As I edge toward a century of varietal wines from different varieties, I have a list that should get me from where I stand today at 68 to roughly 80, though sourcing them may be a challenge. Since that leaves me with 20 grapes unaccounted, it’s a pleasure to come across a new variety unexpectedly. That’s just what happened in Canada, with some cold climate varieties familiar from studying for my theory exam, while others were grapes completely out of the blue. Such was the case with this wine, the CedarCreek Estate Winery Ehrenfelser 2011.
Ehrenfelser is one of the grapes known collectively as German crossings. The origins of many of the best loved grapes in the world are only now being uncovered through DNA sampling and the work of ampelographers, as they pre-date effective records. However, new varieties are being produced even still, and much of the early work in the field of vine breeding was done in the first few decades of the 20th century in German viticultural research centres.
There were a number of goals of the breeding programs – higher must weights for compliance with strict German wine laws, higher yields, and the ability to withstand cold climates. Of the many varieties to emerge from the programs, not many have gone on to produce wines of great distinction, though some have been put to work in more utilitarian roles and the names Bacchus, Rieslaner, Kerner, Dornfelder and Rondo are still taught to WSET students in the Advanced and Diploma courses even if they aren’t so commonly found on shelves in bottle shops.
Ehrenfelser is another such grape, developed in 1929 at Geisenheim in the Rheingau region, one of the most famous of such research centres. A white grape, it takes its name from Burg Ehrenfels, a ruined castle in the area. As a cross of Riesling and Silvaner, it was hoped to be an improvement on Riesling, with the ability to ripen in even more marginal environments and to deliver higher yields. It largely does so, but at the cost of somewhat lower acidity which reduces its ageing capacity. While there are still some plantings in the Pfalz and Rheinhessen regions (as well as Canada), it has largely been supplanted in Germany by Kerner.
Part of the problem may be with the Silvaner part of the cross, or rather the lack thereof. DNA profiling has indicated that Silvaner is not actually a parent of Ehrenfelser, which goes to show that even modern records are not always enough to understand the origins of grape varieties.
I don’t have much more to say about the Okanagan Valley that I didn’t already cover with the wines of Road 13 and Gehringer Brothers, expect that the 2013 Wine Bloggers’ Conference will be held there in Penticton next June. I don’t know if I’ll be able to justify making the trip back to Canada, but I would certainly like to go if I’m able.
CederCreek is one of the oldest wineries in British Columbia, though given the first modern, commercial plantings in Okanagan were in 1975, they only have to trace their origins back to 1980 when what was then known as Uniacke opened. The present proprietor of that winery, Senator Ross Fitzpatrick, is an Okanagan native, having grown up in and around the fruit growing and packing businesses. He purchased the winery in 1986 and released the first vintage under the CederCreek brand the following year. In the wake of the North American Free Trade Agreement when many feared Canada would be flooded with cheap wine from the USA, he proceeded to plant vines while others in the area were doing the opposite. Having grown substantially, the business is now run by his son, Gordon.
CederCreek sources grapes across four vineyards, including their original location which was first planted with vines in the 1930s. Their range of wines include varietal Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Ehrenfelser, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Viognier in white, and Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Syrah in red. Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc are grown for use in some blends, of which they produce a handful, red and white, as well as a Pinot Noir rosé. In addition, they made a Madeira-style fortified wine from Pinot Blanc, complete with five years of warmth from the sun. My mind boggles somewhat at the notion of making a Madeira-style wine in a country better known for icewine, but sadly I didn’t get a chance to try any when I was there.
As to this wine, in the glass it’s clear and bright, with a pale lemon green colour and slow sheeting inside the glass when swirled. On the nose it’s clean and youthful, with medium plus intensity and notes of melon, honeycomb, grapefruit, citrus oil and orange blossom – very fragrant. On the palate it’s dry, with high acidity, medium body, medium plus intensity, medium alcohol, and a medium length. There are notes of grapefruit, mandarins, melons, lime, and more floral characters.
I’ll rate this wine as good, but it’s quite possibly the most acidic wine I’ve ever tasted. Young and most likely meant to be drunk as such, it’s fresh and crisp, with some lovely tropical fruit notes. It is certainly intense, though more in acidity than in flavour, which comes across as somewhat out of balance, particularly as the total acid in only at 9.71 g/l – not the most extreme I’ve encountered. Perhaps I was just suckered by descriptions of Ehrenfelser as lacking acidity – CederCreek seems to have solved that problem. The notes on the back label describe it as “fruit salad in a glass” to which I would append “of grapefruit juice.” I happen to like grapefruit juice (and fruit salad), so I don’t mean that necessarily in a bad way, and if you’re eating something that will benefit from an aggressively tart, but still fruity and enjoyable wine, this might be a good option.