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Lamont – Reflecting Back and Looking Forward

By July 5, 2013No Comments
Having just entered a distribution arrangement with Lamont Wines, it was timely for Sue (and I) to visit owner and winemaker Craig Gasson on his home turf in Central Otago to stand in the vineyard and meet the man face-to-face. (Click here to see Lamont’s place in Sue’s ‘Wine2Trade’ portfolio.) The Lamont wines from the Bendigo sub-region are site expressive and seeing the vines, feeling the soil in one’s hands and understanding the geology and topography, as well as experiencing the climate adds a very necessary dimension in relating to such wines. Craig and his wife Angela recently assumed full ownership of the Lamont brand, and his boundless energy and enthusiasm is seeing a revitalisation of the wines on the market place.

Craig Gasson with Abel clone Pinot Noir

As a viticulturist, Craig was there at the beginning when the vineyards were established in 1999. The land was originally part of Bendigo Station, and Lamont was one of the pioneers in the district. The 2013 vintage marks the eleventh for Lamont, and over that period, the quality of the fruit and the style of the wines from the fruit has been realised. The Lamont vineyard and its neighbours are part of a vignoble that is now well-recognised for its distinctive wines. www.lamontwines.com

Walking the Lamont Vineyard
The Lamont wines are sourced from the first block lakeside on Loop Road coming from Cromwell, this measuring 4.5 ha. Pinot Noir accounts for the larger portion, with Abel, 777, 667, 115 clones planted. Riesling and Pinot Gris follow, each with two clones established. The site was soil mapped and the varieties and rootstock allocated accordingly. The Riesling is planted on the silt influenced soils and the Pinot Gris on stronger soils. Though generally a flat lower terrace, there are Abel clone Pinot Noir vines planted on a block that slopes towards Lake Dunstan. The vineyard has been organic since 2009, and is now BioGro certified. Craig met us on a wet and cold day at the vineyard. Despite the weather, the site had beauty in its orderliness and setting, and the vines, as could be expected, looked carefully tended.

The Lamont vineyard Bendigo soil profile

Tasting Previous Vintages and 2013 Samples
After the vineyard tour, Craig took us to meet up with James McElrea, his consultant winemaker, who works with Dan and Sarah-Kate Dineen at the Maude winery in Wanaka, where Craig makes the Lamont wines. A tasting of current and previous releases, along with samples of 2013 wines was arranged with the help of friend Henry Heard, a stalwart of the Wanaka wine scene. Here are my impressions of the wines tasted.

The current vintage of Riesling on the market is the 2010. (Click here for my review.) The Riesling 2011 is a firmer, more bodied wine with positive toasty aromas and flavours. Properly dry to taste, though carrying 12.5% alc. and 7 g/L rs, this has a linear minerality. The Riesling 2012 at 12.0% alc. and 9 g/L rs is more like the 2010, showing delicacy and purity, along with finesse in texture. Even the acidity is refined and lacy, and the mineral underlay is present. James brought along a tank sample of the Riesling 2013, at 11.0% alc. and dry again. This is marked by fresh fermentation esters on nose, and the palate mouth-wateringly dry. But the trademark soft textures, lacy acidity and delicate mineral finesse is present. Finishing the Riesling bracket was a Classic Riesling 2008 with 24 g/L rs. Showing fine developmental toasty notes, the finesse and elegance was striking. This tasted drier than expected, some grip countering the sugar, and one could see the family resemblance with the dry releases. Despite not being really rich, there was plenty of honey and toast interest.

For Pinot Gris, there is a little 2011 vintage available in some markets. Tasted here, it displayed a steeliness allied to subtly savoury stonefruit flavours. Clear, crisp and with good line, and clearly aiming at the classic unadulterated aromatic style. The Pinot Gris 2012 is the new release (I have just reviewed this. Click here for my review.) At this tasting, one could see the building in of greater textures through lees work and some skin contact. Aromatic and lifted, this possesses layers with exotics and minerals and noticeably more textural character. It’s a stylistic choice for a winemaker to make, and I realise both styles are valid, but I like the direction here. Craig and James have continued down this avenue as could be seen in the tank sample of Pinot Gris 2013. Very fresh with pears and honeysuckle, quite soft and accessible acidity, the balance of the wine is its high point. This is already delicious. Showing the progress made with the variety, Craig poured the Pinot Gris 2006. This has developed savoury secondary fruit aromas and flavours. Certainly less dimension, with the alcohol a little obvious. Though a perfectly decent wine, the detail and richness just was not apparent as in the latest wines.

Onto Pinot Noir, Craig served a couple of older vintages first. The Pinot Noir 2007 shows its age in the garnet colour and savoury, mushroomy flavours. However, it also shows the quality of the superb vintage with its robustness and depth of fruit. However what is remarkable is the creaminess of texture, along with sweetness and lusciousness of fruit. The Pinot Noir 2008 is a wine that benefits from time in the glass. Initially elegant, light, with linear floral and mineral fruit and some reduction, this grows to show plenty of dark red berry fruits and a supple mouthfeel. There’s a whole lot of wine here, match by prominent toasty-charry oak, making it an appealing consumer style. The current release is the Pinot Noir 2010, tight and very primary, the tautness and firmness of structure will no doubt see it age particularly well. The fruit purity is its primary asset. (Click here to see my review.)

Craig and James finished the tasting with two component barrel samples of the Pinot Noir 2013. Firstly a clone 667 and 777 blend, fully destemmed. This was refreshing with vibrant fruit, a linear herb and cool note, but lovely acid line allied to aromatics. This will make up 25-30$ of the final wine. Then a clone 115 and Abel blend, with around 35% whole cluster for the 115 component. Again fresh and fragrant, and with very fine-grained structure that becomes prominent in the glass. This will make the rest of the blend. I could see where Craig and James were taking the style. The wine may have the brightness and sweet primary fruit of the 2010, bur some more levels of interest would be incorporated, and the tannins more supple and refined. If that’s the case, it’ll be very smart wine.

Disclaimer: The Lamont wines are distributed by ‘Wine2Trade’, the company under which ‘Raymond Chan Wine Reviews’ operates

Team Lamont – Craig Gasson, James McElrea, Sue Davies, Henry Heard

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