Anthony Gismondi on Wine
Wednesday, July 22 2015

Grapes : Pinot Noir

By: Treve Ring
Celebrating Pinot from Heartbreak to Hearthrob.

There’s a place where all devout pinot-philes go.

No – it’s not heaven (the golden slopes of Burgundy) or hell (where MegaPurple flows from the faucets).

It’s the International Pinot Noir Celebration, colloquially IPNC, and widely recognized as the only annual pinot noir event not to be missed. Affectionately and affirmably a ‘celebration’ (rather than a conference, forum, festival or event), the festive July long weekend brings together consumers, winemakers, sommeliers and pinot fans from around the globe for convivial sharing and learning.

This year, IPNC turns 29 and 2015 also marks the 50th anniversary of pinot noir in the Willamette Valley. The three-day event spills across the last weekend of July at McMinnville’s Linfield College campus, an easy one hour drive southwest of Portland in the heart of the Willamette. The historic campus has become the traditional home of IPNC, a fitting venue for the scholarly seminars, proximity to vineyards and convenient accommodation in dorms for the hundreds of attendees from around the world.

The vision of IPNC began, as many good ideas do, over wine. In late 1985, an informal group of like-minded Oregon wine geeks, winemakers, restaurateurs and retailers envisioned a premier wine event, to be held in the core of Oregon wine country. The first event was held in 1987, and it has grown and matured each year since. This weekend, IPNC will welcome approximately 800 registered attendees, including representatives from 70 featured wineries across the globe. For Sunday evening’s main event, the legendary Northwest Salmon Bake, hundreds more arrive, many with stocked coolers and cellar specialties in tow, for this long-standing BYOB gastronomic feast – one of America’s top dinners.

It’s worth repeating that this is not your average consumer event; the knowledge level of attendees, service staff (all sommeliers) and presenters is extremely high. Past speakers have included Jancis Robinson, Robert Parker, Michael Broadbent, Dominique Lafon, Jamie Goode and more luminaries. To commemorate 50 years since David Lett planted the first pinot noir vine at The Eyrie Vineyards, this year’s Grand Seminar is dedicated to exploring and enjoying Champagne and sparkling wine.

Should you want to participate in a pinot noir celebration closer to home , there are still tickets available for the 3rd Annual BC Pinot Noir Celebration in the Okanagan Valley. 

This year’s special guest is Londoner Steven Spurrier, Decanter Magazine’s consultant editor and perhaps most famous for his Judgement in Paris event held in 1976. The famed Paris Tasting of 1976 featured a blind tasting of French and California wine. The California wines were chosen ahead of most of the Europeans samples and the wine world has never been the same since.

Tickets are $175 and include interactive breakout sessions alongside top BC winemakers, salon tastings with 26 of BC’s best pinot noir producers, a canapé competition with Okanagan Chefs and a family style dinner by Artisan Culinary Concepts, live music after dinner and one round-trip shuttle ticket to and from select locations in Penticton and Okanagan Falls.

Here at GOW, we are raising a glass to this special grape by looking back at some of our favourite pinot noir from around the world, tasted within the last six months.

93  Joseph Phelps Pinot Noir Freestone Vineyards 2012
Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County, California, United States
$69.00 private wine stores
The 2012 Sonoma Coast growing season was as good as it gets allowing full maturity and flavour development. Freestone is 100% estate-grown pinot from Freestone Vineyards (60% Quarter Moon Vineyard and 40% Pastorale Vineyard) - it is all Sonoma Coast. We loved this edition with its ripe, red fruits thanks to 27 percent whole clusters in the final blend. The palate is a carpet of black cherry fruit, smooth textures and spicy earthy dark fruit finish. Long and impressive in the finish with even a hint of minerality. An exceptional wine that was aged 13 months in 35 percent new and the remainder in two- to three-year-old French oak barrels. Perfect for salmon steaks. AG

92  Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir 2011
Waipara Valley, South Island, New Zealand
$55.00 private wine stores
When you're in as fringe a wine growing region as New Zealand, vintage can make a big difference. La Nina visited in 2011, resulting in an extended and warm growing season, lingering far into autumn. Here, north of Christchurch, the Greystone limestone has proven an ideal base for the dozen clones of pinot noir planted, many reaching 2 decades or more, and own-rooted. Whole berry fermentation and extended skin contact has preserved the affluent perfume - alluring floral, dark violets on the nose. The palate continues the same, with spicy earthiness, black plums, dark cocoa and chalky grained tannins, lifted with a wave of spiking acidity and rush of minerality. A very exciting wine, and one that lingers on the palate for quite some time. TR

