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Greystone and Muddy Water – A Tour and Taste

By May 16, 2016No Comments

Nick Gill, viticulturist and Dom Maxwell, winemaker, Greystone Wines
on ‘Erin’s Block’, Greystone Vineyard
It has been fascinating to see how the differentiation between the neighbouring Waipara Valley producers of Greystone and Muddy Water have been maintained, since the former purchased the latter in 2011. Despite official pronouncements that the identity and uniqueness of Muddy Water would be retained, with no loss of ‘standing’, there were many vociferous doubters. These people have been silent for some time now. I have noted that the Greystone wines are heading towards greater elegance and sophistication, reflecting the hillside, limestone-influenced soils of the vineyards. The Muddy Water wines are also growing in finesse and interest, reflecting the heavier soils of the flatter land, with the added distinction of being certified Asurequality organic. Tasting the wines side-by-side, these differences are as clear as day and night.

I had the opportunity of visiting Greystone and Muddy Water, taken on tour of the Greystone vineyards and tasting new vintage wines at Muddy Water, where the winemaking for both labels (and others) is conducted, by viticulturist Nick Gill and winemaker Dom Maxwell. They are two of the three management team who oversee the operation for the Thomas family, the owners. Nik Mavromatis, the commercial manager was away in China on a sales and marketing trip. At this stage, 99% of the fruit had already been harvested, with around 2 tonnes of Riesling, awaiting further ripening and possibly the development of botrytis, still to come in. www.greystonewines.co.nzwww.muddywater.co.nz

Sea-shells – limestone from the Syrah Block
at altitude in the Greystone Vineyard
The High Spots of the Greystone Vineyard
All of the vineyards come under the care of Nick Gill, an Australian who moved to New Zealand in 2004 with his wife, Angela Clifford, best known for her wine marketing acumen. Nick was given the instructions to plant a vineyard that could potentially produce some of this country’s best wines. The jewel in the Greystone vineyard crown is the high and steep limestone-influenced section called ‘Erin’s Block’ (for Chardonnay), and ‘The Brothers’ (for Pinot Noir). It’s wind-blown and the vines at the top of the ridge are still spindly and poor cropping, even though they are 10 years old. Nick planted 1 ha of Mendoza clone Chardonnay, 1 ha of clones 5 and 115 Pinot Noir and 1 ha of Riesling. To the site’s credit, it does have plenty of sun! And the wins from it are the best of the Greystone range.

Nick and Dom then drove us to the ‘Syrah Block’ another of the highest points. The 0.77 ha of Syrah vines were planted in 2005 also, and as with the plants on ‘Erin’s’ and ‘The Brothers’ blocks, the vines have taken a very long time to become established. Nick and Dom note that each successive year sees a little more improvement. Nick employs spur-pruning here too, to the benefit of the vines and crop. At present, the Syrah vines produce only 200 cases of wine each year.

Dom Maxwell, Greystone Wines
climbing to retrieve Chardonnay samples
Tasting in the Muddy Water Winery
It was a relief to get back down the hill and out of the wind, and into the nearby Muddy Water winery. The straw-bale building is home for both Greystone and Muddy Water, with around 250-300 tonnes of fruit crushed for those labels. Contract winemaking is also carried out on site, with another 250 tonnes of fruit handled. Some high profile brands, such as Terrace Edge and Tongue In Groove are made here. Dom showed his climbing skills by reaching all manner of barrels to provide us with a tasting of new 2016 vintage wine. Following are my impressions of what was tasted.

Firstly Muddy Water Mendoza clone Chardonnay, hand-picked, WBP, no sulphur from seasoned puncheon. Rich nose with an amalgam of stonefruit, citrus fruits and apples. On palate also rich, with concentration and density. Soft layers of fruits unfold.

Then Greystone Chardonnay, from ‘Erin’s Block’, Mendoza clone, on limestone, from a new barrel. Intense and penetrating aromas of citrus fruit. On palate, quite brilliant in vitality with precise citrus fruits, high acid cut, beautifully fresh. Oaking is noticeable, but the fruit soaks it up. Still some fermentable sugar apparent.

Thirdly, a Muddy Water Chardonnay, riper fruit on clay soils, from old puncheon. Soft in expression on nose with some funkiness. Some seasoned wood notes too. Savoury citrus and stonefruits combined with citrus lift, more lively on the palate than the first Muddy Water sample.

Then onto Greystone ‘Block 13’ Sauvignon Blanc, natural ferment. Pungent stonefruit and herbal array in aromatics and flavours. Quite firm and concentrated, especially on nose. Lovely intensity, with fresh acidity and fine textures. Stonefruits, herbs, minerals and a touch of smoke.

The first red, a Greystone Pinot Noir, clones 667 and 115, from tank. Vibrant, dark raspberry fruit with great aromatics, fruity and ripe, but with style. Firm and tight with fine extraction. Lovely presence and length. Not pressed off yet, but not too far to go.

A step up in darkness, some Greystone Syrah, picked at 24.2° Brix, from tank. Black-purple colour. Concentrated, dense and tightly bound, with dark plums, spice and a hint of earth. Rich and plush, quite sweet and juicy, the extraction still to provide grip and structure, but what is there is very fine-grained. Ripe boysenberry and black fruits. Fresh acidity is a feature. This is not cool-climate in character.

The last sample was from barrel, ‘Erin’s Block’ Chardonnay 2015. One of two barrels, this from the new oak, the other 2 y.o.. Deep golden colour. On nose, firm and densely packed with layers of ripe stonefruits, exuding power and richness. Strong new oaking, but not out of place. Needs a little clean-up. Great quality fruit here, immense presence, richness, layers and length. The density and concentration, plus fine grip are standout characteristics. This cries out for some time to come together and soften. There will be 50 cases made in total.

This last wine sample was the best way to finish our time with Nick and Dom. There are great things happening at Greystone and Muddy Water.

Lynnette Hudson, Tongue in Groove winemaker, uses the Muddy Water facilities
Sue Davies, Wine2Trade, in the background, tasting Greystone Pinot Noir 2016

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