If I was to ask you to name a Pinot Noir producing region, what comes to mind first? For most Pinot Noir fans, the most likely answer is Burgundy. And why not, its wines are considered to be among the world’s best, which however also puts them as some of the world’s most expensive wine.
Finding an inexpensive but good quality Pinot Noir from Burgundy can be quite the challenge. However, luckily for fans of the heartbreak grape, there are a number of other regions producing good quality inexpensive Pinot Noirs.
One of those regions just happens to be the Willamette Valley in Oregon and like Burgundy, the valley is almost exclusively known for its Pinot Noir production. According to the 2015 Oregon Vineyard and Winey Census report, the valley accounts for 82% of the Pinot Noir production within Oregon, with 14,417 acres planted. The next closest grape in terms of planting was Pinot Gris at 2,463 acres.
However, there are noticeable differences between the two regions, most notably is the fact that Pinot Noirs from the Willamette valley tend to be somewhat more fruit forward than their Burgundy counterparts. This is most likely due to the different soil conditions between the two regions and the differences in climate.
Now when I mentioned other regions making inexpensive Pinot Noirs, I didn’t mean to indicate that wines coming out the Willamette Valley are necessarily cheap, because they are not. A good quality Oregon Pinot Noir is most likely going to run you $35 – $50, which may seem steep to a lot of folks. However, when compared to a Grand Cru Burgundy, which can start at $50 you can see where an Oregon Pinot Noir might be considered quite the value.
Given what I know about Oregon Pinot Noir, I tend to be skeptical when I see them for less than $25/bottle. So when I first tasted the 2014 Underwood Pinot Noir, I was quite impressed by the character shown in this wine, especially at a $20 price point.
Right off the bat, I picked some intense notes of cherry and raspberry on the nose, along with a slight floral note in the background. In comparison to other Pinot Noirs, I found the aromas for this wine to be quite a bit more pronounced and up front. In the glass, the wine showed a clear, pale, ruby color.
I found this to have a slightly more structured body than a lot of other Pinot Noirs, there seemed to be a slightly more tannic presence along with a finish that just seemed to linger longer than usual. There was also delightful acidity to the wine that helped to give it that slight boost in the body.
On the palate flavors of black cherry and cranberry coupled with vegetable notes. Interesting note on the flavor of the wine, while writing up my tasting notes, I happened to read the back of the wine label that highlighted “cola” as one of the predominate notes of this wine. As soon as I read cola, that was all I could taste and think of.
I was very pleasantly surprised by this wine, it showed much more complexity than I was expecting especially at its $20 price point. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised after reading up on the history of the winery. According to the wineries website, the winemaker Ryan Harms, set out to make a Pinot Noir that was accessible but not expensive.
A good indication of this desire is shown in the wineries newest offering, their Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Rose, and sparkling wine in a can. I’ve yet to try the Pinot Noir in a can but the word from friends and associates is that it’s pretty good and shows very similar to the Pinot in the bottle.
At the end of the day I can confidently say that if your hunting for a good quality value Pinot Noir, I don’t think you can go wrong with the Underwood Pinot Noir.
I’ve fallen into a tendency lately to focus on only a few select wine regions when it comes to tasting, buying or drinking wine. When reviewing my tasting notes from the last couple of months I noticed this trend. A quick peek in the cellar confirmed my suspicion.
Perhaps calling it a problem is not accurate, but it is a concern. If you limit yourself to wine from only certain areas, you run the risk of missing out on some potentially great wine being produced elsewhere.
A perfect example of this is the 2012 Old Vine Grenache from Yangarra Estate Vineyard from the McLaren Vale region of South Australia. I don’t tend to drink a lot of wine from Australia not because it’s not good, but just because it’s not a region I tend to think of.
So when I got the chance to sample some of this wine a while back I jumped at the opportunity. This was possible a chance to add a new wine and a new region to my repertoire. I was impressed enough with I had tasted to pick up a bottle to bring home with me.
Yangarra Estate Vineyard.
