Wine Focus for August: The Wines of New Zealand

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Wine Focus for August: The Wines of New Zealand

Postby Robin Garr » Wed Aug 01, 2012 11:47 am

Let 'er rip! Explore the Sauvignon Blancs that have made New Zealand famous, but don't stop there, as the Kiwis are also turning out excellent Pinot Noir, Riesling, Pinot Gris, even Syrah and a patch or two of Pinotage. Let's spend the month learning more about this lovely land Down Under and its pleasant wines.
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Re: Wine Focus for August: The Wines of New Zealand

Postby David M. Bueker » Wed Aug 01, 2012 2:10 pm

I'm having a hard time finding a bottle of Old Wineyards. I think that damned Bilbo Baggins drank it all.
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Re: Wine Focus for August: The Wines of New Zealand

Postby Bruce Hayes » Wed Aug 01, 2012 2:24 pm

Robin Garr wrote:Let 'er rip! Explore the Sauvignon Blancs that have made New Zealand famous, but don't stop there, as the Kiwis are also turning out excellent Pinot Noir, Riesling, Pinot Gris, even Syrah and a patch or two of Pinotage. Let's spend the month learning more about this lovely land Down Under and its pleasant wines.


Huh, perhaps I am being too picky, but isn't the land Down Under, used to represent Aussies and not the Kiwis?
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Re: Wine Focus for August: The Wines of New Zealand

Postby Mark Lipton » Wed Aug 01, 2012 3:39 pm

Having but recently returned from 3 months in that fair country, I offer up the following compendium of tasting notes (conveniently archived on CT under the LiptonNZ moniker):

2011 Wild Earth Pinot Noir Rosé (New Zealand, South Island, Otago, Central Otago)
Drank this with a paella and it just sang. Light, filled with strawberry fruit and stony minerality, crisply acidic and not too alcoholic. Just a lovely rosé.

2010 Mud House Wines Riesling (New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara)
Opened with Thai takeout. Lovely, lightweight and crisp, just off-dry. Comes across like a classic Kabinett (as opposed to the Spätlese-wannabees of recent years) and goes down oh so easily with a refreshing 12.5% ABV.

2009 Wild Earth Pinot Noir Deep Cove (New Zealand, South Island, Otago, Central Otago)
Dark-fruited and only somewhat varietal, fairly big bodied and sappy with modest acidity. This wine pairs well with lamb but would be hard to peg as Pinot Noir blind. Perhaps the closest resemblance is to the Pinots from the Santa Rita Hills in California.

2007 Two Sisters Riesling (New Zealand, South Island, Otago, Central Otago)
Intense nose of petrol with some white peach lurking underneath. Dryish to off-dry, this wine's got a decent sense of fruit and enough acid to keep it interesting. More like a good QbA Riesling than anything more profound.

2010 Pegasus Bay Gewürztraminer (New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara)
Off-dry verging into the sweet territory, with a pungent nose of varietally correct fruit and spice. Plenty of acid to insure that it doesn't seem flabby or blowsy. An altogether correct and enjoyable bottle of Gewurztraminer. In truth, this is a more enjoyable wine than 90% of the Gewurz that comes out of Alsace these days.

2008 Esk Valley Pinot Noir (New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough)
Dark-fruited and sappy, it had good varietal character but shaded into that part of the Pinot Noir spectrum that I find less appealing. Perhaps if I drank more Echezeaux or Vosne-Romanee I'd have a different model for my Pinots, but this was too dark for my tastes (though it did go passingly well with lamb)

2011 Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough)
Far more intense and deep than most wines of the genre, this wine veers toward the grassy/herbal side of the spectrum with a major whack of grapefruit thrown in. Big, forceful SB with plenty of vivid acidity, this certainly sets itself apart from the crowd (in a positive way).

2009 Escarpment Pinot Noir (New Zealand, North Island, Wairarapa, Martinborough)
Beautiful nose of rose petals and red fruits, very much in a Californian vein (in the best sense). Medium body, balanced acidity. Quite ready to drink, it presents a lovely example of a medium-weight, red-fruited Pinot Noir. Quite fine.

