Archive for the 'Pinot Noir' Category
It’s that time of year – when you may be looking to have glass of celebratory bubbly, but don’t want to break your newly minted 2011 budget. Well, there are a number of decent sparkling wines out there in the under-$30 range that can fit the bill. If you’re a fan of rosé wines, this one may just be the ticket.
Summerhill Winery, near Kelowna, crafts this wine from certified organic 100% Pinot Noir grapes. In the glass, this has a nice salmon-rosé colour, with a nose of light strawberry and citrus. A sip has a mouthful of fine bubbles and light berry fruit with a crisp citrus/green apple edge to the finish.
Hmmm, it’s quite nice. What we have here is actually a pretty solid sparkler for the money. It has more depth to its flavours than some of the cheaper Cavas from Spain or Proseccos from Italy – as well it should, as it costs ~ $10 more.
$29.95 and according to the winery, it’s available at private BC wine stores and restaurants, Alberta wine stores and restaurants, and Saskatchewan and Manitoba in limited quantities.
OK, so here it goes. I’m a bit torn on how I feel about this wine. To be honest, I expected to not like it… and at first I didn’t. It’s a bit too full and round for me. It feels like the wine has been tampered with to achieve a too-full level of ripeness and booze (it clocks in at 15%) – but if the winery is to be believed, it was made with, “Minimal intervention winemaking…”.
If that’s true, then this is a decent BC Merlot, made with 100% organic grapes grown in Kaleden, which is south of Penticton in BC’s Okanagan valley. The nose is full of blackberry, currant and vanilla. The flavours are a robust and full mix of what the nose hinted at.
I’m guessing there are plenty of folks out there who would really like this. For me, it’s a bit too far on the ripe side. It needs a bit more complexity to keep my mouth interested. Having said that, it is a full-bodied red with ripe fruit and some nice tannins on the finish that would allow it to pair quite nicely with some hard cheeses or a good steak.
$29.95 and it’s available at private BC wine stores and restaurants, Alberta wine stores and restaurants, and Saskatchewan and Manitoba in limited quantities.
Note: $1 donation with the sale of each of these for every bottle sold supports ‘Get to Know your Wild Neighbours’ non‐profit organization. I received both these bottles as samples.No comments
Cherry Cola, fig and plum hit you in the nose when you take a sniff. The flavours are round, ripe and sexy. There’s dark cherry, blackberry and that cherry Cola the nose hinted at along with a dusty mineral finish that lasts a minute.
What does it all mean? Well, in short it’s a pretty simple, but very tasty New Zealand Pinot Noir that makes me yearn for an Old World quaff, but also makes me feel guilty for digging the flavours. The fruit is sweet and dusty… and I like it. It’s definitely not a Burgundy, but it makes my mouth happy.
All in all, it’s a great sipper on its own, but I’d look elsewhere for a really good food-pairing wine.
While I was at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival last month, I stopped by Averill Creek‘s table to say, “Hi” to Denis Chen, who I know from Kitsilano Wine Cellars. Well, it turned out he was also the VP Sales and Marketing for the winery and was at the festival pouring their wines. I had a taste and came away impressed. After my chat with Denis, he promised to set up a sample pack for me to review, so here we are.
Let’s get you some information about the winery. Its owner, Andy Johnston is a British-born doctor who had a practice in Alberta for around 30 years. He prepared for his gig as a winery owner and winemaker by apprenticing in the vineyards of Italy, France, Australia, and New Zealand. After retirement he bought his Cowichan Valley property in 2001.
Averill Creek is definitely an estate producer only. They have roughly 30,000 vines on a 30-acre vineyard in the Cowichan Valley north of Duncan on Vancouver Island. All of Averill Creek’s wines are estate grown and come from this vineyard.
