Tuesday, October 25, 2011

PNW Pinot Supremacy Battle Royale

Wine is an unusual drink.  It gets better with age and as it maintains contact with air.  Most other beverages get worse, not better, under these conditions.  Over and over again I am surprised by the evolution of a wine over hours or even days.  Lucha Vino materialized early in 2011 as I considered a way to combine exploring wine from around the globe and cycling.  Comparing wine as it evolves over time reminds me of a wrestling match.  Check out The Rules (Most have been broken.  What did you expect?  Wrestling - Lucha Libre - is more spectacle than sport.)

Each week I select a Washington State wine and compare it to the same varietal from another part of the globe.  The challengers are selected based on where the pro cycling peloton is racing.  Since the pro tour just wrapped up with the Giro d Lombardia, I am taking the opportunity to explore wines from regions the pro racers do not typically visit.

This week the Lucha Vino matchup features a tag team bout for the Pacific North West Pinot Noir Heavy Weight Championship Belt.

Syncline 2009 Pinot Noir teams up with Tunnel Hill 2009 Pinot Noir to take on Oregon and British Columbia represented by Cristom 2007 Sommers and Blue Mountain 2009.

Tale of the Tape

Team BC Oregon:

Blue Mountain 2009 Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir from the Okanogan Valley Appelation

Aged in French Oak for 10 months.

Purchased for $25.99 in Vancouver BC wine shop.

Cristom 2007 Sommers Reserve Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir from the following vineyards:
87% Eola -Amity Hills, 7% Willamette Foothills, 5% Dundee Hills, 1% Yamhill-Carlton District (65% Estate fruit)

Aged for 17 months in Burgudian cooperage, 53% new oak.

Purchased for $24.99 at Esquin.

Team Washington:

Syncline 2009 Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir from the Celilo Vineyard (51%) and Underwood Mountain Vineyard (49%) and aged in neutral oak for 11 months.

Purchased for $28.99 at Esquin.

Tunnel Hill 2009 Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir all estate grown on the South shores of Lake Chelan.

Purchased at the winery for $24.95.

Round 1.  First Opening:
The Blue Mountain Pinot is the first into the ring for Team BC/Oregon and is showing a nose featuring salt-n-pepper, blue berry and some funky smokiness.  The palate is buttery with blue berries and a tart cedar and pepper spice finish.

Tunnel Hill checks in for Washington with a nose showing light smoke, salt, pepper and strawberries. The palate has strawberry notes with sweet Asian spices and a finish that tails off into dry tart cherry bark.

This matchup is close with a slight edge going to Tunnel Hill, but before Team Washington can start celebrating the Cristom from Oregon tags into the ring and brings down the hammer with a nose of red berries, all spice and pepper with some peat bog and sea breeze wafting in the background.  The palate is full of smokey red berries and mineral with a tart fresh finish.

Tunnel Hill is struggling on the ropes but manages to get a hand out to Syncline and that spells doom for Team BC/Oregon.  The Syncline has a nose of sour currants, smoke and underbrush.  The palate shows some floral notes along with dark berries and a sweet finish.

The Syncline is definitely the most well balanced of the four luchadors and it shows by finishing off the round in Team Washington's favor.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

The battle rages on with Syncline throwing down some spicy in your face attitude with a nose of sour stone mineral red fruit and cranberry bog.  The palate is sweet, tart and spicy showing strawberry, rhubarb and cedar spice box that trails on to the finish.

Trying hard to match up, the Blue Mountain has a nose that mingles cranberry, strawberry and smokey peat bog character.  The palate is similar and trails off into a tart cherry pit finish.  Nice try but you better tag in your partner.

Cristolm gets a bit tangled in the ropes but recovers to show a nose of dark fruit, earth and light pepper.  The palate shows similar character of earth, dark fruit and light cracked pepper that ends with a light tart finish.

Syncline doesn't really need any help against these two challengers, but tags Tunnel Hill in for the fans.  Tunnel hill slides into the ring with a nose showing smoky strawberries and brambles with a palate of strawberr and light tart Asian spices that continue on into a tart dry finish.

Round two is dominated by the Washington Pinot Pair.  Pinot may be hard to find in Washington, but this team is certainly showing some machismo.

Round 3. One day later

About all that team BC/Oregon can hope for now is a knock out, or at least some points to maintain some street cred.

The Tunnel Hill is skipping around the ring with a nose of strawberry and smokey pepper.  The palate is strawberries and cedar spices with a dry cedar finish.  Lightening up a bit, but tough to bring down.

Blue Mountain is trying to land some body blows with attempts at a full throttle attack on the senses with a nose showing funky,peat bog, smoke and sandal wood intermixed with notes of dark red berries.  The palate is darker with currant and cedar cigar box spices that end in a tart finish.  This Canadian Luchador is definitely showing some stamina.

What's this?  Syncline has dropped into the match without a legit tag in taking Blue Mountain by surprise.  Syncline unleashes some sinister kung fu with a nose of raspberry, brambles, leather and hints of spice.  The palate is similarly complex with raspberry and cloves that lead into a spicy clove finish.

Not to be out maneuvered, Cristolm joins forces with Blue Mountain in the ring going two on one.  Cristolm still has some oomph left in the tank, but not much.  The nose is red berries, with some barnyard funk and peat bog overtones.  The palate is showing dry tart dark fruit character that leads to a similar finish.

Even when Cristolm and Blue Mountain join forces they are finding this Washington team to be formidable foes.

Final tally - Washington 3, Team BC/Oregon nil.  Better luck next time.

Wrap up and over all observations

It ain't easy to find a Washington Pinot.  There seem to be several wineries in the Lake Chelan AVA that are having success with this finicky grape.  Tunnel Hill is one of those wineries.  Syncline is also doing good things in the Columbia Gorge. 

All four of these Luchadors presented solid variations on Pinot Noir.  All were worthy combatants earning the following scores: Blue Mountain 86, Cristolm 87, Tunnell Hill and Syncline each with an 88.

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