The winery is in the McLaren Vale region which is located on the southern tip of South Australia near the city of Adelaide. It sits on the eastern side of the Gulf St. Vincent and tends to benefit from a Mediterranean style climate with abundant sunshine and cool evening breezes.
The first vines were planted in the vineyard in 1946 and originally the grapes grown were used by local winemakers to beef up local wines from surrounding wineries.
In 2000 the vineyard was purchased by Jess Jackson and Barbara Banke (Jackson Family Wines proprietors) and they began the process of developing the vineyard into what it is today.
The vineyard encompasses 100 hectares and is divided into 35 individual blocks. Currently, plantings include Grenache, Shiraz, Mataro, and Carignan, and white grapes such as Roussanne and Viognier.
The Old Vine Grenache vines are located along the western side of the vineyard, in sandy soil with a layer of clay underneath. The sandy top soil acts as a reflector for the daytime heat but also releases heat captured during the day in the evening.
The vines are freestanding, with no support system or wires, allowing the fruit to spread out evenly and to allow greater airflow.
In keeping with a desire for quality, the grapes are handpicked and received via a belt elevator. They are then destemmed and sorted, the tubs of whole berries are tipped into open fermenters in an effort to avoid maceration.
The grapes are cold soaked for up to 6 days and allowed to undergo wild fermentation. Finally, the wine is put into old French barrels for 12 months prior to blending.
2012 Old Vine Grenache
Right off the bat, the first thing you notice is the color of this wine, a deep burgundy color with just a slight ruby rim. Upon the first pour, you notice right away aromas of cherry which slowly give way to notes of plum and bay leaf. After the wine had a chance to breathe the cherry notes started to change to almost a black cherry like aromas. Also, the bay leaf faded to the background and was replaced by a slight leathery note.
Taking the first sip, I noticed right away a significant acidity to the wine, it had quite a mouth puckering effect with a somewhat tannic almost harsh finish. I let the wine sit for about 15 mins before I tried it again and that had a significant effect on it. That initial acidity was replaced with a smoother almost velvety feel in the mouth and was able to pick up some flavors of white pepper, blackberry and plum.
The longer the wine sat the better it got, that original harshness faded and the flavors and aroma really started to open up. This is definitely a wine that will benefit from a good long decanting, allow it to breathe and mellow before serving.
All in all, this was a good wine and I quite enjoyed it. It might even get me to take a peek down that Australia aisle once in a while.
The last 4 weeks feel like they have been a complete whirlwind and I’m only now catching my breath. I should have had this post done weeks ago but I’m only now sitting down to finish it. The last day of our absolutely fantastic trip to the Okanagan Valley.
But now it was the last day and we had one more region left to explore the Golden Mile. Interestingly enough even though the areas we had been visiting on this trip are referred to as wine regions, none of them are officially recognized as such.
The Black Sage bench, the Naramata bench, Okanagan Falls, and even Kelowna are considered sub-regions, but officially they are grouped together as part of the Okanagan Valley. There is only one officially recognized sub-region within the valley, and that is the Golden Mile.
In 2015 this sub-region that runs between Oliver south towards Osoyoos, was officially awarded designation as a sub-Geographical Indication. This means that the soil conditions and climate of wineries located in this area are considered to be unique from other grape growing areas in the area.
What this also means is that wineries located within this sub-GI can highlight this on their labeling. While wineries not located on the Golden Mile, have to list their geographical location as the Okanagan Valley.
I say we had plans to explore the Golden Mile but the truth is that we only had plans to visit one winery on the mile, that being Tinhorn Creek. But, before that we had one stop to make and that was Covert Farms.
We came across Covert Farms when we were looking at things to do in and around Oliver. What caught our attention was the farm tour they offered, and the opportunity to be driven around in a 1952 Mercury 1 ton truck. They took you around the farm, gave you a chance to get up close and personal with their livestock, took you out among their 64 acres of vines, gave you the chance to pick some fruit, and the kicker was a personalized wine tasting & charcuterie plate at the end. How could we resist?
