Thursday, March 13, 2014

Wines from Okanagan Falls neighbours

 Photo: Noble Ridge's winery seen from a next door vineyard

The picturesque Blue Mountain vineyards are perhaps just two miles east of the equally picturesque vines at Noble Ridge Vineyard & Winery.

However, the terroir in the Okanagan Falls region is remarkably complex and that can be illustrated by recent releases from both wineries, including two Pinot Noirs. The Noble Ridge wines suggest the site is hotter than Blue Mountain’s vineyard. As well the winemaking style is quite different.

Blue Mountain grows Burgundy varieties exclusively (except the recent addition of Sauvignon Blanc). Noble Ridge has both the Burgundy varietals and Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

If this were France, growing those varieties in such close proximity would seldom happen. But this is the Okanagan. There are no rules on where to plant varietals. Viticulturists are free to do that they think will work. Eventually, the consumers will decide what has worked.

I don’t think these four wines will resolve the argument, however. None of them disappoint.

Blue Mountain Chardonnay 2012 ($21). This winery’s understated Chardonnay is designed to accompany food. It is an elegant wine with hints of citrus in the aroma and on the palate, and with a mouth-filling polished texture. The Blue Mountain style is to ferment 40% of the wine in stainless steel and 60% in a mix of new to three-year-old barrels. The wine in barrels ages there for seven months, with minimal battonage of the lees. Only 10% has gone through malolactic fermentation. The fruit flavours remain fresh, supported by a fine skein of minerals. 90.

Blue Mountain Pinot Noir 2012 ($25). This is a seductively pretty wine, silky in texture, with notes of strawberry, cherry and a spicy toast gained from 10 months aging in French oak. This is a very complex wine, involving six clones of Pinot Noir – the vines are between six and 28 years old. The lightly crushed grapes, along with some whole clusters, were given 16 to 20 days maceration on skins in open top fermentation tanks. Half the wine was fermented with wild yeast native to the vineyard. The winery suggests this vintage will age six to seven years. 91.

Noble Ridge Pinot Noir 2010 ($25 for 568 cases). In style, this wine is darker and more muscular than the Blue Mountain. Noble Ridge says it will age gracefully another five or six years. I would not hesitate to leave it even longer. The grapes for this wine, after a cold soak on the skins, were fermented cool in stainless steel. The wine then was racked into French oak. It aged there a year and then spent another two years aging in bottle before release. The wine begins with aromas of cherry and raspberry, leading to a medley of red fruit flavours against an underlying earthiness. The wine benefits from being decanted. 89-90.

Noble Ridge Meritage Reserve 2009 ($30 for 538 cases). This is 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon – and from one of the Okanagan’s best recent vintages. The wine was aged 15 months in French and American oak (40% new) and then bottle aged 14 months. I would be surprised much is still available because this wine picked up two golds and two silvers in competition last year. It is a bold, satisfying red, beginning with aromas of black cherry, vanilla and spice. That leads to flavours of black cherry, vanilla, chocolate and coffee. The long ripe tannins give it accessibility now as well as ageability. 91.


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