Thursday, September 3, 2015

Foxtrot "gets by" with clone 115 Pinot Noir




 Photo: Foxtrot winemaker Gustav Allander

Most Okanagan producers of Pinot Noir have multiple clones in their vineyards. Foxtrot Vineyards gets by with clone 115.

“They say if you are going to do Pinot Noir from one clone, 115 is a good all round clone that can stand on its own,” says Gustav Allander, the winemaker and a member of the ownership family. Recent and future vineyard expansions are primarily with cuttings from Foxtrot’s 20-year-old self-rooted vines. Next spring’s planting will include some clone 948, a newer Burgundy clone obtained when another Naramata Bench grower had some extra plants.

To say that Foxtrot gets by is an understatement. Its terroir-driven wines are among the most coveted of British Columbia wines.

“Part of it has to do with the age of our vines,” Gustav says. “The roots now are down quite deep and we are getting much more of the soil influence. There is still clonal influence there but it is much less pronounced than when the vines are really young.”

The Pinot Noir vines in the nearby Henricsson Vineyard are an unidentified clone – probably a German clone. Formerly called the Erickson Vineyard, the property was purchased two years ago by a Vancouver business and wine lover named Peter Henricsson.

As Torsten Allander (Gustav’s father) tells the story, he and Peter were enjoying a bottle of Erickson Pinot at lunch one day when Torsten said the owner of the vineyard planned to sell; and that would be the end of Erickson Pinot.

Peter wouldn’t hear of that. A few days later, he bought the property. The 2012 is the second vintage with his name on the label. There will be future vintages because Foxtrot has also become involved in helping farm the property. It is about four acres in size of which 1 ½ acres consists of the originally planted Pinot Noir.

“Last year, we had a grafting crew in from California,” Gustav told me early this summer. “They did about 200 vines as a trial. There was a 99.99% success rate. One vine didn’t take. The majority of the Henriccson vineyard was actually planted to Pinot Gris.  There was also a little block of Merlot. Starting next Saturday, we will be grafting all of that over to Pinot Noir. One section of Pinot Gris that is in a rocky gravelly section will be grafted over to Chardonnay.”

When the work is done in the Henricsson Vineyard, the new Pinot Noir vines will be mostly clone 115, with some of clone 667 and 948.

Foxtrot, which produced a total of 2,300 cases of wine last year, crafts its wines to age, in the model of Burgundy.

“I am cognisant of the acidity in the grapes at harvest time,” Gustav says. “As the vines have become older, the fruit retains more acidity. I want to make a wine that you are going to be able to lay down and let it evolve over time. You can drink them now but I prefer that people hold onto them for a bit.”

Over the years, Foxtrot’s sources of Chardonnay have moved around, but all from Naramata Bench sources. For several years, the Chardonnay was from the Coolshanagh Vineyard. The owner of that property, Skip Stothert, now releases the wine under his own label.

The Four Shadows vineyard now supplying Foxtrot used to be part of the Mistral Winery on Upper Bench Road. That winery closed after the bankruptcy of the Holman-Lang wineries in 2010. The current owner of Four Shadows appears not to want to revive a winery.

Here are notes on the current Foxtrot releases.
Foxtrot Four Shadows Vineyard Chardonnay 2013 ($46.15). Like any good Burgundy, this complex wine is structured to develop with several years of bottle age. On release, it shows a hint of butterscotch and tangerine in the aromas. On the palate, there are flavours of ripe peach and vanilla. 91.

Foxtrot Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012 ($57.90). Once again, Foxtrot has released a seductive Pinot Noir with intense flavours. The wine is made with the fruit of own-rooted Dijon Clone 115 vines planted in 1994 and 1995. Dark in hue, the wine’s aromas of black cherry and plum telegraph the richness and depth of the flavours. On the silky palate, there is black cherry, plum and cassis. The finish lingers and lingers, with notes of red fruit and spice. 94.


Foxtrot Henriccson Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012 ($49.90). This wine begins with aromas of strawberry, cherry and spice. Dark in hue, it delivers flavours of cherry and ripe raspberry, leading to a lingering finish of spicy red fruit. The wine is lighter in body than the Foxtrot Vineyard wine but also has a velvet texture. The bright acidity suggests ability to age well. 92.

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