Thursday, July 23, 2015

LG award winner Noble Ridge pushes Pinot Noir boundaries

Photo: Noble Ridge's Leslie and Jim D'Andrea (courtesy Noble Ridge)

It has become a tradition that members of British Columbia’s consular corps accompany Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon to the wineries that receive awards of excellence each year.

From all accounts, the consuls, who travel by bus, approach wine country with gusto. A few years ago, the consular wine purchases overloaded the bus baggage compartment. A truck was rented to transport the remaining purchases.

It is a welcome payday for winning wineries. This was probably not anticipated a decade ago when Government House began delivering the awards at the wineries. During the first two years of the competition, the award winners had to travel to Victoria to accept their trophies.

The awards parade has been happening this week, with the Lieutenant Governor and the consuls showing up at 14 winning wineries.

The award has enjoyed a much higher profile since the ceremony was taken to the wineries. It also has had far more impact on the wineries.

“We enjoyed winning the LG award last year,” says Gerry Thygesen, one of the owners of Krāzē Legz Vineyard & Winery in Kaleden. “On our web site, we had been averaging 3,000 to 4,000 hits a month. We went to 89,000 hits in a month just because of that award. It took us into a different realm.”

Noble Ridge Vineyards at Okanagan Falls will have known what to expect because the winery is a second time winner. This year the winery won with its sparkling wine, The One 2010, and received the award on July 20.

Noble Ridge was one of three Okanagan falls wineries to win this year. The others were B.C. Wine Studio (a first time winner) and Wild Goose Vineyards (a multiple award winner).

Earlier in July, I dropped in at Noble Ridge to find out what the consuls might be sampling with owners Jim and Leslie D’Andrea. I was impressed, as my notes will show.

I was also struck by an anomaly: Noble Ridge’s excellent Pinot Noir was not among the wines chosen for next month’s B.C. Pinot Noir Celebration.

As I understand it, a panel of sommeliers chose the participating wines and turned down the Noble Ridge wine because it was judged atypical. I won’t grizzle too much. I have also made mistakes as a wine judge (one of them involving a different Noble Ridge wine).

In defence of the Noble Ridge Pinot Noir, the style is indeed singular. Unlike many pretty “strawberries and cherries” Pinot Noirs, this wine invariable is rich and bold, with dark fruit on the nose and on the palate. I once reviewed the Noble Ridge Pinot Noir 2009, which had 15% alcohol, with the remark that this wine wanted to be a Zinfandel. Typical? No. Good? You bet it was.

Noble Ridge makes big Pinot Noirs intentionally. In the last three vintages, the Pinot Noir blocks have been picked at four different times to enhance the flavour profile.

It is unfortunate that attendees at the Pinot Noir Celebration won’t get to taste a Pinot Noir that pushes the boundaries the way Noble Ridge does.

Here are notes on current Noble Ridge wines. Prices include taxes.

Noble Ridge Mingle 2013 ($19.90).  This is a blend of Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. It begins with aromas of citrus and spice, leading to flavours of apple, mango and citrus. There is a hint of sweetness on the finish. 90.

Noble Ridge Reserve Chardonnay 2012 ($29.90). This wine was best of class at a recent Los Angeles International Wine Competition. The wine is boldly oaked with rich flavours of butterscotch and marmalade. 91.

Noble Ridge Pinot Grigio 2013 ($19.90). This is a wine with a juicy texture and nice weight on the palate. There are flavours of apples and peaches with a spine of minerals. 90.

Noble Ridge Pinot Noir Reserve 2012 ($29.90). This is a typically ripe, succulent wine, enriched with flavours of plum, black cherry and blackberry. The wine spent between 14 and 16 months in French oak, further broadening the texture. The alcohol is 14.2% but there is no heat on the finish. 91.

 Noble Ridge Reserve Meritage 2012 ($29.90). This is a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon enhanced with a touch of Malbec and Cabernet Franc. The aromas of black currant and black cherry continue to the palate where the fruit is rich, concentrated and sweet. Generous in body and satisfying on the finish, this is a delicious wine. 93.

Noble Ridge Meritage 2012 ($19.90). Here is the good value little brother. It is softer than the reserve but still delivers generous flavours of black currant and black cherry. 90.

Noble Ridge Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($44.90 for 200 cases). This excellent wine begins with aromas of cassis mingled with toasted oak. The texture is rich, deep and concentrated with flavours of cassis, vanilla, black cherry and blueberry. I recommend cellaring this wine another three years at least. It is drinking well now but is nowhere near its peak. 95.

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