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Wines from Martinborough International Media Showcase – Day One

By April 28, 2011No Comments
It was rather fortuitous that I missed the Wines from Martinborough Trade Day earlier this year, as a place was found for me to join a rather select group of international media movers and shakers who were invited to have their own ‘Martinborough Vintage Experience’ over two days. They included people who operate in the cyber world of internet websites and blogs, as well as conventional publishing. The important Asian sector was represented by Yu-Sen Li of Taiwan, Suzie Chung of South Korea and Tersina Shieh who services the Greater China market from Hong Kong. From Australia were Tony Love from Adelaide, Dan Sims of Melbourne and Peter Bourne from Sydney. I wasn’t sure if I was to represent the Asian or the Kiwi side! Splitting into small teams, we visited four wineries each.
Vynfields – Certified Organic and Biodynamic Winegrowing
Our first visit was to Vynfields where biodynamic philosophies were espoused by proprietors Kaye McAulay and John Bell. The hands-on experience involved the making and application of ‘Preparation 550′, aka ‘cow horn manure’ as well as the opportunity of putting one’s hands in the compost mound! There was much discussion on the understanding and commitment of the whole team to the practices, as well as how the natural and sensitive approach to farming, which an organic and biodynamic regime is, has existed for aeons. Kaye recalls in the not too distant past, she was constantly asked “Why are you organic?” The riposte today is “Why aren’t the others?”, which of course, reflects the growing groundswell towards organic and biodynamic food and wine making. The success of any approach can of course be measured by the quality of the wines.
Three Riesling wines were served. The Vynfields Classic Riesling 2007 (18.5/20) at 13.0% alc. and 5.4 g/L rs was very fine in structure, still tight and had great length. The VynfieldsClassic Riesling 2005 (19.0-/20), at 13.8% alc. and 17 g/L rs full of lush, honied, toasty characters, Germanic-like, but with greater alcohol. Also impressive was the VynfieldsClassic Riesling 2003 (18.5-/20) at 12.9% alc. and 7.5 g/L rs, still tight and positively austere, and showing brilliant acidity. All will continue to age well. Then the two current reds, the ‘Estate’ VynfieldsPinot Noir 2009 (18.0+/20), elegant and nuanced with spices, and continuing to improve, followed by the Vynfields ‘Reserve’ Pinot Noir 2009 (19.0/20), densely concentrated with darker fruit expression.
Palliser Estate – Proficiency and Substance
Palliser Estate is one of the heroes of Martinborough, and the consistency of top quality wines is truly admirable and a credit to the guiding hands of winemakers Allan Johnson and Pip Goodwin. One-third of Palliser’s production and half of the company’s plantings are to Pinot Noir, while half of the production is Sauvignon Blanc, reflecting the passionate side and commercial reality of business respectively. As the second largest producer in the district, there is good availability of the wines, making Palliser a wonderful business model.

Allan took us through a tasting of tank and barrel samples of the new 2011 vintage wines as his team worked busily around us, processing the final pickings of the harvest. Examples of fine, clear cut Riesling, pungent and weighty Sauvignon Blanc, subtly powered Pinot Gris and vibrant Pinot Noir were sampled. From what was tasted, 2011 will be another successful vintage for Palliser Estate. The positive cohesion of the team was evident at the workers’ lunch, where good nature, humour, openness and intellect were shown in the table talk. Wine, of course, was served with lunch. We were treated to the Palliser EstateRiesling 2010 (18.0+/20), fine and crystal clear with lime and floral delicacy, and a Palliser Estate‘Great Walter’ Pinot Noir 2008 (19.0/20), rich, ripe, oaky, and beautifully lush with striking opulence. I have it on good authority that the next wine in the ‘Great Dog’ series, the Palliser ‘Great Marco’ Pinot Noir 2009 is something spectacular…

Martinborough Vineyard – Pioneer with the Track Record
Pete Wilkins, the viticulturist at Martinborough Vineyard explained his work heading towards organic certification, following clear evidence of the importance and impact of soil health. Winemaker Paul Mason fully supports this work, as he sees the wines only getting better because of it. Paul too, is not content resting on the laurels of a great track record, and his passion is to further the ‘Martinborough-ness’ of his Pinot Noirs with higher proportions of whole bunches in the ferment and greater post-ferment maceration.

