Posted by Clive on Tuesday, June 15, 2010
I had heard rumors, whispers, even mumblings about top shelf Pinot Noir from Washington state. There aren't many of them being made in Washington, due in large part to the significant doubt that the growing conditions allow the fruit to become what it can truly be. Kyra Baerlocher of Kyra Wines in Moses Lake is one of those who is making a Pinot Noir. Given how much I enjoyed their Merlot, I was looking forward to giving their Pinot Noir a whirl. (Kyra sent me the wine to review.)
Washington state's AVAs are warmer than Oregon's, particularly in the more common wine growing areas east of the Cascade Mountains. Recently, the Puget Sound AVA has begun getting a reputation as a possible Pinot Noir spot. There is, however, quite a bit of skepticism and the jury is still out on how the Washington Pinot will hold up to vintners' experimentations. Some Washington winemakers have committed to making the varietal work in Washington and we should see some interesting wines over the next few years.
Kyra more or less happened into Pinot Noir while she was waiting for her estate vineyards to mature. As she put it, it found her. She was working with the Evergreen Vineyards in George, Washington and really liked their fruit, so when some of their Pinot Noir fruit came available, Kyra figured she'd give it a try. What she found is that Pinot is a whole different kind of animal, except, it's not really an animal, but a grape. That's just an expression people use, so you know.
Kyra speculates that winemakers in Washington may be going awry when they treat Pinot like other varietals: "Once I began to work with Pinot Noir, I realized it couldn't be approached like any red varietal from Washington." When Kyra Wines decided to make a specific investment in their production of Pinot Noir, they purchased wine making equipment that is specific to Pinot and started to think differently about how they'd approach this wine. Kyra spent a lot of time and effort on yeast selection and extraction to achieve the best color concentration, which seems to be a weak spot for many Washington Pinots.
In order to get the complexity she's looking for out of the wine, Kyra gives her blending a lot of consideration. She's worked with Mike Buckmiller from Okanogan Estate & Vineyards who has made Pinot for some time out of the Okanogan Valley. Additionally she's working with the fruit from Jack Brady of Underwood Mountain in the Columbia Gorge.
This Pinot Noir is considerably different from the majority of the ones coming out of Washington. Any that I've had anyways. The dark fruit elements of the wine and the color concentration are certainly unique,to Washington Pinot. It's not an Oregon Pinot either though, the completely obvious aside. It's a Pinot of a different color, if you will.
The wine has darker fruit characteristics, the nose is baked cherry tart and thanks to the oak program Kyra used, there's a hint of toasted almond in there as well. The flavor is concentrated - it almost has a smoky fruit element. In comparison to Oregon Pinot Noir I find less of the earth and soil tones. Kyra's Pinot is exciting and really holds great promise for what this varietal can be in Washington. The wine shows lots of layers and a flavor concentration that should allow for the wine to develop and age. I love what Kyra has done with this wine and look forward to her future endeavors.