Barrel samples can be deceiving. Tasting an unfinished wine can lead one to believe that once it is bottled, the wine will be just as amazing as the barrel sample. Usually, the barrel sample only gives small hints at what it will eventually be like.
The freshly racked sample of 2015 Pinot Noir from Fairview Cellars was giving off all kinds of hints about its how it was made. It had a beautifully rich ruby colour and was all cherries and spice. It had been fermented in oak puncheons (large, 500 liter barrels) that had each been customized with large re-sealable holes in the barrel heads. This makes removing the skins from the puncheon possible, something that is not a concern when barrel-fermenting white wines since no skins are used during fermentation. It is a gentle process and one that Fairview Cellars owner Bill Eggert has been extremely pleased with in previous vintages. A barrel-fermented red wine is very rare but based on the quality of previous vintages like 2014, this will easily make Fairview’s Pinot Noirs stand out in a crowd.
Two separate Pinot Noirs from the 2014 vintage are available in the wine shop: the single-vineyard Eagle Bluff Pinot Noir and the Crooked Post Pinot Noir (from the Fournier vineyard but with some Eagle Bluff Pinot Noir included). A marked different between the two sites became apparent to Bill when the wines were in barrel and he wisely thought it best to bottle them separately. The Eagle Bluff shows bright cherries, chocolate, earth and has an elegantly balanced finish while the Crooked Post is more floral with smoother acidity. Both are clearly well worth the extra effort it takes to ferment them in puncheons.
~ Luke Whittall