Tasting Note: 2008 Altostratus Pinot Noir, Black Cloud Wine

The people you meet on Twitter…

One of the most interesting has certainly been Bradley Cooper, the man formerly known as Bradinator, who now tweets entirely from his BlackCloudWine account, the name of his most recent and most personal winemaking venture.

Bradley is the winemaker at Township 7, a winery at the southern end of the Naramata Bench where he makes some pretty interesting wines. It’s at Township 7 that he also makes his Black Cloud pinot noir, a personal project hosted there with the blessing of Mike Raffan, Township 7’s owner, who seems to see all this as a win-win situation for all involved. The winemaker gets to grow a project of his own, and the winery owner keeps working with a winemaker who has a knack for making great blends.

Beyond his flair for intense, humorous tweeting, Bradley has a good sense of what goes on in the vineyard, and the possibilities (and limitations) of winegrowing in the Okanagan. His post on what constitutes a typical vintage in the Okanagan, last year, was a really interesting read, for me, and made me want to find out more about his wines and his work.

I was hoping to meet him at or after the Wine Bloggers’ Conference, in June, when I went on my first road trip to the Okanagan. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out. He was in BC while I was in WA, and vice-versa, as he attended a biodynamics seminar in Washington when I was roaming around BC’s wine country. His view of what he learned at the seminar is interesting in itself, a mixture of skepticism at some practices and enthusiasm for some things, like the “formidable and exclusive” wines made by Christophe Baron at Cayuse. Having tasted Cayuse wines, during my stay in Walla Walla, I certainly agree with that.

In any case, I wound up tasting the Township 7 wines with Mike Raffan, the owner, instead of the winemaker. A very pleasant meeting, where Mike explained how Township 7 works with a limited number of growers, in a long term perspective, to get reliable supply of grapes. He also told me that for the winemaker, different sources of grapes means more complex, more interesting wines. “Brad likes to layer” was the quick summary. And that statement made sense to me, after tasting the 2006 Reserve 7, a blend of mostly cabernet sauvignon and merlot with a touch of cab franc, as well as the 2006 Black Dog Reserve Merlot (four barrels of hard-pressed wines turned, after four years of patience, into a powerful, enticing blend of merlot, cab sauvignon, cab franc, malbec and syrah). Lots going on in those bottles.

That makes Bradley Cooper’s pinot noir venture all the more interesting, as there is no blending of varieties taking place, just a focus on one capricious grape. A bottle of the 2008 Altostratus pinot had been left for me at Township 7, and I drank it back home, a few weeks after my Okanagan trip, to let the wine settle back into its own.

I liked it a lot. The Altostratus is intriguing, multilayered and truly original. Here is a good deal of ripe cherry, a fair bit of spice, a certain richness, but also a good core and good structure. It’s a well-balanced pinot in a relatively intense style, something that is reflected in the wine’s appearance: an intense ruby colour, but also very clear and bright, like pinot noir should be.

When tasted on its own, the wine showed a little bitterness on the finish that seemed a bit bothersome, but with food, this did not come through at all – and I believe it will pass with a bit of bottle aging. Serving it with a roast chicken or Thanksgiving turkey seems like an obvious match, but I’d also give it a try with fowl or duck, or even a veal steak. I’d love to drink it again, in any case – and isn’t that what matters the most?

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