Sunday, February 25, 2018

Privato 2014 Grande Reserve Pinot Noir

Photo: Debbie and John Woodward

At the recent winter wine festival at Sunpeaks, I led a tasting of iconic wines from British Columbia.

I was fortunate to include a Pinot Noir from Privato Vineyard & Winery.

There were two reasons for adding Privato to the lineup. Firstly, it is one of the four wineries in Kamloops, the community down the road from Sunpeaks. Secondly, it is being recognized as one of the more distinguished Pinot Noir producers in BC. The display bottle at my tasting was weighed down with at least three medals. It was obvious, when we tasted the wine, why it was doing so well in competition.

For some background, here is an excerpt from my 2017 book, Icon: Flagship Wines from British Columbia’s Best Wineries.

By launching their Privato winery in Kamloops, where they lived, John and Debbie Woodward gave themselves some daunting challenges. The first was planting Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Their vineyard on the bank of the North Thompson River, a 30-minute drive north of downtown Kamloops, is one of the most northerly vineyards in British Columbia.

“Debbie has always wanted a vineyard,” says John, who was born in Kamloops in 1954. He is a professional forester, while Debbie is a certified general accountant. Since 1987, they have grown trees for Christmas and for landscaping on their 32-hectare (80-acre) farm. Several years ago, they took time off from this bucolic life to tour in Italy during harvest. Seeing tiny wineries harvesting and processing grapes inspired them. “It was just the fuel we needed to get going,” Debbie says. There was nothing holding them back: they had land and their elegant farm buildings were easily turned into a winery and tasting room. In 2010, they planted 1.2 hectares (3 acres) of vines—Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and one row of Maréchal Foch.

Since John had limited winemaking experience, he retained a consultant, Gustav Allander of Foxtrot Vineyards. Gustav coached him in making a trial lot of Pinot Noir in 2010 and enough in 2011 for commercial release. In 2013, when Gustav stopped consulting, the Woodwards turned to New Zealand–trained Jacqueline Kemp for guidance on sourcing Okanagan grapes and making wine. She is the winemaker at Moraine Vineyards.

The challenge for collectors of Privato’s Pinot Noirs is the winery’s penchant for identifying small-lot wines with different labels. Tesoro and Fedele are Pinot Noirs from different vineyards. From 2013 forward, these wines succeed the Woodward Collection Pinot Noir. The Grande Réserve Pinot Noir will be released only in exceptional vintages. None was made in 2013, but a 2014 is likely to be released. Pinot Noirs released under the Privato Collection label might be considered the “regular” Pinot Noirs.

While Jacqueline Kemp remains on retainer, the training wheels have come off and John handles most of the winemaking.

Most of Privato’s fruit is sourced from premium Okanagan vineyards. The Privato vineyards is relatively small and, on occasion, the vines and buds are dealt periodic setbacks by the cold winters in the Thompson Valley.

The Grande Réserve Pinot Noir, which likely will be released this spring, is made with grapes from the Devonshire Vineyard on Naramata Bench, where the vines were 28 years old in 2014. I am not sure how the Woodwards managed to lock up such splendid fruit; but it is exactly what one needs for making complex and rich Pinot Noir.

Here are my notes on the wine.

Privato Grande Réserve Pinot Noir 2014 ($54.99). The back label discloses that the grapes were crushed by foot, probably still the gentlest way of crushing Pinot Noir. The wine was aged 18 months in French oak and about two years in bottle before release. In the glass, the wine opens with aromas of spice, raspberry and cherry. Rich and concentrated in texture, it delivers flavours of strawberry and cherry with a touch of mocha and vanilla on the silky finish. This is a wine of considerable elegance. 93. 


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