Featured Reviews

Escarpment Vineyard 2014 Martinborough, ‘Insight’ and ‘Kupe’ Pinot Noirs

21 April,2016
The quality of the 2013 Escarpment Vineyard single vineyard Pinot Noirs earned Larry McKenna and his team the ‘Raymond Chan Winery of the Year’ award last year. In arguably the best vintage ever experienced in Martinborough to date, the Escarpment Vineyard Pinot Noirs fulfilled the potential as promised by Larry McKenna and his vineyards, with a stunning set of terroir-expressive wines of stupendous quality. (Click here to see my reviews of the 2013 Escarpment Pinot Noirs.).

Larry McKenna believes that the Martinborough region will provide wines of a similar level of quality in 2014, 2015 and possibly 2016. All of these vintages have produced outstanding fruit, though the growing seasons for each year will provide stylistically different and unique expressions. According to Larry, 2014 yielded an average crop from a textbook summer and perfect harvesting period. No rain was recorded while the Pinot Noir fruit was brought in, and he was able to choose the time of picking, rather having it dictated by the weather, which could otherwise threaten dilution or disease. As in Hawke’s Bay where the 2014 growing season saw warmer temperatures than 2013, the 2014 Martinborough Pinot Noirs show greater fruit intensity as a result. This was confirmed with my tastings of the Escarpment Vineyard Pinot Noir barrel samples in January 2015 (click here to see my report).

The 2014s continue the development that Larry McKenna and Huw Kinch have undertaken to increase the character and complexity as they did with the 2013s over earlier releases. The primary focus is to enhance the terroir or site characteristics of each of the single vineyard wines. Integral with this is the general increased use of whole bunches, across the board. Extended elevage in barrel from 12 months to 18 months, with a general increase of new oak has been seen to work in especially well with the expression of these wines, and the 2014s employ these changes again, though the new oak component has been reduced slightly from 40% in 2013 to 30% in 2014 for the ‘Insight’ wines.

The Escarpment Vineyard Pinot Noirs figure among Martinborough and New Zealand’s greatest Pinot Noirs, not only in quality, but in their expression of site and terroir. Here, I review the 2014 Escarpment Pinot Noirs, these being the ‘district blend’, the ‘Insight’ ‘Pahi’, ‘Kiwa’ and ‘Te Rehua’ bottlings, and the flagship ‘Kupe’ Pinot Noir. As usual, they carry considerable complexity and structure and deserve the time spent in appreciating them. In addition, I review the 2014 ‘Kupe’ Chardonnay. www.escarpment.co.nz


Escarpment ‘Kupe’ Martinborough Chardonnay 2014

Chardonnay from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington

Bright straw-yellow colour with lemon-green hues, a little lighter on the rim. The nose is youthfully firm and deeply concentrated with powerful aromas of fresh white stonefruits melded with intense nutty notes along with complexing oxidative and aldehyde elements, and nuances of flinty, minerally lees. Medium-bodied, the palate is bright and refreshingly lively with tightly concentrated flavours of white stonefruits along with an amalgam of nutty and oxidative elements, aldehyde hints and flinty detail. The mouthfeel is firm and possesses grip, and enlivened by crisp acidity. This has power and drive and the concentrated core carries to a long, nutty finish, This is a youthfully firm, powerful and lively Chardonnay with complex flavours of white stonefruits and nuts, with oxidative and minerally detail. Match with pork and veal over the next 5+ years. Clone 95 from vines planted in 1998 on the McCreanor block on Princess Street, fully barrel-fermented with indigenous yeasts to 13.2% alc., the wine aged 10 months in 20% new French oak, 60% undergoing MLF. 18.0+/20 Apr 2016 RRP $45.00

Escarpment Martinborough Pinot Noir 2014

Pinot Noir from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington

Very dark, deep, ruby-red colour with slight black hues at the heart and lighter purple on the rim. The nose is fresh and firmly concentrated with ripe and vibrant fruit aromas of dark red berry and black cherry fruit harmoniously entwined with dark herbs and background whole bunch stalk complexities. The aromatics build in depth and intensity with aeration, unfolding classical violet florals and spice elements. Medium-full bodied, the fruit is rich and plush, and vibrantly succulent, showing flavours of dark red berryfruit and black cherries with complexing dark herb and whole bunch stalk detail. The palate is firmly concentrated with fine-grained tannin extraction in support, balancing the lusciousness. The mouthfeel is vigorous with structure, acid freshness and drive, and the wine carries to a long, fine-textured finish f dark red fruits, herbs and violets. This is a vigorous and vibrant dark red and black-fruited Pinot Noir with herb complexities and plenty of structure. Match with lamb, beef and venison over the next 6-7 years. 60% Te Muna and 40% Martinborough township vineyard fruit, clones 5, Abel, 6, 13, 10/5 and 667, indigenous yeast fermented with 50% whole bunch to 13.8% alc., the wine spending 19 days on skins, and aged 11 months in 30% new French oak barrels. 18.5/20 Apr 2016 RRP $45.00

