Wine Culture Magazine

Elevated experiences from grape to glass

Colony Digital photo

It’s been well over a decade since Tinhorn Creek Vineyards (just south of Oliver, BC) became the country’s first certified Carbon Neutral Winery. However that milestone was one of many that set the South Okanagan destination apart in matters of sustainability, and continues to drive its solid ecological mantra.

Since its early days Tinhorn has been at the environmental fore. Back when some were still eliminating the often encountered Western Rattlesnake, the winery installed a perimeter snake fence for protection. It was also the first BC winery to adopt Stelvin closures (screw caps) across the board and also eliminate heavy bottles in favour of lower impact, lightweight and primarily recycled glass.

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In recent years the winery has reduced its water needs dramatically by swapping outdated overhead sprinklers for a precisely programmed, more sustainable drip irrigation system, and constantly examining every facet of operations in order to reduce its impact on the land and local ecology.

Even the smaller details are important, explains Peller BC Vineyard Operations Manager Karen Gillis, such as an under-vine mower that gets rid of weeds more effectively and helps preserve moisture. Vines are also in renewal, with 11 acres just replanted to Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir on the original Tinhorn home vineyard.

Gillis says the winery is also experimenting with natural fungicides instead of chemicals. “We want to encourage soil health by trying to invigorate the soil and encourage natural biofilm, instead of having to spray fungicides,” she says. While there are some concerns about the biology’s ability to survive in the extreme heat of high summer, Gillis hopes eventually to be able adopt the natural option on a large scale.

The team also engages in important outreach initiatives, such as ESL classes for its vineyard crew (held in part of the maintenance shop) in collaboration with South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services (SOICS).

Within the winery itself, you may now choose from a variety of tasting options, says Estate Manager Steven Pawluch, starting with the introduction of a library tasting. It’s hosted in the newly appointed Library Lounge, just off the lefthand gallery, against a backdrop of the working winery. “This is a chance to take a deep dive into the history of Tinhorn Creek,” Pawluch explains, a full, vertical tasting including some serious older vintages, as well as discussions ranging from how to cellar successfully to decanting and aeration.

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Visitors may now pair their wines with tapas sized bites, conceived by Chef Jeff Van Geest of the winery’s award-winning Miradoro restaurant. The tastes (“simple, with impactful flavours that work”) reflect the chef’s penchant for hyper-locally sourced ingredients. Bites range from duck confit, with lentils and roasted onion vinaigrette, to wild boar terrine with cherry and balsamic mustard to local snap peas, whipped goat cheese zucchini, mint and preserved lemon vinaigrette. There’s a taste for every principal wine style, from aromatic or oaked whites to medium or full bodied reds.

“Overall, says Pawluch, we’ve revamped the entire tasting experience. You can now enjoy a guided, walk-around tour of Tinhorn Creek, from the vineyards to crush-pad and barrel room. It’s a chance to see the entire process, followed by a tasting on the patio—with varietal specific stemware, on the patio with its stunning valley wide views.”

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