Pinot Noir

I have a great fascination with Pinot Noir. This fascination stems from its ability to showcase and highlight the terroir. Though terroir is a key aspect of every winery, I always find that Pinot Noir showcases the influences of the land much more than other varietals.

Take Pinot Noir from Burgundy, Willamette Valley and the Okanagan Valley – each of these Pinot’s will be showcased differently. The flavour profiles will have the underlying characteristics of Pinot Noir (raspberry, strawberry, earth) but the body, colour, and secondary and tertiary flavours will vary.

Burgundy is the fathering region of the fickle Pinot Noir grape and sets the world standard of the wine. Many iconic wineries, many iconic versions of Pinot Noir. Most Pinot Noir from Burgundy is known for is bright fruit and acidity, often coupled with secondary and tertiary flavours of truffle, mushroom and dark earth. Some often say Burgundian Pinot’s have a barnyard characteristic. It is this quality that is often considered classic Burgundian, and showcasing the bright red colour of the grape. The high-end Pinot Noir’s, like Chateau Romanée-Conti, are often aged for many years, and grow and develop in the bottle. With enough bright acidity to hold the wine for years, these wines are enjoyed both young and old.

Willamette Valley has grown its reputation for Pinot Noir. A main focus for wine makers in this region, often pursuing old world flavour profiles from the grape. Yet there is always something so classically Willamette Valley in the wine. Traditional flavours of bright strawberry, raspberry and earth sing through, but they are often combined with  Continue reading

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What makes a Dinosaur?

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The term “dinosaur” is rarely a good word when used to describe something. Recently, at a winery I was visiting this term was used, and is widely broadcasted on one of their wine bottles. The fact that a dinosaur – though very artistically done – was on the wine label is what made me enquire about the story of the wine.

I am currently living and working in the Okanagan Valley. As many are well aware, the Okanagan Valley is very young in terms of the world wine market. However, just as in all wine regions there are those wineries that help to initiate the growth of the wine industry of that particular region. The story I was told stunned me – this new winery on the scene was using this label and wine as a direct attack on the wineries that helped to forge the Okanagan Valley and the Canadian wine industry on a world wide scale.

Each wine region in the world has those wineries that created an image and start to the wine world. For example, Chateau Montelena in Napa forced people to take notice of Napa Valley and recognize that it offers something as special as various soils that determine the regions of France. Would Chateau Montelena be considered a dinosaur to Napa Valley? What about Chateau Petrus in France? Another New World example is Concha y Toro in Chile. These examples are iconic wineries for their respective regions, and have helped shape the history of wine in the world. To me, they deserve the utmost respect for what they helped to create and produce in Napa, Bordeaux and Chile.

So after hearing this story, and thinking about all of these iconic wineries I wonder what this new winery (which has a lot of buzz right now) is thinking. I understand the need of a young winery to make a stand in the market, to stand out, to make a voice for themselves. I do strongly believe that this winery is going down this path the wrong way, and is going to make a bad name for themselves throughout the valley.

 

 

Copain Wines

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First of all, I made it on time! This, at the time, seemed like a great feat as my travels took me off the more well beaten, though quite scenic, path. A wonderful drive though vine and countryside.

Pulling IMG_1163up to the gates of the winery, I entered the code and proceeded through the open gates onto the winding laneway to the hospitality house. It was about a half mile of driving through large rolling acreage of vineyard to reach the house. It was a wonderfully sunny morning highlighting the vines and contours of the land.

The hospitality house is a large barn with the fermentation tanks in behind. The cellar and production area of Copain was busy with people working hard at bottling wine.

I walked in the big wooden French doors at the front of the hospitality house. A large open space with a comfortable seating area was just inside. Sight lines through large glass walls – where the patio area was situated – provided views of the rolling vineyards. I was shortly greeted by Phil and Chris and led over to the seating area where glasses were lined up for the tasting. Continue reading

Sonoma

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Sonoma was a two day excursion, something I was greatly looking forward to! An early morning start on the road to make it to Healdsburg for my first winery tour at 10 am.

I had planned two days in Sonoma, with no further plan with how to spend my time beyond the three schedules appointments I had. On my agenda Copain Wines, Ramey Wine Cellars and my meeting with Dennis Hill of Cannonball Winery.

I just knew it was going to be a glorious two days, as long as I made it to the winery on time! The problem with travelling by myself – no data on my phone, no GPS, and the highways system just didn’t seem to be as clearly outlined as it is in Ontario. Needless to say, I got turned around and “lost” a few times here and there in my travels. In fact, getting to Healdsburg I called my friend a number of times to get directions. The drive it led me on was very scenic and beautiful, showing many vineyards along the way.

