When you’re at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, you’re Family.
It doesn’t matter who you are, once you step foot on the property, you are part of a family of people who are passionate about wine and about the Okanagan Valley. Every restaurant guest, winery visitor, tasting room staff, groundskeeper, server, office worker, supplier, ambassador, industry professional and wine enthusiast are all treated like family. Even winemakers and staff from other local wineries are welcomed with open arms to dine together, share wine, or somehow participate in the community created at Tinhorn Creek. It’s a special feeling when you’re greeted with a warm smile and a genuine interest in having you there.
The owners of Tinhorn Creek Vineyards have deep roots in the Okanagan community.
Tinhorn Creek Vineyards was established in 1993 by the Shaunessy and Oldfield families. Although in the global wine industry that’s a very short amount of time to exist as a winery, in the Okanagan Valley, they’re one of the originals. These families didn’t just build a winery, they built a community and a culture of passion for everything they do. Those roots run deep. Sandra Oldfield has been named one of the most powerful women in Canada. Sandra is a trailblazer in the Canadian wine industry and understands that more than anything else, it’s community that creates great things, which goes beyond making great wine.
On October 1, 2017, Tinhorn Creek Vineyards was purchased by Andrew Peller Ltd, leaving some people wondering what the future of the winery would be. What people may not realize is Peller was established in Port Moody, BC in 1961 and has three generations of Pellers at the head of the company with John E. Peller as the current CEO. It is a public company, but it is also a family company, which is why they can understand that Tinhorn Creek is a family, too.
What has changed for the winery is there are more resources for some of the items on their wish list. What hasn’t changed is the culture the original families created and the quest for making quality wines. It is comforting to know that the succession plan is to allow the company to grow and evolve, without compromising the integrity of the product or the people.
Sustainability is not just a buzzword at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, it’s a way of life.
The idea of being sustainable is simple: make smart choices in order to sustain the land, while recognizing that you have a responsibility to the people who depend on you. Tinhorn Creek doesn’t just recycle when possible or avoid spraying chemicals on their plants. Their responsibility to the land and the community means so much more than that. For Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, being carbon neutral is just as important as looking after those who depend on the winery for their livelihood. From organic and sustainable best practices in the vineyards to contributing a portion of their tasting room fee to local charities, Tinhorn Creek looks at their community as a whole and chooses to do the best thing they can for everything and everyone involved.
Their efforts are making a significant impact on the community and the environment. In 2004, a radical decision was made: No more corks! With some influence by Korol Kuklo who has been the assistant winemaker at Tinhorn Creek since 1998, all wines had moved from cork to Stelvin© closures (screw caps). Not only were they the first winery to eliminate cork, Tinhorn Creek Vineyards became the first carbon-neutral winery in Canada. They have a partnership with The Land Conservancy of BC to protect indigenous plants and animals on the land, and have been certified as a Salmon Safe Farm by the Pacific Salmon Foundation. The winery has been a part of the southern Okanagan community since 1993 and they look forward to being good stewards for generations to come.
Miradoro Restaurant: a partnership between Tinhorn Creek Winery and BC culinary legend, Manuel Ferreira.
Miradoro Restaurant offers modern, straightforward wine country cuisine. Just as in wine, you want harmony of the elements in the bottle, Miradoro offers a unique harmony of rustic and elegant using local ingredients and creative but simple techniques.
Every Tuesday throughout the Fall, Miradoro offers the Communal Table Dinner to bring together locals and visitors to dine together as family. The first one of this season was Paella, a traditional Spanish meal served family style. The season ends with a meal to northern Italy in order to celebrate the holidays with family and friends. These Communal offerings from Miradoro are a great way to experience delicious meals at the restaurant while dining with friends and meeting new people.
The Okanagan Andrews: Andrew Windsor and Andrew Moon
Both Andrews bring Australian experience to Tinhorn Creek along with a host of other great winery and vineyard experiences around the world. They have been working together since Andrew Windsor joined the Tinhorn team in 2014 and have not looked back. When the Peller family purchased Tinhorn Creek Vineyards from the original owners, the Shaunessy and the Oldfield families, the team at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards remained, including the Andrews.
Andrew Windsor, Winemaker
In 2014, Tinhorn Creek Vineyards conducted a six-country search for a winemaker to bring their already popular wines to the next level. They found Ontario-born, Andrew Windsor. He studied environmental science in Guelph then earned his Masters of Oenology from the University of Adelaide in Australia. His winery experience comes from some of the best wineries both close to home and around the world, including Mollydooker Wines in McLaren Vale, Australia.
“I’ve lived in some pretty amazing places, but this is by far the best.” — Andrew Windsor, on South Okanagan.
