Photo: Torsten and Kicki Allander
Foxtrot Vineyards, the Naramata-based Pinot Noir specialist, made its first vintage in 2004. But it took the winery another decade to produce its first brochure.
There is a story here. Proprietor Torsten Allander has spent the last two years hand-selling the winery’s Pinot Noirs to premium restaurants and wine merchants in southern California. He was asked for a winery brochure so frequently that Foxtrot has had to print one.
The winery is well-known in British Columbia; indeed, it is renowned. In California, however, it usually is a surprise for the residents to learn that wine is even made in Canada, let alone wines of world-class quality.
The Foxtrot brochure is slim but well-produced, providing a morsel of the winery’s history. Let me quote:
“In 2002 Torsten Allander and his wife Kicki purchased the Foxtrot Vineyard, a Pinot Noir vineyard that had been planted in 1993 on the upper slopes of the Naramata Bench in the Okanagan Valley, BC. … As Torsten and Kicki are lovers of Burgundian wines, the purchase of the vineyard was the first step toward making great Pinot Noir.”
There is a bit more, but at least the morsel surrounded by several good photographs. For a little more detail, you need to go to my books. To whit:
The winery is owned by an elegantly-mannered retired pulp and paper engineer, Torsten Allander. In 2002, he and his wife Elisabeth (the family calls her Kicki) retired to a 1.4-hectare (3.5-acre) on Naramata Road planted entirely with Pinot Noir. After selling the grapes to another winery for a few years, Torsten enlisted Lake Breeze Vineyards in 2004 on a three-year winemaking trial with his grapes. “I wanted to convince myself before I invested a lot of money in a winery that we can produce a top wine that can compete on a world level,” Torsten recalled.
The acclaim which the initial vintages received left no doubt about the quality of the Foxtrot Pinot Noirs. In 2008, Torsten and his winemaker son, Gustav, built a winery and cellar with the barrel capacity for 2,000 cases of wine. They will need to consider expansion in a few years because, in 2012, Torsten bought an adjoining two hectares (five acres) of orchard. The fruit trees are being replaced with Pinot Noir vines propagated from cuttings of Foxtrot’s clone 115 Pinot Noir.
“It is such an uphill battle,” Torsten said recently, recounting his successful effort to get Foxtrot Pinot Noir into California. But he now has an agent in San Diego and has the wine in a number of top restaurants. He is setting his sight on Palm Springs and Palm Desert. Those markets should be a little easier because the many Canadians with property there likely will know good wines are made in British Columbia.
British Columbia wineries need to pick their spots carefully when offering product in California, he believes. There is not much point selling Canadian Chardonnay there, since California is awash with good Chardonnay (and Foxtrot also makes a good Chardonnay). Nor did Torsten get much of a take on the Viognier and the rosé from Foxtrot.
However, Pinot Noir has a special cachet in many markets. Californian consumers are used to premium-priced Pinot Noirs from Oregon. It is probable these helped blaze the trail for British Columbia.
Foxtrot is about to release three Pinot Noirs from the superb 2014 vintage. The winery is also participating in the Vancouver International Wine Festival in early February. Several of these wines, including the Chardonnay, will be poured at the Foxtrot table.
A reminder to those who might want to buy the wines: the BC Liquor Distribution Branch always has a liquor store at the festival, stocking wines that producers have on the tasting room floor. Keep in mind that the liquor store stock is limited. You need to shop early before the stock runs out.
Here are notes on those wines.
Foxtrot Foxtrot Vineyards Pinot Noir 2014 ($57.90). Here is a wine appealing to all the senses, beginning with a shimmering ruby hue in the glass. The perfume of spicy cherries is the wine’s seductive invitation. On the palate, the flavours of cherry and strawberry are framed delicately with lightly toasted oak. The texture is elegant and silken. The wine has a lingering red berry finish. 93.
Foxtrot The Waltz Pinot Noir 2014 ($50). The grapes for this wine are young fruit from the Foxtrot Estate and fruit from other Naramata vineyards the winery has under contract. However, the wine has the same elegant, silky style of the estate Pinot Noir. The wine begins with aromas of cherry and raspberry. On the palate, flavours of spice and lightly toasted oak mingle with cherry and raspberry. 90.
Foxtrot Reimer Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 ($57.90). The grapes for this wine are from a vineyard in East Kelowna. The differing soils and terroir show through in a wine’s distinctive aromas and flavours of cherry and plum, as well as in the minerality on the backbone. This wine benefits from decanting, to bring out its silky and full-bodied texture. 92.
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