Our tour host was the farms resident chef, Cambell Kearns, whose passion for and knowledge of the farm was clearly evident. We started our tour by heading over to see the farm’s livestock. Normally, you have the opportunity to feed the cows. However, for our tour the farm had just welcomed a couple of new calves, and unfortunately the female cows were somewhat overprotective of strangers in the paddock.
From there we piled into the 1952 Mercury pickup and headed out to the vineyard. The farm has 64 acres of vines planted, and half of that is farmed out to Jackson Triggs. The other half is used to make their own estate wines. They produce a number of red blends, a rose, a sparkling Zinfandel, a white blend, a Pinot Blanc, a Roussanne & Viognier blend, and a Semillon & Sauvignon Blanc blend.
Covert Farms prides itself on its organic farming and that carries over to its grapes. Walking out among the vines, we got the chance to see and understand how the farm deals with insects and weeds.
Once we finished up out among the vines, we headed over to the orchard. As part of the tour we got the chance to pick either blueberry’s, strawberry’s or peaches. I jumped at the chance to pick fresh peaches right from the tree. It didn’t take long to fill our small buckets, and we may or may not have eaten a couple of peaches while doing so.
We wrapped up our tour by sitting down to a carefully handcrafted charcuterie board and a tasting of the farm’s wines. I was quite impressed with all of the wines we got to try, but the two standouts were the 2014 Rose & the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc & Semillion blend.
The 2014 Rose was incredibly fruit forward with strong notes of strawberry and raspberry and a wonderfully refreshing acidity. This would be a wine easily enjoyed on its own but versatile enough to easily pair with food. The other standout was the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc & Semillion blend. Also showing a refreshing acidity, but with freshly cut grass, lemon, & papaya aromas and green apple and sage flavors. Surprisingly, I found this to have a more complex structured body then the rose. They both had good acidity, but the Sauvignon Blanc & Semillion blend was slightly more dense than the rose and was best suited paired with food.
From there we had one last place to visit before we called this trip complete. We left Covert Farms and headed down the road towards Tinhorn Creek.
Tinhorn Creek holds a special place in the hearts of me and my wife. When I met my wife, she wasn’t much of a wine drinker, and it was a bottle of Tinhorn Creek’s Pinot Gris that got her interested in wine.
For that reason, Tinhorn Creek was one winery that was a definite visit on our list. Our plan of action was to do a tasting first, then stroll around the winery and check out the amphitheater, and then head over to the restaurant for dinner.
In what we considered an excellent omen, we were offered a sample of their recent 2015 Oldfield 2 Bench white. An excellent creamy and refreshing blend offering notes of vanilla, peach, and pear.
We made our way into the tasting room and settled in at the bar. We started out with the 2015 Pinot Gris, moved on to the 2015 Gewurztraminer, and finished up the whites with the 2014 Chardonnay. I was equally impressed with all three wines, each one tasted very well, with excellent balance, acidity, and fruit flavors.
The first red we tasted was the 2014 Merlot, which had a really striking fruity complexity to it, but I couldn’t help feel as thought it was tasting young. I wondered if it could use some time in the bottle to provide some aging. The 2914 Cab Franc, on the other hand, was perfect.
Showing an inky purple in the glass, with intense aromas of dark chocolate, lavender, thyme, and tobacco. On the tongue initial flavors of blackberry and raspberry, with a slight hint of black cherry. As we chatted with the server, I noticed that after that initial hit of fruit flavors, I started to pick up a more earthy flavor as well, that of green and black pepper. I was absolutely enthralled with this wine and I can’t wait to see what it’s like after a couple of years in the cellar.
Next up was a stroll outside along the back side of the winery to check out the amphitheater where the winery plays host to concerts throughout the summer. Sitting on the stone steps overlooking the valley, it was easy to see why this would be a popular place to come check out live music.
