When you envision an estate winery, the image of magnificent views, warm summer nights and an over-filled glass of wine appears in your head. Okanagan Valley-located CedarCreek Estate Winery, in fact, is what pops into your head. This rural and historical Kelowna, British Columbia, winery sits between rolling, soft green hills lined with golden vines that host some of the most sought-after wines in Canada.
As one of the eight pioneering producers of the province’s wine scene, CedarCreek started its long and successful journey to the top of the wine latter when it launched in 1986. At the time, the tenured vineyards were thickly lined with hybrid varieties and, although very little was known about wine in the area, people were starting to catch on that certain grapes covering Canada produced wine not nearly as great as others famed regions. With a little bit of knowledge and a lot of luck, varieties such as Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay were planted on the CedarCreek property in place of hybrids and the winery hasn’t looked back since.
Three decades later, head winemaker Taylor Whelan uses his passion for cool climate wines and love of the industry to propel the winery into its current status. One of the oldest wineries in a young wine region, CedarCreek’s wines benefit from the experience and age of the winery, in addition to the assets and opportunities of an estate maker.
“There [are] not a lot of places that have access to the vineyard resources we do in terms of age, in terms of varieties planted on the right site and also in terms of actual vineyard resources,” Whelan says of the in-house vineyard team working the land. “We’ve got a lot of knowledge and assets at our disposal, so when you combine these awesome vineyard sites with these awesome resources that we’ve got in terms of further understanding them, with vine quality and icing times… We’ve got the luxury of having a lot of resources to maximize and express those vineyard blocks that I keep coming back to. To me, that’s the most important thing and, when you see the vineyard, you understand how special it is.”
Whelan looks to the future, honoring the estate’s heritage with CedarCreek’s extremely focused wines under the Platinum series. The higher tier of wines are produced with one objective: expressing the land with single-varietal, single-block wines.
“The plan would be for us to continue in that direction with the really special parcels,” Whelan adds, mentioning a 27-year-old Gewürztraminer block he aims to use. “The goal would be to put those into a single block [bottling] to make an expression of our unique property… so it is to continue down that path but further refine the story of CedarCreek as expressed through all these unique vineyard blocks.”
Another direction Whelan says CedarCreek continues on is the slant for sustainability, through the growing practices as well as production methods. The methods have turned into a mantra, with the winery proudly touting its philosophy: “Respect the land, honour tradition, pursue perfection.”
With 2017 being the 30th anniversary of CedarCreek comes exciting opportunities to celebrate the future while still respecting the past. A new wine education area, wine shop and farm-to-table restaurant are being built to expand the reach the winery already has with the consumer, tying in the overall experience and legacy of the Okanagan Valley.
“Customers are happy to be tasting wine here and experiencing the view, and usually the people in the wine industry are happy to be in it,” Whelan says. “There are interesting BC wines from all over the place at the moment, which is pretty exciting. Cool climate is cool right now and we’re in a really great spot with having vineyards in the valley just getting up to the age where they’re producing cool wines… It is kind of all these things that are converging at the moment to make Canadian wine a popular interest thing.”
A global spotlight is shining on British Columbia wine right now and being at the forefront of the movement is more exciting than ever before. As the province takes the stage, Whelan and his team at CedarCreek continue to show off what Canadian wine has to bring to the to Northwest, and the rest of the world.