Monday, October 28, 2013

"The bears ate all the Merlot" #TinhornCreek #WBC13 #BCWine

Merlot loving bears are just one of the challenges of growing grapes in the Wine Capital of Canada, Oliver, British Columbia. This is new world wine on the wild frontier, where first nation tribes lived off the land for centuries - and still do, the Nk'Mip Nation have the only aboriginal owned and operated winery just to the south in Osoyoos. Beginning at the Canada/USA border, heading north to the McIntyre Bluff, the region has 29 vineyards that make up Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country.  This is the northernmost tip of the Great Basin Desert, an exciting  micro-climate that is desert-like, yet fruitful - an ideal environment for grape vines.

Oliver, BC is a former 19th Century gold rush town in the western Canadian mountains, a few hours east of Vancouver Island and just a short drive north from the American border.  As you drive through Oliver, perched on the Golden Mile Bench, in the shadow of Mt. Baldy is Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, the epicenter of the Canadian wine industry, where talent, and marketing savvy blend with the shorter growing season, and rich, sandy soil to make dynamic, interesting and delicious wines with a creative hat tip to old world technique and varietals. With a nod to classic French wine making, Tinhorn Creek produces a subtle, classic Cabernet Franc Rosé, the Oldfield Series 2Bench Rosé.

Even with the bears munching away on their crops, Tinhorn Creek is able to produce a diverse range of wines from grapes grown on their two properties, Diamondback Vineyard on the nearby Black Sage Bench, planted with a mix of Pinot Gris, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, and Tinhorn Creek Vineyard on the Golden Mile Bench surrounded by 50-acres planted with a mix of red and white grapes, primarily featuring Gewürztraminer. This is home to their pressing, fermenting, barreling and bottling operation as well as the vineyard's award winning Miradoro Restaurant.

Ok, now I am finished trying to be a wine journalist (new writing gig people, announcement coming soon) and I'm gonna blog!

In June, 2013, I was lucky enough to be a part of an excursion to Oliver, BC as a part of WBC13. Dino from Grape Escapes "Driving you to drink...legally and loving it" brought 15 of us from Penticton to Oliver. As we drove south along the Okanogan River, Lindsey White from Tin Horn and her friend whose name I cannot remember, poured us local wines, and gave us a tour of the region (THANKS to DINO too!- that's him on the right) as we made our way to Oliver. Our first stop was a local history tour, walking amongst the ruins and rattlesnakes of Fairview, a once bustling mining town, (with multiple wine pouring stations as we walked the well marked paths).  Soon enough, our visit was over and Dino brought us to Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek for a reception and dinner.

Miradoro's Executive Chef Jeff Van Geest made paella over an open fire as we milled about meeting area winemakers. Staff from local Vineyards and Wineries poured for us, and told us stories of making wine on Canada's frontier. The genuine hospitality and passion for wine were amazing, we sipped, laughed and chatted as the sun slowly made its way down the horizon.  We balanced cameras and wine glasses as we bustled around snapping pictures, making memories and deeply inhaling the aromas wafting around us.  It was a feast of the senses.

Sandra & Kenn Oldfeild are Tin Horn Creek. After meeting in Northern California at UC Davis, Sandra as a young winemaker packed her bags and left Northern California to the wilds of Canada - where Ken had the vineyard. Sandra became his winemaker and then his wife.  She's an unabashed former American who has staked a claim in making great wine in the western mountains of Canada. Tinhorn Creek is a labor of love, and their love shows, in their stewardship of the land, their respect for the terroir, their community activities, their work promoting the area's vineyards, in the reputation and quality of the food at Miradoro, and ultimately in each glass of their wine.  It's even in the foundation of their barrel building. ( see "Sandra & Kenny `02" right)

One of the night's highlights for me was meeting Bruce Fuller, the Marshall at Rustico Farms and Cellars.  He both plays the part AND makes a delicious Bonanza Old Vine Zinfandel, which was so new to the bottle that it didn't even have a label yet - that didn't stop me. Rich, fruity and delicious, Bruce kept my glass full all night (a girl could get used to that).

After our reception, we were led through the barrel building, passed hors d'oeuvres and greeted with "Wine Bloggers Rule! on the racks of barrels  - what an amazing and thoughtful welcome.

I can't begin to rave about the food at Miradoro
- it was THAT good. 
I'll leave you with pictures from the evening.
Gazpacho to start, Paella and
Churros with a luscious chocolate sauce - the perfect dessert.

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