While I’m pleased that people occasionally read my posts, it’s probably obvious I write for my own sake. I initially started writing to aid my studies as my WSET Diploma Unit 3 Exam approached, and then continued to document what I was drinking just to keep track and to keep up with my studies after I had passed the exam. Writing here has the additional benefit of giving me an outlet when it comes to expounding on things that I find interesting. Very few people with whom I spend time in person want to hear me go on about how much I’ve enjoyed tasting rare French hybrids and German crossing that I picked up in Canada. And while I do have some more obscure varieties in the queue, today I’ll have a look at something a bit more conventional, the Lake Breeze Zephyr Brut 2009.
Since I live in Australia, I must first make clear that this is the Lake Breeze of British Columbia, Canada and the lake in question is the Okanagan Lake. This should not be confused with another fine winery, Lake Breeze of Langhorne Creek, South Australia where the lake in question is Lake Alexandrina. I doubt the two are related, and I hope I don’t ruffle any feathers if they were unaware of each other up until this point. Tabuaeran is an island in the Pacific about equidistant from both wineries and might make a nice halfway point to meet up and discuss the situation.
I try to structure my posts with information about the grape, region and producer, and to wrap it up with a tasting note. This week all the wines are from the Okanagan Valley, which by now is already quite familiar territory so instead the focus has been on the new (to me) grape varieties. However, today’s wine is a Pinot Noir, and not only have we seen many such wines, we’ve even seen two varietal sparkling Pinot Noirs, one of which was from Ross Gower in Elgin, South Africa. As it turns out, sparkling Pinot Noir is not the only connection between Lake Breeze and South Africa.
Lake Breeze was founded in the mid-1990s with its first vintage in 1995. Their vineyards date to 1985, which makes them quite old by local standards. The original owners termed it a “wine farm”, harkening back to the 25 years they spent in South Africa. The winemaker, Garron Elmes, is originally from Cape Town and studied oneology and viticulture at Elsenburg College in Stellenbosch. To top off the link to South Africa, Lake Breeze was the first vineyard in Canada to cultivate Pinotage, using clippings they imported from U.C. Davis. It’s possible I’m the only person on the planet who thinks that’s incredibly cool, but as I said earlier, if I write it here instead of blathering about it to people in person, I can still have friends.
In addition to this sparkling Pinot Noir and a Pinotage, Lake Breeze produces a fairly broad range of wines. Their whites include varietal Ehrenfelser, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Semillon, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc, in addition to a white blend, and they produce a rosé from co-fermented Pinot Noir and Viognier. Their range of reds includes two Pinot Noirs, two Bordeaux style blends, and a Merlot. They only produce this single sparkling wine, using the tradition method of second fermentation in the bottle.
Since the two sparkling Pinot Noirs we’ve seen previously were both rosé, a quick word on winemaking might not go amiss. Most grapes, regardless of their skin colour, contain pale flesh and relatively clear juice. There is a class of grapes known as teinturiers, which have red flesh and therefore red (or at least pink) juice, and we’ve covered one in the form of the Georgian grape Saperavi. However, Pinot Noir is not a teinturier and it produces clear juice, as evidenced by not only this wine but also by the many white sparkling wines of Champagne that contain Pinot Noir, and even the still Chardonnay Pinot Noir blend from Haute Cabrière we saw back in April. If you want Pinot Noir, or any other non-teinturier red grape to contribute colour to a wine, the juice must have contact with the coloured grape skins after they’ve been crushed. That typically happens during fermentation, through in some cases before and/or after, prior to pressing, as well. For rosé wines there are a number of methods, from very brief skin contact before pressing, extraction of some of the juice from after it’s been in skin contact (leaving the rest of the juice to make red wine), and even in some cases blending red and white grapes or wine.
But as to this wine, in the glass it is clear and bright, with a pale lemon green colour. It has fine beading with long lasting lace around the rim. On the nose it’s clean and developing, with medium intensity and notes of biscuit, blossom, and strawberries. On the palate it’s dry with medium plus acidity, medium minus alcohol, medium body, medium plus flavour intensity, and medium length. There are notes of sour cherry, strawberry, and grapefruit – all fruit without the developing characters of the nose.
I rate this wine as a solid good. It’s certainly fresh, with some vibrancy. It came across as a bit fruity on the palate, certainly more so than I expected from the nose, but the tart acidity keeps it lively. It didn’t have the complexity or development that would have pushed it into the very good category, but it doesn’t disappoint.