Tasting B.C. Pinot Noir 2011s Plus One From Oregon #29

Wines from Naramata, Summerland, Kaleden, Oregon & Kelowna

2011 was a very cool vintage in the Okanagan with a wet Spring delaying bud break and flowering but it was compensated for by a warm September and October. Overall, pinot noirs in B.C. from this year tended to be lower in alcohol, a little less concentrated and crisper in acidity. Though generally regarded as a lesser vintage, some 2011 pinot noirs demonstrate a splendid balance.

Name of Wine Price Quality
#1 Ayres Perspective Pinot Noir 2011 Oregon$35.00B- to B ~ 91
#2 Gold Hill Pinot Noir I 2011 $25.00 C ~ 86
#3 Therapy Pinot Noir 2011 $20.00 D+ ~ 82
#4 Summerhill Pinot Noir 2011 $27.00 C- ~ 84
#5 Giant Head Jinny Lee Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011 Non-Commercial Sample C+ ~ 88
#6 Foxtrot Henricsson Vyd. Pinot Noir 2011$55.00 B to B+ ~ 93
#7 Privato Pinot Noir 2011$45.00 B+ ~ 94

#1 Ayres Vineyard & Winery Perspective Pinot Noir 2011 – Oregon

Overall Quality Rating: B- to B ~ 91
Price: $35.00

Pinot Noir Ayres Perspective 2011

LC: Garnet/red. BG: Pale, ruby rim. EU: Garnet. Jacquelin G: Clear, medium garnet core with pink rim.

LC: Over ripe strawberry, plum, mint, notes of vanilla. BG: Rhubarb, cherry, vanilla, some caramel, very appealing, complex lingering around red fruit aromas/caramel. EU: Red fruits, caramel, light earth, raisin, Nice. Jacquelin G: Dried cherries, wet forest floor, yum. beets, (earthy).

LC: Light body but fairly long finish. Strawberry, hints of spice but not overly complicated well-balanced. BG: Fruit a little thin, pomegranate, rhubarb, long but mostly some acidity, then some cherry and some earthiness. EU: Cherry, vanilla fruit candies, great food wine. Well-balanced, good acidity and tannins, pepper. Jacquelin G: Great, refreshing bit of acidity with good fruit. Cherries and cranberries, lingering finish dominated by acidity, great food wine.

Ayres Vineyard & Winery was purchased in September 2000 by business partners and family members, Brad McLeroy & Kathleen McClure-McLeroy and Don & Carol McClure. The existing filbert orchard was cleared and the first 3 acres of vines (Pinot Noir clone 667) were planted in March 2001. Currently the vineyard is planted to 6 acres of Pinot Noir clone 667, 3 acres of Pinot Noir clone 115, 4 acres of Pinot Noir clone 777, 1 acre of Pinot Noir clone 113, and 4 acres of Pommard.

Ayres Vineyard Perspective Pinot NoirCurrent Vintage & Availability

#2 Gold Hill Pinot Noir I 2011 13.2%

Overall Quality Rating: C ~ 86
Price: $25.00

B.C. Pinot Noir Gold Hill I 2011

LC: Garnet/brick. BG: Very pale, ripe cherry rim. EU: Light garnet. Jacquelin G: Bright and clear, medium bricky core, light orange rim.

LC: Caramel, coconut curry, strawberry, beet. BG: Cranberry, wet basement, some pomegranate, caramel/vanilla too, some blueberry. EU: Chemical? floral, blueberry, alcohol but left quickly and developed caramel with time. Jacquelin G: Hint of barnyard, vanilla, hint of cherries, roasted beets.

LC: Longish finish on top palate, fruit quite soft. Fairly acidic and tannic. Improved immensely over time. BG: Smooth mouth feel, cranberry/pomegranate, green fruit, bit hot? Long, candied cherry,. Fruit is a little thin and savoury. EU: Stewed dark cherry, vanilla, oak. Raisin, dried cranberry, sweet fruit, high alcohol and noticeably not balanced. Jacquelin G: Acidity dominates everything.

Gold Hill Winery was founded by Sant and Gurbachan Gill in 2009 and the winery opened in 2011. They farm 65 acres of vines in the Golden Mile Sub GI in and around Oliver and produce wines from most of the major varieties including: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec, Merlot, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Viognier. For their pinot noir however, (produced it seems only in the 2011 and 2012 vintages) the grapes came from the more Northerly area of Kaleden on the West side of Skaha Lake, close to Pentiction. The consulting winemaker here is Phillip Soo formerly a winemaker with Andrew Peller.