I was supplied with what turned out to be most of their current line-up and have tasted them over the last week or so. Here are my thoughts:
- 2007 Pinot Gris: A sniff gave up lemon and ripe peach juice drizzled on a rock. The flavours showed some really nice lip-smackingly crisp acidity along with mouth-filling lemon-peach flavours. This, folks, is a really nice food wine, but would also make for a great aperitif on a sunny patio. It’s a solid value ($18). 4 stars
- 2009 Pinot Grigio: This 100% stainless-steel fermented version is the crisp, quaff-able wine of the portfolio. It’s got a schwack of bracing acidity along with the nice fruit and flinty minerality. You know when you buy a really nice bunch of green grapes, take them home and really enjoy stuffing one after another into your mouth? This is the vinous equivalent ($18). 3.5 stars
- 2009 Gewurztraminer: This was a very pleasing light and crisp Gewurz. It had soft rose petal and lychee flavours followed up by a honey-edged citrus acidity and a nice mineral edge to the finish. Very nice and another really solid value ($18). 4 stars
- 2007 Pinot Noir: This is really nice, in that ripe kinda’ way. Think blackberry tea with Chinese all-spice on the finish. The tannins are medium-soft, so this is a bit more of a quaffer than a food-pairing wine. I really enjoyed it though, especially for the price ($28). 4 stars
- 2007 Prevost: On the nose, I got smoked bacon with a sour cherry edge. That pretty much followed up in the flavours that finished with a peppery edge ($18). 3 stars
- 2009 Foch’eh: This wine was made using carbonic maceration, which kept the fruit cool and fresh and makes for a very Gamay-like wine, with its really nice bright cherry and strawberry fruit. A very nice simple sipper for summer. Cool it down a touch and enjoy on the patio. Again, another solid value ($18). 3.5 stars
- 2008 Cowichan Black: This is made from 100% Vancouver Island blackberries and comes in at 16% booze. All in all, it was a bit puzzling to me. A sniff gave me sour, yeasty light berry fruit, but a sip showed some of the ripe blackberry flavours I was expecting… with a bit of a green edge to the finish. It’s decent, but a bit of a novelty wine in an otherwise solid lineup ($18 for 375 ml). 2.5 stars
Overall, I was fairly impressed. If anything, the wines pleasantly surprised me. The line-up is definitely geared towards providing value and they’re really hitting the mark, especially with the Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir. Would I buy them? Yes, I would.
If you’ve never tried wines from Vancouver Island and you want to support the BC wine industry, you should give them a try. They can be found at various wine shops around Vancouver (and the province of BC).3 comments
This is the second in the collection of Pinot Noir I brought back from my recent trip down South of the border. This wine is described as “a blend of 5 sustainably, organically, or biodynamically farmed vineyards in the northern Willamette Valley.” This piqued my interest as I’ve done a bit of reading and chatting about “natural” and “honest” wines, including Alice Feiring’s book.
This wine is certainly unique, and really likable. I popped it open and poured a bit for a swirl and sip. I should have been a little less enthusiastic and decanted as I quickly got a “sediment seasoned” sample (an unintentional alliteration). Not to worry though.
The nose on this wine is full of dusty black cherry with some musk and a hint of violet. Very interesting. On the palate the first that jumped up was tart cranberry and some seriously bracing acidity. It kind of makes you say “whoa” then you just want to sip it again. The finish had some green stalk and tart currant along with some nice pepper and sweet spice tones.
I sampled this again the next day and the acid had lessened and the flavors began to match the nose much directly with a very nice balance of fruit and acidity right through to the finish. Good stuff.
This is another gem in my mind. A really honest and authentic wine that has been allowed to just “be” without a great deal of manipulation. A good friend, this wine is. We all need more like it.
Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival – Return to the French Classics Dinner at The Hermitage
This dinner at The Hermitage featuring the wines of Domaine Doudet Naudin was the first of two events I received invites to as part of my Media pass for the 2010 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival. Classic French food paired with extremely food-friendly Burgundy wine – what’s not to like? Nothing as far as I was concerned.