2009 Wild Earth Pinot Noir (New Zealand, South Island, Otago, Central Otago)
Decanted an hour before drinking, but could likely have used double that time. Quite dark-fruited, shading more to the plummy side of the fruit spectrum, but medium bodied with enough acid to keep it interesting. Not my preferred style of Pinot Noir, but a well-made example of its genre.

2010 Te Mata Estate Syrah Bullnose (New Zealand, North Island, Hawkes Bay)
Initially, lactic and quite primary; later becoming more mineral, deeper and darker and more structured. It's a very young wine right now that will likely benefit from 5-10 years of bottle age, but it shows great promise and should prove to be a Syrah of great elegance and restraint.

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Re: Wine Focus for August: The Wines of New Zealand

Postby Rahsaan » Wed Aug 01, 2012 3:42 pm

Mark Lipton wrote:Having but recently returned from 3 months in that fair country...


So were you sufficiently enthused to keep buying and drinking the wines here in the US? Or will you revert to your previous ways?
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Re: Wine Focus for August: The Wines of New Zealand

Postby Robin Garr » Wed Aug 01, 2012 3:50 pm

Bruce Hayes wrote:
Huh, perhaps I am being too picky, but isn't the land Down Under, used to represent Aussies and not the Kiwis?

I think it's both! New Zealand and the West Island. :lol:
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Re: Wine Focus for August: The Wines of New Zealand

Postby Ian Sutton » Wed Aug 01, 2012 6:36 pm

Well as luck would have it we opened this one yesterday and TBH I'm very much taken with it. More than a passing resemblance to that dying breed 'classic claret', but perhaps it most reminds me of the 1996 Otis Vineyard Cab Sav made by David Lake at Columbia winery.

1999 Walnut Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon - New Zealand, North Island, Wairarapa, Martinborough (7/31/2012)
Still remarkably youthful in colour and although not dense, still more purple than claret in colour with only faint bricking at the rim.

A fair balance of fruit and leafiness on the nose, but also with an emerging boiled fruit sweet character and a touch of smokiness.

The palate is medium bodied, with nicely fresh acidity that just holds sway over soft-textured fruit, but with an attractive sour edge that hints of creosote, but without the pungency. Good length to the finish and overall a really charming wine that maybe lacks a little complexity, but is actually in a good place to go for a good few years still, so might even develop further complexity.

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I've no idea how the wine shop in Cambridge came across it, and I guess it's a style that isn't immediataly 'easy', but to my tastes it's a gem. A shame that they've grubbed up so much of the Cabernet Sauvignon in Martinborough, as there have been a few really good exponents of it.
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Re: Wine Focus for August: The Wines of New Zealand

Postby Mark Lipton » Wed Aug 01, 2012 7:02 pm

Rahsaan wrote:
Mark Lipton wrote:Having but recently returned from 3 months in that fair country...


So were you sufficiently enthused to keep buying and drinking the wines here in the US? Or will you revert to your previous ways?


Well, I did lug back 15 bottles from there, most which still reside in the cellar. Being something of an oenogerontophile, I want to see how some of those wines develop, especially the Syrahs and Pinots. I don't see them displacing Europe from my affections, but it's always interesting to me to learn more about an otherwise-neglected region of the world.

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Re: Wine Focus for August: The Wines of New Zealand

Postby michael dietrich » Thu Aug 02, 2012 11:35 am

I got to visit New Zealand back in 2006. We had the last 2 weeks in June and started off in Martinborough. We then crossed over to Marlborough and Blenheim. It was extremely educational. I also had taken 2 cases of Oregon wines and had set up to meet with numerous people at the wineries. I brought Oregon and they brought New Zealand. The very first night in Martinborough we got to sit down with 5 winemakers. We were all provided with paper to take notes. As we got into a couple of Oregon Pinots I was asked by the winemaker at Nga Waka what I thought was so good about the Oregon wines. I then explained that I tried to bring a representative selection of our different styles. I said that some of these were not my favorites but certainly showed some of the styles out there. They absolutely pulled no punches in their evaluation of the wines. A good time was had by all. I have certainly enjoyed many of the wines of New Zealand. I wish we had access to more Hawkes Bay wines here in Oregon but they are few and far between. We probably have about 35 producers available here. I will pull some of the wines we brought back from our trip. I am gone for a few days to a family reunion but will have lots for next week.
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Re: Wine Focus for August: The Wines of New Zealand