The overall wine style at Gold Hill for the reds, is definitely big, fully ripened and on the higher side for alcohol, a profile that is typical of the South Okanagan location of the vineyards. This 2011 wine was a restrained 13.2% but also contained 25% merlot, an allowable but unusual varietal addition for B.C. pinot noirs.
Closure – cork

2011 Pinot Noir I Bronze Wine Align National Wine Awards Of Canada 2013
2011 Pinot Noir I Silver Wine Align National Wine Awards Of Canada 2014

#3 Therapy Pinot Noir 2011 11.7%

Overall Quality Rating: D+ ~ 82
Price: $20.00

B.C. Pinot Noir Therapy 2011
Therapy Pinot Noir 2011

LC: Ruby. BG: Pale, bright cherry rim. EU: Magenta. Jacquelin G: Bright and clear, medium dark purple core and light purple rim.

LC: Initially very closed – dark or fruits but a bit muddy? Blueberry, hints of black pepper or? Develop smokiness dried leaf towards the end. BG: Cherry Intensity medium. Simple with a touch of bubblegum. EU: Kirsch, cranberry sauce, black cherry, baking spice but it quickly dissipated. Jacquelin G: Plummy, overripe fruit, perhaps even slightly oxidized. Dark cherries.

LC: Acidic, simple, blueberry/medium finish though had a little blip at the end of some cranberry pomegranate as well. BG: Strange, flat, acidity, some very ripe cherry. bubblegum. Almost gamay like, slight cherry cough drop on finish. Peculiar pinot. EU: Distinct acidity and dry tannins Dominic. Light plum blueberry and finish. Aroma very nice but with disjointed flavors. Jacquelin G: Lots of tannins – ripe fruit too much. Hint of sour cherries, but tannins dominates palate and the medium finish.

Therapy Vineyards was created in 2004 by a group of wine enamoured investors. It is located on the site of the original property occupied by Red Rooster Winery after that winery moved to a different location on the Naramata Bench. Therapy Vineyards as it was rechristened opened in 2005. After some initial shuffling of ownership and winemakers, Steve Latchford, who is a graduate of Niagara College’s program for Winemaking and Viticulture and also apprenticed with Thomas Bachelder, was responsible for the production of Therapy’s wines from 2008 to 2018. Jacqueline Kemp the former winemaker at Moraine has now taken over that role.

Therapy’s estate pinot noir vines consist of a a one-hectare (2.4 acre) planted in 2006 and it appears that this wine came solely from that vineyard.

The making of this wine saw five days of cold soak, a ferment lasting several weeks and a fairly aggressive program of pump overs and punchdowns. The wine was aged in French barriques.

Closure – Stelvin
Therapy Pinot NoirCurrent Vintage & Availability

#4 Summerhill Pinot Noir 2011 12.3%

Overall Quality Rating: C- ~ 84
Price $27.00

B.C. Pinot Noir Summerhill 2011

LC: Bricky garnet. BG: Pale, slightly garnet rim. EU: Brownish garnet. Jacquelin G: Bright and clear, medium bricky core, light orange rim.

LC: Cinnamon, cherry, vanilla, as it opened dried leaves. BG: Plum, leather, clean fresh strawberry. Savoury, French, tar, cardboard. EU: Sandalwood/rosewood start but died quickly, a little anise and sweet spice with time there were dried leaves. Jacquelin G: Initially closed, very faint notes of forest floor, earthy.

LC: Acidic, doesn’t seem to deliver what was promised on the nose, simple subtle fruit – underripe blueberry, tar. BG: Fruit fairly dried out, savoury, taste like very dry savoury Italian red. EU: Balanced acidity and tannins, light cherry, red fruit, sweet vanilla oak. Simple and clean. Jacquelin G: Well-balanced with slightly high acidity, but lacking fruit on the palate, simple clean wine, medium finish.

“Unusual” is the likely the first word that springs to mind when first encountering Summerhill Pyramid Winery. It was founded in 1991 near the beginning of the modern era in the B.C. wine industry. Stephen Cipes was a successful real estate developer from New York who arrived in B.C. in 1986 and purchased a 64-acre vineyard near Kelowna. His timing was fortuitous as a few years later in 1988, the B.C. government, in advance of the upcoming free trade agreement with the United States financed a one time vine pullout with the goal of establishing vineyards based on vinifera vines.

From the beginning Cipes intended on focusing on the production of organic sparkling wine and his timing was fortunate again as he was able to participate in a sparkling wine trial in 1990 and 1991 by by the pre-eminent California sparkling wine producer Schramsberg Vineyards.

Far in advance of trends at that time, Cipes drove unceasingly towards making his wines as natural and organic as possible. He was also very successful in encouraging growers who supplied him with grapes to move towards organic growing practices. In 2008 the winery achieved organic certification for its production methods and in July 2012 it also received Demeter Biodynamic Certification, the first in Canada to do so.

