Get a headstart on the BC Pinot Noir celebration

Personal preferences are all-important in wines made from this notoriously difficult grape

The 2019 BC Pinot Noir Celebration is happening in Kelowna on Aug. 17. Start your celebrating at home, now!

The real trick is to choose between the huge selection of excellent wines that are available.

Personal preferences are all-important in wines made from this notoriously difficult grape. From gentle pale, subtle rosés to difficult and darkly spicy purple reds that need hours to open up in a decanter, Pinot Noirs are seldom predictable.

Acquired by Ontario-based Andrew Peller Ltd in 2005, Red Rooster Winery is situated on the Naramata Bench, north of Penticton on the east side of Okanagan Lake. In her 12th year with Red Rooster, winemaker Karen Ellis continues to makes easy to appreciate, approachable wines in every vintage.

Red and black cherry notes lead the medley of fruits in Red Rooster Pinot Noir 2016 $19.99. Soft strawberry and cherry flavours linger into wisps of wet, earthy moss and liquorice. Savoury traces of sage and thyme show up in the finish of this medium bodied wine.

Another Naramata winery, Lake Breeze Vineyards has been bought and sold three times since 1994 but South African-born winemaker Garron Elmes has stayed the course through the transitions. Although the wines are full of ripe fruit, there’s a certain delicacy of style that sets them apart.

Lake Breeze 2016 Pinot Noir $25.90 received the prestigious 2018 Lieutenant Governor’s Wine of the Year award. On the lighter side of the Pinot Noir colour spectrum, it is a very pale ruby shade. Supple, dried strawberry flavours slide through sweet plum to finish with a sprinkling of white pepper.

Syncromesh is a small family winery outside of Okanagan Falls run by Alan and Amy Dickinson and Alan’s parents John and Kirsty Dickinson. Although they specialize in a variety of outrageously tasty Rieslings, they also produce limited amounts of Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir.

Only 46 cases of 2017 Storm Haven Vineyard ‘White Label’ Pinot Noir $27.99 were made. Natural, non-interventionist winemaking produced a silky medium bodied red from grapes from a mix of younger and older vines. Fresh spicy, sliced beet aromas set the stage for strawberry and raspberry flavours that slide into earthy root vegetables in the finish.

The government-funded Duncan Project in the mid 1980s recommended Pinot Gris, Auxerrois and Ortega as the most promising wine grape varieties for Vancouver Island’s cool, moist vineyards. Some precocious grape growers and winemakers noted the warming trends of climate change and planted Pinot Noir.

From vines planted more than 20 years ago on their Cowichan Valley estate Blue Grouse Pinot Noir 2016 $32.00 is a blend of 85 per cent Pinot Noir and 15 per cent Gamay Noir. Bright cherry, boysenberry and plum aromas are mirrored in the silky, cedary flavours that finish with a sprinkling of earthy pepper and a wisp of fresh ground coffee beans.

Joie Farm Winery has been making ‘european-inspired’ wines on the Naramata Bench since 2004. French oak barrels from Allier and Vosges are gently toasted to provide subtle notes of coffee and smoky bacon to their deliberately Burgundian-styled reds.

There’s a vibrant purity to Joie Farm 2016 “En Famille” Reserve Pinot Noir $34.70 that sets it apart from most local examples of this “Heartbreak Grape”. Years before it evolves into the elegance it promises, black cherry and black raspberry flavours ride a savoury wave of undernotes – tomato leaf, cumin and clove, bacon and dry dutch black liquorice – it is already remarkably complex.

A virtual winery run by consulting winemaker Bradley Cooper and his wife Audralee Daum, Black Cloud Winery only produces Pinot Noir from Okanagan Valley grapes. Currently Production Winemaker at Therapy Vineyards as well as a partner in Daum Cooper Winery Services, Cooper’s ‘Red Sky’ is a rosé. Fleuvage, Altostratus and Cumulus Nimbus are the three levels of red wines Black Cloud produces from Pinot Noir.

Needing a couple of years in the cellar or an hour or two in a decanter, no delicate red by any means, Black Cloud Altostratus 2015 $35.00 is almost impenetrably rich and complex. Uncompromisingly spicy young tannins nearly mask the dried strawberry, deep black cherry and blackberry fruit. A medley of tree-bark and savoury rootsy vegetal aromas and flavours lurk under the dusky fruit.

Devout fans of BC Pinot Noir should check for details of the 2019 BC Pinot Noir Celebration that will take place in Kelowna, August 17, 3pm-10:30pm and feature 35 wineries.

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