Pinot Noir can make such beautiful wines, with red fruit and floral scents, lighter bodied, fine tannins and medium acidity. With this, I looked forward to opening the two Pinot Noir from Scorched Earth Winery in the Okanagan Mountain Park area of Kelowna to review. Scorched Earth specializes in Pinot Noir and organically farms. After the 2003 Okanagan forest fire, Peter and Anita Pazdernik purchased this scorched earth property in 2004 and started their vineyard, only planting Pinot Noir; 5 acres in total, 7000 vines, 4 clones (667, 828, 777, 115), each clone is grafted on different rootstock to properly take advantage of the diverse terroir in each block. They do bottle other wines, but those grapes are not from their vineyard.
I sampled their PASK The Pinot Noir 2015 and their Pinot Noir 2016, both under screw cap, which is another nice surprise. Both wines are made with a blend of Pinot clones 115, 828, and 777. And both are hand-harvested, hand-sorted, 95% whole grape fermented with Burgundian yeast. The difference, beside vintage, is that the 2015 PASK is aged for 18 months in French oak barrels while the 2016 Pinot Noir is aged for 23 months in French barrels.
I did check my vintage notes for 2015 and 2016 and they were two very different years, which shows in these two wines.
My Vintage Notes
From the end of May to mid-September statistics show that 2015 was warmer than any other year on record. Because of the sun and heat, veraison (when the grapes turn their acids into sugars) also came early. The grapes were able to reach their full sugar and phenolic ripeness. 2014 was also a hot year, but its heat spikes caused the vines to shut down at times, which delayed when the grapes were ready for harvest. 2015, although hot, did not suffer heat spikes which could keep the vines from shutting down, and allowed the grapes to ripen early.
What about the 2015 red wines? Yes there are going to be some great 2015 BC red wines released. Stock up as the whites and reds all should be exceptionally good.
Should you stock up on the red and white wines from BC’s 2016 vintage? BC wines are known for their fruit flavours and their accompanying natural acidity. But the 2016 started very early and hot in the Spring, with bud break being the earliest on record. In the Okanagan bud break was as much as six weeks early.
Would this continue through the summer and force the grapes to be picked early without letting the grapes reach their full phenolic ripeness? No. We had a cool July so that the grapes could mature more slowly. But then came the hotter, drier weather typical of August and September. The heat in August brought on veraison in the Okanagan about two weeks early for some wineries. But it was not detrimental to the grapes’ development. The results in the Okanagan produced grapes with mature fruit flavours, lower alcohol and balanced acidity.
Overall I’d say the 2016 BC vintage is a success for the white wines. You still get the acidity in the wines that we are famous for, plus with the cooler summer, we get good fruit flavour. But what about the red wines? We should find out about the red wines later this fall or Spring next year, depending on barrel ageing length. My guess is that we will have a good balance of ripe fruit and acidity, and have that enhanced with some barrel oak and vanilla notes.
My Tasting Notes
Scorched Earth Winery Pinot Noir 2016 (BC $24.95 + taxes and deposit)
Appearance: Pale crystal clear garnet, consistent colour from core to rim, about 25% opaque.
Nose: A medium plus intensity nose, showing exuberant youth. Smoky raspberries and toasty oak, red cherries, red fruits and nutmeg. With air you get some tea leaves and sweeter aromas. With decanting you get more sweet red fruit aromas and less smokiness. Also the hint of tea leaves disappears.
Palate: Dry, medium body with semi roundness. Toasty, with vibrant red fruit flavours, raspberries, minerality, oak and a touch of floral. Gets peppery on the mid-palate. With decanting the wine gets a softer, silkier mouthfeel, with less toasty and mineral flavours. Brighter fruit flavours than from the PASK.
Finish: Medium plus length finishing with red fruits, light pepper, and slightly drying fine tannins. Some smokiness with swirling. There is less tannins and more acidity on the finish with decanting and sweeter fruits on the finish.
Overall I prefer the undecanted version as I enjoy the smokiness on the nose and minerality on the palate, but the decanted version is nice as well with it’s softer silky mouthfeel.
Rating: A beautiful crystal clear pale garnet colour. Medium plus intensity smoky raspberries and other red fruits on the nose upon opening. Medium body, dry and round with red fruits, toast, light oak and floral flavours. Fine tannins. Youthful exhuberance.
Scorched Earth Winery PASK The Pinot Noir 2015 (not listed on website)
Why PASK? PASK represents the initials of their family, Peter, Anita, Shae, and Kiana (the last 2 names are their children).
Appearance: A medium plus intensity, deeper garnet colour; about 40% opaque.
Nose: A very light intensity nose, with red cherries and toasty oak. No change in aromas with decanting.
Palate: Dry, fuller bodied, thicker, silky, fully round mouthfeel. Ripe raspberries, red cherries, sweet red fruits, oak and a touch of vanilla. Medium acidity and fine, light tannins. A touch of floral with air. Complex mature flavours. With decanting you can add rich plum flavour.
Finish: A medium plus length finishing with a mix of vanilla and red fruit, then toasty oak, floral, pepperiness, and nutmeg spice. A bit of a puckering finish, but with decanting the puckering is much lessened, and you get more tannins. Also you now get some plum flavour on the finish, and the nutmeg and pepperiness are much diminished.
Both decanted and undecanted tasting of this wine are nice, but might give the decanted version the slight edge for the addition of plum flavours. No need to cellar. Nice now.
Rating: A bigger, quality Pinot Noir. Very light red cherry and toasty oak nose. It is fuller bodied, round and silky mouthfeel. Medium acidity and fine light tannins. Ripe raspberries and red cherries on the palate, plus plums if decanted. Light oak and vanilla flavours as well.
You may notice that the labels changed between 2015 and 2016. I like their new labels, original artwork,which are meant to represent the scorched trees that surround the vineyard.
Where Can I Buy These Wines?
You can order these limited production wines from the Scorched Earth Winery website. Private stores: Liberty Wine Merchants (3 locations), Sutton Place Wine Merchant, and Viti Wine and Lager.