92  Mac Forbes Woori Yallock Pinot Noir 2013
Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia
$78.00 private wine stores
Mac Forbes is one of Yarra Valley's great winemakers and his winery is breeding ground for young, driven talent. His natural-bent, off-hands and innovative approach yields ethereal, exciting and alive wines, like this pinot noir, from a cooler, south facing site in the upper Yarra. Gentle aromatic black currant, black cherry, subtle clay weight to the nose. The finessed, elegant and precise palate carries tobacco, black florals and black cherry seamlessly across finely grained tannins. A gentle juiciness surrounds the savoury edged, stony structure, finishing long and gravelly spiced. Finessed and harmonious. Drink now (mushrooms, truffles, roast duck) or be rewarded with 5+ years wait. TR

91 Felton Road Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2012
Central Otago, South Island, New Zealand
$70 private wine stores
Good cherry colour with strawberry jam, black cherry, smoky, celery salt, barnyard, thyme, light vanilla and carrot top aromas. Dry, fresh, juicy palate with good elegance and a touch of astringency. Raspberry jam, smoky, cherry, celery salt, coffee, vanilla, tobacco leaf, saddle leather and herb flavours. Good intensity and balance if a bit short. Drink now - 5 years. ST

91 Laurent Perrier Cuvée Rosé Brut N/V
Champagne, France
$86.99 BCLS
Splendor in salmon. Fresh strawberry, citrus and raspberry aromas lift up out of the flute to meet you. Elegant and full bodied, with fine mousse and notes of strawberry, cream, brioche, dark cherry and mineral and a lingering cherry-currant finish. One of the bestselling rosé Champagne in the world, LP's Cuvée Rosé Brut is one of the few still made using the saignée method - keeping skin contact with the 100% Grand Cru Vineyard pinot noir grapes - to produce the structured and complex rose. This traditional technique is honoured with the signature embossed bottle - a reproduction of those used in the late 17th century. TR

91 Chacra Pinot Noir Treinta y Dos 2012
Patagonia, Argentina
$130.00 private wine stores
Intense from front to back but not overpowering the Chacra Pinot Treinta y Dos story. The vineyard, planted in 1932, is the oldest in the group and is own rooted, there is no phylloxera here. The entry is rich and peppery with silky tannins and long persistent, stony, mineral dark fruit flavours. The wine is made by the legendary Hans Vinding-Diers who brings his own brand of elegance to the glass. Soft succulent and refined this is a pinot noir surprise. Made from biodynamic fruit. Duck confit is a must but salmon will do. The price is pinot crazy. AG

91  Davis Bynum Dijon Clone 667 Pinot Noir Jane's Vineyard 2012
Russian River, Sonoma County, California, United States
$59.00 private wine stores
Davis Bynum has been under the purview of Rodney Strong Vineyards for a while now but winemaker Greg Morthole has stayed the course turning out surprisingly refined pinot noir that clearly reflects the terroir at Jane's vineyard where the vines are grown over relatively nutrient-poor, gravelly, Huichica loam. The 2012 season was warm. The wine, in this case all Dijon clone 667, begins its ferment on native yeasts and is aged in 1/3 new French oak. Look um for a restrained Russian river styling albeit with a richer plummy fruit character and a splash of cola and toasted oak. The textures are creamy/silky in the mouth the finish medium long with just enough acidity to keep it interesting. A pretty wine that is proudly modern Sonoma. AG

91  Blue Mountain Reserve Pinot Noir 2012
Okanagan Falls, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada
$40.00 winery direct, private wine stores
A very consistent performer with bright floral, strawberry jam, plum, leather, vanilla, coffee, tobacco and barnyard aromas flecked with a touch of game and dried herbs. The attack is dry, fresh, elegant and round with light tannins and more carrot top, strawberry jam, orange peel, tobacco, vanilla, cedar, Worcestershire sauce and savoury raspberry flavours. Finely balanced and supple, should age well for two to seven years but delicious now. The Reserve Pinot Noir (formerly Stripe Label) is normally release at the end of April, you can also find this wine in magnums at the winery. AG

91  J. Christopher Pinot Noir Lia's Vineyard 2012
Chehalem Mountain, Willamette Valley, Oregon, United States
$80.00 private wine stores
In 2012 a long, dry summer meant an earlier harvest and richer fruit characters when compared to 2011 as the winery says there’s less terroir. Lia’s Vineyard is a south-facing site on volcanic Jory soil planted in 1992 to one block of Pommard and one of Wadensvil clones. The style is pinot pretty with ripe sweet fruit dehydrated by the warm winds that sweep down off the mountain. Soft, round, juicy black fruit flavours its hedonistic style in 2012 stands alone from the norm at J. Christopher. Some ten percent of the cluster were fermented whole using native yeast fermentation. The wine spends 20 months in barrel. Total production is 171 cases. AG