I hadn’t been into The Hermitage before last night. It’s a cozy place that is what you’d expect of an old-school French restaurant with a dose of 70′s living room tossed in – decorative brick arches, flowered curtains and all… but it worked. The room was comfortable and many of the folks in attendance last night were regulars who seemed to be on a first-name basis with the Hermitage’s owner, Hervé Martin. He creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
I grabbed a seat at the table reserved for media types and started chatting with the folks seated there, including Julie Pegg (contributing editor for EAT Magazine), Kelly Robson (wine writer for Chatelaine Magazine & her Full Bodied wine blog) and a couple of non wine geeks, Arnaud and Bobby. Soon enough, the dinner kicked off with a chat from the event’s sponsor, Rare Finds Wine Importers LTD and we were off. Here’s a scan of what was ahead. My mouth and palate were watering.
While we waited for the first course, we sipped the 2007 Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune, Château d’Antigny ($27.95 – 4 stars). It was the perfect palate cleanser – all flinty lemon with a puckering acidity that just begged for some food. Up next was possibly my favourite pairing of the night – the wild mushroom feuilletté with a veal and port reduction paired with the close to magical 2006 Savigny-Les-Beaune en Redrescul, 1er Cru ($45.95 – 4.5 stars). A white with a sauced mushroom dish? Yep, this white – and it was fantastic. It reminded me a lot of the Tissot Jura Chardonnays I tried a few months ago. It had a dill-like funkiness that really added to its powerful and earthy flavours. It was complex and delicious. Try some if you can find it.
After that, it was onto a delicate salmon fillet with a creamy sorrel sauce ‘troisgros’ paired with the last Chardonnay of the evening; the 2007 Pernand-Vergelesses Sous-Fretille, 1er Cru ($49.95 – 4.5 stars). It was another great wine-food pairing. The delicate flavour of the salmon helped highlight the crisp elegance of the wine. Delicious.
Next up was a delicious house-made duck sausage with pistachio purée of Jerusalem artichokes paried with a delicious and light and 2007 Gevrey-Chambertin ($56.95 – 4.5 stars). This is the kind of pairing that really helps explain the earthy French Pinot Noir food pairing magic. You taste each separately and they’re good, but it’s together that they really sing. The light red fruit and crisp tannins of the wine perfectly balanced the fat and earthy meat flavours of the duck sausage.
We weren’t done yet… the kitchen then served the beef tenderloin medallions and the 2003 Savigny-Les-Beaune Les Vergelesses, 1er Cru ($42.95 – 4.5 stars). The meat was fantastic and the wine really grabbed my taste buds. It had gorgeous dark cherry and plum fruit along with a floral and black pepper edge to its earthy finish. Wow. Another great pairing, by the way.
The last food/wine pairing of the evening was a selection of French cheeses with the 2000 Aloxe Corton Les Marechaudes, 1er Cru ($56.95 – 4.5 stars). I loved the earthy elegance of the wine, but this was the only pairing of the evening that didn’t click. I separated them – downing the cheeses and then savouring the wine.
A delicious vanilla syrup soaked rum baba rounded things off and left me wanting a walk to wear off the meal. All in all, Hervé Martin and his team did a heckuva’ job with the food choices and the wines really stepped up as well.
I left determined to drink more wines from Burgundy. That’s never a bad thing.No comments
My recent trip to Esquin Wine Merchants in Seattle enabled me to stock up on my supply of Oregon Pinots among other treasures. Our ongoing discussion of value Pinot Noir is here in spades.
The first one I picked up is EiEiO’s 2006 Cuvee I. On sale for $19.99, it fit nicely into the budget. EiEiO is a small winery located near Carlton, Oregon producing Pinot and Chardonnay to a total of about 1800 cases. Based on previous tastes of their wines, I was really looking forward to sipping and savoring it. I was not disappointed at all.
It may be purely anecdotal, or my shopping habits, but it seems that Oregon Pinots are moving towards a more finessed and elegant style from the bold boozy fruit bombs I remember from a few years back. A few swirls brought some barnyard and red fruit with some meaty and clay elements. It reminded me of a hybrid of some the things I like about some Burgundian and Russian River Pinots.
