10 Okanagan Pinot Noirs tasted in a row. Which one is the best?


THE JUDGES:


By Brandon Little

Battle Of The Okanagan: Pinot Noir

Photography: Matt Lunde

Venue: Bench 1775, NARAMATA

As Summer disappeared, those delicious summer sippers have been muscled out by the ever so sexy and delicious Pinot Noirs. In my opinion, Fall is the best time to be drinking Pinot, it’s not too cold, or too warm, and because Pinot likes to be served slightly chilled, it makes it perfect for Fall. So bundle up, find your favourite patio and savor a glass before old man winter arrives.

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Okanagan’s Pinots have been making a name for themselves for quite some time and lots of wineries do them extremely well. Our moderate climate, diurnal temperature, summer breezes off the lakes, and amazing wine makers all play a part on why our Pinots are so good. The best areas for growing Pinot grapes range from Lake Country to Okanagan Falls; anything farther South starts to get a bit too hot and North a bit too cold, so if you want a solid Pinot Noir then start with any wineries within that range.

The Pinot profile can range from fruity and simple to extremely complex - both are good in their own way. Pinot is a light bodied red, with different levels of acid and tannin… and it’s a fussy grape that is hard to grow and hard to make, which means it typically commands a higher price. The flavours found in a Pinot are typically red berry - Strawberry, Cherry, Raspberry, Cranberry. Oak is not always used, but when it is, you’ll get cedar, vanilla and clove. There can also be earthy tones, like mushroom, forest floor, leather, tobacco, dirt….the list goes on and on. With the right structure they will age beautifully! I’m a fan of Okanagan aged Pinots, especially around the 5 – 7 year mark. I usually can’t wait much longer than that.

For our Pinot blind tasting we were up bright and early so we could use the patio at Bench 1775 in Naramata. If you haven’t heard of Bench 1775 yet, then please read our Viognier article! Spoiler alert, Bench 1775 wins… but you’ll have to read it to learn why. I feel like a broken record with our location descriptions, but wow, talk about a view of Okanagan Lake and the bench – just check out the photos! The temperature is starting to drop, but it only got down to a point where it was perfect for tasting Pinot, cool but not too cool.

Wade was unable to make this round, so Ron from our Chardonnay article was our substitute wine geek. Our average Joe and Josephine are two friends of mine, Curtis and Candace, who I had to seriously convince to come...ya right! Curtis and Candace are Okanagan wine lovers, especially the reds, and to be honest, I’m not sure they even drink white. Every time we get together, we end up with purple teeth.

-THE TEN-

This round we had ten wines to taste! …and I thought the Chardonnay round was hard. Since Pinots typically are more expensive, the range of prices were pretty close and the wines were from all over the valley.

We tasted, rated and scored each of these Pinot Noirs blind. This post will provide you with a description of each bottle, who won, and what the winners’ score was.


#1 Arrowleaf

· Region: Lake Country

· Vintage: 2017

· Price: $25.40

Colour: Pale Ruby Aroma: Medium intensity, dark cherry, black currents, raspberry, strawberry, vanilla, cedar, clove Taste: Dry, high acid, light tannin, medium body, medium intensity, cranberry jam, big juicy cherries, white pepper Finish: Great follow through, graphite, leather, and more cherry

Comments: “So Pinot!”, “Holy Pepper”, “Simple and easy to drink”, “consistent all the way through”

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#2 O’Rourkes Peak Cellars

· Region: Lake Country

· Vintage: 2017

· Price: $28

Colour: Medium Ruby Aroma: Pronounced intensity, pungent cheese, tobacco, over ripe raspberries, herbaceous, black cherry, petrol that fades quick, eucalyptus, sage Taste: Dry, high acid, silky yet grippy tannin, medium body, pronounced intensity, tingles the tongue, bell pepper, black cherry, leather, tobacco Finish: Long puckering finish, lots of fruit up front but disappears to spice

Comments: “I like this a lot!”, “Yum”, “The more you taste the better it gets”, “Very well balanced”

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#3 Rollingdale – Halla Vineyard

· Region: West Kelowna

· Vintage: 2017

· Price: $29.48

Colour: Pale Garnet Aroma: Very pronounced, red liquorish, strawberry, raspberry, sour cherry, contact cement, new car smell Taste: Noticed some white crystals in the glass, dry, high acid, medium tannin, light body, pronounced, sour cherry, cranberry, underripe raspberry, great structure Finish: Medium, chalky minerality, tastes like it’s missing something

Comments: “It’s decent”, “Loved the aromas”, “Will get better with age”

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#4 Dirty Laundry

· Region: Summerland

· Vintage: 2017

· Price: $27.99

Colour: Pale Ruby Aroma: Medium intensity, strawberry, rhubarb, cherry, smells like a rose Taste: Dry, high acid, medium tannin, medium + intensity, smoky, spicy, strawberry, rhubarb, gooseberry, smooth, tart and sweet Finish: Short and spicy, leather and flint

