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Unique & Boutique Vineyards of Martinborough

By September 12, 2012No Comments
The diversity of any wine growing region is a key to its attractiveness and appeal to the wine consumer. Wine producers who make different styles of wines and are of varying sizes will provide this diversity. The Martinborough vignoble has this range of winegrowers. To balance the larger labels of Palliser Estate and Te Kairanga, the latter part of the very large, Foley Family Vineyards group, there are a number of hands-on owner run operations who have banded together forming the ‘Unique and Boutique Vineyards’ of Martinborough. Over the past few years, the group has run a promotion called ‘Meet Your Maker’, where the owners and winemakers, who are usually the same person, show their latest wines to the trade and public. I attended the 2012 event, held at the St. James Theatre in Wellington. Here are my impressions of the wines tasted:
Te Hera
Te Hera Estate on Te Muna Road is in good company, with plenty of big names as neighbours. John Douglas makes Pinot Noirs that are full of fruit and show plenty of weight. For a more challenging vintage, the second tier ‘Kiritea’ Pinot Noir 2011 maintains the hearty style of previous years with its lifted profile. The ‘Reserve’ Pinot Noir 2010 has more layers of flavour with greater fruit sweetness and finesse. John’s cheerful approach is evident in his wines and the saying that wines reflect the personality of their makers is true in Te Hera’s case.
Morton Anderson has brought his experience of vineyard work in Australia to Martinborough, and his wines have well-ripened fruit and has a consumer-satisfying brawniness. I enjoyed talking about his time in the McLaren Vale, especially at d’Arenberg. The ‘Silver Label’ Pinot Noir 2011 is the lightest and fruitiest, whereas the Tiwaiwaka Pinot Noir 2010 is much more solid, but retains essential acidity for freshness. The ‘Reserve’ Cabernet Franc 2009 has a ‘dusty’ expression as that variety can tend to show. Quiet in expression, but ripe, and with presence.
Big Sky
This is a relatively new operation, of Katherine Jacobs and Jeremy Corban who is from the famous Corban wine family, along Te Muna Road. The style of the wines is on the delicate side. The Sauvignon Blanc 2011 has a sweet grassiness and the Pinot Noir 2011 in the cooler spectrum of flavours, but still very typically Martinborough with the savouriness of fruit. Particularly interesting is the ‘Stellar’ Sparkling Wine NV, a 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay wine made by the Charmat method, based on 2008 and 2009 fruit. Strong aromas of nuts but with a gentleness and fruit sweetness, the dosage only 3 g/L.
Wim Julicher and Sue Darling have Outi Jakovirta making the wines from their Te Muna Road vines and the range has always been a strong one, indicating viticultural fastidiousness. The Rosé 2011 is indeed pretty, fragrant and appealing. The Sauvignon Blanc 2011 is in the grassy end of the spectrum with good weight and mouthfeel. I found the Pinot Gris 2010 showing secondary, savoury, yellow stonefruit characters, very typical of the variety. The Chardonnay 2010 is a bit of a cracker, more in the steely style and elegant, but with creamy barrel-ferment textures winning the day. The Pinot Noirs are the true stars here, and while lighter and more forward than the previous two years, the 2010s are in the ballpark, the ’99 Rows’ Pinot Noir 2010 full, supple and fruity, just starting to show a little development, the Julicher Estate Pinot Noir 2010 a step up in richness and concentration and mouthfilling with it.
Peter and Jude Hudson grow vines down Lake Ferry Road and have contracted the services of different winemakers – Jane Cooper, Morton Anderson and Mike Finucane, Outi Jakovirta, and Paul Mason for each of their wines. The ‘Mokopuna’ Sauvignon Blanc 2010 is pungent and grassy with richness, now just starting to gain secondary flavours. The ‘Lizzie’ Rosé 2011 carries 4.2 g/L rs, and has softly rich strawberry bon-bon flavours. The ‘Wharekaka’ Dry Riesling 2009 has 7 g/L rs is now mature with its toasty complexities and roundness. I recently tasted the ‘John Henry’ Pinot Noir 2009, which is a bigger and richer release than the more elegant ‘John Henry Pinot Noir 2008. The latter is showing savoury, dried herb flavours. The star for me is the Late Harvest Riesling 2009, at 11.73% alc. and 95 g/L rs, fine and decadently influenced by botrytis, and quite complex with lime marmalade and toast taste.
I’ve known Peter and May Croft from corporate times and their love of wine is now their business, planting in 2000, releasing their first wines from the 2005 vintage. They too have contracted different winemakers, Outi Jakovirta and Paul Mason to make their wine. The Sauvignon Blanc 2009 is light with subtle herb and grassy flavours and only now starting some secondary development. The Chardonnay 2010 has an attractive citrussy-buttery amalgam and excellent textural line. A smart wine which I particularly enjoyed. The Pinot Noir 2008 is a restrained and textural wine in the cooler spectrum.
John and Vivienne Phipps established their vineyard 23 years ago, in the district’s early days, with Chris Buring and Paul Mason making the wine. Their two adult daughters are involved in the vineyard work. The Sauvignon Blanc 2011 is brash and lively with pungency and good body. The Chardonnay 2011 combines barrel-ferment extras, but remains refreshing with a steeliness and zip. Comparing the two Pinot Noirs is instructive, the Pinot Noir 2009 a slender wine with crisp linearity to its intensity, the ‘Reserve’ Pinot Noir 2009 denser and richer with increasing savoury, mushroomy interest. Bordeaux varietals are rare in Martinborough nowadays. The Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 is leafy, with spicy mint characters, and attractively supple, its softness endowing it with approachability.
Cabbage Tree Vineyard
With 1.2 ha and 4,000 vines, The Cabbage Tree is the smallest commercial Martinborough winery. David and Winifred Bull do everything personally. The new Chardonnay 2010 continues the style of good weight and oaken presence of the successful 2009 just needing some time to grow. The Pinot Noir 2008 looked sweet and rich and has come into its own, but still has the potential to develop further. The Merlot 2008 is a cooler, minty expression with a little eucalypt, more elegant in proportion. The Bulls are very personable and fun to visit.
Alexander Vineyard
Established in 1989, Alexander Vineyard, Michael Finucane and Roz Walker make both burgundian and claret style wines. Their second tier ‘Dusty Road’ Pinot Noir 2010 is a lighter bodied, savoury, dare I say it ‘dusty’ expression with fresh acid. The main label Alexander Pinot Noir 2008 is also a restrained style, with linear drive, now developing the complex forest-floor nuances. Going up a level is the Alexander Pinot Noir 2010, sweeter, more textured and a little oakier to match the livelier, dried herb infused red fruits. As with the Pinot Noir, the Alexander Merlot 2008 is lighter in constitution with leafy notes, all quite supple though. The Alexander Merlot 2009 is a riper and more seriously constituted wine with dark plum fruits framed by firm tannins. This will be a keeper.

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