We still had a couple of minutes before our dinner reservation so we poked our heads into what the cellar room. What a sight, rack after rack of wine barrels stacked 8 height high. The first thought that came to my mind was the whoever the forklift driver was, had better have a steady hand. The other thing I noticed in the cellar room was that classic music was being played, almost as it to serenade the barrels of wine.
This was a fitting end to our day, a table on the balcony overlooking the valley with the winery in the background. Looking over the wine list I felt like a kid in a candy store. One of the features of the wine list is the ability to order library wines and boy were there some impressive listings. Given that I had already gone slightly over my wine buying budget, I decided that library wines would have to wait for another day.
I really have to compliment the restaurant’s designer, with very sleek lines and the way the floor is set there really is not a bad seat in the entire place.
As we were seated at our table for dinner we realized that this was somewhat of a bittersweet moment for us. We were about to celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary at a winery that holds a special place for us. That was the exciting part, the sad part was the realization that this was the end of our trip. Next morning we would be packing up and heading home.
It was quite on the road that night as we head back to where we were staying, which was nice because it gave me chance to reflect on this trip.
We had managed to visit quite a few wineries over the last several days and got to taste a lot of great wine. This trip has also given me a better perspective on just how big the Okanagan Valley wine region is. While we did get to visit a lot of wineries, the truth is we barely scratched the surface. This area just keeps on getting better and better which is great news for the Canadian wine scene. Even better is that it’s not the only one either, there are a number of up and coming areas which only can mean bigger and better things for Canadian Wine.
All in all, I have to say that this was a trip will remember for a long time coming.
We spent the first day of our trip exploring Penticton, hanging out the beach, doing a little shopping, eating a little ice cream. It was a great way to unwind after a long drive, get settled, and prepare for our first day of wine touring.
In my previous post (Traversing the Okanagan Valley: The Beginning), I talked about the various sub-regions within the valley that you can go and visit. On our first day of wine touring we decided to head down towards Oliver, and visit what’s know as The Black Sage Bench.
This wine route runs along the east side of the valley and begins just south of Oliver. With its eastern location, grapes in this region benefit from the early morning sun and deep sandy soil tends to be common.
During the summer months, the valley experiences hot daytime temperatures but cool evenings allowing grapes to reach their optimal ripeness. Given these types of conditions, visitors can expect to see such common varietals such as Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Syrah.
For our first stop, we headed down towards the southern tip of the Bench to check out Burrowing Owl Estate Winery.
Burrowing Owl Estate Winery sits southeast of the town of Oliver near the northern edge of Osoyoos Lake. The winery sits on top of a southwest facing plateau and as such visitors are able to gaze down on the row upon rows of vines that stretch as far as the eye can see.
The winery took its name after Jim and Midge Wyse, the proprietors learned about the efforts of the Government to re-establish the Burrowing Owl after it was declared extinct in British Columbia.
We did a full tasting at the winery starting with the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, which exhibited great aromas of fresh cut grass and peach. From there we moved into tasting the reds, starting with the 2013 Pinot Noir. Excellent aroma of raspberry on the nose coupled with fragrant strawberry, however, I feel like the wine could use a couple of years of aging to help strengthen the body.
We also got to taste the 2013 Merlot, the 2013 Cabernet Franc, and as somewhat of a treat the 2012 Meritage. Each of these wines showed great, excellent structure, taste profiles and aromas. Out of those three, I thought the Cabernet Franc really stood out, with a distance freshness and a crisp clean palate.
Next up in our tasting journey was Black Hills Estate Winery. In May, I had the opportunity to attend a winemaker’s tasting of Black Hills Estate wines at Vine Styles, a local wine store. I was so impressed with the wines we tasted that day that I marked this winery as a definite stop on our tour.
On this day we were partaking in their Portfolio tasting, a relaxed in-depth sampling of 3 whites and 3 red. For the whites, we were treated to their Viognier, Chardonnay, and Alias, while the red tasting was Syrah, 2014 Cellar Hand, and their flagship wine, the 2014 Nota Benne. Of the whites, the Viognier and the Alias were clear standouts. Both wines show great acidity, are crisp and clean without being overly sweet. The Alias was a real treat to taste as it’s normally only available to its club members.
