Years ago, in San Francisco, a prominent collector invited me to a “fine and rare” dinner that included some the world’s greatest wines, all of which were served blind. List the top estates from any region and there’s a good chance that label was in the lineup. As hours passed and each new gem was revealed, affirmative nods and knowing glances were shared. I don’t recount this to brag, but rather to showcase how floored all of us were when our host served us “the best for last.”
We swirled and smelled and then the arguments began: Not, mind you, whether it was from Burgundy—that, we were certain of—but from what expensive slice of land within the Côte de Nuits. With a laugh, our host revealed Foxtrot Vineyards Pinot Noir...from Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. Though I don’t remember the specific vintage we had that night, what I can recall is that every single connoisseur around the table was shocked. In an instant, our perspectives about an entire region forever changed. Ironically, with Okanagan Valley being so close to us—just across Washington State’s border—we know so little about it, but the climate is there, the terroir is there, the elegance and perfume, it’s all there. And after four years of offering some of Burgundy’s finest, it’s time to introduce you to Foxtrot—an unknown yet world-class Pinot Noir that fooled many experienced wine pros. It took us quite a while to secure a small portion, and at up to six bottles per person, we’re delighted to share this sensational experience with you.
Foxtrot’s Pinot influenced me so much, I ended up making a trip out to Okanagan the following year. Though my time there was brief, I discovered one of the most breathtakingly beautiful wine regions the world has to offer, with promising wineries popping up everywhere. Tucked between mountain ranges and snaking waters, Okanagan Valley lies due east of Vancouver, with a north-south orientation and a similar latitude to that of Champagne. Despite having a semi-desert climate, like many of neighboring Washington’s top vineyard sites, and a relatively short growing season, Okanagan Valley is emerging as a premier “New World” region and a handful of Pinot Noirs are vying for the top spot—Foxtrot being one of these elite. It may be a bold assertion, but I feel confident in saying that as wine continues evolving, Okanagan Valley, and British Columbia as a whole, will be increasingly buzzed about.
Foxtrot, like many wineries here, is relatively new, founded in 2004 by Gustav Allander and his Swedish-expatriate parents who purchased the estate and vineyard attached to it. Last week I reached out to Douglas Barzelay, the collector who originally introduced me to Foxtrot all those years ago. And, in a bizarre, small-world happenstance, it turns out Doug and his business partner, Nathan Todd, were so captivated by Foxtrot that they recently seized the opportunity to purchase the estate, while retaining Gustav as winemaker—they closed the deal just months ago. Sometimes we throw around the phrase “life-changing wine,” and for Doug it’s meant in the most literal sense.
A rarity in the wine world, the vines in Foxtrot’s minuscule 3.5-acre vineyard are self-rooted (ungrafted), thanks to a heavy presence of sand in these silty loam soils; the proverbial kryptonite of the root louse, ‘phylloxera.’ Rigorous sustainable farming is practiced throughout the short growing year and come harvest in 2015, each lot was handpicked, cold-soaked for five days, and naturally fermented (33% ‘whole-cluster’). Following two weeks of fermentation and multiple ‘punch-downs’ each day, the wine was aged in 50% new French oak with the remainder going into second- and third-year barrels. After 20 months of aging, it was once-racked and bottled unfiltered.
Now, onto the wine itself. Does this 2015 Foxtrot deliver the same experience as my first encounter years ago? Given enough patience, absolutely. I strongly recommend you treat this like you would a young Grand Cru Burgundy, by either decanting for a few hours or pulling the cork in the morning and consuming come dinnertime. I will say that drinking this right after opening, like many top Burgundies, is not advised, but with each passing hour it will continuously exceed your expectations. After hour three of being open, I was speechless at the level of aromatics and depth: Describe the aromatics of top Chambolle or the most elegant Vosne-Romanée and you’ll be in the realm of Foxtrot. It emerges with high-toned notes of crushed strawberries, black cherry, currants, raspberry liqueur, forest floor, turned earth, tea leaves, bergamot oil, and beautiful accents of baking spice that hint toward high quality oak. The palate is lush, fresh, and silky smooth, showcasing a framework of fine-grained tannins and zippy acidity. It finishes long and graceful, releasing converging layers of earth, savory spice, and ripe berry fruit. After you’ve patiently waited for the wine to open up, serve around 60-65 degrees in your largest Burgundy stems. If you have Burgundy-loving friends over, be sure to serve this blind and, to further lead them astray, pair Foxtrot with a classic French dish: confit de canard. I’ll end with a PSA: Please, please, please stow some of these bottles away, as they will emerge full blossom in five years, and continue evolving over the next two decades. Cheers!
Pinot Noir 100%
50% New French
Loam & Calcium Carbonate
Large Burgundy Stem