simple and sleek design that just feels and looks right for this winery.
What is it about Creekside that makes it one of Niagara’s iconic wineries? Simply put, it’s all about “The Creek” — the staff, the approach to experimentation, craziness, exploration, pushing the envelope and endless discussions on what (and how to make it) next. It’s winemaking without borders, wine unplugged, or as Power will tell you:
“We are more duct tape than polished stainless steel.”
Indeed, a patchwork of trial and error and the odd “stumble” onto something truly surreal (Broken Press Shiraz, soon to become Broken Press Syrah, The Lost Barrel, the Undercurrent wines and, of course, the extreme Sauvignon Blancs in their various styles, come readily to mind) is what defines Creekside.
Knowing this, Loney (with design by Dynamo) hit the nail on the head with the new bottle look where the words Creekside Estate Winery plays a starring role on the label in a stark vertical approach that stays consistent through the portfolio. The wine is the thing, not pretty pictures. The impact will be felt as the new labels hit store shelves where the bold new look, with its rough-edged, textured type will set it apart from the wines around it. Not to mention how cool they will appear in the cellar side by side.
Creekside, whether redesigning its labels or inventing new wines in the winery, has always been progressive in its thinking. Some might assume that there is some method to the madness, but that would not be correct.
Board meetings at Creekside are spontaneous affairs with decisions made over fresh Mario Pingue Prosciutto pizza made by chef Mark Hand at The Deck restaurant at the winery. Reserve wines are relegated to regular cuvees, a surprising 2008 Merlot is elevated to reserve, release dates for wines are shoved back and moved forward and, during the cheese course, after a short visit from Power to the cellar to fetch glasses of 2008 barrel-fermented, oak-aged Shiraz icewine, left to soak up the rich, toasty American oak spices far beyond what most would dare do, a snap decision to fortify half the production in an icewine-Port style is made (at least that’s the plan, but nothing is certain with these guys).
Creekside, seemingly operating just under the radar for the past few months (at least in my estimation), is back on a mission. A new look, a retweaking of its popular wine club, another wonderful season of food on its patio under the careful guidance of Chef Hand and a release on June 11-12 of what Creekside calls it’s “biggest, baddest wine release in Creekside’s 10-year history.”
The “big, bad” white release consists of some of Creekside’s rarest whites made to date including the mysterious 2000 X Blanc de Blancs, that spent 10 years on the lees, an Undercurrent Viognier, the new Laura White and a reserve Pinot Gris.
I sat down with Power and Loney for a sneak peek at the release wines and some others just on the horizon. Here’s what I liked.
Creekside “X” Blanc de Blancs 2000 ($50, 92 points) — Imagine sitting on a sparkling wine for 10 years, the owner passing by the bottles year after year wondering why they aren’t for sale. Power and Loney resisted the urges of Creekside owners, in those early years of needing cash flow, by telling them that it would cost thousands of dollars just to finish the sparkling wines. So, there they sat on the lees for a decade. Power says they’ve gone on for as long as they can, finished in as dry a style as they “dare.” The wine appears to be still in the glass, with micro bubbles that explode in the mouth. It’s a silky sparkler with citrus, pronounced yeast-biscuit flavours and glorious texture and complexity. Only 110 cases were made, and well worth the buy.
Creekside Laura White 2009 ($19, 88 points) — This is Creekside’s signature white assemblage, named after owner Laura McCain (so it better be good, right?), consisting of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling, Muscat and Viognier. There was no 2008 made of this flagship white. The nose is a mélange of sweet, ripe tropical and tangerine fruits touched by spice. It’s delicious on the palate and layered in fruit with peach, tropical, pear and vanilla all chiming in.
Creekside Reserve Pinot Gris 2008 ($27, 89 points) — Quite a different Gris that’s partially naturally fermented in neutral oak. The nose shows apple, melon, spice and pear in an elegant, weighty style that carries through on the palate.
Creekside Reserve Viognier 2009 ($30, 92 points) — This wine has already picked up a Cuvée award for best Viognier (if that matters to you) and deservedly so. It’s a stunning example of Viognier. Barrel fermented in neutral oak, this Creekside version is intense with ripe, rich apple, peach and apricot fruits on the nose to go with a touch of spice. It’s a hallmark of the ’09 vintage that this Viognier also showed some vibrancy on the palate to go with rich fruits and spice.
Also tasted with Power and Loney:
Creekside Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($14, 86 points) — Creekside is the top producer of Sauvignon Blanc in Niagara, in my opinion. And they do it with a portfolio that starts here at the entry level, a typical Kiwi style of S.B. with fresh grapefruit, grass, herbaceous notes and lime juice. Just a pleasant porch sipper with fresh fruits and vibrant acidity on the palate.
Creekside Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2009 ($27, mid-summer release, 92 points) — At the complete other end of the Sauvignon Blanc spectrum comes sits this wine. The defining style comes from the two to three years in Mercury oak barrels (French Burgundian oak). Just wonderful on the nose with gooseberry, grapefruit, vanilla and citrus rind. It’s fresh yet spicy and still showing grassy-herbs but in a more elegant style. Compare this to the more tropical, fleshy version from 2007.
Creekside Estate Shiraz 2008 ($16, LCBO, 86 points) — While Creekside is a noted Sauvignon Blanc producer on the white side, a lot of fans of this winery consider Shiraz (Syrah) as its signature grape. The portfolio is deep in Shiraz in myriad styles. This is the entry-level version from a not so hot vintage. Power thinks Shiraz in Niagara as the potential to be the “go-to” red in our climate because he can make a decent wine out of it vintage to vintage. This one is medium-bodied with lots of jazzy wild berry, plum fruits and pepper spice. It’s juicy and vibrant on the palate for back porch sipping.
Creekside Broken Press Shiraz 2007 ($40, 92 points) — The 2007 version of Broken Press is a sensational wine, and the winery still has some in stock, with lifted aromatics that are helped along with a shot of viognier added to the shiraz. Viognier brings a floral element to the rich red berries and spicy core. On the palate, the ripe red fruits are balanced by layers of spice, oak and ripe tannins. A note to consumers: This wine’s name will change to Broken Press Syrah starting with the 2008 vintage. There will be no 2009 vintage.
Creekside Reserve Shiraz 2007 ($35, late summer release, 93 points) — You may want to stock up on this when it’s released. There will be no 2008 or 2009, but there will be a 2010 vintage made. This is a big, burly, meaty Shiraz with red and black fruits, roasted meats and layered in spices and oak tones on the nose. The mouth shows a highly structured, still youthful wine rich in blackberry, currants, spice, and toasty vanilla. One for the cellar, 10 years or more.