Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Foxtrot Vineyards releases its 2008 Pinot Noir

Naramata Bench’s tiny Foxtrot Vineyards this week has begun to release the fifth vintage of its Pinot Noir, one of the most coveted and expensive ($54.95) Pinot Noirs in the Okanagan.

Is it also the best? One of these years, someone with deep pockets will organize a blind tasting to deal with that question.

If it were up to me, we would line up the Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir from Quails’ Gate.; the Platinum Pinot Noir from CedarCreek; the Stripe Label Pinot Noir from Blue Mountain; one of the Kettle Valley Pinot Noirs; one of the Meyer Family Pinot Noirs; the new Pinot Noir from Howling Bluff and the new one from La Frenz; and Foxtrot. For good measure, I might also find one from Road 13, the top one from Nk’Mip Cellars, one from Seven Stones. And finally, Burrowing Owl’s Pinot Noir, just because your are not supposed to grow good Pinot Noir on Black Sage Road but Burrowing Owl doesn’t know that.

It would be a spectacular tasting; and I have certainly forgotten a few other choice examples (there are several interesting Vancouver Island Pinots as well). The point is that Pinot Noir is emerging as a signature red varietal in British Columbia.

Foxtrot certainly ranks among the producers that have been raising the bar for this variety.

The winery is owned by Torsten and Kicki Allander. The wines are made by their son, Gustav, and Nadine Kinvig, Gustav’s wife and a graduate of Lincoln University in New Zealand.

A former pulp and paper engineer, Torsten and his family retired to the Okanagan in 2002, buying a Naramata Bench property that included a house with a view and a vineyard that had been planted a decade earlier exclusively to the Dijon 115 clone of Pinot Noir. The vines are all growing on their own roots.

After selling his grapes for several vintages, Torsten decided to find out whether his little vineyard could generate a world-ranked Pinot Noir. He arranged to have the first two or three vintages made at the nearby Lake Breeze winery. He provided Lake Breeze with, among other things, the new French oak barrels he determined to be critical to making quality Pinot Noir. Several years, Foxtrot built its own cellar and brought its winemaking home.

All of the preceding vintages have received acclaim from wine critics and sommeliers, some of whom have noted the increasing finesse of the wines.

There is no magic here. The impeccable vineyard always carries a low crop, ensuring good flavour concentration and texture. The grapes are gently destemmed, with whole berries falling into the fermenters. The fermentation involves cultured yeasts. Torsten and Gustav have not been happy with trials they have done using wild yeast. The wine is made primarily with free run juice.

The barrel program is similar to what some of the great houses in Burgundy do. Foxtrot uses only new French oak, (Tronçais and Allier). The 2008 vintage was aged 16 months in barrel. However, this is by no means a wine where the oak stands out; the rich fruit flavours have assimilated the oak seamlessly.

Foxtrot Pinot Noir 2008 displays deep garnet hues and shows alluring aromas of cherries, plums, raspberries and spice. The fruit flavours carry through on the palate and on the long, long finish. The texture is the classic velvet of the ripe tannins that have become a hallmark of the Foxtrot style. The wine is at once powerful and elegant. 95.

A note to those who buy the wine: lay a few bottles away for two or three years at least. As delicious as the wine is now, it will be even better and more seductive with additional age.


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