In recent years wine club culture has been booming in a big way. More than just wine delivery, membership will get you access to perks like special release wines, invites to exclusive events, and other deals.
Case in point: last week, we were invited to a cellar tasting event at Creekside Estate Winery in Niagara. This was an opportunity to taste and buy not only their 2016 wines (before they are released), but also library wines dating back to 2002. The event was open to the public, but Creekside members (“Creek Freeks” – yes, really) got to enter an hour early. This was a definite advantage because some vintages had literally just a few bottles left – and they went fast!
Creekside has been open to the public since 1997 and got its start producing Sauvignon Blanc, which is still one of their specialties, along with Syrah. Those two aren’t typical favourites in Niagara, where varietals like Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Riesling tend to be more popular.
Here’s what we got to try, along with a mixed bag of tasting notes because there was just so much and we were too excited!!
Syrah. The star of the show. Our vertical tasting included the “Broken Press” from 2004 (the first vintage they bottled), 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2016 and the “Unbroken Press” from 2012 and 2016.
Creekside’s “Broken Press” Syrah is fermented with leftover skins from their Viognier production, which imparts a delicate floral quality to the wine. The result is still a bold wine that can be meaty, chewy, and peppery, but the Viognier lightens it up a bit and allows the wine to express itself differently. This is very much a nod to the French style, made famous in the Côte-Rôtie region of the Northern Rhône, of adding a small amount (up to 20%) of Viognier when producing Syrah.
The “Unbroken Press”, on the other hand, is 100% Syrah. Full-bodied, dark, and rich, this wine is a traditional expression with intense fruit flavours of black cherry, blackberry, and plum balanced with pepper and tobacco.
Our favourite was the 2008 Broken Press. It immediately stood out from the older vintages with softer tannins and big mouthfeel. It managed to come across both as a delicate flower and that perfectly cooked steak from your favourite steakhouse, in one complete package. It kicked ass!! We were lucky enough to have Rob, the winemaker, taking us through this vertical tasting and he explained that part of the reason this wine is so good is that the vines had finally matured enough to be producing better calibre wine. It was also a great year and he’s a fantastic winemaker, so, there’s that.
Cabernet Sauvignon. We tasted the 2004, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2016 vintages of Creekside’s Cab. This was a wild ride!! Like the Syrah, the 2004 Cab was the first vintage Creekside bottled and sold. Cabs tend to age well, and the older vintages were drinking very fine. Lots of dried fruit, old leather, and bell pepper with smooth tannins. By 2010 the vines had started to mature, giving more complex vegetal notes, along with hints of cigar smoke, blue cheese, and bold red fruit.
We could really notice the difference between the hotter years, which produced more punchy cherry and red berry flavours, and cooler years where vegetal/herbal flavours made their presence known.
Merlot et al. We also tried a mix of other wines, including Merlots from 2005, 2008, and 2010; a 2008 Pinot Noir; and a 2011 Malbec/Syrah blend. We are big Malbec fans so with our newfound appreciation for Syrah, the blend was a refreshing surprise with bright fruit, a hint of zippy acidity, and some floral notes.
Bottom Line. Tasting back vintages of Ontario wines like this is a rare experience and was such a treat. Many wineries just haven’t been around very long; others may have sold out of all their back vintages or don’t have the cellar space (Creekside has one of the oldest and largest cellars in Niagara); or maybe the winemaking staff just keep them all for themselves! Kidding about that last one…mostly 😉