The seductive siren call of Pinot Noir

At the 2019 International Wine Festival held in Vancouver we heard from 9 presenters on the topic of Pinot Noir and seduction. They picked the grapes when they were ripe and either poured over or punched down. The grapes were then aged in barrels probably French Oak.

Each presenter was asked to bring a cultural artifact and talk about how that artifact captured the essence of Pinot Noir for them. These are their stories.

Paul Wagner who moderated the seminar brought a picture of Bacchus the god of wine by Caravaaggio. This painting is 500 years old. Paul likes to think the Bacchus is obviously holding a glass of Pinot Noir here, this is based on the size of the glass. When you gaze at Bacchus he’s beautiful, a bit feminine and masculine at the same time. He makes you think about that which pinot noir makes you do. He’s a beautiful boy, but the sun has burned his face and hands which means he is a working class person. The fruit in the picture speaks to the fruity armoas of Pinot but also earthy aromas from the dirt and leaves. Caravaggio painted the world as he actually saw it not how he wanted it to be.

Matt Dumaine form OK Crushpad presented us with a Free Form Pinot Noir from 2017. This came from their Gamma Valley property, which was virgin land, never planted on before. The land covers 320 acres and 40 of those acres are planted on. The 2017 Pinot Noir was not made traditionally. It was left to sit on the skins for 2 months. The reason he chose to bottle it was because it was faulty Pinot Noir. Matt pointed out that wine should be historical and have memories. It’s enticing and provocative, in 2017 the Okanagan had forest fires in the area and on their property during harvest. There was even fear of losing their house to the fires. The block that these grapes were picked from was next to the burning area and the wine was aged on the skins in Amphora.

Paul Wagner pointed out that Pinot shows a sense of place and time.

Matt wants to leave the land for future generations to be able to make wine. He said of the wine “It’s like taking a snapshot of the day during harvest and putting in the bottle”

Darryl Brooker from Mission Hill Family Estate brought the Terroir Collection Pinot NOir, No. 43 (Reflection Point) 2016. For Darryl Pinot tells a story of place. When he was 10 years old he would go to the grey hound races with his family and would look for tickets on the ground and take them to the bookie in hopes of finding a winning ticket. HE felt sorry for the dogs because they don’t catch the rabbit. Pinot Noir isn’t about catching the rabbit, it’s about chasing the rabbit. When you try Pinot Noir you think what you could do different and what you did wrong. Multiple countries and regions play with Pinot. The fun is you never get it right. There’s not much to do if you always the rabbit.

Pinot Noir Compact car
Pinot Noir from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt SO1E06

Ross Baker took a different approach to Pinot Noir and played a video clip for us from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 1 Episode 6 which is a fabulously antiquated song about Pinot Noir. I highly recommend you look this up when you have a chance. This was the first this that came to mind for Ross when he was asked to present. He also brought with him the Quails’ Gate Richard’s Block Pinot Noir 2016. He plays the video over a loud speaker for the workers during harvest and it lightens the mood. The video talks about style and character. It’s really about what you find in the expression of the wine in the harvest and it brings passion out of the people. Speaking of producing Pinot Noir He says it’s an uphill battle and a joy.

Jean-Charles Boisset brought the painting seen here along with a lovely Savigny Les Beaune 2015. The imagine was drawn by him and then painted by a close friend of his.

He opened his presentation with a grand bonjour! and spoke of growing up in Burgundy. Jean-Charles reflected that when you grow up in Burgundy in the heart of the Vougeot, visions of men and boys and monks praying dance in your head. Then the only enjoy Grand Cru on Sunday and having for confession the Clos-Bourgeois blanc.

Thanks to his mother and sisters he saw the Femininity of the wine then he met his wife and his world changed and he saw the vision of Pinot that he drew.

He laughed playfully as he began to describe the image and say that he kept the rose in the important part. When he and his wife are together in the house they take the rose away and smell the roses of the bouquet of the wine.

As they say in Burgundy “The unseen is as important as the seen.” We look at what we like to look see. When you think about the wine in your glass you cosider the soil, composition and terroir. An innterpretation of the venous of milo, by Laozi, an ancient Chinese philopsopher said “Think about the source, think about where you come from.” The beauty of Pinot is you can have one soil but mulitple expressions. There are 235 different wines in Burgundy.

The Indians used to say “take off you shoes and caress the land of mother nature” Soil is the base where we as human beings come from. The egg in the picture represents birth. Even before being cracked open, if handled properly it gives birth to the elements.

The seashell represents the fact that in Burgundy, 30 million years ago there was water. Wine is about femininity, and touch. The human body requires the touch of the hand.

