Saturday, April 7, 2012

Perigée and Pinot

As most regular readers know, I'm perpetually struggling to keep up with my posts. I guess it's time to face the truth - I tend to drink the wine faster than I can write about it. That results in my sometimes having to bypass penning a post about a particular wine tasting event or dinner that I attend - as interesting as it might be. If there's no bottle to add to The List, I often find that I need to jump over the event in order to try and keep up with the bottles that we actually pound back.

Such was the case with a BC Wine Appreciation Society tasting back in February. BCWAS hosted a tasting featuring wines from sister operations Le Vieux Pin and LaStella. General Manager, Rasoul Salehi, captivated the group with up front and to the point information and a Q&A session. Oh yeah, and we tasted some rather decent wines.

Over the last year - between a brief visit to both wineries and the BCWAS tasting - I've come to learn a whole lot more about the wineries and their somewhat unique outlook to winemaking in the Okanagan. I hadn't realized that they were near the front of the new-ish wave of sustainable farming that is gaining a bit of a foothold in the Valley. I'd previously tasted a couple of LVP and LaStella wines at various events and I knew that, when you could find them, the best of them were going to hit you in the pocketbook; however, I didn't have much of a grasp of their approach.

I don't, presently, have much time to go into that program with any depth but I think I'll just quote part of Le Vieux Pin's website to try and encapsulate their raisin d'être: "Our focus is to make wine that is representative of its terroir. Non-interventionist and low-input viticulture is the method we use to get there. Deficit irrigation, on-site composting, high-density plantings and extremely low yields allow the vines to show us who they really are, deep down to their roots."

Tonight's wine was not part of that BCWAS tasting, but I thought it might be a means of giving a shout-out to BCWAS and the tasting and of taking the opportunity to talk a little bit more about the winery.

1097. 2006 Le Vieux Pin Perigée Pinot Noir (Okanagan Valley)

I picked this bottle up at the winery when I had the chance to stop in at Le Vieux Pin with the Wine Grrrrlz just prior to the BCWAS Bus Tour last year. It was lucky that we stopped in because the last of the 700 cases made of the 2006 Perigée were being sold.

LVP had always intended on taking a stylistic approach that was French in its outlook and their ultimate goal was to go primarily with Rhône varietals. LaStella's viewpoint was to be Italian. However, both wineries needed to replant vineyards with their preferred varietals and, in the beginning years, they needed to make wines with the grapes that were available to them.

The last time I checked, Pinot Noir wasn't one of those Rhône varietals but, during those early years (and 2006 is only their second vintage), the winery had access to Pinot Noir grapes from three different clones in three different vineyards. The grapes going into Perigée came from the most Southern of the vineyards down in the Osoyoos lake district. That region, in general, is often seen as being too hot for Pinot Noir but this wine just goes to show that specific blocks and microclimates can play a major role in varietal selection. For a supposedly warm region, it produced a wine deemed worthy of a Gold Medal from Pacific Northwest Wine Press.

LVP is also unique in that, rather than highlighting a pretty picture or logo on its front labels, it sets out all sorts of information about the production of the wine. You can't see all this information on the picture by the BBQ, but I can tell you, right off the bat, that the fruit was harvested at 3.5 tons an acre; it's grown on white silica sandy soil; the grapes were harvested on September 29, 2006 and the wine was aged in 100% French oak (of which 30% is new). Now, that's more information than you'd ever likely see or learn about a wine without specifically hunting it down and I didn't even mention the brix that the grapes were picked at, the name of the vineyard or who the winemaker and vineyard manager were - and that info was there as well. Oh and our bottle was individually numbered at 6,208.

The website also proclaims that Perigée is the more elegant and feminine of the Pinots they produced. Its finish is "all about finesse and nuance." And, perhaps it's that last comment that didn't necessarily make this one of my favourite Pinots in recent memory - particularly with a $45 price tag. Myles (from the movie "Sideways") and I are likely going to be at odds when it comes to Pinot's. I'm still fond of finding more up front fruit in my wine, but I'm also a bit of a sucker when it comes to the old "last opportunity to buy it" line. Hence, the real reason we might have this bottle, but I can also appreciate the effort that went into the making of a more premium wine.

Even though this might not have been a new fave of mine, now that I've got a much better handle on both LaStella and Le Vieux Pin, I think we'll see their wines appearing a little more regularly on The List. I know that there are plenty more stories to be told and that I've tried some wines that could well become favourites.

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