90  CedarCreek Platinum Block 4 Pinot Noir 2012
Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada
$39.99 winery direct
Good ruby cherry colour. Spicy, floral, cherry, plum, earthy, cedar, vanilla and celery salt aromas. Ripe, round, fresh, dry palate with light tannins. Raspberry, cherry, cedar, coffee, tobacco, savoury, celery salt flavours. A slightly fresher, firmer but fruity version of Block 2 that needs a few more years to integrate but fine effort. Try this with duck or pork. ST

90  Matello Wines Cuvée Lazarus Pinot Noir 2011
Willamette Valley, Oregon, United States
$37.00 private wine stores
If you see a Matello label, scoop it up, because winemaker Marcus Goodfellow's small lots do not last long and are rarely seen on our market. These exceptional wines come from small family-owned and operated vineyards in the northern Willamette Valley and are from sustainably raised, non-irrigated vines. This typifies reds from this cooler 2011 vintage, with their lean edged fruit and rapier acidity. Forty percent whole cluster, fermented with native yeast and bottled unfined and unfiltered. Bright youthful fruit on first approach - Bing and Rainier cherries, strawberries and light, earthy spice. The palate shows perfumed black raspberries and an herbal stem / lightly (and alluringly) bitter note before trailing into the finish with raspberry seeds and spice. Like all of his wines, savoury, finessed and evocative, and resolutely not "dumbed down".  Enjoy now with grilled wild salmon or cellar for 5-7 years. TR

90  Moorooduc Estate Robinson Pinot Noir 2012
Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia
$55.00 private wine stores
Kate McIntyre came back to her parents' Mornington Peninsula 20 acre wine estate in 2009 after a job at a bottle shop post-university and exposure to fine wines led to completion of her MW.  Practicing lutte raisonnée, they utilize wild yeast, whole bunch press and natural MLF to translate the specifics of site. This site, Robinson Vineyard pinot shows perfumed black cherry, raspberry and wild strawberry aromas which carry through to the finely textured, elegant palate. Pure-fruited with a gentle ripe cushioning, this has a beguiling floral rose prettiness throughout. Tannins are a touch gummy, finishing with black cherry perfume and finely rasped spice. Would be lovely with duck or cherry sauced pheasant. TR

90  Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches 1er Cru 2012
Beaune, Côte de Beaune, Côte d'Or, Burgundy, France

$93.99 BCLS
The 2012 will be a very good Clos des Mouches. Typically reductive when young the nose is somewhat supressed showing light red fruit and black cherry aromas mix with smoke and earth. The palate is tight and youthful with smoky, black liquorice and subtle restrain cherry flavours. It’s the texture you notice, dense and plush but refined and perfectly balanced by the acidity. It’s exuberant in that Cote de Beaune way, less power and tannin but perfectly balanced to go the distance. This will need the standard decade in the bottle before it begins to unwind. The wine is aged in French oak (20% new) for 14 to 18 months. The Drouhin site at 14 hectares is the largest in the appellation. The clay and limestone site is planted to equal parts of chardonnay and pinot noir – average age of vines is 45 years old and the cultivation has been organic since 1990 and bio-dynamic (not certified) since the mid-90s. Today there are from 10,000 to 12,500 vines per hectare. AG

90  Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir Reserve 2012
Carneros, Napa Valley, California, United States

$60.50 private wine stores
Big black cherry, tobacco, celery salt, rooty, licorice, black pepper, vanilla, light smoky oak and vanilla aromas. Dry, tart, tight palate with some gritty tannins. Smoky oak, stemmy, rooty, bramble, black cherry, tobacco, vanilla, gamey, light barnyard flavours. Rich, ripe California style pinot. The reserve is now mostly two select Carneros AVA blocks: Rancho Carneros head-trained, dry-farmed vines over forty years old and the clonally diverse Hyde Vineyard planted in 1979. This will need time to develop. ST

90  Nichol Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012
Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

$27.00 winery direct
Though pinot noir and granite aren't the most likely companions, these 22-year old vines are well settled into their sloping Naramata Bench home. Black cherry, black raspberry and stone lure on the nose of this savoury, medium bodied red. Earth, branch and light smoked stone lead the textured palate, with wild herbal notes, sapid red florals, black raspberry and wild cherry, broken stone and firm, lightly grippy tannins. Unfined and unfiltered. A darker, finessed, savoury and textured pinot, and while drinking very well know, I anticipate being rewarded with 5 years in the cellar. TR