Stephen Cipes also bring an open spiritual dimension to the winery and all its endeavours. Their web site describes in detail “seven principles inform the way we make wine, our business practices, and the way we interact with the world.”. Summerhill’s wines are aged under a four storey model of the great pyramid, a practice which they believe enhances the flavours of the wines.

As for pinot noir, Summerhill’s reputation rests very much on its sparkling wine program which has on occasion been judged as the equal to some of the best in the world. At times the intense focus on sparkling as well as white wines has meant that the red wines including pinot noir didn’t seem to be getting enough attention.

More recently Summerhill has sought a fresher fruit profile for reds, using larger fermenters. They have also now also produced a single vineyard pinot noir using fruit from the Oliver area.

This wine was oak barrel aged for 18 months.

Summerhill Pyramid Winery Pinot NoirCurrent Vintage & Availability
Closure – cork

#5 Giant Head Pinot Noir Jinny Lee Vineyard 2011

Overall Quality Rating: C+ ~ 88
Price: Non-Commercial Sample

LC: Ruby. BG: Pale, cherry rim. EU: Dark magenta. Jacquelin G: Bright and clear, dark purple core and light purple rim.

LC: Wax crayon initially, warm spices, dark cherry hint of anise. BG: Cherry, berries, medium minus intensity, floral, cherry, violet, vanilla. EU: lime zest, orange zest light tar, smoke, dried cherries, wax crayon. Jacquelin G: Coffee, plums, cherries, hint of earthiness suggesting pinot noir.

LC: Tannic, acidic quite big initially sweet but dark fruits cranberry. Could be interesting. BG: Lean fruit, cherries, floral, vanilla, good acidity, bit of tannic grip. Finish medium plus, cherry. Finishes slightly bitter cherry. Would hold for a few years. EU: Distinct tannins lingered into the finish but good acidity. Sweet vanilla dominates with some cherry in the finish. Jacquelin G: Lots of dark red fruits – cherries, plums, earthy! Well-balanced with abundance of ripe tannins – could use of a couple of years in cellar. Medium plus finish with lingering fruit.

It’s truly surprising just how often the inspiration to found a winery dedicated in whole or in part to pinot noir can actually be traced back to a Great Bottle, the Epiphany Bottle, (often a Burgundy) that captivates, entrances and leads on. In the case of John Glavina and Jinny Lee the owners of Giant Head winery it was apparently a Gevrey-Chambertin Le Clos St. Jacques tasted on a holiday to France in 1998 that set in motion the wish to have their own vineyard. Subsequent tours of Willamette Valley wineries over the years, deepened their appreciation of wine and pinot noir in particular.

In 2004 they purchased an apple orchard on a bench in the skirts of 500 meter tall Giant Head Mountain, a prominent feature of the complex geography of Summerland. Four acres of pinot noir, merlot, riesling and gewürztraminer self-rooted vines drawn from Okanagan vineyards were planted in 2006.

John with a degree in computer science and technical background focuses on the winemakeing and Jinny, an electrical engineer by training, farms and manages the vineyard.

With a firm committment to using all estate fruit in their wines, they waited for the vines to come in production in 2008. From then until their first commercially released vintage in 2014 they sold some grapes and made some wines just for their own use. The 2011 tasted here was a non-commercial wine from their personal stock that they kindly shared. The winery opened in 2015.

Their 2015 pinot noir won a bronze medal at the NorthWest Wine Summit in 2017.
Closure: Cork

Giant Head Pinot NoirCurrent Vintage & Availability

#6 Foxtrot Henricsson Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011 13.6%

Overall Quality Rating: B to B+ ~ 93
Price: $55.00

B.C. Pinot Noir Foxtrot Henricsson 2011

LC: Garnet. BG: Pale, ripe cherry rim. EU: Red garnet. Jacquelin G: Bright and clear, bricky core, light bricky/orange rim.

LC: Dried rose petal, earthy, warm spices (allspice?) Red fruit. BG: Rich pomegranate, plum, barnyard, floral. Lovely, some aromatic oak, sweet spices, cinnamon/nutmeg. EU: Red fruits, cedar, light toasted oak, floral tropical jasmine and rose. Vanilla, heady and complex. Jacquelin G: Warm baking spices, plums, roast beets, caramel.

