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A refresh for B.C.’s Tinhorn Creek, a wine portfolio now in the hands of Andrew Windsor, plus reviews for spring releases

B.C. wine

By Rick VanSickle

Perched majestically high on the Okanagan Valley’s Golden Mile Bench, life just never stands still at the Tinhorn Creek winery.

Kenn and Sandra Oldfield have built a spectacular wine business in South Okanagan that moves forward every single vintage, whether it’s better and better wines, adding a restaurant (Miradoro, if you haven’t been, will blow your mind), fighting to create the Okanagan’s first sub-region (Golden Mile Bench), and, most recently, a refresh on the winery’s branding with new labels and tier renaming. The wines released this spring reflect the changes.

Okanagan wine

Oldfield Reserve replaces the previous Oldfield Series, which according to Tinhorn, communicates an evolution of the brand and reflects the quality and sophistication of Tinhorn’s top tier wines. The update also demonstrates a clear distinction between Tinhorn Creek’s premium wines and the Tinhorn Creek varietal series, which has also undergone a label revamp that speaks to Tinhorn’s modern, fresh approach.

“The philosophy behind the varietal tier and Oldfield tier has always been ‘best of grape’ for the former and ‘best of site and winemaking’ for the latter,” says Jan Nelson, marketing manager at Tinhorn. “We hope our new labels underscore this differentiation, whilst letting the wines speak for themselves. The Oldfield Reserve label now has a more luxurious feel that speaks to the elevated quality of our premium line, while the new look of our entire portfolio also marks Winemaker Andrew Windsor’s first Oldfield Reserve wines to market.”

Best B.C. wine

The Oldfield name is still prominently displayed to express the continuity of the brand and its history. Since experiencing her first “crush” at Tinhorn Creek in 1995, past winemaker Sandra Oldfield (above) remains actively involved as the winery’s CEO. Oldfield was recently recognized by WXN as one of the country’s most powerful female entrepreneurs in the trendsetting and trailblazing category, with more than 20 years of winemaking and leadership in the B.C. wine industry under her belt.

Andrew Windsor (very top photo) joined the team in 2014 and has worked tirelessly and collaboratively with the winemaking team and viticulturist Andrew Moon to produce the latest releases of both the new Oldfield Series Reserve wines and the Tinhorn Creek varietal series wines.

“I’m very proud of the wines that are in the market now, and of all the hard work our team has put into making them,” says Windsor. “The 2014 vintage reds look great and I’m particularly proud of the Syrah, which is probably one of the finest wines I’ve ever been a part of making. It’s a varietal that I’m very passionate about. The Bordeaux varieties are also excellent; with only the best wines going into the small production of the Oldfield Reserves, they are built to last and I suggest stocking up on them.”

Best Okanagan wine

Ontario-born Windsor’s first taste of wine was a friend’s parents’ attempt at homemade wine, but it didn’t put him off wine all together and he went on to take a course in wine while studying Environmental Science at the University of Guelph. In his 20s Andrew met Jamie McFarland of The Ice House Winery, who invited him to assist with his Icewine project in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Andrew experienced his first sharp taste of the winemaking world when he was called to pick grapes at 3 a.m. in -12 C weather.

Heading to warmer shores, Andrew completed his Masters of Oenology at the University of Adelaide in Australia in 2006 and then took an Assistant Winemaking role at Mollydooker Wines in McLaren Vale, where he lived on the beach and cycled to work through vineyards filled with kangaroos.

Windsor joined Tinhorn Creek Vineyards as their new winemaker in 2012. Tinhorn Creek’s approach to winemaking has always been collaborative and Sandra Oldfield continues this tradition by running the winery as CEO & president while working together with her successor Windsor and the winemaking team.

Windsor brings with him a wealth of experience having worked in wineries in the Okanagan, Marlborough in New Zealand and the Northern Rhone in France before returning to Canada to work as VQA winemaker for Andrew Peller Limited in Niagara.

The wines reviewed below are entirely crafted by Windsor. Here’s what I can recommend. Note, a few Tinhorn wines sneak onto the shelves at Ontario’s LCBO stores or you can purchase here.

Okanagan wine

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Reserve Golden Mile Bench Chardonnay 2015 ($35, 92 points) — Quite a few things going on here: A name change from Oldfield Series to Oldfield Reserve, an elegant new label makeover and a winemaker changeover fully and completely from CEO Sandra Oldfield to winemaker Andrew Windsor. This first solo flight on the Chard is one to be proud of. Such an interesting rendition of Oakanagan Chardonnay with a nose of creamy baked apples, lime, fresh pear, mineral/flinty notes (from subtle reduction) and toasted barrel spices. The mouth-watering acidity keeps this fresh and lively on the palate while a mélange of flavours, from pear to citrus, works well with the range of spice and minerals through a long finish. Might want to set this down in the cellar for a couple of years for further integration, but attractive right now.

Tinhorn Creek Golden Mile Bench Gewurztraminer 2016 ($17, 90 points) — Late dampness in the growing season provided perfect conditions for botrytis in the vineyard, something that is very good in moderation for varieties such as Gew and Riesling, but very bad for most other varieties — it’s all in how you manage the noble rot. The team at Tinhorn got it right here with a lovely buckwheat honey note punctuating the delicate grapefruit, canned pear and ginger aromas. It shows weight and texture on the palate and is loaded with ginger spice, lychee, grapefruit, exotic fruits and honey-nut flavours through the long finish. Very fine and decadent Gew.

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Reserve Cabernet Franc 2014 ($32, 91 points) — A rich and savoury nose with black cherries, raspberries, plums, bramble and light spice and herb notes. It’s made in a complex, structured style on the palate with a bevy of red fruits, currants, herbs, toasted vanilla bean, spice and energy through the finish. Drink now or hold.

Tinhorn Creek Pinot Gris 2016 ($18, 88 points) — A nose of apple, melon, pear, citrus and a subtle ginger note. It’s delicious on the palate with ripe baked apple, pear, a hint of spice and a note of citrus zest on the finish.

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Reserve Rosé 2016 ($20, 90 points) — This 100% Cabernet Franc is soaked for 24 hours on the skins before pressing. It shows pure fresh-picked strawberries, white peach and cherries on the nose. It’s a pale salmon colour in the glass with intense flavours of red fruits on the palate and just a touch of sweetness on the finish.

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Pinot Noir 2013 ($32, 91 points) — The Pinot spends one year in French oak and three years in the bottle before release. The nose displays concentrated ripe black cherry, cranberry, herbs, vanilla and spice. It’s complex on the palate with red fruits and cassis bolstered by earthy, smoky, savoury notes carried on a bed of smooth tannins. It’s all nicely integrated and drinking really fine right now.