Escarpment ‘Pahi’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2014

Pinot Noir from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington

Dark, deep, even ruby-red colour, a little lighter on the rim with some garnet hues. The nose is elegantly proportioned and tightly concentrated with deep and rich fruit aromas of dark-red berry fruit and black cherries entwined with penetrating dark herbal elements along with fine, whole cluster stalk notes and suggestions of stems, along with nutty oak. Medium-full bodied and fine in presentation, this has real mouthfeel and presence with a packed core of dark red berry fruit melded with dark herbs and floral fragrances. The fruit is underlined by fine-grained, velvety textures and extract, allowing the fruit richness to prevail. The fruit is fresh and has vitality, and flows with great energy and tension to a long, smooth, fine-textured, lingering finish. This is an elegant, but richly concentrated Pinot Noir with concentrated dark fruits and aromatic herbal and floral layers, and a lively, velvety palate. Match with herb-marinated poultry and pork dishes over the next 6-7+ years. Clones 10/5, Abel and 5 from 27 y.o. vines from the ‘McCreanor' vineyard on Princess Street, indigenous yeast fermented with 50% whole bunch to 13.4% alc., the wine spending 17 days on skins, and aged 18 months in 30% new French oak barrels. 19.0-/20 Apr 2016 RRP $65.00

Escarpment ‘Kiwa’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2014

Pinot Noir from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington

Dark, even ruby-red colour, a little lighter on edge with slight garnet hues. This has a very full and gently voluminous nose unfolding layers of dark red berry fruits entwined with waves of dried herbs, spices and nuances of cedar. The nose has a refined and concentrated core, and is beautifully ethereal and exotic, revealing funky Middle Eastern spice and cedary oak detail in the glass. Medium-bodied, the palate features rich and lusciously sweet red berry fruit flavours harmoniously interwoven with spices, dark herbs and cedar with nutty oak detail adding interest. The fruit is supported by very fine-grained, silky tannins that lend structural finesse, and the wine flows effortlessly revealing spice and whole cluster nuances as it carries to a very long, lingering, elegant finish with flowery tannins. This is an elegant, silky smooth, exotic Pinot Noir with red fruits complexed by spices, herbs and cedar. Match with Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine over the next 6-7 years. Clones 5, 6 and 13 from 27 y.o. vines from the ‘Cleland' vineyard on Cambridge Road, indigenous yeast fermented with 50% whole bunch to 13.0% alc., the wine spending 21 days on skins, and aged 18 months in 30% new French oak barrels. 19.0/20 Apr 2016 RRP $65.00

Escarpment ‘Te Rehua’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2014

Pinot Noir from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington

Very dark, deep, black-hued ruby-red colour, a little lighter on the rim, and youthful in appearance. The nose is full with robust and vigorous aromas of rich, ripe, dark-red and blackberry fruit with black cherries and layers of savoury dark herbs, whole cluster stalk detail, in an amalgam with violet florals. Complexing earth and balsamic nuances add to the aromatic array. Medium-full bodied, lusciously rich and succulent flavours of ripe, dark red berry and blackberry fruit are intermixed with complex layers of spices, dark red florals, oak cedar, whole bunch stalk and herbal detail, along with balsamic, earth and nutty oak elements. The flavours are mouthfilling and near robust, the sweetness and vibrancy balanced by fine-grained, but significant structure and grip, and bright acidity. The flavours continue to blossom as the wine leads to a powerful, textured, lingering finish. This is a very rich and succulent, multi-faceted black-fruited Pinot Noir with layers of complexing flavours, and plenty of structure and dimension. Match with lamb, beef, venison and game meat dishes over the next 8-10+ years. A mixture of many clones from 23 y.o. vines from the ‘Barton' vineyard on Huangarua Road, fermented with 50% whole bunch to 13.3% alc., the wine spending 24 days on skins, and aged 18 months in 30% new French oak barrels. 19.5+/20 Apr 2016 RRP $65.00

Escarpment ‘Kupe’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2014

Pinot Noir from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington

The tenth release of a ‘Kupe' Pinot Noir. Abel clone fruit from vines close-planted in 1999 from the ‘Kupe' vineyard on Te Muna Road, indigenous yeast fermented with 70% whole bunch to 14.1% alc. in French wooden cuves, the wine spending 22 days on skins and aged 18 months in 50% new French oak barriques. Full, even, deep, black-hued ruby-red colour, a little lighter on the rim. This has a fulsome and near robust nose with deeply packed and concentrated aromas of ripe dark-red berry fruit and savoury black cherries entwined with dark herb and black mineral notes. Complexing, piquant aromas of whole cluster stalk elements along with spices and cedar, and nutty oak emerge in the glass. The aromas are enriched by violet floral and visceral elements, and the whole cluster aromas intensify with aeration. Medium-full bodied, the palate possesses fulsome and powerfully deep flavours of rich, ripe, black berried fruits with black cherries, and layers of dark herbs, savoury whole bunch stalk notes, and a complexing amalgam of cedar, spices, balsam, blood and earth. This is great richness, balanced by considerable structure, the tannins fine and grainy. The mouthfeel has great energy and vitality, the acidity and alcohol providing drive and power, carrying the wine to a robust and vigorous, long finish. This is a powerfully structured and concentrated, complex, black-fruited Pinot Noir with layers of whole bunch, spice, earth and visceral complexities. Match with slow-cooked game meat and hard-cheeses over the next 8-10+ years. 19.5+/20 Apr 2016 RRP $85.00
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