Food & Wine Photo Credit: Western Living

This Winery Waited More Than 20 Years to Release a Flagship Vintage

Tinhorn Creek’s newest release was two decades in the making—and it shows.

“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”

“Practice, practice, practice.”

I was thinking about that tired old joke last week when I was chatting with Sandra Oldfield and Andrew Windsor, the CEO and head winemaker of Tinhorn Creek. While tasting the first two vintages of the Creek, their new flagship wine, I joked that they had it all wrong—that new B.C. wineries launch their “flagship” (an undefined term but one that generally means wines that are in the $50-plus range) right out the gate, regardless of whether they know what the hell they’re doing. Spending 24 years studying your soil, getting to know your vines, and perfecting your craft before being comfortable to ask your customers to shell out $55 for a bottle of wine—how quaint.

The inaugural 2014 vintage will be released in early September and unlike most of B.C.’s flagship wines, which are merlot-dominant (think Laughing Stock‘s Portfolio, Osoyoos Larose, Occulus), the Creek is cabernet sauvignon-based and comes with a price tag of $55, a little less than Black Hills‘ Nota Bene ($65) and a lot less Mission Hill‘s Compendium ($82)—two other cabernet-based wines.

And how’s it taste? Quite amazing actually. Whereas many B.C. wines want their flagship wines to be opulent, big and rich (the merlot helps but it’s equally a desire from winemaker to create expensive tasting wine) this is that rare “Bordeaux-blend” that actually tastes like Left-Bank Bordeaux. I love it. It has those graphite, cassis and blackberry flavours with a wallop of power—it’s more tannic than it’s fruit-driven brethren—but everything is in a lovely balance. I tried a barrel sample of the 2015 and, at this point in its life, it actually shows a bit more fruit, although I imagine this is a result of the hotter growing season, but we’ll see where it’s at in a year or so upon release.

I was tempted to ask the team how they made such a distinctive wine, but I already knew the answer: practice, practice, practice.

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