Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pinot Noir Examination with WinePlus

I find it difficult to turn down a chance to try eight Pinot Noirs from around the world. As a maker of Pinot, I like to take every opportunity to see what other producers are creating and compare them with our accomplishments here in the Okanagan. So when the opportunity to join the Wine Plus Pinot Noir tasting event in Penticton last night came up, I jumped at the chance.

Wine Plus has a raft of courses and single night workshops that suit wine lovers at every level of interest. Rhys Pender steers the Wine Plus ship and he and his special guests make the proceedings casual, informative and lively.

The guest commentator was my old friend and Taboma master Mike Bartier from Road 13 . After a quick intro and outline by Rhys, it was time for Mike to make a few comments about Pinot Noir in general. His basic points, misquoted below:
  • Is there a positive correlation between colour and quality?Absolutely. Not.
  • the difficulty associated with the 'heartbreak' grape is not in making a good wine but in making 'great' wine.
  • Never mind climate or region so much, the defining moment in Pinot Noir quality is site selection when it's planted. The soil structures (how it's put together in layers and levels) are as important as the actual material it's made from.
  • In this region (the Okanagan) anything over 5 tons per acre will not fare well.

We tasted blind, with a reveal at the completion of the exercise and some discussion. One of the discussion points was the ability of Pinot Noirs to change in the glass very rapidly. This trait showed itself repeatedly over the course of the evening. First impressions were not always the last impression.

Please note: the prices are at time of purchase not at time of tasting. I believe they are all prices in BC but whether they are BCLDB or private store prices I don't know.

Here are my notes:

1 - Ventolera - Leyda Valley - Chile - 2007 - $19.99 - 14.5% alcohol

I put this one in my top three. Partly on value. Great fruit expression throughout the nose and palate with a little smoke up front. A velvety mouthfeel with lots of cherry and a hint of spice, maybe cinnamon? Lengthy finish. I'd expect some wonderful development over the next few years.

2. - Golden Mile Cellars* - Black Arts - Okanagan Valley - BC - 2006 - $35.00

Another one that made it into my top three. Quite a bit of complexity. I got a neat toffee and picnic ham on the nose with an earth cocoa dust that emerged in the palate as milk chocolate. A little leaner than other New Worlders, with a little rhubarb and Fisherman's Friend in the finish.

3. - Colutta Gianpaolo - Friuli - Italy - 2003 - $30.00 - 13% alcohol

Actually called Pinot Nero. I found this one slightly medicinal on the nose, with some adhesive or Vicks 44 qualities. Not one of my favourites. I found the palate a little lean, some cherry notes and an over all 'drying' aspect to the tannins.

4.- Yering Station - Reserve - Yarra Valley - Australia - 2006 - $50.00 - 13.5% alcohol

Strawberry/cherry nose with a lot of the group chiming in to mention a coffee note. Lots of bing cherry in the palate. I rated it in the middle of my group with an appealing bitter note in the background of a fresh plum finish. Superb balance with the acids well-represented.

5. - Cameron - Abbey Ridge - Oregon, USA - 2006 - $67.90 - 13.6% alcohol

Slightly candied/maraschino cherry in the nose with lots of cherry and developing secondary flavours in the palate involving clove-like expressions. The alcohol was a bit more noticeable on this one for some reason. This one also went through some remarkable changes over the course of the tasting.

6.- Louis Latour - Bourgogne - Burgundy, France - 2007 - $21.99 - 13.% alcohol

Cherry gum and slightly solvent smells in the nose. Sour cherry and cola in the palate. Somewhat drying in the finish and a short finish. Not my favourite.

7. - Volnay - Olivier Leflaive - Bourgogne - 1er Cru Clos des Angles -Burgundy, France - 2005 - $69.99 - 13.5% alcohol

Middle of the pack but a crowd favourite. Lots of creamy vanilla and toffee on the nose mixed with some slight herbal/medicinal notes. Leaness and lots of cherry on the palate. Structure was balanced and finish medium.

8. - Rabbit Ranch - Otago - New Zealand - 2007 - $27.00 - 13.5% alcohol

This proved to be my top choice and a crowd-pleaser as well. It had a nose that defied my ability to describe it at first. I have notes reading strawberries, raspberries and kiwi. The overall nose are these things but freshly cut or smashed. There's a sour cherry palate with underpinnings of dark, complex fruit. Perhaps the controversially termed "bramble berry". This wine is boldly structured and has a long finish. It's only question mark may be a slight deficit of acid. Next to the Chilean, it's probably one of the best values for what it offers too.

* Now known as Road 13


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