weekend wines – week 20 – pinot from british columbia…?

By billn on May 22, 2017 #degustation#etrangers

A long-term contact (from Canada) was in Beaune this week, he and his compatriots enjoying a more than enviable week of tastings, but on Friday evening he thrust into my grubby hands a couple of bottles – “I’m saying nothing, just tell me what you think of these.”

They are both 2009 pinot noirs from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. They sport heavy ‘sommelier’ bottles – particularly the Blue Mountain. The Foxtrot has the longer, more impressive looking cork. So here goes:

2009 Foxtrot, Erickson Vineyard Pinot Noir
Ooh – quite pale – approaching the colour of a Côte d’Or rosé or maybe a pinot from Alsace! It’s a pretty nose with a faint sous-bois, a suggestion of salinity and Marsala – both clean and interesting. Fresh, a little depth of good texture that ends with a modest point of tannin and a flavour that’s suggestive of some whole clusters. Like a salted caramel in the finish with a faint barrel-toast effect. Hmm – this is easy drinking, quite delicious wine with a lovely width of finish.

2009 Blue Mountain, Reserve Pinot Noir
Just a little deeper colour – not by much though! A nose of much more volume, freshness and a more pronounced sous-bois – I find this really attractive, though anyone who doesn’t know older pinot will just say ‘it’s stinky’ (and did!) Nice depth of flavour here with a decent freshness and a caramel/bitter oak-toast tannin – never too much though – and there’s a growing accent of florality to the flavour. Ultimately the Foxtrot is the easier drink today, but this has a little more youth, a little more intensity and weight of flavour, but the modest bitterness in the finish means the first wine is the more delicious today.

I’d happily drink either (or both!) of these – they show a little more overt age to their aromatics than a typical 7-8 year-old from the Côte d’Or, but the aromas and flavours are delivered with the cleanliness and panache of well-made pinot. In another 3-4 years the Blue Mountain might pull ahead of the Foxtrot, but, today, that latter wine wins by a neck chez nous…


By billn on December 28, 2016 #etrangers

Only in Switzerland; a blend of pinot noir, gamaret and diolinoir. The vines are just 30 minutes away from me, on the lakeside of Biel – Weingut Schlössli’s Mariage Noir. I love the form of the bottle and the contents were excellent – for 28.50 chf – bought on a whim, enjoyed at leisure!

wasps – lucky burgundy…

By billn on August 20, 2015 #etrangers#vineyard pestilence


In central Switzerland (at least) these critters are a serious problem this year. Not only can you hardly enjoy a drink or a plate of food in the garden, they are now beginning to devour the grapes as their sugar levels reach and pass 8°. Lucky Burgundy – only 300km overland from these pics, but I’ve hardly seen any in the vines there – it certainly wouldn’t be the most pleasant picking conditions if you are competing with the wasps for what remains of each cluster…

kent rasmussen – failed by the cork – almost…

By billn on September 06, 2013 #degustation#etrangers

kentFollowing my recent cellar investigation, my last bottle from this producer turned up – it was the youngest I ever owned – a 1999.

During the late 1990s the doyen of British independent wine-retailers was Oddbins, and whilst they made as much money selling beer and cigarettes as they did wine, they had a treasure trove of small and interesting producers side-by-side with walls of the latest Shiraz on special offer – here is one such example. Such a shame that the shops that currently wear that name bear no more than a skin-deep resemblance!

Anyway, back to Kent! I bought this cuvée from the 1996 to 1999 vintages, inclusive, and enjoyed them all, but it was nearly 10 years since my last bottle. Along the way there had been other interesting bottles from Kent; the Ramsey Petite Syrah and a 1996 Ramsey Reserve Napa Valley Syrah – the latter could have been sourced from Berry Bros.(?) – but back to my first love: As it was an ‘older bottle’ I chose the screwpull – my lever-action ‘tool’ has a habit of snapping the older corks in two – well in this case the cork simply disintegrated, erupting into a heap of bits. Fortunately very little ended up in the bottle-neck. Frankly there was a little oxidation to the aromas, dovetailing with a little vanilla and plum, but the fat, flavour and texture of this wine was still remarkably lovely – I’d probably be bemoaning a lack of acidity if it came from the Côte d’Or, but regardless, it seems that this one was drunk in the nick (maybe 2-3 years too late?) of time!

winner mondial du monde – world best pinot – donatsch 2008 ‘passion’

By billn on September 28, 2010 #degustation#etrangers


So let’s try that champion du monde. Shame it was delivered just after I left for Beaune – it would have been good to open with the team.

