B.C. WineTop Stories

B.C. wine report: CedarCreek expanding vineyards, Township 7’s new bubbles, spring white wines from Hester Creek

By Rick VanSickle

CedarCreek Estate Winery is one of Kelowna’s oldest wineries and one of the first pioneering wineries in B.C.

Nestled among lush vineyards and panoramic lake views, it was purchased in 1986 with the first wines released in 1987.

The story of CedarCreek is rooted in the vision of Sen. Ross Fitzpatrick. Born and raised in the Okanagan, he worked his way through university in the orchards and fruit packing houses that dotted the Okanagan Valley. Although education and a business career led him away from the Okanagan, the dreams of what the fertile soil and climate of the valley could do were never washed from his soul. Years later, his success in business afforded him the opportunity to fulfil his boyhood dreams by acquiring an orchard and small vineyard near Kelowna.

In 1988, the small wine industry in the Okanagan was in danger of disappearing with the introduction of the North American Free Trade Agreement. But in Fitzpatrick’s mind this uncertainty presented the challenge to begin the renaissance of B.C.’s grape and wine industry.

At CedarCreek the hybrid grapes gave way to new plantings of vinifera vines, the small basement cellar was transformed into state of the art winemaking facilities and the very best in viticulture was applied

Zoom ahead to February 2014, the Fitzpatrick family announced the transfer of ownership of CedarCreek Estate Winery to the von Mandl family (Anthony von Mandl, below). With this, two of the region’s pioneering winemaking families have come together with a shared vision for the Okanagan Valley, one that will continue the Fitzpatrick family legacy for generations to come.

Today, sustainability plays an increasing part of conversations taking place at CedarCreek as the winery looks for opportunities both big and small to lessen some of the winery’s environmental effects. But some of the biggest changes are happening in the vineyards as they shift each of their three sites to organic farming practices. It’s a three-year conversion process, accredited by Ecocert Canada, which began at the CedarCreek Home Block Vineyard in August of 2016. The plan is to accredit each of the vineyard properties over a period of five years with Home Block leading the way this year.

The winery says they are working toward organic certification for two reasons: “As stewards of the land, we feel it’s the right way to look after our vineyards and be responsible and respectful of our Okanagan environment. As winemakers, we know it’s the next step in elevating the quality of our fruit and, ultimately, our wine. In just year two at the CedarCreek vineyard, we’re already seeing significantly improved phenological ripeness in our grapes. There are great wines ahead.”

Besides the focus on organics the estate is also venturing into new vineyard sites, including a new site in Lake Country (above photos), which is being planted this spring. In total this site will include seven planted hectares of varieties such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. The estate is focused on high density planting (10,000 vines per hectare).

This new site will be the most northernly vineyard and a product of the drive toward the northern end of the valley and to aromatic whites, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Wines In Niagara tasted a selection of new spring releases from CedarCreek as well as new wines from Hester Creek and Township 7 for this B.C. tasting report.

CedarCreek Estate Winery

CedarCreek Estate Pinot Noir Rosé 2018 ($19, 90 points) — The Pinot Noir for this wine is grown expressly for rosé, which means it was picked earlier than it would be if it was destined for the regular Pinot Noir. It shows a light salmon colour in the glass with pretty aromas of fresh red berries and a hint of citrus zest. It’s simply delicious and crushable on the palate with raspberries, strawberries and a pinch of red currants all lifted by mouth-watering acidity.

CedarCreek Estate Gewurztraminer 2018 ($19, 88 points) — A highly aromatic and floral Gew with grapefruit, lychee, pear, tropical fruits and wild honey on the nose. This is no shrinking violet in the mouth, a bold, lush and rich offering with exotic fruits, honey sweetness, apricot and pear with balancing acidity to keep it perky through the finish.

CedarCreek Estate Pinot Gris 2018 ($19, 89 points) — A blend of the estate’s southern Okanagan vineyards and Home Block vineyard on the slopes of Okanagan Lake. 10% was fermented in barrel to add a little texture and mouthfeel on the palate. An expressive and fruit forward nose of peach, fresh apple, tangerine, touch of lime and subtle spice notes. Very clean and ripe on the palate with juicy orchard fruits, spice accents and a zesty citrus finish.

CedarCreek Estate Riesling 2018 ($19, 89 points) — The majority of the fruit in this wine comes from Block 1 in the Home Block Vineyard and is whole-bunch pressed and fermented in stainless steel to retain freshness and purity. The nose shows well-defined lime, grapefruit, ginger and underlying peach and minerals. It’s off-dry but balanced with a juicy range of citrus, peach, that lovely ginger note and honey through a vibrant and racy finish.

