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Thursday, September 8, 2022
Foxtrot releases vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs
Photo: Douglas Barzelay, co-owner of Foxtrot Vineyards
New York lawyer Douglas Barzeley, who bought Foxtrot Vineyards in 2018 with Alberta-born partner Nathan Todd, is an authority on the wines of Burgundy. In the same year that he took over Foxtrot, he also published (with a co-author) Burgundy Vintages: A History from 1845.
The fingerprints of Burgundian winegrowing philosophy are now all over Foxtrot, the Naramata Bench Pinot Noir producer launched in 2004 by Torsten Allander. A former pulp and paper engineer from Sweden, he had retired with his family to a property on the Naramata Bench. There was already a 3 ½ acre vineyard there, all clone 115 Pinot Noir. Torsten had three vintages made in a nearby winery. Once the wines showed his vineyard had the potential of produce world-class Pinot Noir, Foxtrot built its own winery.
The glorious Pinot Noir was hard to get. Not only was production limited; the winery had no wine shop and not even a sign on Naramata Road. People who found the winery were dealt with cordially – and were directed to the Naramata General Store if they wanted to buy a bottle.
The new owners have made a number of consumer-friendly changes. The winery has now opened a wine shop and tasting room; it has launched a second label called foxly; Foxtrot has created a wine club; and now it has expanded its premium range with vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs.
The vineyard-designated wines reflect Douglas Barzelay’s admiration of how Burgundy vintners make wines that express the terroir of their vineyards. The distinctive terroir of the Naramata Bench, he has discovered, yields wines that are distinctive.
“One of the things we were thrilled to see early on was the diversity of the terroir within a close distance,” Douglas said at a recent Vancouver tasting. “All of the vineyards that we are going to taste here – the single vineyards – are at most a couple of kilometres from each other. Several of them are right next to each other and yet they are very distinct.”
He believes this is “a potential the Okanagan has that is not yet fully developed. We’re doing our part. We hope to see more of that in the valley. The potential is there. There are many places in the New World that don’t have that potential to let the land speak.”
Andrea Barker (in photograph), the winemaker who joined Foxtrot in 2019, calls on consulting services from Veronique Drouhin, a member of one of the great wine families in Burgundy. “She has been a great guide, helping us to find gentler ways to approach the wine,” Andrea says.
For all the Burgundian influences, Foxtrot is still making Okanagan wine. “There is a distinction to be made,” Douglas says. “People sometimes use the term, Burgundian, to mean a certain flavour profile. I would not want to suggest to anyone that Okanagan Pinot Noirs taste like Burgundy, but stylistically, in terms of what we are trying to achieve, it is very much in the Burgundian style. We are looking for balance, for delicacy, for elegance. We are not trying to produce big, powerful, fruity wines.”
Andrea says she was attracted to Foxtrot by the opportunity to make wines expressing terroir. Born in Toronto, she has a soil science degree from the University of Maryland. “I had the great idea to get into the wine industry straight after that. I did a bit of a travelling winemaker scene. I worked in Virginia, South Africa, New Zealand, Santa Barbara and Germany, before I went back to Ontario to do a master’s degree at Brock University.” Her thesis dealt with clones of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling. She joined Foxtrot early in 2019, after getting her master’s degree.
The premium Foxtrot wines still will be hard to get. The single vineyard wines are made in limited volume. They will be offered to the wine club and sold at the winery but there will not be enough at this time for further distribution.
However, the winery’s foxly wines are more widely available. The second label enables the winery to offer a greater selection of varietals and additional volume, all priced more approachably that the Foxtrot portfolio.
“These wines are not necessarily wines of place,” Nathan Todd says (above). “They are wines of pleasure.”
Here are notes on the wines.
Foxtrot Chardonnay 2020 ($44 for 196 cases). The fruit for this wine was sourced from growers in Peachland, Osoyo0s and the Similkameen Valley. (Foxtrot has planted an acre of Chardonnay in a new vineyard on the Naramata Bench for an state-grown Chardonnay in future). The wine was fermented in French oak barrels. It was aged on the lees for 10 months in French oak (12% new) and a further six months in stainless steel before being bottled. This is an elegant wine with aromas of lemon and pineapple that are echoed on the palate, along with a hint of butter. The finish is lingering and refreshing. 93.