I gave it a little time and as we sipped, it just got better and better. I loved the rhubarb with some red currant and cherry notes backed up by a nice chalky transition into the firm acidity in a medium long finish. The currant and lingered and it balanced the nice tart finish from the acidity.
This is a really tasty treat and a great value to boot. (Some catchy packaging as well, with the notes to “Old Macdonald” scribed on the cork). This is the kind of offering I long for up here! More Pinots to follow…
I’m putting together my write-up of last Saturday in Sonoma, but I was both thirsty and hungry, so this post worked its way into the mix.
Holy silky Pinot Noir, folks. This bottle was exactly what I was looking for when I pulled the cork tonight. I was cooking up some wild mushroom Tagliatelle and craving some Pinot – OK, it was in the opposite order. I was craving some Pinot and so I cooked up something to go with it.
I hadn’t really heard of McKinlay Vineyards before this bottle caught my eye the last time we were in Portland. It turns out they’re doing their thing in a more Burgundian style and have a bunch of folks excited about the bottles they’re turning out. You can now count me in with them.
I had a few sips before we ate and really liked it, but in true Burgundian style (13% booze, by the way), it was with the food that the wine really came alive. The earthiness of the wine really complemented the mushrooms and the fruit and acidity built on that. Wow. I really liked it.
The nose has a schwack of ripe cranberry and cherry along with a handful of of flowers and some smokey spice. A sip really explodes with the ripe red cherry, rhubarb, cranberry and citrus fruit. I’ll break it down. It just tastes really good and went so well with our meal that I wish we had another bottle. Enough said.
If you like Burgundy and have been looking for an Oregon wine to try, give this a go. I can’t guarantee you’ll like it – thank God everyone’s tastes are different – but I sure as heck did.
Nice work McKinlay.
Candace and I headed into the Napa Valley last Friday and I was really looking forward to the appointments I had set up. The weather was spring-warm perfect, the traffic was light and I was looking forward to tasting some of Napa’s Cabernet. First in line was the venerable Beaulieu Vineyard, located in Rutherford. The second appointment was set for 2pm at Whitehall Lane Winery and we were penciled in at Cuvaison Estate Wines in Calistoga for 4pm. It was going to be an afternoon full of (hopefully) good wine.
I had only visited Beaulieu once before – way back in 1991. That was also my first visit to Napa Valley. What I really remember about the visit was that, back then, like many guys in their early 20′s I was into the whole Seattle music scene and had the hair to match. It was halfway down my back. I know… I know, but hey – it was the early 90′s. The point of mentioning this was that many of the wineries, upon seeing 4 long-haired musician-looking types headed their way, lived up to the much-feared wine snob stereotype – they treated us like crap. We were there to learn, sample and buy. They made that much less pleasant than it should have been.
Not Beaulieu. To this day, I have a soft spot for them because of the open and friendly way we were greeted and led through a wine sampling education. It was what a visit to a winery should be – FUN. They helped send me down the road to being the wine geek I am today. I don’t remember the names of the nice folks from that visit, but will fondly remember our tasting with Robert last Friday.
We were greeted at the door with a sample of their 2007 Sauvignon Blanc and then made our way to their tasting bar and through their Maestro Collection and their Napa Valley Cabernets. Here’s a list and quick rating of what we tasted:
- 2006 Maestro Petite Sirah ($32) – 3.5 – 4 stars
- 2005 Maestro Ensemble Red ($27) – 4 stars
- 2006 Maestro Zinfandel ($30) – 4 stars
- (Unsure of the vintage) Tempranillo ($?) – 4 stars
- 2006 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon ($30) – 4 – 4.5 stars
- 2005 Reserve Maestro Cabernet No. 1 ($65) – 4.5 stars
- 2005 Reserve Maestro Cabernet No. 2 ($65) – 4.5 stars (my favourite of this flight)
- 2006 Reserve Maestro Cabernet No. 2 ($65) – 4.5 stars
After tasting these, Robert took us down to the members’ tasting lounge and seated us in front of 4 glasses. Into those he poured:
- 2006 Reserve Carneros Pinot Noir ($45)
Beautiful colour with elegant ripe plum and cherry flavours.