In terms of the Reds, their Syrah is very well done, with excellent black pepper and herbal notes such as Thyme and Basil. However, the star of the show is the Nota Benne, Black Hills Estate flagship wine. It’s a diverse blend of 4 different Cabernet Sauvignon clones, 2 different Cabernet Franc clones, and 4 different Merlot clones. It’s produced by processing and aging each clone separately. After they are barrel aged, the clones are then blended together to give the wine a diverse taste and structure.
The Nota Benne is incredibly complex but very well structured. The body has a medium weight to it but the tannin levels are very smooth making it an easy drinking wine. Ripe fruit qualities such as blackberry and plum, with notes of black pepper and green bell pepper. It’s definitely a wine best served with food.
After our tasting’s it was time for something to eat. While at Burrowing Owl, it was recommended to us to check out Platinum Bench winery’s fresh baked artisan bread.
As soon as you walk in the front door two things happen. One is you are instantly greeted by Wally, the winery greeter. Wally is a one of a kind greeter, with four legs, a wet nose and excitedly wagging tail.
The second thing that happens is you become aware of the delicious aroma of fresh baked bread. In addition to their award-winning wines, Platinum Bench has recently expanded to included artisan bread baked right on site by winery co-owner Fiona Duncan.
We grabbed a couple loaves of bread, an Asiago Cheese, a Gorgonzola & Fig, and some salami and took a seat out the deck outside. Both loaves were amazing, served warm, the crust was had a slightly chewy and crispy texture, while the inside was so soft and light. The view from the deck was breathtaking and I could have stayed there all day.
Stoneboat was recommended to me because of its focus on the Pinot grapes. Being the big fan of Pinot Noir that I am, this was a winery that I simply had to check out.
The winery is named after a “stone boat”, a flat sled that was originally used to carry stones. The name Stone Boat was chosen as a tribute to the individuals who originally worked to clear the vineyard of rocks in order to plant the vines.
The soil on all three of the vineyards that make up Stoneboat all tend to be quite rocky and calcareous, similar to the soil found in Burgundy, France, another well know Pinot region. The rocks found in the vineyard are put to good use, piled underneath of the vines they absorb the heat of the sun during the day and radiate that heat towards the vines during the cooler evenings.
We started our tasting with the Rose Brut, which was stunning. Bright, crisp, not overly sweet with a beautiful cherry aroma. We tasted a couple of the whites available, but what I really was excited for was the Pinot Noir. They were pouring their 2013 Pinot Noir, and I couldn’t wait to try it.
This was a very well structured wine, not your typical light styled body, it had actually had some weight to it. It has a slight acidity to it which I wasn’t expecting but found quite refreshing. A definite earthy aroma along with fresh flowers and cherry and intense flavours of strawberry and raspberry.
It was interesting to note that I was reading reviews online of Stoneboat’s Pinot Noir and a number of reviewers noted a mushroom or truffle flavour in the wine. I didn’t note that in the flavour of the wine but definitely found earthy notes in the aroma. I can’t wait to try this wine again in several years to see how the flavour profile has evolved.
Our last stop of the day was at Le Vieux Pin, sort of a newcomer to the region. The wineries name, translated as the “The Old Pine”, is derived from a single pine tree that sits out amongst the vines. It’s really quite a site to see, this single solitary pine tree seemingly rising up out of the vines.
Le Vieux Pin itself is a sister winery to La Stella, which is located further south in the valley down towards Osoyoos. At Le Vieux Pin, their focus is using traditional French winemaking traditions to produce wines that are in their words…”elegant and focused, with great intensity of fruit”.
For our tasting, we started off with the 2015 ‘Ava’, a blend of Viognier, Marsanne, & Roussane. A real nice acidic wine, with big fruit flavors such as peaches, nectarines, and melon rind. However, there was a lingering note of honey that provided just twinge of sweetness that seemed out of place. Up next was the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, with notes of pineapple, kiwi, and tropical flowers. Very well structured, a balanced body with very little sweetness but great acidity gave this a real crispness and tartness to the wine.