Postby Bill Hooper » Thu Aug 02, 2012 3:05 pm

I probably won't be able to participate in this focus unless I pick up something cheap from the Grocery store. Germans LOVE New Zealand, but for some reason, the wines are hard to find. FWIW, the greatest wines that I've tasted from NZ have been a few vintages of Dog Point Pinot Noir (the last one was perhaps 2004.) I would love to see a TN on that wine from a current vintage if anyone would care to indulge me. Come to think of it, DP makes my favorite Sauvignon Blanc there too (the Regular -the Sec 94 was far too oaky for my tastes.)

I know that it is a big producer, but Villa Maria, when you get to the reserve range and above, makes very fine stuff too. Delta Hatter's Hill PN used to be very good, and Peregrine makes a couple of nice wines.

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Re: Wine Focus for August: The Wines of New Zealand

Postby michael dietrich » Thu Aug 02, 2012 9:45 pm

I figure I would start with Hinton Estate Pinot Gris 2008 from Central Otago. I get stone fruit with some viscosity. Very pleasing with good depth and follow through on the palate. I would say it reminds me of Oregon Pinot Gris but not higher acid style. It tastes like about 1% RS. It should sell for about $15. It is quite enjoyable.
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[WTN] Oyster Bay 2010 Marlborough Pinot Noir

Postby Robin Garr » Sat Aug 04, 2012 10:29 am

Oyster Bay 2010 Marlborough Pinot Noir ($14.99)

Clear dark garnet with a clear edge. Typical scents of Pinot Noir in its cool-climate vegetal mode; green tomatoes and that odd, memorable scent of tomato stems that stays with your hands when you're picking ripe fruit in the garden. There's some fresh sour-cherry fruit, too, carrying over from nose to palate in a crisp, acidic red-fruit flavor that lingers and makes a good palate-cleanser for food. Its 13.5% alcohol is within moderate limits for table wine and doesn't get in the way. Oyster Bay Wines Inc. LLC, NYC. (July 30, 2012)

FOOD MATCH: Demonstrating Pinot's versatility, on the first day we paired it with spaghetti with a salsa cruda made with chunks of ripe, juicy Italian heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil tossed with green Sicilian olive oil, brought up to meet Pinot Noir with dabs of fresh mozzarella and mild Indiana Capriole Farmstead goat cheese. The second half was fine two days later with thick eggplant "steaks," pan-seared and oven-finished, smothered with mushrooms and onions sauteed in Sicilian olive oil, and with a cheese plate of Capriole.

WHEN TO DRINK: Although it's not designed for long-term evolution, its solid balance and protective screw cap will surely hold it for several years under good cellar conditions.

VALUE: No complaints about this mid-teens price tag, which Wine-Searcher.com lists as median for this label. That said, check the Wine-Searcher.com link to find many vendors offering it from $12 to the lower teens.

WEB LINK: Here's a winery fact sheet on Oyster Bay Pinot Noir, with links to tasting notes and reviews.

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Compare prices and find vendors for Oyster Bay Marlborough Pinot Noir on Wine-Searcher.com.
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Re: Wine Focus for August: The Wines of New Zealand

