Tasting Reviews




Mountford Estate Masterclass


16-Oct-2012
Mountford Estate is one of those lucky producers with a reputation spread disproportionately wider than its small size would suggest. With 10 ha, recently extended to 12 ha of vines, making a very limited 5,000 cases annually, Mountford Estate seems to be recognised by all the right Pinot Noir-loving people and highly regarded by the international wine press. Much of this recognition can be attributed to the internationally accepted ‘burgundian' style of the Pinot Noirs, and some to the classical presentation and labelling of the wines, which do not look out of place with red burgundies. Also, a factor is the ebullient confidence of Mountford's remarkable blind winemaker C.P. Lin, who originally hails from Taiwan, but has conducted 15 vintages at this Waipara Valley property, fashioning an excellent run of wines over that time. The Mountford wines have been keenly and cleverly marketed over the years by the Eaton family, C.P. Lin, and their distributors and supporters over the years, and this has contributed to Mountford's profile. And not least is the benevolent ownership of the estate, established in 1991, of Kathryn Ryan and Kees Zeestraten who took it over in 2007. They continue the development of the wines and the brand with even greater gusto. The future for Mountford looks very strong.
 
Mountford Estate's winemaker C.P. Lin, and general manager Jess Hishon, Kathryn Ryan's daughter, in conjunction with Puneet Dhall and Brandon Nash, the national distributors of Mountford, conducted a masterclass of the new and current release wines at Ancestral, the deluxe Asian eatery on Courtenay Place in Wellington for wine and hospitality trade and media. C.P. Lin and Jess Hishon discussed discussed the "hands-on” family involvement in the estate and the viticultural contribution of Mike King, formerly with TerraVin in Marlborough. The vines are managed to biodynamic regimes though not certified. Lin's approach in red and whites is "hands-off”, allowing the vineyards, source sites and vintage to be expressed as much as possible. The wines tend to find their own natural balance which is retained and bottled when recognised by Lin. There are stylistic preferences – C.P. loves the wines of Alsace and Burgundy, and no doubt he allows and encourages the wines to head down the paths to those styles at the appropriate time in winemaking. This is where the winemaker affects the style produced. www.mountfordvineyard.co.nz
 
Here are my impressions and notes of the wines tasted:
 
The Pinot Noirs
Five Pinot Noirs were presented, all from the 2009 vintage. Mountford takes pride in clonal diversity, and the burgundian style of Pinot Noir that the vineyard gives. The wines require aging and have complexity and savoury, rather than sweet fruit. Not having tasted the Mountford wines for a couple of vintages, I was surprised by their burliness, and wondered if the style had changed. C.P. Lin assured the attendees that the wines showed the distinctive characters of the hot and dry season which resulted in powerful wines with greater body and alcoholic strength. The high extract was a reflection of the Mountford terroirs as well as vintage rather than any length of maceration. Lin pointed out that the wines underwent a relatively short 10 days on skins. In 2009, Mountford according to a policy of not re-using barrels from other wineries, made a significant purchase of new oak, and this could be seen in some of these wines. The first two wines incorporated contract grown fruit. The contact vineyards are neighbouring to Mountford Estate, managed by them, and the grapes picked by Mountford staff.
 
Mountford ‘Village' Waipara Pinot Noir 2009
A selection of the fruitiest barrels, the wine from both contract growers and estate grapes. Seepish rub-red colour with good heart, some garnet hues on rim. The bouquet is full and robust with savoury red berry fruits, dried herbs, and secondary development adding interest. A full-bodied wine, alcoholic warmth is noticeable, but the fruit is bright and juicy. Red berry fruits and savoury red plums, backed by oak spices are the feature, the breadth enhanced by soft acidity. Restrained tannin extraction provides the backbone, with drive from the alcohol. This is a full-bodied, slightly hot, generous, savoury Pinot Noir to match with slow-cooked game meat over the next 5-6 years. 17.0+/20 Oct 2012 RRP $32.00
 
Mountford ‘Liason' Waipara Pinot Noir 2009
Contract fruit only, a selection of the best. The wine was aged 18 months in approx. 30% new oak barrels. Dark, deep, ruby-red colour with some garnet on rim. This has a very aromatic, fragrant nose, a little volatile lift adding to the perfumed red berry fruits. Some savoury and spicy oak nuances unfold in the glass. Full-bodied, but with a degree of elegance in the expression, fine dark red plum flavours combine with liquorice, cedar and oak spices, the oak becoming dominant on palate. The extraction is fine in texture, with a firmness resulting in good palate drive and line. Some alcohol warmth is present. Still tightly bound and showing plenty of oak, this has power and a firmness of structure that will see it age 5-7 years. 17.5/20 Oct 2012 RRP $45.50
 