- 2003 Tapestry Reserve ($? – a classic blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec)
Balanced ripe fruit with firm yet silky mineral-laced tannins.
- 2006 Tapestry Reserve ($60)
Bigger and earthier with a toasty edge to the dark cherry, black currant and dark chocolate flavours. Lots of tannin. Very tasty.
- 2006 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($115)
Really good. Lots of complexity. I got licorice, blackberry, black currant and vanilla spice on the nose. The flavours showed all that along with some coffee. The finish lasted minutes and was very firm. It has the structure to last for quite a while and will be best in a few years.
Whitehall Lane Winery:
Next up was our 2pm appointment with Katie. This is a much smaller family operation compared to Beaulieu. It was bought by Tom Leonardini Sr. in 1993 and has seen extensive changes to the winery and the equipment since that time. The winery owns roughly 110 acres of vineyards in the Napa Valley including the Leonardini Vineyard in St. Helena and the Rutherford West Vineyard in, you guessed it, Rutherford.
Katie poured us a sample of their Chardonnay and led us out of the tasting room and into the winery. We watched them bottling their 2009 Sauvignon Blanc and had a quick tour of the member’s lounge and a beautiful view of the surrounding vineyards from its deck. We then headed back to the tasting room to sample their wines. Here’s what we tasted:
- 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley ($16)
Crisp acidity and nice citrus and melon fruit.
3.5 – 4 stars
- 2007 Chardonnay, Carneros ($28)
Again – nice and crisp with pear and citrus with some vanilla from the oak.
3.5 – 4 stars
- 2007 Pinot Noir, Carneros ($28)
Very light with nice red cherry and a bit of citrus and spice.
- 2006 Merlot, Napa Valley ($28)
Black cherry and berry with a floral edge lead to nice vanilla and spice on the finish.
- 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($40)
Nice tannins edge the ripe blackberry and black currant fruit with earth and spice on the finish.
4 – 4.5 stars
- 2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($60)
This is a blend of fruit from both of their Cabernet vineyard sites in the Napa Valley. It really grabbed my taste buds with its ripe fruit and elegant balance. Flavours of black currant, dark cherry and berry led to a spicy vanilla-tinged finish from the oak. It’s still quite young and will be best in a year or so (or more).
- 2006 St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($60)
This was Candace’s favourite wine of the day, with a really nice nose that hinted at the ripe fruit to come. A sip literally explodes in the mouth with jammy back currant and berry fruit, followed by a long and elegant finish with very firm tannins.
- 2006 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($60)
This wine was a very interesting counterpart to the St. Helena Cab. It tasted of the “Rutherford Dust” the area is known for. This also had really elegant fruit and a long spicy finish. I really liked this one.
All in all, I’d have to say that I really liked the Cabs we tasted. As a matter of fact, I liked them enough that I took a few with me when we left.
Cuvaison Estate Wines:
Last July when I was down in Napa and Sonoma for the Wine Blogger’s Conference, a mix-up left Graham, Shea and I standing in Cuvaison’s Calistoga parking lot wondering where the rest of the crew had disappeared to… only to realize that they had been bused down to Cuvaison’s newer Carneros facility. Well, I made a mental note to return to the cozy Calistoga tasting room the next time I was in the area – so with an appointment set up by my friend Paul Watkin of Seacove Wines (who represent Cuvaison in BC), here we were.
After a recent re-vamp, the room was not only cozy, but modern as well. We settled in at one of the tables and Gabe brought around the samples and filled us in on the geographical and winemaking facts for each wine. I was really impressed with what he poured:
- 2007 S Block Chardonnay ($38)
This had really gorgeous fruit – orange peel, melon and pineapple that led to a balanced and crisp finish. Very tasty.
