Canadian Winery Spotlight: Tinhorn Creek

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards proprietor Sandra Oldfield and her team have long been blazing a trail in the movement pushing wine made in B.C. — heck, in Canada, for that matter — forward. For nearly two decades this winery —located in the Okanagan Valley on the Golden Mile Bench —has been a driving force in upping their already-killer wines, while managing to keep their products both affordable and consumer-friendly.

Having tried these wines alongside other top B.C. producers in a blind-tasting context, I’ve certainly noticed a remarkable quality-to-price ratio throughout Tinhorn Creek’s wines. They’ve long been making one of the valley’s most consistent Merlots, their Gewürztraminer is one of the area’s standard-bearers, and their work on most other single varieties and blends is equally as impressive.

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Tinhorn Creek 2014 Gewürztraminer ($18.49)

With Golden Mile Bench fruit from 20-year-old vines and stainless-steel fermentation, this intense aromatic white delivers beautifully fresh floral, apricot, peach, papaya and spice notes. It’s a dry, light-plus bodied but viscous white, with intense and focused spice, lychee, pineapple, marmalade and stone fruit notes, an almost-chalky component and a long finish. It’s benchmark B.C. Gewürztraminer. A killer summer sipper.

Tinhorn Creek 2014 Chardonnay ($22.51)

Sourced predominantly from the Diamondback vineyard in the Black Sage Bench, this Okanagan Valley Chardonnay offers red apple, lemon rind, pineapple, pear and vanilla notes on the nose. It’s medium-bodied and with great intensity and texture, delivering loads of fresh apple, melon, ripe pineapple, lemon zest and brioche notes. Modest oak adds complexity and structure, while light acidity provides balance. It’s not overdone —rather, the winemaker has the savvy to let the juice do the talking.

Tinhorn Creek 2013 Cabernet Franc ($25.39)

Too often overlooked, Cabernet Franc shines when it’s well-made, and Tinhorn Creek’s example fits that bill to a tee. Cassis, black cherry, raspberry, white pepper, mocha and light bell pepper notes on the nose are spot-on, and those dark berry notes work well with licorice, spice, and a secondary herbal/spice component. Eighteen months in oak barrels brings added texture and complexity — it’s a Cab Franc that will make converts of even the staunchest skeptics.

Tinhorn Creek 2013 Merlot ($23.66)

This is Tinhorn’s pièce de résistance (well, figuratively speaking, I guess). Sourced from the warmer Diamondback vineyard on the Black Sage Bench, it brings plum, dark cherry, blueberry, black tea and leather aromas. Rich and full-bodied, the ripe blueberry, plum and cherry flavours work beautifully with dark chocolate, black tea and vanilla notes. A hint of black pepper comes through with the medium, ripe tannin and a medium-long finish.

2014 Gewurztraminer   2014 Chardonnay    2013 Cabernet Franc          2013 Merlot

Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson is the wine columnist and literary editor for the Winnipeg Free Press. He’s on Twitter and Instagram at @bensigurdson.

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