Photo: winemaker Grant Stanley
Recent releases that have crossed my desk make it obvious
that Pinot Noir is succeeding very well in British Columbia.
That is hardly a new insight, either for me or for others
who following the British Columbia
wine scene. But I don’t mind repeating it, since the Pinot Noir offerings are
getting better all the time.
That is not to take anything away from the other reds we do
so well: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and occasionally Cabernet Sauvignon. The
best of those come from sun-bathed terroirs around Oliver, Osoyoos and the Similkameen Valley
Satisfying Pinot Noirs come from almost anywhere else that
grapes grow in British Columbia
, with the best
coming from Okanagan Falls
, Naramata Bench, Kelowna
and Lake Country
. Recently, producers have been
releasing wines from 2011 and 2012, vintages that yielded elegant Pinot Noirs
in the former case and bold Pinot Noirs in the latter.
There are also some exceptional white wines being released. I am adding notes on those as well as for the fine Pinot
The two Quails' Gate wines are from winemaker Grant Stanley's last vintage at that winery before moving on to become a partner at 50th Parallel Winery at Carr's Landing. What a magnificent exit interview!
Black Cloud Winery
Altostratus Pinot Noir 2011
($35 for 1,208 bottles). The wine is made with
fruit from the Remuda Vineyard at Okanagan
. Bradley Cooper,
the co-owner and winemaker for Black Cloud, now has made four vintages of
Altostratus. Those who had the wit to collect it are lucky indeed. Dark in hue,
this is a full-bodied Pinot Noir with the depth and structure for aging; it is
premature to open this wine for at least two years unless for a review. It
shows deep spicy cherry aromas and flavours framed by toasty oak. 90.
Black Cloud Winery
Fleuvage Pinot Noir 2012 ($25 for 1,176 bottles). The fruit for this is
from Loveridge Ranch on the Naramata Bench. Light and delicate, this is a charmer
made in a style often called feminine. It has notes of cherry and raspberry
with a lingering fruity finish and a silken texture. 88.
Blue Mountain Pinot Noir 2012
($25). The winery’s
“regular” Pinot Noir has always been good value. This wine reflects the vintage
with depth of texture. It has aromas and flavours of spicy cherry and raspberry
with enough polished tannins to give this five to seven years in the cellar.
Blue Mountain Pinot Noir Reserve 2011
was the first vintage of the reserve Pinot Noir that was fermented entirely
with wild yeast “in order to better express the terroir of our estate,”
according to the winery’s notes. Medium-bodied, the wine is elegant, with
aromas of spicy fruit and flavours of strawberry, raspberry and cherry. The
texture is silky. 92.
Blue Mountain Pinot Gris Reserve 2011
Thirty percent of this wine was fermented and aged in French oak. That accounts
for light golden hue and the subtle touch of oak supporting honeyed citrus
aromas and rich flavours of orange and orange peel. There is an alluring hint
of anise on the finish of this complex and satisfying wine. 91.
Blue Mountain Chardonnay Reserve 2011
wine begins with an ethereal aroma of toasty lees mingled with citrus. Half of
this wine was barrel-fermented. The result is very subtle oak delivering sweet
fruit flavours to the palate. The creamy texture accentuates the elegance of
understated Chardonnay. 91.
Kettle Valley Winery Gewürztraminer 2012
605 cases). By drawing fruit for four vineyards, including one in Summerland, Kettle Valley
has crafted a complex Alsace
style wine. It begins with aromas of spice, grapefruit and lychee. It delivers
a bowl of tropical fruit including lychee, mango and peach. The finish is delightfully
Kettle Valley Winery Viognier 2012
($26 for 205
cases). A portion of this was barrel fermented and allowed to go through malolactic fermentation, giving the wine a lovely golden hue and a creamy texture. The remaining wine was fermented in tank to deliver apricot aromas and fresh fruit flavours of orange, peach and apricot. This mouth-filling wine has a long, lingering finish, with a moderate alcohol of 12.9%. The wine is thoroughly delicious. 91.
Kettle Valley Winery Pinot Noir Reserve 2011
for 191 cases). This comment is not intentionally rude but this wine reminded
me of the story of the ugly duckling that turned into a beautiful swan. This is
an earthy and muscular wine with a porty concentration of black cherry,
liquorice and spice flavours. Just lay it down for five to ten years and it
will blow you away. 91.
Kettle Valley Winery Hayman “John’s Block” Pinot Noir
($38 for 45 cases). This is a
single vineyard winery dedicated to the late John Levine, a great wine lover
who was Kettle Valley
’s first customer. The wine is
simply spectacular, with spice and fruit aromas exploding from the glass,
followed by rich and generous flavours. At 14.4% alcohol, it is even riper than
the reserve (13.8%), but already has the perfect balance of a beautiful swan.
Kettle Valley Winery McGraw Estate Merlot 2009
The winery intended to send the 2011 vintage, the current release, but sent the
2009 in error. Less than two cases remain at the winery. But what a happy
mistake for the reviewer! This muscular and concentrated wine begins with
aromas of blueberry, black currant and vanilla, leading to flavours of plum,
prune, black currant and liquorice. 91. A warning: there are only 45 cases of
the 2011. I would recommend it on the strength of the 2009.
Quails’ Gate Stewart
Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2012 ($45 for 1,775 six-bottle cases). The 14%
alcohol and the dark colour signal that this is a bold ripe wine. Black cherry
aromas are lightly framed by well integrated oak. The flavours are intense,
showing black cherry and raspberry with spice and nuts on the finish. The
finish is exceptionally long. The texture shows firm, polished tannins well on
the way to silkiness, but with the power to give this wine eight to 10 years
cellar aging. 94.
Quails’ Gate Stewart
Family Reserve Chardonnay 2012 ($35 for 1,130 six-bottle cases). This
barrel-fermented wine begins with aromas of pear, tropical fruit and
butterscotch. On the palate, there are flavours of peaches, nectarines, and
mangoes with cloves and butterscotch on the finish. The wine has a generous
texture. Just a hint of its alcohol, which is 14%, peaks through the ripe
Tightrope Pinot Noir
2012 ($32 for 150 cases). This is the first Pinot Noir from a Naramata
Bench winery that expects to open a tasting room this fall. Tightrope released
impressive whites ands a rosé last summer and this wine rises to similar
standards The texture is silky. It begins with exuberant cherry aromas mingled
with toasty oak. This vibrant wine delivers a bowl of cherry and raspberry
flavours, leading to a spicy finish. The fruit is so intense that it fools the
palate into thinking this is a slightly sweet wine. 90.