Foxtrot The Waltz Pinot Noir 2020 ($47 for 270 cases). This wine, Foxtrot’s answer to Bourgogne Rouge, is a blend of fruit from vineyards in the Okanagan and the Similkameen Valleys. Each parcel was fermented separately before being blended. The wine was aged 14 months in French oak barrels (eight per cent new). The wine begins with aromas of cherry, spice and what the trade calls forest floor. On the palate, the flavours are intense: cherry, strawberry and blackberry. There is a peppery spice on the finish. 91.
Foxtrot Henriccson Vineyard Pinot Noir 2020 ($69.99 wholesale for 97 cases). Foxtrot has had an off and on relationship with Peter Henriccson whose vineyard is a kilometre or so north of Foxtrot and on the uphill side of Naramata Road. The relationship has been back on in recent vintages, with Foxtrot getting grapes from every second row. The fruit (25% whole cluster) is fermented in stainless steel, spending 17 days on the skins. The wine was aged 14 months in French oak (12% new). The wine begins with aromas of blueberry, blackberry and spice. The palate delivers rich dark fruit flavours, with an earthy forest floor note on the finish. 93.
Foxtrot Wily Fox Vineyard Pinot Noir 2020 ($69 wholesale for 96 cases). This vineyard was planted in 2013/2014 with own-rooted cuttings from the original clone 115 vines on the estate vineyard. The wine was fermented in stainless steel and, after 21 days of maceration, was transferred into French oak barrels (25% new) for 14 months. This is a concentrated wine with aromas of cherry and red currant. There is a great depth of flavour here with notes reminiscent of cassis. 94.
Foxtrot Paddock Vineyard Pinot Noir 2020 ($N/A for 23 cases). This tiny vineyard was planted in 2014, again with cuttings from the original Foxtrot vineyard. Only one barrel of wine was produced in 2020. The grapes were fermented in stainless steel, with 25% whole clusters. After 16 days maceration, the wine was aged 14 months in neutral French oak. It is a powerful wine, with aromas and flavours of spice and cherries. A hint of anise mingles with minerality on the long finish. 92.
Foxtrot Raisin d’Etre Vineyard Pinot Noir 2020 (N/A for 48 cases). This vineyard, which is just downhill from the estate vineyard, was planted in 2009 with clone 828. The wine was fermented in stainless steel (25 % whole clusters) and, after 15 days maceration, was aged in French oak (50% new) for 14 months. The wine has aromas and flavours of blueberry and cherry mingled with notes of lavender. The finish is long and silky. 93.
Foxtrot Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir 2020 ($95 for 178 cases). The own-rooted vines, all clone 115, are about 25 years old. The grapes were fermented in several lots in stainless steel. After 17 to 20 days of maceration, the wine went into French oak (25% new) for 14 months. The wine begins with what the winery calls an “assertive” nose: there are aromas of cherry, blueberry and spice. The flavours are expansive, with notes of cherry and cassis, and a classic hint of forest floor in the finish. The ripe tannins are firm enough to assure the wine will age very well. 96.
foxly pinot gris 2021 ($24 for 170 cases). This wine was made with fruit from vineyards near Summerland and Lake Country. The wine is crisp and fresh, with aromas and flavours of citrus and apple. 90.
foxly chardonnay 2020 ($28.99 for 122 cases). This wine was fermented in and aged ten months in neutral French oak. There are aromas and flavours of pear and apple with a touch of spice and oak on the finish. 90.
foxly rosé 2021 ($24 for 150 cases). Made with Pinot Noir, the wine has a salmon pink hue from three hours of skin contact. There is an explosion of strawberry and mandarin orange flavours. Bright acidity gives the wine a crisp, dry finish. 90.
foxly pinot noir 2020 ($24 for 500 cases). This is a lively and fresh wine that was aged 16 months in oak. There are aromas and flavours of cherry and red berries. 90.