Postby michael dietrich » Sat Aug 04, 2012 11:44 am

I am at the Oregon coast for the weekend with my wife's family. It is all blue sky as I sit out on the deck looking out ay the ocean and sipping coffee. So last night I opened a bottle of Lake Chalice Sauvignon Blanc 2011. I thought it was very enjoyable but a bit on the restrained side. I get nice gooseberry with moderate intensity. This is not an aggressive style in terms of acidity. I think that the 2010 actually shows more punch. Next I opened a Grey's Peak Pinot Noir 2008 from Waipara. This showed more dark fruits in the nose and followed through on the palate. For $20 this was a steal and better than most Oregon Pinots at this price. It actually sold for $12 as it was a closeout. In New Zealand it is called Greystone. The Lake Chalice is from Marlborough and sells for $17. Next week I am sitting down with a fellow wine steward as we have 4 wines from Craggy Range and 2 from Quartz Reef to taste.
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Re: Wine Focus for August: The Wines of New Zealand

Postby John S » Sun Aug 05, 2012 1:47 am

I love New Zealand and its wines. The Hawkes Bay Bordeaux blends are probably my favourite, but there are none to be had in BC - just oceans of sauvignon blanc! There is some really great riesling from NZ as well, but again, it doesn't make it out of the country much (I like Marlborough, Waipara and Central Otago regions for riesling).

I have tried 2 or 3 bottles recently in Manitoba of the 2011 St Clair Foundation Block 1 sauvignon blanc, great on a hot summer's day. St Clair is a top producers of SB in NZ, and this is a nice bottle. The main impression on the palate is of dry lime cordial, with lots of acidity to make it thirst quenching. Lots of concentration and intensity here, although there's not really a lot of complexity (B+).
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Re: Wine Focus for August: The Wines of New Zealand

Postby Tim York » Mon Aug 06, 2012 9:02 am

The choice of NZ wines being pretty dismal at my local supermarket (just one SB from Southbank??), I need to go into town and face the traffic and parking problems to find something more worthwhile. Meanwhile here is a reminder that NZ can do pretty well with Syrah.

Bilancia Syrah 2004 – Leheny Gibson, Hawkes Bay – Alc. 13.5%, with a touch of Viognier and closed by screwcap, is in the race to be the best Syrah derived wine which I have had from outside France (tough competition from Fontodi in Tuscany, some from Valais and Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier). Aromatics and fruit were from the same family as Northern Rhône, steely cherry and ivy, but was somewhat sweeter, thicker in texture, perhaps more generous. Body was quite full and tannic structure ripe. Still quite primary in flavour so I guess that there may still be improvement potential; 16.5/20. (July 2009)
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Re: Wine Focus for August: The Wines of New Zealand

Postby Matt Richman » Mon Aug 06, 2012 9:21 pm

When I moved to New Zealand from New York City almost a year ago my knowledge of NZ wines was very limited. My general impression was that there was a lot of Sauvignon Blanc, a grape I don't like, and some Pinot Noir that was lean and not too interesting.

I ended up in New Plymouth NZ, a town of about 70,000. There are no stores here that specialize in wine. Much of the wine here is sold at the supermarket and since I arrived without an income (with only my wife's income to support the whole family) I started off by buying whatever was on sale when I was grocery shopping. I found decent but dull Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and lean, uninteresting, and actually pretty terrible Pinot Noir. There was only one wine that I bought during my early 'supermarket days' that was any good and that was Vidal Reserve from Hawkes Bay, a Bordeaux blend that had decent structure and seemed to lean slightly old world in profile, had good complexity, herbs, perfume, fine tannins, and actually seemed like it deserved to be laid down to age for a few years. It cost NZ$16 on sale, NZ$30 full price. I loaded up.

I soon found the New Plymouth Wine Tasting Club and started attending their monthly tasting events. Through them I discovered that there are many wonderful, world class New Zealand wines of several varietals at many price points.

The better wine producers are fairly small scale. Distribution in New Zealand is spotty outside of the big cities and nearly non existent to the rest of the world (aside from Sauvignon Blanc). Therefore one must be active to find the better wines of New Zealand. Here are some notes to help you if you wish to discover some of them for yourself. My knowledge is far from encyclopedic and my travels to wine growing regions always include my family with small children so my visits to individual wineries are limited. So here is what I've learned in the last year drinking New Zealand wine.



