The 50-acre Tinhorn Creek Vineyard on the Golden Mile Bench is also home to the winery, amphitheatre, wine shop, barrel cellar and the oldest block of vineyards.
The Golden Mile Bench region starts at Fairview Road in Oliver and extends to Road 13. Although this area measures longer than a mile, it was first referred to the “Golden Mile” in the mid 40s as it gained its reputation as rich farmland.
In the late 1910s, the area was divided into plots for soldiers to farm upon returning from World War 1. An open irrigation canal that was completed in 1929 between Vaseaux Lake and Osoyoos turned the arid land into a lush area suitable for ground crops and tree fruits in the mid-1930s. At the same time an old mine site reopened and the area enjoyed an economic boom. The reputation of this farming community combined with the area’s history of gold and silver mining, led to the area’s name “Golden Mile”. The area became a highly desirable viticulture site beginning in the late 1960s when vineyards were first established.
The Golden Mile is located on an upper bench, with the elevation making it significantly warmer than the valley floor, and helping the vineyard escape damaging spring and fall frosts. The Tinhorn Creek vineyards at this site get the first morning sunlight. By late afternoon, the sun dips behind the hills, and in the cool summer evenings, the grapes develop their exquisite flavours. The unique mesoclimate for this vineyard includes the east-facing site, which offers good early morning sun exposure. To the west of the vineyards lies the Thompson Plateau. The sun goes behind this ridge early in the day relative to the other side of the valley. This vineyard can be in shade as early as five o’clock in the summer months making it a cooler, slower ripening area. The downward slope of the vineyards provides good airflow and, mainly due to water drainage, varietals ripen differently uphill versus downhill.
The soils on the western side of the valley, known as the Golden Mile Bench, consist primarily of clay loam soil with various sized rocks. In fact, the stone archway above the winery entrance was constructed with rocks from the Gewürztraminer vineyards. These heavier soils are more difficult to plant due to the large number of rocks; but the soil holds moisture longer, so less irrigation is required. Additionally there are high amount of nutrients, so less fertilizer is needed. With these conditions, the vines grow more vigorously. As a result, the vineyard team does shoot removal and leaf thinning during the summer to keep the fruit exposed to the sun and to ensure the vine is in balance.
The previous owners planted Pinot Noir in 1989, Merlot between 1989 and 1991, and Kerner and Chardonnay in 1990. Today, there are eleven varieties of grapes planted at this site including Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Syrah, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.