Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Pinot Noir from Quails' Gate and friends

 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 Noirs.

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 Falls. 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. 90.

Blue Mountain Pinot Noir Reserve 2011 ($35.90). This 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 ($25.90). 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 ($25.90).This 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 ($22 for 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 persistent. 90.

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 ($38 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 2011 ($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. 92.

Kettle Valley Winery McGraw Estate Merlot 2009 ($38). 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 flavours. 90.

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.


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