Hawkes Bay (North Island) is perhaps NZ's best winemaking region and I believe it will make its mark on the world wine stage before long. It's a sunny place but the breezes from the Pacific keep the area cool. Chardonnay grows well there but it's too hot for good Pinot Noir. Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon can struggle to ripen there but really grow well in some of the pockets where the micro-climates are warmer. The chief among these is a place called Gimblett Gravels. In 1867 flooding in the area caused the Ngaruroro river to change course and that old river bed, now called The Gimblett Gravels, with all its great soil and excellent drainage is now where many of NZ's best (non Pinot) reds are grown. Syrah in particular seems to do well in Hawkes Bay. Rainfall can be very different from year to year so vintage variation is high.

Here are some of the better producers that I have discovered (there are probably many other producers of equal merit that I've not had a chance to try yet): Beach House, Brookfields, Clearview, Craggy Range, Alluviale, Te Mata, Trinity Hill, Elephant Hill, Crossroads. Also Vidal, Te Awa, Newton Forrest, Sacred Hill, Church Road (reserves)



Central Otago (South Island) is a fast growing wine region and in my experience there is a great variation in the quality of wine from the area. It is a dry inland area with hot summers an lots of sun. It was the setting for Rohan in Lord of The Rings if that helps you form an image. It is largely devoted to Pinot Noir in a style that emphasizes high acidity and bright fruit. The best examples can be lovely--floral, rich and silky. I'd say at the moment it's good-not-great for my palate although there are some terrific wines coming from there. As a very new wine producing region there is a lot of upside. Pinot Gris and Riesling also show some promise in Otago.

Here are some of the better producers that I have discovered (there are probably many other producers of equal merit that I've not had a chance to try yet): Peregrine, Mt Difficulty, Wild Earth, Aurum, Domain Road, Charcoal Gulley, Two Degrees.



Marlborough (South Island) Sauvignon Blanc makes up over 40% of New Zealand's TOTAL wine production (by hectares). It makes up over 80% of New Zealand's wine exports, but it is a small player in the domestic NZ wine drinking market among serious wine drinking in my experience. You are much more likely to hear someone order Chardonnay than Sauvignon Blanc, which I'd say shares the second tier of white wine with Pinot Gris and Riesling. As I said I'm not a Sauvignon Blanc fan so I've had very little of it here and perhaps that colors my personal experience. Marlborough is home of some huge wine companies that make oceans of mediocre wine. There are also some smaller producers that I hear are very good. Pinot Noir makes a minor appearance in the area along with Chardonnay. While I understand from reputable sources that Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc can be among the best in the world, I believe the success making that the “face” of NZ wine is a mistake for the country's overall winemaking success and has much to do with the economic forces at play with some giant wine companies.

Here are some of the better producers that I have discovered (there are probably many other producers of equal merit that I've not had a chance to try yet): Dog Point makes one of NZ's best Pinot Noirs. Otherwise my experience in Marlborough is limited.



Wairarapa (North Island) is a tiny wine region just north of Wellington that makes about 1 percent of NZ's wine. I have yet to visit, but I have had the pleasure of trying some outstanding wine from there. It is best known for the Martinborough area and its deep, dark, concentrated, silky smooth Pinot Noir. I think it has a bright future, although the size of the industry there may keep it from entering the world stage. Three of New Zealand's absolute classic Pinot Noir producers are from Martinborough and the wines are well worth seeking out. There is a definate style to the wine from the region and it is one I like very much. They are deeper, more muscular than those from the South Island and have more black than red fruit. I understand that several white wine varietals also do well there.

Here are some of the better producers that I have discovered (there are probably many other producers of equal merit that I've not had a chance to try yet): Ata Rangi, Escarpment, and Martinborogh Vineyard all make fantastic Pinot Noir. Dry River is also excellent.



Nelson (South Island) is full of small, boutique producers making very good wine. It is not a high profile region and doesn't make much wine (about 3 percent of the country's vineyards). I have found very good Pinot Noir from there as well as some fine white wines. Due to the small scale of most of the wine producers in the Nelson area I doubt it will ever be a hit on the world market, but it is a beautiful region and a fantastic place to visit some small scale wineries. I hope to explore it more myself.

