An International Pinot Noir Tasting held at Orofino
Last week a group of Similkameen winemakers got together to taste some wine here in our kitchen at Orofino. Well, that doesn’t sound so extraordinary does it. Winemakers tasting wine. However, this tasting had a defined purpose. Money was pooled and top examples of Pinot Noir from around the world were purchased. Added to that was a number of Similkameen Pinots and a few Okanagan Pinots gathered from our cellars.
The goal of the tasting was to gain understanding of how Pinot Noir expresses itself in different regions and to consider where Similkameen Valley Pinot Noirs fit.
First flight was from the Southern hemisphere. The Tolpuddle Pinot from Tasmania blew us away with amazing aromatics and supple mouthfeel. A real fresh and highly gulpable wine. The Central Otago grown Felton Road was a fave of many that evening. It hit all the points for a top flight Pinot. Fruity, floral,earthy, complex and rich yet delicate. It rightly deserves all of the critical acclaim it gets.
From there we tasted Burgundy which offered up more masculine, earthy, dirty and all so lovely properties of high end Pinot. Pacalet’s natural wine was included and offered up a lot of discussion. “odd”, oxidized” “rough”, “intriguing”, “dynamic” were some of the descriptors. Loved and despised, it was the most talked about wine of the night. Personally I loved the aromatics but the harsh short tannins made it take a back seat to pretty much all others tasted that night. And I like natural wines…
We hopped across the ocean to taste 2 Cali Pinots and 2 Oregon Pinots. Big differences between the 2 regions. The 2 Californian wines (the 2 most expensive of the night) were thought of as too big, too much oak and, well, just too much. Maybe came across as overly loud and indelicate (Californian). The Oregon wines both showed very well and were fave wines by some in the room. Earthy, floral and full of “pinocity”. Its what good Pinot should be like.
4 Similkameen wines were poured next. It was a very interesting component as we could compare it to the international wines but also between just the Similkameen Pinots. More discussion for sure happened regarding the streaks of similarities between the 4 local Pinots than regarding a comparison with the international wines. All 4 Similkameen wines showed similar spicy notes and a complexity that could be described as dusty and dark with fine tannins. All showed very well and we sighed a bit of relief to know that we can indeed produce Pinots we should be proud of. We finished with three top Pinots from the Okanagan Valley. All 3 were delicious and the 2010 Blue Mountain was a standout for its bright fruit and tension carried throughout. Virginia and I both loved this wine. Take note. The cooler vintage of 2010 showed very well. One thing the Okanagan wines did not show was that same spicy notes found in the Similkameen valley Pinot Noirs. That was a much discussed point and something taken out of this learning experience.
This tasting really showed the diverse expressions Pinot takes from various regions, soils, clones and other variables. While we obviously could have delved deeper into one region, or perhaps chosen one producer to purchase over another, we were able to get a good idea of wines from the various region. My conclusions were that 1) Pinot is best when the grape is left to shine 2) BC Pinot Noir is delicious 3) Similkameen Valley Pinot Noir is worth talking about. I look forward to the next Similkameen Winemakers tasting.