This post is part of our ongoing series, Canadian Wine — specifically, Canadian wineries and the remarkable wines they produce. Today, Meaghan Carey shares the story of the Okanagan Valley's Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, a trailblazer in the Canadian wine industry.
The Canadian wine industry has undergone a dramatic evolution in the past 20 years. It’s an undeniably exciting time for Canadian wine. There’s a young cohort of passionate winemakers from coast to coast who are pushing boundaries and exploring what their land and vines can produce.
As we’ve been traveling across Canada these past few months, the articles have focused on winemakers and vineyards that are relatively young. Twenty years is a very short time in the development of a vineyard and especially the development of a wine region. While these young vineyards have been captivating attention, they’re developing thanks to the trailblazers who came before them, establishing vineyards in the 1980s and 1990s with few of the resources available today. One such trailblazer is Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, established in 1993.
Family owned and operated, Tinhorn Creek Vineyards is located south of Oliver, BC in the Okanagan Valley. From the humble beginnings of friends starting to make wine together, Tinhorn Creek now has 150 acres under vine in two distinct sites. In the Golden Mile Bench region they farm 50 acres at the winery, the Tinhorn Creek Vineyard, and 100 acres on the Black Sage Bench, the Diamondback Vineyard.
We grow grapes and we make wine. There are many steps between the field and the bottle, but at the end of the day it’s about farming the land responsibly, having fun, and making wines to share with family and friends.
Living at the winery, Ken and Sandra Oldfield, the Chairman and President (respectively) of Tinhorn Creek, were able to witness first hand the impact farming the vines and the winery production was having on their land. Sandra was the long-time winemaker at Tinhorn before bringing Andrew Windsor to the team in 2014. Taking the role of stewards of the land seriously, the Oldfields have been committed to sustainable farming practices and increasing efficiency in producing their wines to reduce the environmental footprint.
The entire winery team takes a holistic approach to sustainability. They‘ve worked with The Land Conservancy of BC to protect indigenous plants, animals, birds and reptiles that have called the land home long before the vineyards were planted. Tinhorn Creek was the first certified carbon neutral winery in Canada. The Oldfields work closely with their team to ensure a healthy and safe environment for workers, in which they feel supported and mentored to reach their goals. There’s also a commitment to hiring and buying local.
We are stewards of the land and our relationships with them; people rely on us for their livelihoods and trust us to keep them safe; we must reduce our production of carbon; and conserve the use of water, preserving the integrity of our watersheds
The Oldfields and Tinhorn Creek are firmly rooted in their community of the Okanagan Valley. But what excites them most is seeing the evolution of the wine industry and viniculture in British Columbia. Part of that evolution has been the recognition of British Columbia’s first sub-geographic indication, Golden Mile Bench, within the larger indication of the Okanagan Valley in 2015.
A geographical indication is used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. Geographic indications are typically used in agriculture, including wine, crafts and industrial products. Wine regions around the world have defined geographic indications, and sub-geographic indications. Sub-geographic indications are identified by their unique climates, soil types and the resulting wine styles.
The Okanagan Valley geographic indication encompasses 8,620 acres in a 160 km long valley of south-central British Columbia. There are nearly 750 vineyards planted in the Valley and 163 wineries, with great variations in the climate and soil throughout the region. As the region and the culture of winemaking was maturing, industry leaders, including the Oldfields, decided it was the right time to address these variations by defining sub-geographic indications within the broader region.
The sub-geographic indications would provide clarity to consumers as to what was in the bottle, and help the industry further identify the land flavour profiles in the Valley. The group underwent a six-year process to identify the specific climatic and geographic conditions of the area as well as a common organoleptic profile in wines produced from grapes in this region.
Although there is currently only one official sub-geographic indication in the Okanagan Valley, a total of five were proposed by the industry task group to the provincial government. This is a highly political process, and it will take some time for the wheels of bureaucracy to catch up to the vision and growth of the wine industry.
Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Gewürztraminer 2015 is one of the first wines to include the Golden Mile Bench geographic indication on the bottle label, and is a great introduction, or reintroduction, to the beautiful, high quality wines crafted by the Oldfields and the winemaking team at Tinhorn. With notes of alluring ripe tropical fruits on the nose, and a fresh, vibrant palate that is juicy and oh so pleasing, this Gewürztraminer will transport you the warm climate and morning sun of Golden Mile Bench.
A visit to the winery must include lunch at Miradoro Restaurant, which has been named best winery restaurant by Vancouver Magazine the past five years (2012 – 2016). Miradoro opens for the season on March 1, 2017. Tinhorn Creek Wines are available across Canada and directly from the winery.
If you are curious to learn more about the British Columbia wine industry, join Sandra Oldfield every Wednesday night on Twitter for #BCWineChat.
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Canadian Wine: The Okanagan Valley's Tinhorn Creek Vineyards was written by Meaghan Carey. Meaghan shares her musings on life as she attempts to cook good food for family and friends from her small kitchen, on her blog Un Assaggio of Food, Wine and Marriage. Raised in Cape Breton, Meaghan returns home as much as possible and loves to welcome friends to this picturesque corner of Canada each summer. Connect with Meaghan on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.