The first stop, Copain Wines.

Learning about Cannonball

I called Yoav, CEO and Co-Founder of Cannonball Winery, while I was visiting with my family with the intention of saying hi and setting up a tasting at the winery. He surprised me and did two better! We set up a day and time to meet at the office, and to get in touch with Dennis, Wine Maker and Co-Founder.

I met with Yoav a few days later at the office and he took me to Evvia – ranked as one of the best restaurants in San Francisco and Peninsula region. The food was amazing, and the wine, Astrolabe Pinot Noir represented by Cannonball, the perfect accompaniment.

Yoav and I talked more about life then wine. We did talk a bit about market, marketing and then of course, the philosophy. This is one aspect of the company and the wine I remember most – Cannonball philosophy. The idea of being the everyday wine. Like the image on the label. A young boy doing a “cannonball” into waves of water. This image can symbolize many things: being young again or young at heart, splashing your cares away, enjoying yourself, having fun, and even living in the moment. These everyday moments are what we can celebrate everyday with and affordable and versatile wine. This is what Cannonball represents! Continue reading

Tom Eddy Winery

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The last stop of that very windy day in Napa was at Tom Eddy Winery in Calistoga. Heading further up the mountain into high elevation is the vineyard and winery and a private meeting with Tom Eddy.

At the time I did not know very much about the winery. I had tasted a large portion of the portfolio, including the Tenz Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. With a large geographical scope of wine making, I believed the winery was going to be large and flashy. It is, in fact, quite the opposite. It is humbling.

Through the gates (which we passed once) and up the winding drive through the vineyards we passed the office and someone waving at us. We drove to the end of the laneway where we realized, we truly did see someone waving at us from inside the building. So, we turned around and drove back. Continue reading

b Cellars Boutique Winery

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While at Alpha Omega Winery that first afternoon in Napa, it had been recommended that we visit a boutique winery called b Cellars. Especially to taste their Sangiovese. So, naturally I called and made a booking to go see what they were all about.

One of the dr0141e9082ab3d0e77c8e6b3133b951bc405a71547baws to this winery is the experience they create. When you walk up the walkway towards the showroom you are welcome to a view of the rolling hills surrounding the vineyard and the hospitality house sitting atop the hill. When you open the doors, you are greeted instantly and look at the spectacular view of a brick oven and open kitchen. As part of the tour they provide a food accompaniment, and do cater to dietary restrictions. There are small dining tables, low chairs and tall tables spread throughout the space to cater to different party sizes. There are also tables set up outside for those sunny California days. It is a wonderfully open space that provides views outdoors and indoors to the kitchen. For larger groups, there are two rooms in the hospitality house for tastings with that classic rustic feel. Continue reading

Biale Vineyards

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imageOn day two of my journeys through Napa, Biale Vineyards was our first stop, home of the Black Chicken. It was a clear and sunny day stunning, especially after the threat of it being a cold and rainy day, however it was quite windy.

Getting there a little early, I took a quick stroll back down the driveway, almost getting blown away in the process. Heading back towards the barn and the storefront for tasting, I was able to appreciate for the second time the beauty and quaintness of the winery. Walking along the side of the building towards the store front were tables all set up for outdoor tasting overlooking the rolling vineyards. Unfortunately, due to the wind we were unable to enjoy the space. The inside was as beautiful with handcrafted wood bars.

We were immediately greeted and provided with glasses for our tasting and a menu outlining the 5 wines provided for tasting, heavy on the Zinfandels (their specialty). The start was their staple: Black Chicken Zinfandel. A blend of grapes from all their vineyards to produce an approachable and full bodied red. Classic notes of blueberry, figs, plums and black cherry all present with vanilla, leather and slight tar. It was a great palate warmer to the day. Continue reading

The Farmer and the Fox

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imageAfter an afternoon of tasting the three of us were starving! While at Alpha Omega Winery we were looking up restaurants in the area that would satisfy our cravings for the evening. We found the perfect place – The Farmer & The Fox in St. Helena.

Walking into the restaurant it was quietly country with plaid fabric covering the booths, cheeses on display, and fantastic oak tables. We were led into the restaurant and taken to a quiet nook with window bench seating. They did a fantastic job building a refined atmosphere by blacking out the high ceilings of the restaurant and building isolated light above each table. Continue reading