By guest blogger Seanan Forbes
With the temperatures dropping and the evenings growing cool, red wines are looking increasingly attractive. It's not quite Burgundy weather -- sweaters, but not coats -- just about right for Pinot Noir.
There are some interesting Pinots in New Zealand. That's a long distance - in miles or time zones - for a conversation. When Felton Road's Blair Walter crossed hemispheres to discuss wine in New York's Sherry-Lehmann en route to flash trips through Denver and other cities -- might as well hit 'em all while you're here -- he came within conversing distance.
Walter is a winemaker, and he exhibits the dedication and passion that goes with that job -- along with a sense of humor. He describes their older Pinot Noir as "muscular" and "brawny," as if it were Heathcliff in a bottle. For the past few years, he's been steering the Pinot Noir in a gentler, lighter direction (less dramatic character brooding in a storm; more metrosexual contemplating where to go for dinner).
The winery is in a region with a cool climate, making it ideal for Pinot Noir. That's the bulk of their growth. Felton Road grows approximately 10 percent Riesling, 20 percent Chardonnay and 70 percent Pinot Noir. "It's far too cool for us to ripen any other red variety," Walter says.
Where taste is concerned, Walter gets a fair variety from Pinot Noir. Felton Road Bannockburn is a blend of three properties; like any good blend, it's easy and consistent. Walter describes it as "our starting wine." Calvert and Cornish Point are exemplars of their regions; they make bolder statements -- but remain subtler than the older bottles. The 2004 Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 3 is rich and complex, with flavors balancing across the tongue. The 2006 is heading in that direction, presenting a tough choice between "drink" and "save."
The grapes come from clean ground; Felton Road is a far stretch from anything resembling a city. Walter chuckles. "It's a three-hour drive for me to see the nearest traffic light," he says. The winery proudly sports organic and biodynamic certification. They grow cover crops to help with the soil. Helping with land-care are goats and chickens, some of which end up on the table (and with the wine, which is food-friendly stuff). Long-haired highland cows are soon to come.
Buy a bottle (easily done at Pantheon Wine Shoppe in Northbrook, and you support people who care about wine and land. Even Heathcliff could get behind that.