By Rick VanSickle
I am becoming increasingly enamoured by what many of the top Okanagan wineries are accomplishing with the fickle Pinot Noir grape.
Also in this report: South Okanagan’s Maverick Estate Winery has new owners.
When a thoughtful process goes into planting decisions, then broken down into vineyard selection and even blocks, the results can be quite stunning. I find that, with the top single-vineyard Pinots from Kelowna’s CederCreek Estate Winery, owned by the von Mandl family (Mission Hill), striking differences are being found in Pinot Noirs from the same vineyard but at different elevations and soil compositions.
In this tasting report, I tasted the Block 2 and Block 4 Pinots from the estate’s 50-acre Home Block Vineyard side by side and was pleasantly surprised at the results.
Winemaker Taylor Whelan is building upon three decades of winemaking history and defining a new chapter with estate-grown, organic wines. Because of planting decisions made in the early 1990s, the estate now has 30-year-old vines at the heart of everything they do.
Since the von Mandl family purchased the estate the team has been busy re-building its modern farmhouse-style hospitality site and a renovation of the cellars is near completion. As well, CedarCreek has acquired a 100-acre site adjacent to the Home Block (planted in 1991). The acquired vineyard will be planted in stages — 10 acres of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay in the first phase, with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay following in 2021, and finally Riesling, more Pinot and maybe some Gamay and Grüner in 2022.
“I can say that I am extremely excited for what this new property will bring, and how it will allow us to focus even more exclusively on North Okanagan and cool-climate fruit and terroirs,” says Whelan. “It will be extreme grape-growing, but in my view, extreme conditions are often the catalyst for great creativity and quality. I can’t wait to see what this new land will bring.
Here’s what I liked from new releases this spring, including three Pinot Noirs:
CederCreek Pinot 2018 ($27, 88 points) — In 1989, the estate selected a site – today known as the Home Block Vineyard – that set the stage for the Pinot Noir grape to truly shine. The combination of soils, varied elevation and the moderating effect of the lake produces what the winery feels are “deeply complex wines with fruit-forward character.” This estate Pinot has a savoury nose of black cherries, loam, anise and spice. It’s juicy on the palate with medium+ tannins, some structure, red berries, anise/licorice, earth, savoury herbs and spice with a finessed finish.
CedarCreek Platinum Block 2 Pinot Noir 2017 ($55, 93 points) — Block 2 sits on the lower slopes of the Home Block Vineyard on Lakeshore Road in Kelowna. The block’s clay soils originate from post-glacial sediment of the immense Lake Penticton, the Ice Age predecessor to Okanagan Lake. The vines are now 27 years old. It’s wild fermented in concrete, spent 12 months in French oak barrels and is bottled unfined and unfiltered. This is one gorgeous Pinot with a floral opening reminiscent of rose petals and violets then turning toward dark cherries, brambly raspberries, cloves, barrel spice notes and minerals. It’s beautiful on the palate with lovely texture, smooth tannins and a perfectly balanced mélange of ripe cherries, crunchy raspberries, elegant spice notes and a perky, finessed feel through a long finish. Good cellaring potential here, say 5+ years.
CedarCreek Platinum Block 4 Pinot Noir 2017 ($55, 92 points) — This sister Pinot to the one above is sourced from the upper slopes of the Home Block Vineyard with its sandy/loam soils. These 22-year-old vines work hard and dig deep to access water, forcing lower yields and increased concentration. The fruit is fermented for four weeks in concrete, with oak aging for 12 months in French barrels and bottled unfined and unfiltered. It has a generous nose of dark cherries, forest berries, anise, plums and savoury spice notes. It has a bit more power and richness than the Block 2 version on the palate with darker berries, concentrated spice notes, polished tannins and a finessed finish. Cellar 6+ years. Really nice side-by-side comparison of two really fine Okanagan Pinot Noirs.
CederCreek Home Block Sparkling Brut NV ($25, 89 points) — This tasty sparkler is from single-vineyard estate Muscat Ottonel grapes and made in an innovative variation of the pét-nat method. It has a unique, vivacious nose of lime, grapefruit, pineapple and nectarine that’s fresh and inviting. It’s peppy on the palate with honeyed tropical fruits, zesty citrus and all nicely balanced on the finish. A fun wine for porch sipping that comes in an attractive package.
CederCreek Sauvigon Blanc 2019 ($19, 91 points) — The fruit spent three months on it lees and a bit of time aging in neutral oak barrels. It has a lovely savoury/herbal nose with grapefruit, kiwi, wet grass, gooseberries and underlying spice notes. It has gorgeous texture on the palate and bright notes of grapefruit, citrus, grass/hay, sage and integrated spice with a fresh, invigorating finish. Great value here.
CedarCreek Pinot Gris 2019 ($19, 88 points) — This is a 50/50 blend of Gris sourced from the South Okanagan Valley’s arid, desert-like landscapes and the North Okanagan’s cooler temperatures and higher elevation. It shows lovely apple/quince notes on the nose with melon and peach rounding things out. It has good balance with ripe orchard fruits, texture, a pinch of spice and vibrancy through the finish.
Local Okanagan partners
acquire Maverick Estate Winery
Partners Jan Nelson and winemaker Andrew Windsor have purchased the award-winning Maverick Estate Winery from owners Bertus and Elzaan Albertyn.
Celebrating their first vintage in 2011, Maverick Estate Winery is a boutique ultra-premium winery located south of Oliver. Family owned and operated, Maverick chooses a patient approach using minimal intervention, allowing nature to do its work to express the flavours driven by the winery’s four distinct vineyard sites in the south Okanagan
“I grew up on an orchard in Oliver and left the valley for school in the early 1990s, just as the Okanagan wine industry was seeking to reestablish itself after pull out in the late 1980s. After over 20 years abroad, I returned to the area to raise my family and join the vibrant, premium wine producing industry that has flourished around us,” said Jan Nelson, Maverick Estate Winery’s new co-owner. “I met winemaker Andrew (Windsor) at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, and we are excited to bring our passion and experience to build upon the amazing wines and winery experience that Bertus and his team have created.”
“We would like to thank everybody for their enthusiasm and support for Maverick over the past almost decade. Without them, Maverick would not be possible. We believe that Jan and Andrew will continue to build on our success,” says Bertus Albertyn, Maverick’s founder. Albertyn and his family plan to stay in the Oliver area, and will remain engaged in the wine industry.
“I have long since admired Maverick and respect the amazing brand Bertus and his team created. I am looking forward to building upon the winery’s success and continuing to craft ultra-premium wines that Maverick’s fans and customers have come to love,” said Andrew Windsor, winemaker and co-owner. “Maverick Estate Winery will continue to make delicious wines with an attention to sustainability and run our business with our employees, our customers and our community as a top priority.
Windsor and Nelson believe Maverick is a perfect fit for their philosophy and approach to winemaking. Both owners are looking forward to returning to a smaller, owner-operated, boutique environment.