Here are some of the better producers that I have discovered (there are probably many other producers of equal merit that I've not had a chance to try yet): Neudorf is excellent. Also Seifried, Woollaston



Auckland (North Island) is New Zealand's largest city by a wide margin. Not much wine is made there, but there are several sub-regions that make very good wine. The only one I have experience with is Waiheke Island, which I visited to have a look at Stonyridge Vineyards, makers of what I believe to be New Zealand's finest wine, Larose. It is a Bordeaux blend that requires cellaring and that I believe is truly world class.



Canterbury (South Island) is a large wine making region. I've not visited yet so I can't offer any first hand impressions of the area. One of the best Pinot Noirs I've had in New Zealand was from there, Pegasus Bay's Prima Donna.



Gisborne (North Island) is New Zealand's third largest wine producing region due largely to a huge presence of Pernod Ricard. Chardonnay is the primary grape there.
Last edited by Matt Richman on Wed Aug 08, 2012 4:46 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Wine Focus for August: The Wines of New Zealand

Postby Robin Garr » Tue Aug 07, 2012 10:59 am

Matt Richman wrote:When I moved to New Zealand from New York City almost a year ago my knowledge of NZ wines was very limited.

You've learned a lot fast! Thanks for the outstanding overview, Matt.
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Re: Wine Focus for August: The Wines of New Zealand

Postby michael dietrich » Tue Aug 07, 2012 4:08 pm

So here is my list of wines tasted yesterday with a fellow wine steward.
Quartz Reef Pinot Gris 2011 $26, This was very nice and good mouth feel, more pear flavors but we felt it could use a bit more acidity.
Craggy Range Chardonnay 2010 Kidnappers Vineyard Hawkes Bay $20, This tasted very fresh and pretty much stainless steel. It had good acidity and balance.
Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc 2010 Te Muna Road Martinborough $20, This was an excellent example of what you can get for Sauvignon Blanc from Martinborough / Wairararapa area from the north island. This had nice gooseberry with good acidity and medium weight.
Lawson Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2011 $15, This was our favorite Sauvignon Blanc and really showed passionfruit and crisp acidity and intensity with full flavors. So far this is one of the best 2011 SBs I have tasted. In general I am still preferring the 2010 over the 2011 vintage.
Lake Chalice Sauvignon Blanc 2010 $16, This was probably the most mainstream of the SBs we had. I think still more flavor than the 2011 Kim Crawford.
Craggy Range Pinot Noir 2006 Te Muna Road, Martinborough $40, this has some of that earthy, savory component that I find in some Martinborough Pinots.
Quartz Reef Pinot Noir 2008 Bendigo Estate $85, this Pinot had some really wonderful darker fruits with great length and depth. I have no doubts it will continue to progress. This was a real stunner.
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Re: Wine Focus for August: The Wines of New Zealand

Postby michael dietrich » Tue Aug 07, 2012 7:35 pm

I missed one of the wines we had yesterday.
Mountford Estate pinot Noir 2006 $50, I had bought this a few years ago when it was on closeout from an importer who closed up. I had bought it online out of California for less than $20. This was more red fruits with well integrated tannins with good aromatics and pretty forward on the palate. At $50 I liked the Craggy Range 2006 better. If you are in a market that sells the Lawson Dry Hills wines, be sure and try their Gewurztraminer.
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Re: Wine Focus for August: The Wines of New Zealand

Postby Matt Richman » Tue Aug 07, 2012 7:57 pm

Our club is doing a large Craggy tasting in October that is supposed to include a vertical of Te Muna Pinot. Hopefully they'll also pour their Sophia, which reliable sources have told me is spectacular.

