Despite the Burgundy-esque royalty and sheer deliciousness of Foxtrot’s flagship Pinot Noir, none of us could have ever imagined that it would sell out last year—but it did, and for months now our team has been drowning in requests. And though we managed to secure a handful of extra bottles for some customers, most were left empty-handed.
That all changes with today’s limited offer. “The Waltz” is less expensive, more accessible, and every bit as delicious as Foxtrot’s flagship Pinot Noir. A blend of three special blocks—one of which is from their rare self-rooted vineyard—and crafted almost identically, we can’t help but put this sub-$50 stunner in the all-time greats category. To sleep on this wine is to miss one of the world’s great Pinot Noirs. As we said above: Move over, Burgundy! You cannot find this label anywhere else in America and our own quantities are extremely low, so, like the waltz, you better move in triple time!
My own discovery of Foxtrot is a closely-held memory that ranks at the top of my wine experiences. Years ago, in San Francisco, a prominent collector invited me to a “fine and rare” dinner that included some of 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 the hours passed and each new gem was revealed, affirmative nods and knowing glances were shared—until we were served “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 grin, our host revealed Foxtrot Vineyards Pinot Noir...from the Okanagan Valley in 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 the 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 while today’s “The Waltz” is, shall we say, the ‘baby brother’ of Foxtrot’s flagship Pinot, it certainly doesn’t drink like it!
Foxtrot’s Pinot influenced me so much back then, I ended up making a trip out to the 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, the 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, the 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 names. It may be a bold assertion, but I feel confident in saying that as wine continues evolving, the 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. When I reached out to Douglas Barzelay in 2018—the collector who originally introduced me to Foxtrot all those years ago—I had no idea that he and his business partner, Nathan Todd, were so captivated by Foxtrot that they seized the opportunity to purchase the estate, while retaining Gustav as winemaker. Sometimes we throw around the phrase “life-changing wine,” and for Doug it’s meant in the most literal sense: Tasting Foxtrot compelled him to purchase the estate!
“The Waltz” is a blend of three blocks—“Fox” (65%), “Raisin D’Etre” (25%), and Evelina (10%)—all of which feature soils that range from sand to clayey loam to glacial sediment. Rigorous sustainable farming is practiced throughout the growing season, to ensure each unique parcel is treated accordingly. Come harvest in 2016, each lot was handpicked, cold-soaked for four days, and fermented (15% whole cluster) via naturally occurring, airborne yeasts. Following two weeks of fermentation and multiple ‘punch-downs’ each day, the wine was aged in 30% new French oak with the remainder going into second- and third-year barrels. After 20 months of maturing, it was racked and lightly filtered before bottling in October of 2018.
Just as I was left speechless with Foxtrot’s “grand vin,” the level of aromatics and depth in “The Waltz” is just as staggering—and it’s a more affordable wine! You’ll rattle off vivid fragrances that are typically reserved for the best wines of the Willamette Valley and Burgundy: high-toned black raspberry, black cherry liqueur, redcurrant, damp forest floor, crushed violets, orange zest, fresh rose petals, and a fully integrated trinity of black tea, savory herbs, and baking spices (they source their barrels from Francois Freres, one of the best French coopers). The palate is brightly balanced, flaunting svelte tannins alongside a lush mouthfeel. A long, savory finish is accompanied by vivaciously dark berry fruit and brilliant layers of crushed earth minerality, catapulting this into the upper-echelons of Pinot royalty. After you’ve patiently waited for the wine to open up in a decanter—about one hour—serve around 60 degrees in your largest Burgundy stems. As we’ve quickly learned with Foxtrot, serve this to your friends whilst concealing the label—it’s a fully rewarding game for both parties. It should go without saying, but I highly recommend buying more than a few bottles because “The Waltz” has the energy, structure, and class to keep gaining complexity over the next 5-10 years. Enjoy!
Okanagan Valley / Naramata Bench
Pinot Noir 100%
30% New French
Large Burgundy Stem