An article by Lauren Suval reads “Whenever I’m overwhelmed or feeling down, I tend to crave touch. A hug, a hand to hold; a connection that can manifest into something that’s tangible. And even on stress-free days, I may seek out the healing components that touch has to offer.

Is the act of human touch an innate need, ingrained within? Not necessarily (in my opinion), but on a superficial level, it very well could be. Research demonstrates that touch contains several health benefits for our physiological and psychological well being.” “Hugs strengthen the immune system,” according to a post on “The gentle pressure on the sternum and the emotional charge this creates activates the Solar Plexus Chakra. This stimulates the thymus gland, which regulates and balances the body’s production of white blood cells, which keeps you healthy and disease free.”

The rose at the end of every row indicates illness, when they can see disease in the rose it is a sign to look for something the vineyard that may contaminate the wine. When they plough the land with horses it forces the horse to go around and not disturb the grape vines.

The Cathedral in the sky represents altitude. Wine is the interception of teneric energy and cosmic energy with that transcendental, emotional ethereal feel of femininity and finesse. It oscillates between earth and sky, dirt and air. It maintains an earthy feeling and transports into that je ne sais quoi.

The cleavage equals fault lines in the earth.

What is important to think about is what you see, what is in the wine, but what is not obvious and what you will see tomorrow.

Pinot Noir consistently evolves like a relationship and is never the same as you tasted. Pinot shows it’s face, disappears and comes back. As a relationship Pinot keeps dazzling us and inspiring us.

Shirley Brooks from Elk cove vineyards in t he Willamette Valley in Oregon brought a delicious La Bohème Pinot Noir from 2016. Shirley has always been fascinated with wine and wanted to be a dive master. She lived in the Willamette valley while attending school and fell in love with wine. Her career turned into a hobby and her hobby into a career. She said “When you have that amazing bottle of wine that is in many ways hard to translate to others but it speaks to you it is a solitary thing.” With diving she was fascinated by the fact that she can hear herself breathing, a whole world laid out before before you but it’s shared with other divers. Much like with wine, it’s an internal story but sharing it is the truly amazing piece. She landed in Oregon and that pays homage to the Old Burgundy but single mindly Pinot is the grape of note. Pinot Noir is outer worldly.

Thomas Price from Jackson family wines brought a Penner-ash Willamette Valley Pinot Noir from 2016 and a the song Forever my life by Prince. Found here —>

He chose the song because of it’s many layers and long elegant finish. He said Pinot Noir is really about layers. It’s so amazingly subtle and powerful at the same time and versatile at the table. It truly takes on the terroir and the person who makes the wine.

The wine he presented had many layers of fruit, spice, soft tannins and was well balance with a long elegant finish much like the song by Prince.

Randy Fabian from Yealands family wines brought an Estate single Vineyard Pinot Noir. His image was of Mount Tepuia, named after a chief who used to represent the south island. It’s where Sir Ed did his training for Mt. Everest. Mt Tepuia is almost 10,000 feet and has a massive fault line that runs out to the sea through the Awatere Valley where the wine is from. The ocean to one side and the mountains behind. The region deals with cold winds from the Ant Arctic and the southerly wind currents affect the temperatures.

Peter Yealands looks like a cross between Jerry Garcia and Santa. He’s that guy that when he is told he can’t do it he says “Na na na na I can do it and I’ll do it my way.” He bought a bunch of land that was always used for cattle and planted grape vines on it. The winery leave no carbon foot print and uses Solar panels, wine turbines, clean air incinerators and a whole lot of baby doll sheep. The winery is a quite the place and a must see if you are in the region.

Justin Seidenfield from Rodney Strong Vineyards presented a Reserve Pinot Noir Russian river valley from 2015.

Justin has always been infatuated with watches he couldn’t afford. Shown here is the Grand Master Chime. It’s not the most complex watch, but the most beautiful in his opinion. He sees Pinot Noir through the lense of watches; only 4 of these Grand Master Chimes exist in the world. When he’s given a bottle of Le Tache he gets giddy. What excites him is the rarity of the wine and how much effort is put into it.

The watch (The grand master chime) has over 100,000 man hours put into it. When you drink Pinot Noir you might find a wine that loves you, you might find a wine that hates you. The watch can tell you the time in music.

Seidenfield said “Making THAT Pinot Noir is the goal, you can have sport watches like Rolex or Omega dress watches like Breguet. You can have wine that speaks to you in different ways.”

Wine, like watches has Layers, complexity, beauty, finesse and detail.

Scott Kozel from Gallo Signature Series brought a Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir and an imagine unlike any other. He brought a few pictures of a sculpture titles Lilith found in the Museum of fine arts in Boston.