I'll post notes after the event.
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Re: Wine Focus for August: The Wines of New Zealand

Postby Tim York » Wed Aug 08, 2012 6:27 am

Matt Richman wrote:

Central Otago (South Island) is a fast growing wine region and in my experience there is a great variation in the quality of wine from the area. It is a dry inland area with hot summers an lots of sun. It was the setting for Rohan in Lord of The Rings if that helps you form an image. It is largely devoted to Pinot Noir in a style that emphasizes high acidity and bright fruit. The best examples can be lovely--floral, rich and silky. I'd say at the moment it's good-not-great for my palate although there are some terrific wines coming from there. As a very new wine producing region there is a lot of upside. Pinot Gris and Riesling also show some promise in Otago.

Here are some of the better producers that I have discovered (there are probably many other producers of equal merit that I've not had a chance to try yet): Peregrine, Mt Difficulty, Wild Earth, Aurum, Domain Road, Charcoal Gulley, Two Degrees.




Matt, is the omission of Felton Road deliberate? I've never bought any (very high prices!!) and have had mixed feeling at tastings. The first time I thought them too tough but liked them better the second time, though the articulate presence of the owner no doubt had a "placebo effect" on the latter occasion in 2009. Here are my then impressions.

Felton Road, Central Otago, New Zealand
By contrast I was much more impressed by the wines here today than on the last occasion. The stimulating presence of Nigel Greening, the owner, no doubt helped. The estate works on biodynamic principles applied pragmatically rather than religiously. Greening agrees that the motivational aspect for the team (Jamie’s placebo effect) is important but also stoutly defends the efficacy of some of the preparations; I have no reason to doubt him.
Felton Road Chardonnay 2007 (€36), with a roughly 10% new oak component, showed lovely creamy white fruit but was still a bit raw on the finish; at present I prefer the Isolation Ridge above but I think that this will blossom with more time; 16/20+ potentially.
Three vintages were shown of Felton Road Pinot Noir (all €46). We are back to pure fruit and focus here. 2004, a cool year, is Greening’s favourite and it certainly showed more harmony and elegance in its tangy rich cherry fruit and balanced linear structure; nearly ready and potentially 17/20. 2003 was richer but with less tang and focus, liquorice notes in its more marked structure and a hint of over-ripeness on the finish; 16/20. 2006 was more closed aromatically and still a touch raw with impressive substance and again liquorice notes in its structure; I guess 16.5/20 potential.
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Re: Wine Focus for August: The Wines of New Zealand

Postby Matt Richman » Wed Aug 08, 2012 3:26 pm

Tim-

Let me take the opportunity to stress that this list is based ONLY on my own experience. I've only had wine from Felton Road once and found that bottle unremarkable. I do look forward to tasting them more in depth.

All the right people here seem to like Felton Road, but since this list was personal list I didn't feel right including them yet. I'm sure there are a lot of great producers I've left off.
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Re: Wine Focus for August: The Wines of New Zealand

Postby Mark Lipton » Thu Aug 09, 2012 6:01 pm

Apropos of Matt's excellent discussion, I'll some notes from visits to Central Otago and Canterbury:

Canterbury

An hour north of Christchurch lies the Waipara Valley, a cool climate growing region located hard on the E coast of the South Island. We stopped at two wineries there: Mud House/Waipara Valley and Pegasus Bay. The former is single tasting room representing two winery operations (Mud House in Marlborough and Waipara Valley in, naturally enough, Waipara). Each operation makes a variety of wines, each with its own winemaker. The wines were generally well made, with the standout examples being the sweeter of the Waipara Rieslings, a Spätlese-weight wine of vivid acidity, and the Mud House Pinot Noirs from Marlborough. Pegasus Bay has, in addition to the wine sales, a fine restaurant attached amidst lovely grounds. There the 2009 Riesling (off-dry) and the 2009 Pinot Noir were both very good. It seems that the wines of Waipara, as fits with the cool climate, tend to be lighter and more structured than in some other regions.