What makes Andrew Windsor such a great winemaker? He possesses the balance of scientific knowledge with the art of making wine. He has the education and experience to make solid wines, but what takes them from good to great is his intuition and ability to innovate. For the past few years, Windsor has been elevating the reputation of existing wine offerings from Tinhorn like the varietal wines and the Oldfield series, as well as getting creative with the new Innovation Series wines. He pushes the envelope with wines like the Innovation Series 2014 Kerner Orange Wine, the 2016 White Pinot Noir, and the 2016 Single Vineyard 100% Whole Cluster Cabernet Franc! This is the Andrew that “sometimes comes up with weird sh*t” — which doesn’t always work, but that’s the beauty of working in an industry that allows him the opportunity to use his education as well as to be creative.
Andrew Moon, Vineyard Manager
Andrew Moon received his viticulture diploma in Australia and, after several years of experience in the Australian vineyards, Andrew made the Okanagan Valley his home. He became part of the Tinhorn team in 2008. With him he brought innovative ideas that were best practices in Australia, but foreign to the south Okanagan Valley. He worked hard to develop a more efficient and sustainable and way to farm for Tinhorn Creek Vineyards.
In fact, Andrew Moon is credited with revolutionizing the way Tinhorn Creek waters their plants! Under Moon’s management, they moved from overhead spray irrigation to drip irrigation, reducing their water usage by about 70%. It’s a system that cost over $1M, but clearly a strong move in sustainability which will save money in the long run.
“I’ve got the best job in the world.” — Andrew Moon
Andrew is devoted to his work in a way that is rarely seen. He’s been called the grape whisperer for good reason and has a way in the vineyard that is recognized and admired by his peers.
Two unique estate vineyard sites rooted in the South Okanagan Valley
Tinhorn Creek Vineyard in the Golden Mile Bench
Every morning on this bench, 50 acres of Tinhorn Creek grapes watch the sunrise then enjoy a morning full of warm sunshine. This bodes well for white grape varieties such as Muscat and Gewürztraminer, as well as red grape varieties like Syrah. The Golden Mile Bench is one of only two official sub-regions in the Okanagan Valley and because it’s an upper bench, meaning it has higher elevation than the valley floor, it offers protection from frost. Because the sun leaves the Tinhorn Creek Vineyard in the late afternoon, the grapes hang on the vine for a longer growing season than other areas in the Okanagan Valley.
Diamond Back Vineyard in the Black Sage Bench
Tinhorn Creek owns 100 acres of Vitis vinifera grapes on the Black Sage Bench where the late morning and afternoon sun shines to ripen grapes like Cabernet Franc and Merlot. This area gets a few more hours a day of sunshine than the Tinhorn Creek Vineyard on the Golden Mile Bench which means lots of ripening time during the day. The soil is sandy throughout the Diamond Back Vineyard causing the vines to struggle for nutrients and water, making high quality grapes. When you combine the struggling vines with lots of sunlight hours, the result is some of the best quality grapes in the Valley.
The Creek Flagship Wine — uniquely South Okanagan, BC
Most wineries had either decided on or created a flagship wine within their first few years of starting the business. Not Tinhorn! After 23 years of skill, knowledge, old vines and growing some of the best grapes in the South Okanagan Valley, Tinhorn Creek Vineyards created The Creek. It may surprise you to know that they believe that Cabernet Sauvignon is their best grape variety! Although the Okanagan Valley is considered a “cool climate region,” Cabernet Sauvignon ripens remarkably on the Black Sage Bench, so the blend of grapes in The Creek is always Cabernet Sauvignon dominant with the majority of the grapes coming from the their Diamond Back Vineyard.
It’s this wine that will show you exactly what the Golden Mile Bench and the Black Sage Bench are capable of, and how grapes grown in the Okanagan Valley express themselves differently from year to year. The 2014 vintage of The Creek is very different from the 2015 vintage — as it should be. Both years had different growing conditions and it’s admirable that Tinhorn Creek allows this wine to be a time capsule of what occurred in the vineyards those years.
The Creek 2014 vs 2015
2014 Vintage: more Bordeaux-esque
2015 Vintage: may remind you of California Cab
Spend Some Time At Tinhorn
Tinhorn Creek Vineyards is a great place to visit the next time you’re in the Oliver-Osoyoos area in the Okanagan Valley. Along with award-winning wines and great people, there are special events going on throughout the year. In the summer, you can experience their Concert Series featuring wonderful Canadian musicians and in the Fall you can dine at the communal table at Miradoro. The winery is family friendly and pet friendly, with a shaded watering station for your “hot dogs” and furry friends. There is a picnic area among the vines where you can open a bottle of Tinhorn Creek Wines with your picnic lunch, while looking over the Valley. There is no shortage of great experiences to be had at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards.
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Learn more about How Wine Is Made or read about what JustWine’s very own sommelier learned while working Harvest at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards with this article: 7 Things I Learned While Working Crush at a Winery.