Understanding the ‘heartbreak grape’
By Gordon Hamilton, Special To The Sun August 24, 2013
Even Pinot’s stoutest advocates use terms such as “fickle,” or “the heartbreak grape,” to describe it.
Some even say its aroma can be “barnyardy,” as in animal manure.
What’s to love about that? When he bought the McLean Creek Road vineyard outside Okanagan Falls in 2008, Meyer was initially resistant to planting Pinot despite recommendations from others, like Andre St. Jaques, owner of Whistler’s famed Bearfoot Bistro, that the site was well suited for it.
Meyer preferred big, bold California-style Cabernets. “I said, ‘Andre I don’t really like Pinot,’ and he said, ‘That’s because you haven’t had a good one.’ He then opened up a bottle of Romanee Conti (the world’s most sought-after and expensive red Burgundy) and that was my ‘Aha moment.’ “We were in this restaurant setting, sitting with good friends, opening up this wine and I was able to see something we could strive for, or hope to be.”
B.C. is at the northern limits of Pinot Noir’s natural boundaries, and it is here where something special could be happening, according to people like Rhys Pender.
Pender is one of three people in Canada who holds the title Master of Wine, one of the wine world’s top academic achievements.
“Pinot Noir is a great grape that’s grown in many parts of the world,” Pender said from his own family-owned winery in the Similkameen Valley.
“One thing I find here, particularly in the hotter areas, Similkameen and the Okanagan, is that we get this really intense fruit flavour, yet we get great natural acidity.”
Tony Stewart, of Quail’s Gate winery, where the volcanic soils of nearby Mount Boucherie add a distinctive flavour profile to Quail’s Gate Pinot, said the grape is particularly sensitive to what’s in the soil where it is grown.
Stewart sees the Sept. 1 B.C. Pinot Noir Festival as a starting point for developing an understanding of a grape that, depending on the care that goes into making it, can be responsible for both the highs and the lows of wine appreciation.