“Still friends after vintage” jokes Taylor Whelan, the CedarCreek winemaker. His arms are around the shoulders of Graham Nordin the general manager and Kurt Simcic the viticulturist. The three men have been at the helm of some pretty hefty changes at the Anthony Von Mandl owned vineyard. The team have just earned the vineyard a certified organic status. “I’ve been told the certificate is in the mail,” Whelan laughs.
Not all wines at CedarCreek are produced using fruit from the home block vineyard—the term given to the nine blocks of vines on the estate—some are sourced on South Okanagan farms still in the transition to certified organic. But of the 14 wines produced using home block fruit, the 2019 vintages will boast the certified organic seal on its label. By 2021, CedarCreek hopes to have all of their wine certified. Ask Whelan and Simcic about their plans for organic future of the property and their faces light up, and their passion for biodynamic wine making is clear.
The process of becoming certified is long and requires dedication. It means shrinking your choices of yeast for wine fermentation from hundreds to six, and cutting down on the formulas and techniques available for managing the crops. It means sometimes you lose a block worth of pinot noir grapes to deer because you can’t use chemicals to keep them away (true story). But it’s all worth it; the proof is in the wine.
That’s not the only news at CedarCreek, though. They’ve kissed goodbye their old-school Mediterranean façade in favour of a contemporary design that frames the beautiful landscape, quite literally. Nowhere on the property is this more evident than in their newly opened tasting room—the vaulted, pentagon-shaped building, which overlooks the lake, is enclosed on all sides with glass. There’s also an adjoining patio so inviting people still ask to sit out there on chilly days in October.
The tasting room is only rivaled by the patio at Home Block Restaurant which opened its doors six months ago. This latest project from españa chef Neil Taylor is making serious waves in the culinary world—not just in Kelowna but across BC. The 2100 square-foot room still feels intimate and integrates itself seamlessly with the rest of the buildings on the estate with fieldstone and 100-year-old reclaimed barn wood pulling together the façade.
The hero at Home Block is the upright wood burning grill, visible from the restaurant and utilized on the menu, which features Spanish style meats and pastas. Taylor loves to change the menu on a regular basis, to allow for fluid complements between food and wine. They don’t make recommendations for pairings on the menu like other vineyard restaurants. The food and wine are made to be enjoyed in whichever combination you chose. The onus is on the diner to chose what they want to have, and on the kitchen to make it well.
It’s an exciting time at CedarCreek. The final renovations will be completed, well, your guess is as good as theirs. But, as they continue to unveil their best-laid plans for the future of the vineyard (new grapes and new wines), we will continue to enjoy.
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