2008 Donatsch, Pinot Noir ‘Passion’ [Switzerland]
The nose needs a bit of time to open, but when it does there’s a small impression of chalky fruit, then a reasonably concentrated and high-toned raspberry, finally a forward brûlée (mainly vanilla) note. Actually the fruit/brûlée mix is quite nice. In the mouth it is round, very well textured – very smooth – and like the nose has lots of additional mid-palate dimension that is vanilla oak derived. It reminds me of a Beaune – actually a slightly fatter version of the very good 2007 Beaune 1er Blanche Fleurs from Dublère that I had last Thursday. The acidity is nothing more than an undercurrent, just making itself known through a little mouthwatering in the finish. In summary, even by the standards of Burgundy this is a good wine. It has been expertly oaked, such that while it’s not really lacking any density, the oak is also not really letting much character show – not yet anyway – though the fruit is of decent quality, perhaps a zip more of acidity might have helped. Despite that (today) minor character reservation, my 80++ year-old mother-in-law thought it very tasty, me too!
Rebuy – Yes

How much? By Swiss standards this is relatively inexpensive at 30 Swiss Francs per bottle from the domaine.

presenting the world champion producer of pinot noir (2010)

By billn on September 22, 2010 #etrangers

donatsch-pn-passionMartin Donatsch from Weingut Donatsch in Malans, Graubunden (Grisons, Switzerland) has apparently won this year’s competition for “Champion du Monde des Producteurs du Pinot Noir” – the world champion among the pinot noir producers to you and me. The wine concerned was Martin’s 2008 Malanser Pinot Noir «Passion».

No fewer than 1,100 wines were tasted in July by ‘an international jury’ in Sierre, Switzerland. 71 wines (6 percent) won gold medals and 260 won silver – even some French wines acheived a silver medal! I wonder how that percentage compares to the IWC(?) – I looked at the IWC site but it looked like I would have had to do lots of counting! Anyway I’ve bought a couple of bottles to see how it squares up to a Richebourg-or-so. They should arrive next week!

New Zealand’s Rippon Pinot Noir Has Burgundy Pedigree

By William Rusty Gaffney on August 12, 2010 #etrangers#rusty's posts

mills-ripponNick Mills, who had picked up French in travels to France as a child with his winegrower father, Rolfe Mills, returned to Burgundy after a short-lived, injury-ending career as a world-class snow skier. He started as a cellar rat at Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron, and stayed in Burgundy from 1998 to 2002, studying enology and viticulture in Beaune and working at some of Burgundy’s most celebrated domaines including Nicolas Potel, de la Vougeraie, and de la Romanee-Conti. Upon urgings from his mother in 2002, he returned to Rippon on the shores of Lake Wanaka in Central Otago, where some of the oldest Pinot Noir vines (some dating to 1985) in New Zealand are located.

80% of the Rippon vineyard is planted on its own roots and is not irrigated. The clones are Pommard, Lincoln, 10/2 and 10/5. The vines at Rippon have always been farmed organically, but upon Nick’s return, the entire property was converted to biodynamie, a philosophy that Nick passionately adheres to.

For the first time in the winery’s history, four separate Pinot Noirs were crafted from the 2008 vintage to better reflect the voice of the property. The Rippon Jeunesse Young Vine Pinot Noir is from grapes that are not considered mature enough to communicate fully all the complexities of the site. It is a pure expression of Pinot Noir, a spirited voice of Pinot Noir grown at Rippon, rather than the voice of the land from which it came. The second bottling is the Rippon Mature Vine Pinot Noir made from fully developed vines. Rippon Emma’s Block Mature Vine Pinot Noir is from a unique parcel located on the lake front. The fourth wine, Rippon Tinkers Field Pinot Noir, is from another unique block with ancient coarse schist gravelly soil and is home to the oldest vines on the property.

