The Spring Release tasting of Dry River is a great opportunity for mail order clientele to gauge the style and to a degree the quality of the latest vintage wines. Wilco Lam reports that the 2015 wines have a natural beauty and he took a very “hands off” approach in their making. Tasting through the new releases, I can confirm that Wilco and his team are achieving their aim of quietly increasing the textural aspects and adding to the subtle complexities within the wines whilst remaining true to the Dry River style of precise fruit expression and optimum phenolic ripeness. I’m sure these are goals that Neil McCallum would have had if he were still at the helm!
In one field, Wilco has made major changes from the Dry River of the past, and that is in marketing and communication. To keep pace with how the modern world keeps in touch and does business, Dry River has a new website, and Wilco is now on Twitter (@dryriverwines). I’d imagine that Facebook is on the cards. Wilco certainly has an openness and directness when discussing the wines. He is very happy to discuss the technical aspects of viticulture and winemaking, which was always available with Neil and Poppy before, but you had to ask! So there is a greater transparency, all important in today’s wine world.
And just joining the staff at Dry River two weeks ago is Sarah Bartlett, whose responsibility is ‘marketing and communication’. Sarah comes from a hospitality background, with experience in London as well as in New Zealand. Wilco says that she will be updating the website and providing the customers with the best possible information and service, so that he can spend more time in the vineyard and winery! www.dryriver.co.nz
Sarah Bartlett & Wilco Lam – Dry River
Sarah Bartlett & Wilco Lam – Dry River
Tasting the Wines
Dry River conducted their Spring Releases tastings in Christchurch, Martinborough, Auckland and Wellington over 3-7 September. I attended the Wellington tasting, held, as usual, at the Museum Hotel. Here are my impressions of the wines. Included for tasting was an approximate barrel sample blend of the 2014 Pinot Noir. My ‘Feature Reviews’ of the Spring Release wines will follow and be published on this website later this month.
Dry River Martinborough Chardonnay 2014
Bright, very pale straw-yellow colour, near colourless on the rim. This has a very elegant nose of white stonefruits with nutty notes and subtle savoury elements of funky smoke from the indigenous yeast. Elegant too on palate, tightly bound stonefruit flavours feature with citrus and floral undertones. Nutty oak and mineral nuances emerge and blossom. This has a firm and concentrated line with fine textures, good acid tension, and some underlying power that carries the palate to a dry, lingering finish. The increased solids and wild yeast take the Chardonnay away from the ‘fruit pure’ style, and into the genuine white burgundy mode. It would be interesting to see this pushed even further! Fruit from ‘Craighall’, ‘Dry River Estate’ and the St. Martin’ vineyards, 40% indigenous yeast fermented with solids, 60% inoculated, all in barrel to 12.5% alc., the wine aged 9 months in 15% new French oak barrels, the wine undergoing light batonnage, with MLF avoided but with partial conversion. 18.5+/20 Sep 2015 RRP $55.00
Dry River ‘Dry River’ Martinborough Viognier 2015
Brilliant, very pale colour, near colourless. The bouquet is beautifully fine and fragrant with intense and pure aromas of exotic florals and apricots. The concentration, depth and intensity are startling, and the aromatics exude a sense of power. This is fresh and youthful, with a cool herbal nuance which enhances the purity. Off-dry, the sweetness appears quite properly balanced and adds a degree of richness and opulence to the fruit. Exotic lifted florals and apricot fruit follow a finely textured line. The mouthfeel is rounded and smooth, but fine phenolic grip balances the sweetness and provides line and structure, carrying through to a lush, but thirst-quenching finish. This has captured the essence of Viognier, with great varietal purity and definition. It could be drier, but this has all the necessary balance. The best Dry River Viognier in several years for me. Viognier fruit from the ‘Dry River Estate’, WBP and stainless-steel fermented to 14.0% alc. and 10 g/L RS, TA 5.3 g/L and pH 3.4, the wine avoiding lees work with no MLF. 18.5+/20 Sep 2015 RRP $47.00
Dry River Martinborough Pinot Noir 2014 Barrel Sample
An approximate barrel sample blend of the final wine. Dark, moderately deep ruby-red colour. The nose is still very youthful, fresh and yet to come together. It shows elegantly, with the dark red berry fruit entwined with cooler herbal nuances, red florals, some earthiness and savoury notes. Black mineral elements add interest to the aromatics. The palate is fullish-bodied and features a tight, fine-textured dry core with black and red fruits lending moderate sweetness. The structure and dry grip are prominent, along with lacy acid cut. The palate confirms that the componentry needs to come together, but this has plenty of fruit depth, albeit in a drier style, and the extract is there to provide the framework to fill out. The whole cluster proportion is as other vintages, but was used in all the fruit sources, thus is spread out and even. Not as ripe as 2013, and the sinewy nature of 2014 is apparent. Provisional score: (18.5/20) Sep 2015 RRP $TBA
Dry River ‘Amaranth’ ‘Lovat’ Martinborough Syrah 2013
Dark, deep, purple-hued ruby-red colour. The nose is very full and voluminous with aromas of ripe black and red berry fruit at the core, with black pepper, spice notes and a beautiful array of floral aromatics that blossoms in the glass. On palate very concentrated with succulently sweet and ripe black fruits, lifted by a floral bloom. This has an exoticism, with spicy nuances integrated with the fruit. The fruit opulence is checked by considerable tannin extraction, all fine-grained and flowery in texture. The balance is impeccable and varietal precision is present. The wine is indeed a textural one rather than a fruit bomb. A superb expression of Syrah that will live a decade plus. 100% Syrah from the ‘Lovat’ vineyard, fully destemmed and fermented to 12.0% alc., the wine spending 13 days on skins and aged 12 months in 20% new large format oak. 19.5-/20 Sep 2015 RRP $64.00
Dry River ‘Craighall’ ‘Selection’ Martinborough Riesling 2015
Bright, very pale straw, near colourless. The nose is very elegant and fine in expression, tightly bound, but simultaneously rich and opulent with lime fruit, white florals, honeysuckle apples and mouthwatering minerals. This grows in volume with aeration. Medium in sweetness, the palate is one of poise and tension, the fruit softly luscious and decadent, with a firm core and line. Bright, lively piquant acidity, and the finest textural thread lends cut, energy and precision. The flavours of lime fruit, lifted florals, honey and minerals flow with great drive and linearity, carrying through to a thirst-quenching, long and sustained lime and floral finish. The lusciousness and piquant richness is another step up from the beautiful 2014 ‘Selection’ Riesling. This will keep well, developing over 7-9 years. A blend of an early and a late picking, the fruit from the ‘Craighall’ vineyard, WBP and fermented in stainless-steel, the wine at 8.0% alc. and 70 g/L RS, TA 9 g/L and pH 2.7. 19.0-/20 Sep 2015 RRP $59.00