In medieval Jewish lore, Lilith was Adam’s first wife. When she demanded to be Adam’s equal, she was evicted from the Garden of Eden. Lilith flew away to the demon world, replaced by the more submissive Eve. Smith catches us off guard with Lilith’s pose and placement. Most sculptures receive our gaze passively, but Lilith stares back with piercing brown eyes, ready to pounce.

Kozel chose this sculpture because it has dimension, occupies space, length and breadth and takes up space. The sculpture of Lilith hangs on the wall and presents a physical, emotinal, sensory appeal. Pinot Noir is much like this. Clay and brines. Wine is form grapes. You can see where pressure was applied and where the thumb went. Pinot Noir is the same, very transparent with choice of grapes, barrels and yeast etc. A different view makes you uncomfortable like Pinot she sees the bad choices you made a bit to late and the great ones.

Pinot is god awful ugly in the creation process. You question your abilities and what’s going on and Pinot sees it. You step out of the gallery and you want to go back and look again, much like Pinot.

It’s uncomfortable and hard to comprehend what is going on with the wine.

Lucky for everyone there was a short time for questions and answers at the end of the seminar, the first question was about the importance of Terroir. The following was said by the Panel members:

“They re-introduced organic and bio dynamic 7 years ago. In the wine world we need to be true to mother nature. You have a moral engagement and a spiritual engagement and more of an obligation if you are to own farmland to be responsible. The only way forward in the wine world for you to help the evolution of climate change is to become a responsible farmer. Organic and Bio-dynamic farming is the future.” – Jean-Charles Boisset – Jean-Claude Boisset

“Expression of terroir can be a goal.” – Justin Seidenfield – Rodney Strong Vineyards

“Is this the one rabbit that is being chased? Yes, trying to show where and why the grapes are grown.” – Darryl Brooker – Mission Hill Family Estate

Shirley Brooks had to say “With Pinot Noir there’s a transparency. Is that always the goal? It tends to allow them to express it more readily than other varietals.” – Shirley Brooks – Elk Cove Vineyards

“Wine is made in vineyards, terroir = soil, climate affects the plant, the passion of the people that make it, no deviation of sense of place. HE keeps grafting his grandmothers roses to keep a sense of place” – Jean-Charles Boisset – Jean-Charles Boisset

The other question that I personally felt had to be asked was “I know from my studies that Pinot Noir is a thin skinned grape, given the title of the seminar What do you find seductive about Pinot Noir?”

When I asked this question Jean-Charles Boisset quipped “Who are you to ask me this question?” I laughed at first and then thought I’m a romantic wine writer I need to know!

Ross Baker said “I think if we’re talking about thin skin it would definitely describe my wife….It’s not quite erotic as other grapes, you get frustrated when you are in the cellar and tasting grapes that are wowing you.”

Matt Dumaine said “It’s fun to make, essential, silky and easy to drink, there’s so much to it. It’s frustrating if you find good conditions. One of the calling cards of the grape is the texture. When you talk to the consumers they want that texture in their mouth.”

Jean-Charles Boisset had the following to say “The layers is what’s interesting in the seduction. There is nothing like Pinot. Pinot Noir is a white juice grape, yes you have thick and thin skin, but the layers ARE interesting in seduction as you make it and it evolves over time. There’s nothing like it. It’s like an exercise with a significant other or a seduction game; you keep going through to every single layer and laying it but never truly knowing it. When you discover it and think you know it you’re never really there. Pinot has also had the seduction of making bubbles. Start the week with bubbles, have a version as a white as a rosé as a Burgundy, it evolves to champagne blended with Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, the whole family is together. You end up with an apex of bubbles and seduction! Pinot is an explosion.”

Justin Seidenfield said he wanted to add one thing, and I’m glad he did. He said “When you think about seduction what is it? It’s a tease, that’s what Pinot Noir is, it just teases you all day and you can’t get enough of it. And those thin skins and the layers and complexity is the one thing that keeps bringing us back for more even though it’s the one varietal that drives us most nuts. And so if it didn’t tease us, and then surprise us, and then disappoint us and make us happy and dissapoint us again and then again and then make us happy! Pinot Noir is the one grape that just sucks you in, you make that one good Pinot and then you swirl it around and around and it’s seductive you just want more of it.”

Special thanks to our Moderator and speakers:

Paul Wagner – Wine Educator and Wine Writer.

Matt Dumaine – Okanagan Crush Pad

Darryl Brooker – Mission Hill Winery

Ross Baker – Quails Gate Winery

Jean-Charles Boisset – Jean-Claude Boissett

Shirley Brooks – Elk Cover Vineyards

Thomas Price – Jackson Family Wines

Randy Fabian – Yealands family wines

Justin Seidenfield – Rodney Strong Vineyards

Scott Kozel – Gallo Signature Series

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