From there we moved on to the Syrah. Unfortunately, my notetaking took a bit of a hit at this point and the only notes I had for this part of the tasting was for the 2009 Syrah. Which after tasting the wine I wasn’t all the upset about.
This was deeply elegant, a smooth almost silky body, with just a slight tannic bite to it. One the nose ripe red fruit aromas coupled with savoury herbs, and bell pepper. On the tongue, there was a real bite of black pepper, but also black cherry, blueberry, and just a slight hint of minerality to it. This was a wine you could drink now but would only get better if you were to cellar for other 5-6 years.
End of the Day!
By this point we just about ready to call it a day. We had been to 4 wineries and tasted quite a bit of wine in that time. I had a cooler full of purchases I was eager to get home and put away, so we packed it in and headed back to Penticton.
In terms of exploring the Black Sage Bench and Oliver, we only scratched the surface. Given the number of wineries in the area, you could easily spend 3-4 days just visiting winery after winery.
The one common thing I took away from our tasting is that this area likes it big bold reds and high-intensity whites. When you read about the area and it talks about the Bourdeaux blends you really see what’s referring to.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining, we tasted some absolutely fantastic wine, met some great people and took home some lasting memories.
Sitting around the kitchen table one night after dinner, my wife and I got to talking about entertaining and we realized it had been quite awhile since we’d had a get together at our place. We only half seriously started to think about what kind of event we could have.
At the same time my wife was looking at the calendar when she mentioned that Canada day was going to fall on a Friday this year. We thought that was perfect, what better way to celebrate Canada day and kick of the weekend then with a BBQ. Plans were quickly made and a little while later the invite went out.
The morning of the BBQ, I was getting things ready and I started to think about what to drink. We had gotten some beer, but what really was on my mind was wine. I had an idea, I wanted to do an all Canadian lineup in honor of Canada day. I pulled 2 whites, a Gewürztraminer from Red Rooster winery and a Pinot Gris from Dirty Laundry winery. For our red selection I choose a Cabernet Franc from Vineland Estates, a Solstice Pinot Noir from Arrowleaf Winery, and lastly a Zweigelt from Summerhill Pyramid winery.
Soon the BBQ was in full swing and it became very clear that I had made some very good selections in the wines I had chosen. The Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir were opened first as part of the appetizer portion of the evening and they were both very well received. The Solstice Pinot Noir from Arrowleaf showed incredibly well. Next up to go along with the main course was the Gewürztraminer and the Cab Franc. Again both very well received, with the Cab Franc from Vineland getting a number of compliments from Guests.
As the BBQ started to wind down we opened the Zweigelt from Summerhill Pyramid winery and that became sort of our late evening sit back, relax, and enjoy the evening wine. I’ll be honest I was a little nervous this was a 2008 vintage, and I had purchased it on a trip to the winery in 2012, so this was a wine that I had been cellaring for several years. As soon as we opened it though any fears I had quickly evaporated, the wine was in great shape and showing very well.
A little bit about Summerhill Pyramid Winery
The story of the winery is quite impressive in its own right. Stephen Cipes, the proprietor of the winery first came to the Okanagan Valley in 1986. His first reaction was that it would be a perfect spot to produce sparkling wine. Since that day the Cipes family had built Summerhill Pyramid winery into a fully biodynamic winery, even receiving Demeter Biodynamic certification in 2012.
We visited Summerhill Pyramid winery in 2012 as part of road trip vacation, my wife and I had embarked on that year. There was two reasons why we choose to stop at Summerhill, one was their reputation for quality wine and organic farming, and two was their use of a pyramid for cellaring their wines. I had read several articles about their pyramid and wanted to check it out for myself. Unfortunately, we missed the pyramid tour on the day we went but were still very impressed with the winery and their wines.