CedarCreek Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($19, 88 points) — Grapes are from the southern Okanagan’s Jagged Rock and Border Vista Vineyards. The fruit was picked early to retain the bright, fresh acidity that keeps everything lively on the finish. The nose is rife with sage and grassy notes followed by gooseberries, grapefruit and kiwi fruit. Nice and dry on the palate with generous grapefruit/citrus, herbs, gooseberries and a touch of spice with mouthwatering acidity.

CedarCreek Estate Chardonnay 2017 ($19, 90 points) — The estate fruit is picked early and wild fermented in 100 separate vessels including foudres and French oak barrels. The nose shows lovely granny smith apples, lemon accents, minerals and fully integrated spice notes. It’s clean and crisp on the palate with bright acidity that shines a spotlight on the apple/citrus fruits and kiss of oak spice on the bright finish.

Township 7 Vineyards and Winery

Founded in 2001, Township 7 includes two wineries — one situated in the Fraser Valley and the other on the picturesque Naramata Bench in the Okanagan Valley.

This year the winery has expanded significantly its Seven Stars sparkling program, which began in 1999 with the first vintage of bubbly. In the two decades since then, the Township 7 Seven Stars collection, crafted by winemaker Mary McDermott, has continued to expand.

This spring look for the 2016 Seven Stars Polaris blanc de blanc, the Seven Stars Eclipse 100% Chardonnay with a complex dosage and the 2015 Equinox, a sparkling rosé. Also coming next year is a sparkling Viognier in a pet-nat style, and in 2021, at ultra premium estate bubbly with five years on the less.

We tasted a couple of new bubbly releases and a very nice Syrah. Here’s what we liked:

Township 7 Seven Stars Polaris 2016 ($36, 90 points) — This is a traditional method blanc de blanc crafted from 100% Chardonnay grapes that spent 18 months on the lees. The nose shows creamy apple, lemon, brioche/biscuit notes with touches of peach and vanilla toast. It has a vigorous mousse on the palate with granny smith apples, lemon-lime, minerals, brioche/baked bread, toasty notes with a robust mousse that all lead to crisp and finessed finish. A delightful sparkling wine.

Township 7 Seven Stars Equinox 2015 ($49, 93 points) — This sparkling rosé, the inaugural vintage of the Equinox in the Seven Stars sparkling program, is a single-vineyard sparkling wine made from 100% Pinot Noir sourced from Sperling Vineyards in Kelowna, which farms organically and biodynamically. It was left on the lees for a minimum of 25 months. It shows a beautiful pale pink glow in the glass with a nose of fresh raspberries, strawberry patch, red currants, biscuit and minerality delivered on a gentle, persistent bead of bubbles. It shows delicate and fresh red berries on the palate with creamy/biscuit notes and a rousing vibrancy through the finish. Such a beautiful sparkling wine that can age 5+ years for further development.

Township 7 Silver Barrel Vineyard Syrah 2016 ($36, 92 points) — The Silver Barrel Vineyard overlooks Skaha Lake on the east side of the Okanagan Valley, facing west. An enticing nose of smoky/peppery black currants, blackberries, anise, undergrowth and barrel oak spices. Just gorgeous on the palate with a savoury/juicy range of black fruits, licorice, black peppercorns, lavish spice notes, good length and lift from racy acidity on the finish. Can age 5+ years.

Hester Creek

Hester Creek Character White 2018 ($16, 87 points) — This is an aromatic blend of two-thirds Pinot Gris and the rest Gewurztraminer. It has a ripe-fruit nose of apricots, sun-kissed peach and lychee/melon accents. It’s made in an off-dry style with rich stone fruits, ginger, honey and apricots with mouth-watering finish.

Hester Creek Pinot Gris 2018 ($17, 88 points) — A fruit-laden Gris with a nose of juicy peach, succulent apple, apricots and pear. This is driven by the ripe fruit profile of stone fruits and minerals with a zesty citrus finish.

Hester Creek Unica Sémillon 2018 ($20, 90 points) — Harvested from Block 12 of the estate vineyard from vines planted in 1997 and 1998. The fruit was whole-berry pressed with a small amount fermented in French oak barrels. Such a lovely nose of herbs, sage, lemon grass, melon, green apple and minerals. There is an impressive herbaceous note on the palate with a range of melon, apple and lemon zest that all lead to a clean, crisp finish.

Hester Creek Old Vines Trebbiano Block 16 2018 ($21, 89 points) — From the oldest part of the estate vineyard planted in 1968 with vines imported direct from Italy. There is a lot going on here on the nose of this always interesting wine. Look for grapefruit, ginger, lemon peel and lime. It shows ripe tropical fruits, honey, nectarines and citrus with balancing bright acidity.