Paul led us through an extensive tasting of the portfolio. Three Rieslings from the Jackson Vineyard, picked at different stages. The ‘regular’ Martinborough VineyardRiesling 2010 (19.0-/20) at 12.5% alc. and 4 g/L rs, showing great line and length, then the Martinborough Vineyard‘Manu’ Riesling 2010 (18.5-/20), at 11.5% alc. and 20 g/L rs with a beautiful balancing act of finesse and lusciousness, then the Martinborough Vineyard‘Bruno’ Riesling 2010 (18.0+/20), at 9% alc. and 54 g/L rs, much weightier and oilier, with great length. A pair of Pinot Gris also showed style ability, the Burnt Spur Pinot Gris 2010 (17.5+/20) a crowd pleaser with its sweetness carried interest and a more complex, nuanced, and vinously focussed Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Gris 2009 (18.0-/20). Rounding out the whites were the Martinborough Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (17.5+/20), showing restraint allied to weight and texture, and a sensationally rich, fulsome Martinborough Vineyard Chardonnay 2009 (19.0+/20), wonderfully layered with fruit and complexities.

Six examples of Pinot Noir were very instructive. The Martinborough Vineyard ‘Te Tera’ Pinot Noir 2010 (17.0+/20), still tight, lean, but with dark fruited length and promise, followed by the clay-soiled Burnt Spur Pinot Noir 2010 (17.5+/20), rich, plush and openly round, making it very accessible. The Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009 (18.5+/20) was pale and shy on nose, but multi-dimensional and mouthfilling with amazing nuances on palate. The Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006 (19.0/20) was sweeter, denser, richer, and beginning to show forest floor interest. Both will last a decade easily. Showing nearly enough substance to be a super-premium model was the Martinborough Vineyard ‘30th Anniversary’ Pinot Noir 2005 (19.0-/20). Spices cedar, meat, game and truffles all with structure and freshness. The only way to describe the Martinborough Vineyard ‘Marie Zelie’ Pinot Noir 2006 (19.5+/20) is “sensational”. Incredible density, richness, weight and yet totally harmonious, and stylish. The most expensive Pinot Noir made in N.Z. and fully worth it!

Schubert – A Little Slice of Europe
As Kai Schubert was away on yet another promotional trip overseas, and Marion Deimling up to her ears in incoming grapes, we were hosted by their right-hand ‘Girl Friday’ the proficiently precise and articulate Christine Calmus, who pointed out the Schubert’s leaning to European style with their wines, and the point of difference in the wines’ make-up being a blend of East Taratahi-Gladstone fruit with Martinborough Terrace grapes. Surprisingly, Schubert has 12.5 ha and 1.5 ha of vines in those districts respectively.

Running through the wines, the Schubert Rose 2010 (17.5/20) was sheer delicacy and refreshing zest, made from Pinot Noir. The family trademark in all the red wines must be a fine minerality and acid zing providing definite tension. The Schubert ‘Marion’s Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2009 (18.5-/20) was a lesson in elegance, finesse and “femininity”. It needs time to put on some flesh, and it surely will. The Schubert ‘Marion’s Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2008 (19.0-/20) has concentration and the coming together of its componentry. Delicious stuff indeed. Showing a “masculine” side was the Schubert ‘B Block’ Pinot Noir 2009 (19.0-/20), denser with darker fruit, spicy and vibrant, and a pleasing plummy nuance. The Schubert Syrah 2008 (18.0-/20) could polarise cool-climate Syrah aficionados. Sure it is cool-end spectrum with its white pepper, herb and acid streak, but then it has an unctuous, rich texture and supple mouthfeel that draws you in. Coolness features in the Schubert Cabernet/Merlot 2006 (17.0+/20), earthy, spicy, cedar and green olives and firmish tannins suggest it will develop at a snail’s pace. But startlingly lush and decadent was the Schubert ‘Dolce’ 2009 (18.0+/20), 6.5% alc and 350 g/L rs, made from very late-harvested, non-botrytised, raisined Muller-Thurgau. A liqueur replacement that will also be a match with creamy and blue cheeses.

More Noteworthy Current Release Martinborough Wines
A line-up of 30+ wines preceded dinner. Some of them were tasted during the day, so I gave ticks to the following not seen earlier: Dry River ‘Lovat’ Gewurztraminer 2010, Ata Rangi Pinot Gris 2010, Kusuda Riesling 2010, Vynfields Classic Riesling 2010, Nga Waka Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Palliser Estate Chardonnay 2008, Te Kairanga ‘Runholder’ Chardonnay 2008, Cambridge Road Pinot Noir 2009, Escarpment Pinot Noir 2009, Palliser Estate Pinot Noir 2008, and Porters Pinot Noir 2009.

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