Established by the Shaunessy and Oldfield families on the South Okanagan’s legendary Golden Mile Bench in 1993, Tinhorn Creek is a very special winegrowing project, comprising 150 acres of spectacular vineyards in two distinct areas, one on either side of the valley. The two vineyards have significantly different soils, exposures, and microclimates. This is a big advantage, providing the opportunity to cultivate a wide range of grape varieties in optimum conditions. From the beginning, the goal has been to produce authentic terroir wines that are a worthy expression of the unique desert environment where they are grown.
At 150 acres, Tinhorn Creek is relatively large for a BC estate winery, and at 20 years old it is actually quite old for a South Okanagan estate. Although 20 years is an almost laughably short period of time in a global wine context, here it is an all-important difference maker. In wine, the principle of ‘first in’ means everything: Charlemagne chose the magnificent then-virgin Burgundian site of Corton-Charlemagne in the 8th century; it is no accident that it is still one of the greatest vineyards on the planet. In the South Okanagan, plantable vineyard land is very scarce. It would be impossible to establish a property like Tinhorn Creek today - not in terms of size, and certainly not in terms of quality.
The 50 acre Tinhorn Creek Vineyard is located on the Golden Mile Bench, an upper bench on the western side of the valley, which protects it from spring and fall frosts. Facing east, it receives early morning sun; the steep ridge to the west creates shade from as early as 5pm, providing cooler growing conditions and slower ripening of the grapes. The result is classic cool-climate wines such as Tinhorn Creek’s gewürztraminer, an Okanagan benchmark which combines intense lifted aromatics, mouthfilling fresh fruitiness, and the delightful crispness of green apple acidity in the finish.
On the east side of the valley, the southwest-facing 100 acre Diamondback Vineyard on the Black Sage Bench receives two to three hours more sunlight per day, during the growing season, than on the Golden Mile; grapes can ripen up to two weeks earlier than at the Tinhorn Creek vineyard across the valley. The first plantings here were pinot gris and cabernet franc; merlot, pinot noir, chardonnay, semillon, syrah, and cabernet sauvignon are now grown as well.
The Tinhorn Creek style reflects minimal handling and judicious use of oak; a strong sense of ‘Okanagan-ness’ – savoury aromas and a lovely balance between juiciness and minerality - pervades all of the wines. The Oldfield Series blends, 2Bench Red and 2Bench White deserve special mention: they are pure expressions of sum-greater-than-parts Okanagan wine, emphatically asserting the primacy of place.
Production is now 40,000 cases a year. With a new team of Winemaker Andrew Windsor and Viticulturalist Andrew Moon under CEO and President Sandra Oldfield, a deep commitment to sustainability (Tinhorn Creek has been recognized as Canada’s first Carbon Neutral Winery), and Miradoro, winner of Best Winery Restaurant at Vancouver Magazine’s 2014 Restaurant Awards, Tinhorn Creek is one of British Columbia’s most dynamic wineries.