On the day we visited there was several of their wines that stood out. Their Cipes Rose certainly spoke to their dedication to sparkling wines, and the Zweigelt was unlike anything I had tasted up to that point.
So I thought our Canada day BBQ was the perfect time to open up that 2008 Zweigelt that I had been hanging on to.
Summerhill Pyramid 2008 Zweigelt
As I mentioned earlier the wine still showed very well, the body was well structured with a slightly cream texture. Very easy drinking style with medium low tannins, low alcohol level, and a refreshing acidity level.
The wine’s color was still quite vibrant, a rich burgundy, but the rim appeared to be quite a bit lighter. Which led me to wonder if the color was starting to lighten up given the age of the wine.
On the nose strong floral notes, such as lavender and violet. Also showing on the nose was a slight hint of cedar and tobacco. A real intense ripe red fruit comes through in the flavor of the wine. Some hints of raspberry and red plum.
Summerhill produces wine on their own terms based on their own philosophy. They believe in an organic and biodynamic philosophy. They put the same care into the production of their wine that they do into the land itself. That care shows in the quality of their wine and the 2008 Zweigelt is an example of that. It’s one I will definitely keep an eye out for in the future.
One of the blogs that I routinely look forward to reading is pop & pour, written by local wine aficionado Peter Vetsch. I first came across Peter on Twitter and was quick to check out his blog, becoming an instant follower.
When it comes to the world of wine I still consider myself quite an amateur, so it’s great when I can look to others as valuable sources of information. In Peters’ case I appreciate the fact I get exposure to wines I might not otherwise get.
Case in point Peter recently wrote a number of posts regarding wines and vineyards in the Finger Lakes area of New York. I had heard of the Finger Lakes area earlier this year on a podcast, but really had no idea what the region had to offer.
So one night last week I just happened to be killing some time before an appointment and wandered in to the Kensington Wine Market to have a look around. As I’m walking down one the aisles, a label catches my eye. A black label, with the works “Fox Run” printed on them. Something about the name stuck in my head and then it came to me. That was one of the vineyards and wines that Peter had just written about. It was decided, I had to try the wine.
Fox Run 2012 Lemberger
I really had no idea what to expect with this wine. As I mentioned earlier I was not familiar with the area or this grape variety so I decided to do some research. The grape variety is very common through central Europe, in countries such as Austria, Germany, Hungary, Italy, and Slovakia. The common name for this grape is Blaufränkisch, but is known by other names depending on the country. In the US, the grape is referred to as Lemberger, and is primarily grown in Idaho, Washington, and the Finger Lakes.
Fox Run Vineyards, got its start as a dairy farm, but began planting grapes in 1984. In 1990 the farm was converted into a winemaking facility with further renovations being done in 1996. The winery is a family run vineyard and prides itself on its philosophy of low impact agriculture.
In addition to Lemberger, it also produces Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir.
I was nervous opening the bottle, I just wasn’t sure what to expect. Interestingly enough as soon as I opened it the first thing that struck me was a strong note sweet almost overripe fruit. I was actually a little concerned that perhaps there was something wrong with the wine. However, I decanted it and let it sit for a couple of hours.
When I went back to the wine that aroma of overripe fruit had really dissipated and in its place was the spicy note of black pepper. Once poured into a glass, I was able to also note the aroma of blackberry and what I thought was blackcurrant.
In the glass the wine showed a striking ruby colour with a slightly less vivid rim. On the tongue I was struck by the contrast the wine presented. The body was densely complex yet very soft and mellow all at the same time, with a wonderful full body.
The black pepper aroma carried over into the flavour of the wine, giving it a delicious hint of spice. I noted just a slight hint of fruit on the tongue, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. There was also a real herbal note to the wine, almost like basil or tarragon that really provided a wonderful savoury finish.
At the end of the day I was very impressed with this wine, deep and complex but easy to drink. It paired amazingly well with a rib eye but continued to drink well even after dinner was finished. Based on this experience I can’t wait to try some of the vineyards’ other varieties. Well worth the money spent.