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Dunstan Road – Fresh and New in Alexandra

By October 27, 2014No Comments
Although the Hatfield family established their Dunstan Road winegrowing venture over a decade ago in 2002, the fruits of their labour are just now being realised. Marc Hatfield with a viticultural background and his partner Sarah Reynolds with considerable hospitality and business experience  look after the 2 ha of vines in Waikerkeri soils on Dunstan Road.

The vineyard is Pinot Noir predominant, with 95% dedicated to that variety, and a single row each of Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Riesling. The site very neat and tidy, showing Marc’s attention to detail and high viticultural standards. Taking into account later plantings, the vines are now 4 to 7 years old. Marc takes the winemaking responsibility, describing himself as “self taught”, but there is good support from local industry personnel, Marc citing Antony Worch as being an important source of advice. The initial vintages made have been quite tiny in volume and have not been seriously commercialised, but that is set to change. The Dunstan Road production could ultimately reach 950 cases per annum.

Three years ago, Marc and Sarah built on site their home, cellar door and winery. I won’t call it a ‘complex’, as it is laid out with simplicity and a tidiness to match the vineyard. Their Dunstan Road property runs alongside the Central Otago Rail Trail, and the potential of attracting many cyclists to call in is obvious. Their plans of access from the Rail Trail, so that visitors need only pedal a few metres past their vegetable garden to the tasting room where they can sample their wines and enjoy platters of local produce, will be put into place soon. Combined with traffic from the road itself, I can imagine Dunstan Road wines will get considerable exposure.

Sarah Reynolds with small-batch basket presses

New Release Wines in the Works
I called in to visit Marc and Sarah at Dunstan Road just after the Alexandra Basin Wine Growers New Release event, as I missed out tasting their wines there. They showed me a selection of wines that are in the works. Their pristine and delicate 2014 white wines are now bottled and in the process of being released. The three varietals have a clever spread of sweetness levels which not only seem to show a natural balance, but cleverly offer a range of styles for the consumer. The Riesling 2014 is crisp and dry with refined lime and mineral aromas and flavours. The wine shows classical acid crispness, but the textures are soft, allowing accessibility. The Pinot Gris 2014 is a step up in sweetness and richness, being a medium style. Archetype pear and white florals with more than a suggestion of honeysuckle. This will be a crowd pleaser. Then the Gewurztraminer 2014, also in the medium category, but a touch deeper with some exotic rose-petals and a touch of musk and honey, with well-handled phenolic textures.

However, Pinot Noir is the focus here. A tank sample of Pinot Noir 2013, now at 14 months in oak, one-third new, showed tight and focussed red cherry fruit aromas and flavours. The extraction is fine-grained, and spicy detail with oak notes emerge, adding lovely interest. From the 2013 vintage, Marc has trialled a rosé style from Pinot Noir, avoiding skin contact. There is still a positive pink blush, and the wine is pretty and floral in expression, and dry, textural and thirst-quenching on the palate.

Marc and Sarah then showed three 2014 Pinot Noir barrel samples. The first, from a new barrel, had undergone racking, and showed the benefits of aeration lending a fuller and broader bouquet and palate. The second from 2 y.o. oak was pure cherries with textural finesse and fresh acidity. The third from 3 y.o. oak from a different source was softer and had a more pronounced oak note. Marc has yet to decide the final blend, but I feel that 2014 will have more weight than the 2013, whilst retaining what appears to be a delicate, piquant and pure-fruited style.

Marc Hatfield – Dunstan Road

A Rail Trail Reward
We last rode the Central Otago Rail Trail back in 2007, so are due to do so again soon. I can see us calling in at Dunstan Road to sample Marc and Sarah’s wines near the start of our journey to whet our appetites for what is to come, or else reward ourselves after practically finishing the ride. www.dunstanroadwines.co.nz

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