Three Pinot Noirs, made from Mountford Estate fruit only, were presented next.
Mountford ‘Estate' Waipara Pinot Noir 2009
Deep hearted garnet-hued ruby-red colour. Elegant and finely proportioned on nose, the aromas of soft red berry fruits are intertwined harmoniously with dried herb, oak cedar, spices and secondary undergrowth elements. Full-bodied, soft, gently expressed flavours of savoury red berry fruits and dried herbs build to form a deep core. The tannins grow to show a firmness of structure, and are bolstered by underlying alcoholic power. There is a tightness to the palate, which reveals spicy oak, nuts and cedar elements on the finish. This is a firmly held Pinot Noir with good balance of fruit and oak which will develop over 6-8 years. The wine was aged 18 months in 50% new French oak barrels. 18.0-/20 Oct 2012 RRP $60.00
 
Two single vineyard wines came next. Both ‘The Gradient' and ‘The Rise' sites are 0.4 ha (1 acre) and were planted in 2001. The two hillside sites are adjacent, the former north-west facing, the latter more westerly facing and steeper. A mixture of clones, including Dijon, Abel, 5 and 10/5 are close-planted, each site with 2,400 vines. First crop from ‘The Gradient' was 2003, though the first commercial release was the 2006 vintage. The 2009 is the first release of ‘The Rise'.
Mountford ‘The Gradient' Waipara Pinot Noir 2009
From ‘The Gradient' vineyard, fermented with 100% whole bunch, the wine spending 10 days on skins and aged 20 months in 100% new French oak. Deep, garnet-hued red colour, a little lighter on rim. The bouquet features fine, intensely firm aromas of savoury red berry fruits unfolding subtle layers of complexing secondary fresh and dried herbs and an earthy underlay. Full-bodied, this is a bold, structured wine with robust tannins encasing ripe, dark red berry fruits. Alcoholic generosity adds to the presence. Layers of brown spices, earth and mushroom notes intermingle with dried herb elements. Oaking is unobtrusive, with some sinewy, spicy elements adding detail. The extraction is prominent, and the wine is robust and textural, the fulsome mouthfeel carrying through to a drying tannic finish. This is a fulsome, robust and rugged, Pinot Noir, quite complex and earthy, and will develop over the next 8-10+ years. 18.0+/20 Oct 2012 RRP $160.00
 
Mountford ‘The Rise' Waipara Pinot Noir 2009
From ‘The Rise' vineyard, fermented with 100% whole bunch, the wine spending 10 days on skins and aged 20 months in 100% new French oak. Moderately deep, garnet-hued red colour. This has a very fine and tightly bound nose with raw, brackish, dark red berry fruits along with dark herbs, minerals and graphite notes, all well-concentrated and brooding. Medium-full bodied, the flavours are tight and restrained. Black and red berry fruits with minerals and earth form a very tightly packed core. The tannin extraction is significant, but very fine-grained, and is the prominent feature at present. This is youthfully fresh and firm, and has a powerful line, growing to become quite mouthfilling. The black fruit and mineral flavours carry to a very long, lingering finish. This is a brooding and tightly restrained black fruited, minerally Pinot Noir with refined tannin extraction. Keep for 8-10+ years. 18.5/20 Oct 2012 RRP $160.00
 
The White Wines
Two flights were presented, the first two wines essentially dry to taste, and the last three with significant residual sugar. The dry wines are crafted with the classical styles of France in view, the first in the style of Alsace, the second as white burgundy. The ‘Hommage' wine is from a single block, planted in descending proportion to Riesling, Pinot Gris, Muscat and Gewurztraminer, but with varied proportions in the final wine yearly, due to differences in yield for each variety.
 
