The final winery visit included in our Pre-Conference Excursion to the Wine Bloggers’ Conference 2013 (WBC13) was CedarCreek Estate Winery. The series of winery visits, lodging and meals were organized and sponsored by Tourism Kelowna, the wineries and hotels. More about that at the end of this post.
Located on the southern end of the Lakeshore Wine Route in southeast Kelowna, the scenery is dramatic at CedarCreek Estate Winery.
Sweeping views of vineyard blocks seem to extend in every direction, broken only by views of lovely Okanagan Lake.
We were greeted by CedarCreek winemaker, Darryl Booker, who not only began with a history of CedarCreek, but also by giving each of us a glass of 2012 CedarCreek Estate Winery Ehrenfelser. We found this wine to have summer fruit flavors with good acidity and just a touch of sweetness. The finish was clean and this is a great summer sipper.
Along with Riesling, Ehrenfelser was brought to the Okanagan Valley in 1968 and represented the first vinifera plantings. The Ehrenfelser at CedarCreek was planted in 1977 and they are one of only five producers of the grape varietal in the Okanagan Valley (and the only Okanagan winery mentioned by name in Wine Grapes by Robinson, Harding and Vouillamoz in their discussion of Ehrenfelser).
CedarCreek Estate Winery was purchased by Senator Ross Fitzpatrick in 1986 and is one of the first eight wineries established in British Columbia. With four vineyard locations around the Okanagan Valley, they are able to grow grape varieties where they are best suited. The 50 acres at the CedarCreek Winery location are planted to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Ehrenfelser.
Greata Ranch located across Okanagan Lake, between Peachland and Summerland, grows many of the same grape varieties as the CedarCreek location, but on different soils and exposures.
At the south end of the Okanagan Valley the Desert Ridge and Haynes Creek sites concentrate on Bordeaux varieties, Syrah and Viognier in the Osoyoos area.
We had a tour of the gravity-flow winery where we learned all fruit is hand-picked and most wines spend two years in barrel. We took a peek at the concrete “egg” which Darryl uses “to keep fermentation going” with a portion of the wines.
The next part of our tour took us into the vineyards. We hiked uphill through a recently planted block of Riesling (Clone 21B to be specific) which does particularly well at this end of the valley. Rather than field-grafting the Riesling onto the Merlot rootstock, the Riesling has been planted directly into the soil. Darryl explained that the harsh winters can cause the grafts to fail. This method will take longer, five to six years to be able to produce wine from this block, but the winery’s philosophy is not to “chase trends”. They prefer not to take short-cuts.
The young Riesling plantings replace Merlot which does better in the Desert Ridge and Haynes Creek locations. The Merlot vines may be gone, but they are not forgotten. The shredded vines are being used to “pave” the Senator’s Trail which winds thorough the vineyards.
As we moved into the next block of vines, Pinot Noir planted in 1991, Darryl noted the relatively small size for their age. He indicated this was due to the fairly depleted soil. These vines are having to work very hard to grow and produce fruit. This block produces fruit with floral and feminine characteristics.
Our first “tasting stop” in the vineyard was to sample the 2012 CedarCreek Estate Vineyard Platinum Block 3 Riesling which was paired with Curried Chicken and Apricots. The wine was nicely balanced with flavor, a bit of residual sugar and good acidity. It stood-up to the curry flavors in the chicken dish without overwhelming it, or being overwhelmed by the spices. Good pairing.
We noticed seeds and must from prior harvests had been spread along the vineyard rows as we moved to the next block of Pinot Noir. This is the product of several years composting and analysis before being spread in the vineyard.
The soil varied significantly as we walked up through the blocks. Some areas had quite a bit of gravel and rock at the surface.
Our next vineyard treat came in the form of 2011 CedarCreek Estate Winery Platinum Block 3 Chardonnay paired with Almond Crusted Chicken with Avocado. Wild yeast only, cool fermentation and no malolactic fermentation produced a Chardonnay that showed brilliant acidity and citrus zest which brought alive the flavors of the chicken. Very refreshing combination.
After savoring the wine and food paring, we walked back down through the Pinot Noir once again to our original stop which was now set-up with 2010 CedarCreek Estate Winery Platinum Home Block Pinot Noir. This Pinot Noir is a combination of blocks 2 and 4, one more floral the other more muscular. It spends 16 months in oak, 80% new, and one year in the bottle before release. The nose was earthy with all of the flavors I love in Pinot, including berries and spice.
The wine was paired with Deep Fried Risotto Balls with Duck. Great combination.
Believe it or not, this tour and tasting was followed by lunch and more wine! When we returned to the outdoor dining area, where we began our tour, tables were set for lunch with wine in our glasses.
Pork Sliders with Coleslaw and Mixed Green Salad with Beets was accompanied by 2010 CedarCreek Estate Winery Merlot and 2010 CedarCreek Estate Winery Shiraz Cabernet. The Shiraz Cabernet is a blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Darryl explained that 2010 was a challenging year for winemakers in the southern Okanagan due to a cool growing season. Both wines were flavorful with good tannins and acidity. No over-ripe fruit flavors, just good complexity and dark fruit flavors. Great compliments to the Pork Sliders.
Thank you so much to CedarCreek Estate Winery for sponsoring the winery tour and tasting. Thanks to winemaker, Darryl Booker, marketing staff, chefs and others who made our experience at the winery so fun and informative. It is clear why this winery has twice been named Canada’s Winery of the Year.
Again, thank you to Tourism Kelowna for organizing and sponsoring our trip. The two-day trip included winery visits to Summerhill Pyramid Winery, Tantalus Vineyards and CedarCreek Estate Winery as well as lodging at Hotel Eldorado in Kelowna. Thank you to all of the wineries and the hotel for your sponsorship. It was a memorable trip and a great introduction to the wines of the Okanagan Valley.
Ultimately, we collected nearly a case of wine on this Excursion alone to bring home with us. Before our trip had ended, we collected over a case. We will keep some of the wines for our cellar, others we will share with our wine friends when we do an Okanagan Valley wine tasting at a local wine shop. Though these wines are not available in our area, we think they are interesting and well-made wines worth learning about. We also think another trip to the Okanagan Valley is worthwhile. So, no complaining about the wines not being available. We will just plan another trip!