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Cambridge Road – Fresh Ideas in Martinborough

By January 12, 2012No Comments

Lance Redgwell is one of a new breed of winegrowers who are bringing a fresh approach to the New Zealand winemaking scene. As with all nowadays, the focus is on the site and vine health and balance. After a search for a suitable place, Lance and Bridie purchased their tiny 1.8 ha site in 2006 on Cambridge Road on the Martinborough Terrace. The vineyard is planted to 73% Pinot Noir and 27% Syrah, the vines figuring among the oldest in the district at 24-25 years of age. The Syrah plants are thus venerable in New Zealand terms. The site was originally the ‘Fraser Block’.

Following vineyard and winery experience with Puriri Hills near Auckland, Neudorf, Beaux Freres in Oregon and Tasmania, Lance bases his viticulture on biodynamics, this being the most natural approach for the balance, health and performance of the vines, vineyard and soils. Much of the inspiration can be attributed to James Millton and his advice.  He acknowledges he is still coming to grips with understanding how the various and myriad of factors such as clone, rootstock, canopy, soil, spacing and their interaction affects the resultant wines, but definite ideas and beliefs have provided pathways of exploration and action. The long-term goal is for his family to continue his work, so his work is one in progress. I was impressed with his detail and openness to learn, and willingness to try new methods and ideas in any aspect of the vineyard management.

Being a fan of Pinot Noir wines with in-built complexity of flavour and structure, Lance has grafted the old 10/5 clone to Abel, and the proportions are now equal in Abel and clone 5. Such a measure may seem drastic to many, but the strength of conviction and belief in the traits of Abel-based wines called for action.

The same philosophy is carried through to the winemaking. The Cambridge Road wines are to represent the vines and site, but guided to finesse rather than size. A detailed and fully hands-on ethic is employed, and his “small farming” and small-batch winemaking is ultra-perfectionist. Though the vineyard planting look “messy” with inter-row planting of different crops, the surrounds, drive and grounds are immaculately kept, and the winery and barrel-room are spotlessly clean and very orderly.

As the Cambridge Road block is a small one, Lance sources fruit from other sites, with the aim of working with 20-25 tonnes of grapes annually. Lance credits Martinborough pioneer Clive Paton of Ata Rangi for much advice on understanding the performance of vines and vineyards in the district. The initial vintages, from 2007 were made at Julicher Estate, and again, Lance is grateful for the use of the facilities there, having respect for Outi Jakovirta’s assistance. 2010 was the first Cambridge Road vintage fully managed by Lance in his newly commissioned winery on site.

I tasted some of the Cambridge Road wines guided by Lance. Despite the black labelled ‘Animus’ Pinot Noir 2008 looking to be the ‘serious’ wine, it is actually the second tier style, priced at $35.00 a bottle. This is soft and elegant with spicy influences to the fruit, with some alcoholic power showing. The ‘Cambridge Road’ wines are designed to be more traditional with the aim of subtlety and class, and the discreet and pale labels reflect this. The Pinot Noir 2009 is very elegant and tightly bound, but with a concentrated core that promises to unfold more. The Syrah 2009 is similarly structure with very fine textures, and archetype in varietal black fruit and pepper expression, along with complexing reductive hints that will harmonise and provide further layers of interest. This has 10% Pinot Noir, this softening the wine and providing a red fruit note. These two wines are priced around $55.00. The ‘Dovetail’ Field Blend 2010 was the wine that took my fancy. This is a blend of 71% Pinot Noir and 29% Syrah, and is a representation of the ‘Home Block’ plantings, and very much an expression of place, rather than cultivar. To many, this concept is alien or ‘wrong’ but from the terroirist and Old World perspective, a very valid style. Rich, plush, concentrated, the Pinot Noir base is velvety, the Syrah component adding drive and spiciness. At $65.00 this is not the most expensive wine. That title is reserved for the ‘Noblestone’ Pinot Noir 2007, the first vintage off ‘Home Block’ fruit. Two rosé wines are also made. I didn’t taste these latter three wines, but I’m going to visit Lance at Cambridge Road again, and hopefully see these.   www.cambridgeroad.co.nz

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