Mountford ‘Hommage a l'Alsace' Waipara 2011
Estate fruit from the ‘Alsace' block, Muscat, Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Gris harvested together and co-fermented. Light straw-yellow in colour, lighter on rim. The aromas feature steely minerals, progressing to white and yellow florals, then spicy Gewurztraminer and herby-grapey Muscat. Off-dry to taste, soft honeysuckle fruit flavours, and lush grape and raisin notes emerge revealing an array of floral and exotic tropical fruit nuances. The palate has freshness from underlying acidity and a slightly grainy, textural grip contributing to a fulsome, structured mouthfeel. The flavours evolve and change in the glass. An intriguing wine to serve with Middle Eastern and Asian fare over the next 2-3+ years. 17.5+/20 Oct 2012 RRP $45.50
 
Mountford Waipara Chardonnay 2009
Estate fruit fermented and matured 20 months in 30% new French oak with 100% MLF. Bright, light, lemony-gold colour. This has a bouquet of savoury citrus fruits forming a complex amalgam with nutty, oxidative elements and flinty, steely notes. Quite open and accessible, this is very white burgundian. Full-bodied, complex citrus and nutty flavours show with breadth on the palate. Bruised apple oxidative nuances, mealy hints and some oak spices are present, and the mouthfeel has acid cut as a feature providing a freshness to the texture. The wine finishes long, nutty and dry. Very much in a traditional, oxidatively-handled Meursault style, to drink over the next 3 years.. 18.0-/20 Oct 2012 RRP $49.95
 
Onto the three presented sweeter white wines made from aromatic varieties. The first wine is one of a series of Rieslings made from contract fruit. Made in a sweeter style, the wines from the 2008 vintage have carried a descriptive name. The 2008 was ‘Noble' indicating the inclusion of botrytised fruit, the 2009 ‘Riche', clearly a rich style, the 2010 ‘Pure', with no botrytis. As well as the 2011 ‘Voluptueux' shown, I've added in my notes on the 2009 ‘Riche' served as a pre-taster for the event.
Mountford ‘Voluptueux' Waipara Riesling 2011
Made from 50% botrytis affected fruit, in a Germanic style. Straw-yellow colour with green-gold hues. Distinctive aromas of limes, florals, honey and herbs are presented with youthful freshness. Medium sweet, this has good body, weight and presence, with luscious honeyed and lime fruit flavours. Citrus marmalade botrytis is evident, and the richness is underlined by fine grainy phenolic textures providing balanced structure and line. The acidity becomes prominent on the finish where lively herbal elements feature. This will develop well over the next 4-5+ years. 17.5+/20 Oct 2012 RRP $32.00
 
Mountford ‘Riche' Waipara Riesling 2009
Made from 33% botrytis-affected fruit fermented to 10% alc. and approx. 70 g/L rs. Light straw-gold in colour, this has a tight, fine bouquet with attractively developed, secondary toast and honey aromas with soft floral notes. Sweet to taste, this has a lively, vibrant and near-robust mouthfeel with a subtly savoury, secondary flavour profile including ripe citrus fruits, wild honey, toast and yellow florals. The acidity is prominent, as is the residual sugar, the combination resulting in a creamy flow and texture. This is a mouthfilling sweeter Riesling that is showing bottle-development and interest. Drinking well now and over the next 3-4+ years. 18.0-/20 Oct 2012 RRP $32.00
 
Mountford Waipara Riesling 2011
From estate fruit, vines on limestone-influenced soil. Very pale straw-yellow with green hues. The bouquet is full and intense, redolent of exotic florals, lime fruits and some tropical notes with lift. Medium to taste, soft and gentle, fine textures provide the background for soft lime, honeysuckle and jasmine fruit flavours. This is elegantly and beautifully proportioned, with acid cut and finesse providing a delicate and poised palate line. Interwoven nuances of citrus, jasmine, talc and honey linger on a sustained finish. This is archetype Waipara Valley Riesling with its exotic expression and delicacy. This will evolve well over the next 4-6 years. 18.5+/20 Oct 2012 RRP $37.50
 
Mountford Waipara Pinot Gris 2011
Made from contract fruit with full botrytis infection, fermented to 9.5% alc. ull, light golden-hued straw-yellow colour with a faint blush. The nose combines power and richness with a steely drive and depth. Restrained aromas of mineral-infused pears show with hints of spices and honey, revealing flinty notes. Medium-sweet to taste, this is soft, lush and rich on palate with ripe yellow stonefruits along with complexing sacoury nuances. Near-unctuous in texture, this is plush and rounded, the sugar carrying the flavours somewhat. There is good energy from underlying acidity which leads the palate to a moderately sustained finish with florals and nutty notes. This is a rich, up-front Pinot Gris in the contemporary late-harvest Alsace style to drink over the next 3-4 years. 18.0-/20 Oct 2012 RRP $28.95
 
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