It was my first September back in the Okanagan after 10 years abroad. As I watched the season change from Summer to Fall; nostalgia and warmth filled me. I was home. It brings me such joy to watch green leaves turn to multi-colored hues of orange, red and yellow…they crisp and fall, floating gently to the ground. The air turns chilly and I reach to my top shelf for wools, knits and warm hats.
I can’t think of a better grape variety than Pinot Noir to match with this glorious weather. On top of the delicious Okanagan Pinot’s sampled I also got to participate in my first harvest, stop by a couple of great local wineries and host some fun Pinot inspired Instagram lives!
Hey, Okanagan Valley…I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It’s good to be back!
So, without further ado, let me break it down: tasting notes are, ‘Katie style’ – as and how I wrote it on my computer, typed on my phone, or simply what I remember from my head.
Nose: Ground pepper, Mushy strawberries, Red Cherries, Red Hot Cinnamon Candies
Palate: High Acid, Medium (-) Tannin, Strawberry, Rhubarb,
Notes of Sour Cherries, Plums, Roma Tomatoes & Beet Root
Lovely and light. Fruity. Slight ‘funky’ note to it that keeps things interesting.
16 months in French Barriques
Nose: Plum, Strawberry, Nutmeg, Rhubarb, Stewed beet, Black pepper
Palate: Beetroot, Plum, Black Cherry. Medium (+) Acid, Medium Tannins.
Even with all the hype that consistently surrounds Tantalus wines, this Pinot rose about the shining reputation. Beautiful, juicy…with just the right amount of cozy, Fall spice.
11 months in French Oak Barrels
Delightful, deep and fruit driven. Gentle spice but the punch of deeper, darker fruit steals the show. A nice little barnyard aroma lingers – in a positive, intriguing way.
(From Meyer family website www.mfvwines.com)
The fruit for this wine is sourced from the Reimer Estate Vineyard, which is planted in 100% Pinot Noir located in South East Kelowna, British Columbia. The vineyard has a moderately steep northwesterly aspect with the soil comprised of alluvial and windblown deposits making up a silt loam overlaying a gravel loam. The vineyard is planted with a mix of French Pommard and Dijon clones(115, 667, 777). The fruit was gently de-stemmed via gravity into small open top fermenters and allowed to cold soak. After cold soaking, an indigenous fermentation began, with temperature peaking at 30 degrees Celsius, gentle hand plunging of the must was done throughout. After a post-maceration period the wine was transferred to 100% French oak barrels (27% new) where it remained for 11 months. A natural malo-lactic fermentation occurred in late spring.
Classy, elegant and full of life. This was my favourite Pinot of the bunch. Showing some nice development with the extra age this Pinot is a series of contradictions: light, but bold…wild, yet structured…juicy, but dry.
13 months in Barrel
For me the Burrowing Owl Pinot was a typical, reliable and enjoyable expression of a BC Pinot. I didn’t write notes that night, so forgive me for the short form. May be a bit overpriced for it’s average, but still pleasant statement.
Storm Vineyards Insta Live
Josh aka @thewinequarterback and I went live (and rogue), comparing 3 South African Pinot’s by Storm Vineyards, a winery located in the Hemel-En-Aarde. Three single vineyard Pinot’s made in the same style. The only difference? Altitude and soil type.
It was inspiring and interesting to truly taste “terroir” in a glass. Amazing how 3 wines could differ so much solely based on two natural elements.
We held it against the Roche 2016 Pinot Noir and it kicked it out of the park. While the Roche was a lovely expression of BC Pinot (with some side notes of intriguing ‘funk’), the Storm Pinot’s had a longer finish and demonstrated greater complexity.
Storm remains my fave garagiste South African Pinot producer to date. Preach Hannes, preach!
Storm Vrede Pinot Noir 2016
The Vrede Pinot Noir hails from a steep, northeast-facing slope in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley with low-vigour, stony, clay-rich Bokkeveld shale soil.
This basket-pressed, native yeast-fermented wine displays richness and generosity with opulent, floral perfume and a structured palate from the clay soil.