LC: Sweet flavors, violets, pomegranate, long finish, fairly acidic, solid tannins. Wants food seems a little youngish. BG: As on nose, rich pomegranate/pomegranate molasses, medium intensity, sweet spices, medium plus finish,. Intensity maintains throughout flavor sequence. Classy, balanced, very long echoing plum, nutmeg/cinnamon. EU: Complex sweet spices, pepper, strawberry, cherry, vanilla, cedar. Full mid-palate, well-balanced body from start to finish. Medium plus intensity good acidity. Jacquelin G: Medium plus body, well-balanced, lots of plum and sour cherries warm baking spices on the palate. A long fruity/spicy finish. Drinking well now and could hold for a couple of years.

The grapes for this wine were sourced from the one and a half acre vineyard known originally as the Erickson vineyard. However, it was purchased in 2013 by Peter Henricsson and the name changed to reflect the new ownership. This wine would have been in barrel at the time of that purchase. Foxtrot had previously released an Erickson Vineyard designated wine from 2008 to 2010. Henricsson later expanded the repertoire of pinot noir clones in the vineyard, converting pinot gris and merlot over to pinot noir but for this vintage the grapes came solely from what are known as the “Old Block” vines that were planted in 1990. The type of clone in the Old Block is unknown but may be a German clone.

The grapes were cropped at 2 metric tons and harvested November 1. A mix of destemmed and whole cluster grapes were cold soaked for 5 days. They were then put into a mix of new and one year old French barrels for 18 months. It won a bronze medal at the International Wine and Spirit Competition in 2014.
Closure – cork

Foxtrot Vineyard Pinot NoirCurrent Vintage & Availability

#7 Privato Pinot Noir 2011 14.3%

Overall Quality Rating: B+ ~ 94
Price: $30.00

B.C. Pinot Noir Privato 2011

LC: Garnet. BG: Pale, garnet. EU: Red garnet, dark. Jacquelin G: Bright and clear, medium bricky core, light orange rim.

LC: Earthy, floral, strawberry. Fairly classic pinot nose some hints of waxiness. BG: Tea/cherry, savoury/exotic. Penetrating, blueberry, coffee. EU: Strawberry, lychee, forest floor, light tar. Jacquelin G: Wet warm leaves, plums and roasted beets, caramel.

LC: Acidic but very pleasing, sweet, solid tannins. Longish finish. Elegant feminine, could cellar. BG: Rounded flavors, silky texture. Oranges/tea, focused fruit, great poise and should develop further. EU: Vanilla, sweet red fruits, cherry, earth. Balanced wine (acid, tannin, alcohol). Jacquelin G: Savoury meaty palate generous ripe tannins/slight bitterness, good acidity, long fruity finish. Drinking well now and could hold.

There are many remarkable stories in British Columbia about pinot noir and its makers. The account of Privato Vineyard and Winery is definitely one of them. John and Debbie Woodward founded Privato in 2010. At the time they grew Christmas trees on their 80 acre parcel of land North of the city of Kamloops on a green and benevolent bend in the North Thompson river in what is otherwise a region composed largely of desiccated hills. Wine and water as always, seem to go together.

A trip to Italy that included touring some family wineries made them feel they could create their own vineyard back home. John was a forester and had previously been a wine kit winemaker. So they planted an initial three acres of pinot noir, chardonnay and Marechal Foch and launched their dream.

In order to being they sought some of the best pinot noir winemakng advice available in the person of Gustav Allender, the winemaker of Foxtrot Vineyards in Naramata. Allender had helped establish a reputation for making outstanding pinot noirs at Foxtrot. The Woodwards began working with by making two barrels (about 50 cases) of the 2010 vintage and released a inaugural commercial vintage in 2011 that we were fortunate enough to taste here.

Inaugural vintages are often superceded in quality by the wines that follow on over the years. The later wines typically benefit from the accumulation of grape growing skills along with winemaking experience and an ever focusing vision but first vintages can serve as an interesting benchmark.

Going forward, an expanding and changing lineup of pinot noirs were released by Privato that included single vineyard, reserve and grand reserve wines sourced from a selection of vineyards from around B.C.. Almost immediately, they began winning gold medals at both Canadian national competitions. This was capped last year when for the first time ever, a winery won double gold medal in each of the three pinot noir categories in the 2019 All Canadian Wine Awards. One of the double golds went to the first pinot noir with grapes sourced from their own estate vineyard in Kamloops. This is very cool climate pinot noir as their vineyard is North of the 50th parallel.

This milestone adds to the growing reputation of the Thompson Valley wine region that officially became the Thompson Valley GI in July 2018. GI stands for Geographical Indications a designation in British Columbia’s version of an appellation system.

The 2011 Privato Collection pinot noir was made with Dijon clones 115 and 777 and spent 18 months in Francois Frères barrels of which sixty percent were second fill and forty percent were new. After this the wine rested for one year before being released. 360 cases produced.
Closure – cork

Privato Pinot NoirCurrent Vintage & Availability

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