A Tasting of the World’s Best Pinot Noirs?

Case 4A
Vintages in Wood


Decanter World Wine Awards in London

World’s Best? Really? Well yes, mostly so, but it depends on whose calling it the “best” doesn’t it?  In this case, it is in fact the prestigious English publication Decanter magazine’s World Wine Awards. There is one “but” in all this however.  Let me explain…

Mission Hill Family Estate Winery recently won the Decanter World Wine Awards International Trophy for the Best in Show Pinot Noir under £15 for their Martin’s Lane Pinot Noir 2011.

This is Canada’s first International Trophy at the DWWA and a truly spectacular achievement.  The Decanter World Wine Awards, are one of the world’s leading international wine competitions.  In fact, the headline in the October 8, 2013 edition of the Vancouver Sun and other publications around the world was “Mission Hill wins world’s best pinot noir award”.


Awarded by the architect of “The Judgement of Paris”

It was especially poignant and appropriate that the award was handed out by Stephen Spurrier, the man who stunned the wine world back in 1976 with the fabled France vs. America “Judgement of Paris” tasting of Bordeaux and Bordeaux blends in which the American wines triumphed over the top first growths from Bordeaux.  Now it’s the turn of B.C. pinot noirs to make the world take notice.

B.C. pinot noir has been getting better and better, faster and faster and a growing number of B.C. Pinots at the sub-thirty dollar price point can compete very favourably with pinot noirs from anywhere in the world – anywhere.


Theroretically tasting its equals – and betters…

But back to the tasting, a clever one held on Thursday at SIP Wines VQA store in Richmond.  The winning Martin’s Lane wine had quickly sold out but Simon the owner did a little research and found out that there were five wines currently available in the VQA system, all under $25.00 (£15) that had scored the same or higher as the Martin’s Lane at the most recent Wine Align National Wine Awards of Canada (including another Mission Hill pinot noir). This certainly invites a discussion regarding tasting context, judging panels, tasting protocols and more but we will save it for another time.

Sooooo….  you could reasonably infer that these five wines are also amongst the greatest pinot noirs in the world at that price point. OK, so two competitions bridged by one outstanding wine but given all that, they were still definitely pinot noirs worth seeking out and so I did.  Here is what I found on the day.

My notes on the wines:


Quails’ Gate Pinot Noir Estate 2011

Eye –  Ruby/cherry rim, light depth
Nose – Rose petals, candied cherry
Palate/Conclusions – Some cherry/strawberry notes, candied fruit, bit of alcohol heat.
A little disappointing for a Quail’s Gate regular bottling.  This wine is usually very consistent and has been excellent in previous vintages, particularly the 2006.  The wine was bottled December 2012 and may still be settling down.  2011 is proving to be a difficult year all around for reds thus far.  That said, 2010 seemed at first to be a difficult year for reds also but they really seem to be coming into their own now.
Available from VQA stores, selected private stores and the winery.
7000 cases made.

Quality Rating – C
Value Rating – C-


CedarCreek Pinot Noir 2010

Eye – light, cherry rim
Nose – Simple beetroot, cherry notes
Palate/Comments – mid-weight, cherry, strawberry, some good minerality adds complexity, balanced acidity and good structure, long aftertaste.
Available from VQA stores, selected private stores and the winery.
2000 cases made.

Quality Rating – B-
Value Rating B-


Meyer Okanagan Valley Pinot Noir 2011

Eye –  Light, garnet on rim & throughout
Nose – Pomegranate, barnyard, nutmeg
Palate/Comments – Flavours start and remain mostly mid-palate. Pomegranate, earthy, black fruits, fairly short finish. More weight than the colour would suggest and coming from fruit not wood it would seem.  A little different style for Okanagan pinot noir, of a piece with Meyer single vineyards though not as ultra elegant.  Will be interesting to see how it develops.  Sourced from vineyards in Okanagan Falls, Kelowna and Oliver.
Available from VQA stores, selected private stores and the winery.
930 cases made.

Quality Rating C+
Value Rating C+


Mission Hill Reserve Pinot Noir 2011

Eye – light body, cherry/ruby rim
Nose – Cranberry, Pomegranate, caramel, eucalyptus, wood
Palate/Comments – Pomegranate, savoury caramel, red fruits. Pretty straight forward pinot. Flavours seem to be coming 2/3 from wood “barrel effects” and 1/3 from fruit.  Not sure the fruit will outlive the wood.
Available from VQA stores, selected private stores and the winery.

Quality Rating C
Value Rating C 


Joie Farm Pinot Noir 2011

Eye – Light, pink/cherry rim
Nose – Not immediately prominent but there – silky rose/strawberry fruit on the nose, very pretty
Palate/Comments -Soft, easy, slightly low acidity with drifting pomegranate/strawberry flavours. Focused fruit.  Very long aftertaste. Overall a lovely combination of clarity and soft pinot noir fruit. Probably not one to keep a very long time but drinking beautifully now and will certainly be good over the next few years. Excellent effort.

Notes from Joie’s spec sheet for the wine say that the grapes for this wine were sourced from the Cellars Bend Vineyard on the  Naramata Bench , the  Hollenbach Family Vineyard in Skaha and the Albrecht Family Vineyard on the Naramata Bench.

The Hollenbach Vineyard grapes were found (2009 and previous) all or in part in Church and State’s (excellent) single vineyard pinot noir designation of the same name.
Available from VQA stores, selected private stores and the winery.
488 cases made.

Quality Rating B
Value Rating B 


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