89  Cono Sur 20 Barrels Limited Edition Pinot Noir 2012
Valle de Casablanca, Region de Aconcagua, Chile
$26.79 BCLS
Always one of the best Chilean pinot noirs the trick with 20 Barrels is to give it some time in the glass or even better decant it for an hour. Look for a big spicy, strawberry/plum nose with bits of compost and leather. The palate is similar with rooty with red fruits, liquorice, orange rind and compost flavours with refreshing acidity. Smooth silky full flavoured pinot calling for duck confit. Solid value. AG

89  Azienda Agricola Ca' Montebello Pinot Nero Bianco 2013
Oltrepò Pavese, Lombardy, Italy

$17.00 private wine stores
That's right, white wine, from pinot noir. More common than you might think, white pinot noir is made like a white wine rather than a traditional red, and its juice ferments without skin contact. These wines have the freshness and brightness of white, but with a richer, deeper body akin to a red. In this wine, from Lombardy's Oltrepò Pavese region, the process results in a textured and herbal laden white, with scents of almond and light citrus blossom. The palate layers more of the same: almond, wild herbs, citrus, pear, honeysuckle and stone, with the alluring bitter citrus twist characteristic of many northern Italian whites. Acidity is shiny and the finish lingers. Try with lemon dressed crab or other shellfish, poached egg with kale and sea salt. TR

89  Unsworth Vineyards Pinot Noir 2012
Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

$24.00 winery direct, private wine stores
The inaugural pinot noir release from this highly promising Vancouver Island winery - and worth waiting for. This is what the cool climate, maritime influenced wine islands should gravitate towards - bright, elegant and finessed light reds. Youthful vines yield sweet perfumed roses, bright cherry blossoms and wild strawberry. Presents young and fresh and lively makes it ideal with poultry. AG

89 Haywire Pinot Noir Canyonview Vineyard Raised in Concrete 2012
Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

$40.00 winery direct, private wine stores
Ripe wild strawberries, perfumed raspberries, forest scents and fragrant cherries fill this juicy, mouth filling pinot noir. Fine rasped spices and lush tannins end with a welcome stony grip and lingering damson plum. Time spent in older French oak barrels plus concrete eggs up the complexity and elegance. Soft with finesse, I'd welcome pouring this with grilled wild salmon. TR

89 Devil's Corner Tasmania Pinot Noir 2014
Tasmania, South Australia, Australia

$22.99 BCLS
Always excited to see a Tasmanian wine on our shelves, and even more excited to taste when it's this interesting. Intoxicating florals, exotic spices, minerality, iron, dried forest on the nose. The palate is textured with stony grip, and layered with smooth and perfumed cassis, black cherry, savoury truffle, subtle cloves and dusky lilacs, supported by worn oak and lifted with brisk acidity. An interesting wine, worth contemplation. TR

88 Tabali Reserva Pinot Noir 2012
Limari Valley, Chile

$17.29 BCLS
This is an easy-sipping style of pinot noir beginning with its cool demeanour. Look for a red fruit nose offering raspberries and rhubarb with bits of spice and vanilla. The palate is soft and alluring with more sweet fruit and spicy finish with light tannins. Perfect with west coast salmon dishes. AG

88 Schloss Reinhartshausen Spätburgunder Dry 2012
Rheingau, Germany

$20.89 private wine stores
Savoury, spicy, black cherry nose with tobacco, worsteshire, strawberry jam, floral, incense, leather and five spice aromas. Fresh, dry, delicate and juicy palate with strawberry, dried cherry, celery salt, peppery, tobacco, leather and worsteshire flavours. Good finesse and delicacy with some very light tannins to dissipate. Drink now - 3 years. Very solid effort and value. Fine example of spätburgunder aka German pinot noir. ST

88 Le Vieux Pin Vaïla 2014
Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

$21.65 winery direct, private wine stores
This finely structured, taut rosé is made with the gently pressed juice off pinot noir grapes, aged in stainless to preserve fruity freshness and crisp, crunchy acidity. Green raspberry, thorns and rhubarb lead to a rush of raspberry, red currant, dried herbs and delicate wild strawberry. Precise and elegant, befitting lox and hen eggs or savoury wild boar charcuterie. TR


Written By: TR
Treve Ring
Treve Ring

Treve Ring is a writer, editor, judge, consultant, educator and certified sommelier based on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. After completing her Art History degree with Distinction from the University of Victoria and being exposed to the world of wine business at Christie's in London, England, she switched gears, leaving the realm of art for the world of wine.