The 2013 Spring Release of Dry River is an especially significant one, as it marks the 30th vintage, the first commercial wines being from 1984. But it is significant for winemaker Wilco Lam and viticulturist Robert Wills as the 2013 vintage wines are their full responsibility from tending the vines to bottling the wines. Since the departure of Neil McCallum, then that of Shayne and Poppy Hammond from the team, it must have seemed as though they had enormous boots to fill, but the reality is that the vines and vineyards are superbly set up, and the systems in the winery well-established, so it has been business as usual. There has been a seamless transition, but no doubt Wilco, Robert and general manager Ant Mackenzie have needed to gain their confidence as well as that of Dry River’s regular clientele.
Wilco Lam and Heather Gibbs – Dry River
Wilco Lam and Heather Gibbs – Dry River
I could see the confidence in Wilco who presented the 2013 Spring Release wines with Dry River’s long-serving administrator Heather Gibbs as they chatted easily with the mail order customers at the Museum Hotel, the regular Wellington venue for their release tastings. Wilco is a disarmingly charming man and Heather has an air of steadfastness, and between the two of them, they handled all the questions and queries on technicalities and logistics, while recounting their recent experiences of the past vintage. Special attendees at the tasting were Neil and Dawn McCallum, Dry River’s founders, and it was a very amiable catch-up for everyone on the room. After tasting through the new wines and discussing them with Wilco, I could see Neil was very pleased with them, pronouncing the bottlings as classical Dry River wines. www.dryriver.co.nz
Tasting the 2013 Spring Releases
I worked my way through the wines, and here are my impressions. First on the list was the Dry River ‘Amaranth’ ‘Craighall’ Riesling 2013, at 11.5% alc. and 6 g/L RS, with 8.7 g/L TA and a 2.7 pH. The figures tell it all, this has all the goods to see it age exceptionally well. The ‘Amaranth’ designation signifies that this wine should age with considerable interest, and the Dry River team don’t see these wines as being any better qualitatively. Last year’s Riesling also had ‘Amaranth’ potential, but being a ‘new’ team, they decided to err on the side of caution. But not so with the 2013. Very pale in colour, this exudes great purity of wet stones, white florals and lime fruits, beautifully taut and bound. Very dry to taste, this is mouth-wateringly refreshing with slippery textures and considerable depth and line, all in the most subtle way. Sheer class and great wine. The ability to age not is in any doubt.
This was followed by the Dry River ‘Dry River Estate’ Viognier 2013. I’m so much happier with this being on the dry side, earlier releases showing more residual sugar. This is 14.5% alc. and 7 g/L RS, with 5.5 g/L TA and 3.5 pH. Also very pale in colour, the penetrating aromatics are the feature. Fore floral and perfumed than ripe and apricotty or tropical fruit-like, jasmine and exotic florals and perfumes are lifted by fermentation esters. Dryish to taste, this is sleek and elegant with linearity and drive. Some alcohol is detectable, but it is the acidity that carries the palate. A leaner style, reflecting the moderate temperatures, but very fine textured and with the fruit to unfold. A classiness is prevalent.
The Dry River Chardonnay 2012 is 13.0% alc., fully barrel-fermented and aged in French oak, only one of the 9 barrels new. The wine underwent light lees stirring and no MLF to preserve the Dry River style. Wilco and Ant considered employing MLF, but felt it would take away from the elegance and ability to develop well. Slight green hues to the colour, the bouquet combines white stonefruits, white florals and the most subtle background oak spicing. Delicate citrus fruits and crisp acidity feature on palate, the flavours still locked in. At present the acidity is the carrier of the wine, but it will reveal its provenance over the next 5-6 years. Again, showing the elegance of the growing season of 2012.
The new wine is the Dry River ‘Craighall’ Tempranillo 2011, the first commercial release from top-grafted Pinot Noir vines. I was at Dry River when this fruit was brought into the winery, and Wilco and Poppy looked very pleased with it. 13.0% alc. and aged in barrel for 12 months. There was only one 225 L barrique made – 25 dozen. Light ruby with purple hues, the nose is bright and aromatic with lifted dark red florals with dark herb, nutty and earthy hints. Up-front with bright primary dark red raspberry and floral flavours, this has a fine textural line from modest extraction and a fresh, raciness from the acidity. It’s all primary, and there’s a ‘young vine-young wine’ feel about it. It seems to fit in between Pinot Noir and Syrah, rather than have the Cabernet Sauvignon character as espoused in some Hawke’s Bay examples. This is ‘work in progress’ for sure, but I liked its accessibility and ‘unserious’ nature.
The final wine in the release was the Dry River ‘Lovat’ Syrah 2011. Now this does have a serious nature to it. The 2011 reds from Martinborough show elegance and florals to me and the 12.0% alc., violetty perfumes add more weight to my conclusions. But there’s more to this wine, with spice layers to the nose and firm, fine-grained tannins to the core. Dark aromatic fruits with harmonious pepper notes are packed in, and promise more detail. The wine is a slender one in proportion and shows acid drive, but there’s depth and presence. This should develop beautifully. The wine was aged 12 months in 20% new larger format 300 L barrels.
The initial impressions left a favourable taste in my mouth, and the wines do show the Dry River style as Neil McCallum summarised. Fans of the wines will not be disappointed. I’ll be reviewing the wines fully in the near future.