- 2007 ATS Chardonnay ($54)
Wow. There was an explosion of flavour on the finish of this wine – crème brulée, nut, apple and mineral-edged lemon. Initially, a sip gave peach, and citrus flavours, but man… that finish. Very good.
- 2008 Mariafield Pinot Noir ($32)
This Swiss clone gives bright purple cherry and cola flavours, with tonnes of spice and cherry cola on the finish.
4 – 4.5 stars
- 2007 Block F5 Pinot Noir ($45)
I really liked this wine. It was darker in colour than the Mariafield and struck me as having more going on. On the nose, there was blackberry and ripe red cherry. A sip gave me silky tannins that edged the black cherry cola, spice and floral flavours.
- 2007 Zinfandel, Bald Mountain ($35)
This wine surprised me. I know Cuvaison is known for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but they also turn out a tasty Zinfandel. It had nice dark plum and berry on the nose. Flavours of ripe plum, dark berry led out to bramble spice and cracked pepper on the finish.
4 – 4.5 stars
- 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder ($45)
Black pepper and ripe currant on the nose led to black pepper, currant and licorice flavours and a long finish.
4 – 4.5 stars
- 2006 Brandlin Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder ($85)
This really caught me off guard. Its’ delicious! The nose showed purple berry, vanilla and licorice spice. The flavours were big and balanced – ripe dark berry, black currant, licorice and spice on the long, long finish. Wow.
I have to say that this is the way to spend a day in Napa Valley. Make a few appointments and really spend the time going through each winery’s wines. There are a lot of great wineries in the valley, so take some time to check them out.
With the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival nearing, we are seeing more wines from the feature nations (Argentina and New Zealand) arriving. This is a trend that meshes nicely with under $30 challenge with some good value Malbecs and blends arriving. (From what I’ve seen however there is a decided void in any Argentine whites arriving thus far).
Oddly enough, the first wine of this series I tried was this Pinot Noir. I am recognizing that my quest for a value Pinot under $20 is a bit of a Willy Loman pipe dream, but this one is a surprise in the right direction.
Hailing from Patagonia in Southern Argentina, this wine is a full and balanced offering that is really enjoyable. The nose has some nice spice – cloves and peppercorns with green pepper hints and some plum. On the palate is where the surprise really came home. A bright balance of nice tart cranberry balanced well by some plum and a bit of orange zest toward the back had me wanting more. The finish had some nice floral hints with some veggie/rhubarb and some cracked pepper. Nicely balanced and a decent length for the money. All in all, you’ve got a tasty sip with this one.
Given the price and flavor value, it reminded me of the Casa Viva Pinot we had a few years ago during our WSET course that stood up against a Domaine Drouhin that was four times the price. Palate shift and experience might change that now, but that said, this is still darn tasty.
This is nice effort that for $17.99 I will definitely try again. Perhaps also to give a second go around to confirm, but also because I found it to pair really well with mushroom risotto.
I like surprises.
So, we’ve started the under-$30 challenge. I’ve decided that I’m going to embrace the challenge, and begin my search with the heartbreaking Pinot Noir. To be honest, I’m not sure it’s possible given my growing love for the beautiful arts of Burgundy.
That said, we promise to keep an open mind and I will endeavor to explore the breadth of the pinot world.
Tonight I cracked open the Joseph Faiveley 2007 Bourgogne to give it a whirl. A few swirls of the Pinot glass gave me loads of barnyard, and a bit of floral and brine – nice and interesting to start. I let it sit for a while and some tart cranberry and red currant started to show on the nose.
A few sips bring a blend of green stalk veg and tart red fruit. Rhubarb and more red currant on the palate with some really solid acidity. The finish has more veg and some soft violet. As the evening went on, the currant was joined by some tart cranberry, but consistently backed by the consistent tight acidity that characterizes this wine.
This wine would rock with some mushroom risotto or some hard goat cheese given the tight acidic backbone. I liked this wine for it’s rustic nature but didn’t love it. I still believe that finding a solid pinot under $30 will be a challenge, but this one inspires me to keep searching…