Production: 650 cases
Bottling date: February 2017
Release date: March 2018
Storm Ignis Pinot Noir 2016
The Ignis Pinot Noir hails from a northern slope in the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. The vineyard is cluttered with round pebbles on the soil surface with underlying decomposed granite. Latin for ‘fire’, ignis refers to the fact that granite is an igneous rock formation – from fire to stone.
This basket-pressed, native yeast-fermented wine shows great balance and length. The wine displays raspberry and wild strawberry notes with underlying subtle wood spice. A silky tannin structure complements the primary fruit perfume.
Production: 275 cases
Bottling date: February 2017
Release date: March 2018
Storm Ridge Pinot Noir 2016
The Ridge Pinot Noir hails from a cool, eastern slope in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge with low-vigour, stony, clay-rich Bokkeveld shale soil.
This basket-pressed, native yeast-fermented wine shows richness and generosity with black cherry and spicy undertones. Silky tannins complement the voluptuous fruit perfume.
Production: 250 cases
Bottling date: January 2016
Release date: March 2017
Harvest 2018 with Kitsch Wines
I felt fortunate to join my friends at Kitsch wines in East Kelowna to participate in Harvest 2018. Along with Pinot, I helped pick: Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Gris; escaping with only one finger snip! I also met some cute vineyard friends along the way; including a tiny ladybug burrowed in a tight cluster of Pinot, the odd spider and an aggressive hornet’s nest. The biodiversity is certainly alive and thriving at Kitsch. A few of us got knee up in grape juice one day and helped stomp the Pinot for Rosé (yeah Pinot…it doesn’t just create red wines). We stomped Yeezy style, check it out below:
Grant Biggs, winemaker at Kitsch showed me around the fermenting tanks. I got my face a little too close to the CO2 – I won’t do that again.
Be sure to snap up some Kitsch Wines goodness (Rosé is sold out and the Pinot Noir is not far behind).
Quails Gate 3 Pinot Insta Live
To end off a wonderful month, I decided to host another live after a delightful and inspiring visit with Lindsay Kelm, Marketing Manager at Quails Gate. She heard about my self-proclaimed Pinot month and graciously gave me 3 of their Pinot’s to taste and talk about.
We spent a couple of hours together at the vineyard and had a look at their impressive production process. I met Ross the winemaker and he introduced me to his two new eggs (amphora), Julio and Enrique EGGlesias!
Quails Gate sees thousands of visitors all year round and produces around 85,000 cases of wine a year! They plan to expand and open a second winery in 2021 in East Kelowna. Exciting times indeed for Quails Gate and their many loyal followers.
Grant aka @barrelist and I sat down for the live and were joined digitally by Lindsay Kelm while we tasted and spoke about all things Pinot.
Notes and memories from the 3 Pinot’s:
Fantastic value for money Pinot. Straight up, no nonsense wine with yummy bursts of fresh red cherries, bramble and some dark fruit like blackberries and plum. Some nice notes of cigar box and cedar.
This Anniversary reserve can age up to 15 years. A great addition to any collectors cellar. This is a limited release wine and there are limited quantities available. A beautiful expression of the Quails Gate family vineyard sites; royal and savoury. For me, this was the boldest Pinot of the three.
My personal favourite. Elegant, smooth and silky. Delicate tannins topped with red, ripe, juicy fruit and a gentle sprinkle of Christmas spice.
All of the Okanagan Pinot’s (apart from Black Cloud’s Altostratus) I tasted in September were pretty young (majority 2016). Wines in the Okanagan seem to sell out quickly after release (especially small batch producers). It would have been great to experience these wines with a bit of age behind their belt, as they move away from fruit forward dominent and develop some nice tertiary characteristics. Unfortunately, demand, the need to turn over cash, and a general short supply to satisfy thirsty BC wine drinkers just doesn’t seem to allow it.
Pinot Noir does very well in the Okanagan and is quickly gaining more and more attention both locally and internationally. The terroir here allows Okanagan Pinot’s to boast unique expressions true to the vineyards they come from. I believe that in the very near future of BC wine, Pinot Noir, along with Riesling, will become one of the grape varieties that defines the Okanagan Valley wine scene on a global scale.
I can’t wait to see how local Pinot Noir’s will continue to evolve and develop in quality and expression in the vintages to come.
Cheers for now,