Central Otago

The arrival of some friends from France with whom I'd toured NZ wine country a decade earlier precipitated a visit to Central Otago, a region I'd had to pass up on our earlier visit (though they didn't). Our visits spanned two days and focused on the Gibbston Valley (near Queenstown) and Cromwell/Bannockburn. The higher elevation region of Wanaka, home to Rippon, I didn't get a chance to visit. The Gibbston Valley has some "big name" Central Otago wineries (Chard Farm, Gibbston Valley, Peregrine) but none were overly exciting. Most interesting was the recently opened restaurant of Wild Earth, located outside of Cromwell toward the Gibbston Valley, which also served the Wild Earth wines. This operation is managed by a Californian ex-pat who has a passion for food/wine matches. I got the food/wine lunch, which consisted of 5 dishes prepared in his smoker (using oak from old barrels) and 5 Wild Earth wines. The standout there was the Deep Cove Pinot Noir, which had depth and structure, but a lightness of touch that kept it in the raspberry/black cherry spectrum of fruit. Also worth mention was their Pinot Noir rosé, which not only had cut and minerality, but also paired phenomenally well with his hot-smoked salmon. We also got a taste of the Earth and Sky Pinot Noir, which was more structured and deeper than the Deep Cove, but which would require a decade I'd guess before being approachable.

Cromwell/Bannockburn was a much more interesting experience. First of all, the area itself is semi-desert, getting only 40 cm of rain per year, with huge diurnal temperature shifts. The wineries we visited all practiced drip irrigation but kept it very low. As the vines are mostly 10-15 years old, we wondered if perhaps they'll shift to dry farming as the vines get older and more established. Soils were largely schist and loess. Wineries visited here were Felton Road, Mt Difficulty, Quartz Reef and Amisfield. With all but Mt Difficulty, we met with assistant winemakers, and with that one exception had very good experiences. Felton Road is biodynamic with self-rooted vines (fully insured, as phylloxera is making its way toward them) mostly planted to Dijon clones. One exception is their Cornish Point vineyard, which is planted to the "Abel" clone, a DRC cutting miraculously saved from destruction in quarrantine by a sympathetic customs officer and amateur winemaker named Abel. Because they'd sold out their current offerings, we had to make do with barrel samples of their upcoming releases (insert emoticon of choice here. We tasted five different Pinot Noirs, their Bannockburn blend, Cornish Point, Calvert, Block 3 and Block 5 (these last two refer to two blocks in the home vineyard that differ only in soil type). All five were quite distinct from one another, with the Cornish Point and Block 5 being most to my taste. Even their blend, which is culled from declassified fruit from the other bottlings, was a well-made and interesting wine. Mt Difficulty was a waste of time. Quartz Reef, run by an Austrian named Rudi, makes an excellent Methode Traditionelle sparkling wine. The NV is a perfectly reasonable "everyday" kind of wine, but the 2007 Reserve was a thing of beauty. The former is a 60/40 blends of PN and Chardonnay and the latter an 80/20 C/PN. No Pinot Meunier in evidence anywhere. They also make a NV Brut Rosé which was interesting, too. Their still Pinot Noirs were less interesting, but still decent wines. Our final visit was at Amisfield, which has a relatively new winemaker, and is making some very fine wines. The story here, as everywhere we went, was partial destemming, partial whole cluster fermentation, 30-35% new oak (4-5 year barrel rotation) and fermentation temperatures of 28-32°C. This, of course, applies to their Pinot Noir and not their whites. Again, we got mostly barrel samples and since we were prior to assemblage of their '11 Pinot Noir, the names used were quite idiosyncratic. Of particular interest was tasting the same lot (a mix of block 2 and block 7, both Dijon 667 clones), one in neutral oak and the other in NFO. Remarkably the new oak barrel showed little if any overt oakiness, but was distinguished by its mouthfeel, being far more structured in comparison to the light and delicate sample out of neutral oak. The barrels got medium toast, no less. The real treat there was tasting the '07 "Rocky Knoll" Pinot Noir, a late release, which just leapt out of the glass with sappy, tart raspberry aromas and was juicy, bright and bouncy, yet structured for the long haul (for the low MSRP of NZD 90).

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Re: Wine Focus for August: The Wines of New Zealand

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Thu Aug 09, 2012 7:24 pm

Great notes from everyone. Wish I could join in but am off to Saskatchewan tomorrow to do my annual butterfly survey. Have fun!
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