Comments: “Different aromas”, “Doesn’t smell like your standard pinot”, “Classic Pinot colour”

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#5 Spearhead – GFV Saddleblock

· Region: East Kelowna

· Vintage: 2017

· Price: $33

Colour: Medium ruby Aroma: Medium + intensity, complex, lots of earthy aromas, cigar box, ripe red berries, clove, vanilla Taste: Dry, medium + acid, medium tannin, medium body, medium + intensity, dirty, forest floor, mushroom, meaty, coffee, cedar, well integrated fruit and spice Finish: Medium finish with spices and there’s those earthy flavours again

Comments: “Nice legs’, “Straight line – finishes the same as it starts”, “Needs time to open”, “Hard to describe”

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#6 Howling Bluff – Century Block

· Region: Naramata

· Vintage: 2016

· Price: $35

Colour: Dark ruby Aroma: Medium + intensity, mushroom, dark ripe cherry, stewed fruit, earthy, herbs, shallots Taste: Dry, high acid, medium tanning, medium body, pronounced intensity, fruit forward, rhubarb, cherry pie, followed by more earthy flavours, deep, rich, and extremely well balanced Finish: Long and smooth

Comments: “Body and depth”, “Would be good with food”, “Yummers!”, “Makes me hungry”, “Complex and balanced”, “Drink now or cellar and enjoy later...if you can wait”

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#7 Moraine Estate

· Region: East Kelowna

· Vintage: 2017

· Price: $30

Colour: Pale ruby Aroma: Medium Intensity, cherry, smoky, peppery, cloves, nutmeg, good funk, forest floor, eucalyptus, rose petal, chocolate milk?? Taste: Dry, medium + acid, medium tanning, medium body, medium intensity, glazed cherry, liquorish, cranberries, plum Finish: Medium, vanilla, ripe cherry, and leathery

Comments: “Smooth and creamy”, “Aroma and taste don’t match – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing”

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#8 Kitsch Estate

· Region: East Kelowna

· Vintage: 2017

· Price: $40

Colour: Medium ruby Aroma: Medium + intensity, black cherries, cedar, spices Taste: Dry, medium + acid, medium tannin, medium body, pronounced intensity, strawberry/rhubarb pie, fresh raspberries, leather, oak, mushroom, easy drinking, spices Finish: Medium, dry, and more cherry

Comments: “Great colour!”, “Lots of people will love this”, “Holy structure Batman!”, “This is a keeper for years to come”

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#9 Cedar Creek Estate

· Region: Mission Kelowna

· Vintage: 2017

· Price: $26.99

Colour: Pale ruby Aroma: Medium intensity, sweet, cherry jolly rancher, chocolate coffee, vanilla, watermelon Taste: Dry, high acid, medium tannin, medium body, medium intensity, fruity, big cherry flavour, tobacco, strawberry, vanilla, clove, grippy, syrupy Finish: Medium, fruity, peppers

Comments: “Needs food – cheese please”, “A great entry level Pinot”, “Drink anytime”

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#10 Bench 1775

· Region: Naramata

· Vintage: 2016

· Price: $29.90

Colour: Dark ruby Aroma: Medium + intensity, spicy tobacco, baking spices, strawberry, a delicate balance of fruit and spice, red fruit, Taste: Dry, high acid, face ripping tannin, medium body, pronounced, good level of fruit, raspberry, strawberry, tobacco, leather, juicy, small amount of black pepper Finish: Medium, spicy, tart cherry, mushroom

Comments: “Bold colour”, “Killer aromas”, “Not much wrong with this one”, “I want more!”, “Deadly”

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Well that’s it, talk about a marathon and so many great choices. The wines were all similar from their flavour profile with subtle differences, but those differences went a long way. The winner was unanimous, however second and third weren’t too far behind.

And the winner is.......

Wine #6 – Howling Bluff

2016 Century Block

with an average score of 12.6/15

If you go back on the descriptions you can tell by the flavour profile that the Century Block had more complexity, balance, depth, and earthy tones when compared to the rest. That could be because it’s a year older or the use of oak, either way, it was superb. The problem now, is I don’t think you can find the 2016 anywhere and I was hoping to find a bottle to cellar.

Howling Bluff has a tiny tasting room, and a small patio for people to sit, so it’s awesome to see such a small winery win. I did a tasting there in the spring and was pleasantly surprised on how good the wines are – white and especially their Pinot Noir! On their web site says two things that are worth noting “Our soil was made for Pinot Noir” and “Pinot Noir is our signature”...yes and yes.

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Thank you Howling Bluff for being part of Battle of the Okanagan and we all loved your wine!


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