All the 2008 Rippon Pinot Noirs are stunning wines. How has Rippon achieved winemaking success? Take the latitude, the metamorphic schist-based soils rich in foliated mica and quartzite, the proximity of the Main Divide of mountains, Lake Wanake’s thermal mass, 50 years of empirical observation and understanding, established vines that accurately reflect their site, biodynamic farming, and a highly skilled Burgundy-trained winemaker in Nick Mills.

2008 Rippon Tinker’s Field Mature Vine Lake Wanaka Central Otago Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., pH 3.60, $92 (US). 40% whole cluster. Aged 10 months in 35% new to 4-year-old French oak barrels. Racked after MLF and allowed a second winter in neutral barrels (a total of 17 months in barrel). Unfined and unfiltered. The wine smells of the outdoors with scents of wooded forest and wet leaves, as well as darkly colored berry jam, with a hint of oak. Very tasty attack of dark cherry and berry fruit and cherry skin flavors with a subtle earthiness. Moderately rich, with fine grain polished tannins, a welcoming tug of acidity, and impressive persistence on the bold finish. The wine glides across the palate with a dreamy silkiness. Hard to put this wine into words: suffice it to say you know it when you experience it. Great later in the day after opening predicting age ability. A New Zealand old vine Pinot Noir epiphany.
Read more:

2006 rhys alpine vineyard

By billn on June 27, 2010 #degustation#etrangers


The Prince of Pinot needn’t worry – I won’t make a habit of it – but this is rather good….

2006 Rhys, Alpine Vineyard
Medium, medium-plus colour. The nose starts all baked red fruit, perhaps faint Geranium too, then it takes on a more stemmy dimension – not in the gothic manner of l’Arlot or some Dujac of similar age – rather the balance that both those (and Bourée come to think of it) can achieve with about 6 or 7 years bottle age – so the early integration here is mega-commendable. With each sniff I think I can put my finger on something specific, but each time I return it’s changed again – certainly a little sweet, stewed rhubarb (I like rhubarb). In the mouth this has a slightly plush, but not fat texture – the tannin is of a very soft velvet but the mid-palate into the finish, despite majoring on sweet barrel flavours, is epic – very impressive indeed, both dimension and super-long. If I blindly look at all my benchmarks, I might guess a Dujac Combottes from a ripe but just about balanced vintage, perhaps 2006 but riper. Really excellent wine.
Rebuy – Yes

2006 alesia san mateo county…

By billn on May 19, 2010 #degustation#etrangers


The boys of Noble Wine (who are occasional advertisers here) are some of the rare importers of Kevin Harvey’s wines from the US into Europe. Kevin is a very keen follower of things burgundian so I was very interested in what his personal rendition of pinot noir might be. I have this and a ‘Rhys’ (though it also says Rhys on the cork of this wine) which I’ll also open in the next days. I’m not really expecting ‘burgundy’, but given the costs of export/import, these cost me (even with a ‘good price’) something in the order of a cheaper grand cru.

2006 Alesia, San Mateo County
Medium, medium-plus colour. The nose wears a heavy, musky pinot fruit and it’s edged first with a fine layer of vanilla then a slightly thicker layer of a faint pyrazine-type scent – at this intensity I find it interesting rather than off-putting. Swirl harder and a finer red cherry aroma attempts to escape the rim, time adds a little smokiness that mainly melds with the pyrazine to give a stem aroma. In the mouth this is faintly plush and very silky – you have to seriously chew to get a hint of tannic grain – in fact to find any tannin at all. There is a little vanilla cream that runs through the centre of the wine and into the finish, a long finish with a long-lasting mineral core. Occasionally I have the impression of a little warmth on swallowing but can’t be bothered to check the alcohol content – if it’s high it just means I must drink less! Whilst that finish is pleasantly mouth-watering, I feel this just needs a slight acid-lift to make me crave the next sip. I look to my normal benchmarks, but frankly I don’t have a burgundy village or cru that I can compare this to. Very tasty but I’d like it a little more refreshing.

Given that I paid a price for 2 bottles and so don’t know the individual prices it’s hard to ascribe a value. On an average base I overpaid for this one and underpaid for the ‘Rhys’ which will follow. At the average, and as nice as this wine is, I wouldn’t be rebuying. Actually the back label (the front, as you can see is very basic, very pretty but basic) doesn’t mention the alcohol content – I’m not sure if that’s legal in Europe, but I certainly don’t care!

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