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Dry River 30th Celebration – Autumn Release

By March 17, 2015No Comments
It’s a special year for Dry River as it celebrates 30 years. Wilco Lam has taken on the mantle of the ‘man in charge’ at this iconic New Zealand winery in Martinborough, with the blessing of founders Neil and Dawn McCallum, and former fellow winemaker Katie (Poppy) Hammond. The very experienced Ant Mackenzie continues to advise. I’ve seen a near seamless transition, the only hiccup being the release of wines from more challenging vintages during this period. The cynics and those who like to cut tall poppies saw these wines as a sign of deterioration. Those with patience saw the wines as a reflection of nature and the vagaries of agriculture. Those with faith were justified with the return to brilliance with the 2013 wines from Dry River.

The 2014 wines I’ve seen so far, the ‘Craighall’ Riesling and Viognier are as good as any of the top releases of those varieties to date. However, the vintage is problematical in that yields needed to be checked, picking may have been earlier than preferred, and strict selection required after harvest, due to rain at the end of the season. The earlier varieties and early picked wines appear extremely good, but there is no doubt, a vintage effect and character, that Dry River, and all other Martinborough winegrowers will have experienced. I believe that the late harvest styles will be compromised to some degree, but this also allows a more classical varietal expression, as long as ripening was proper and the fruit was healthy. The Dry River 2014 later season aromatic whites show this result to me. www.dryriver.co.nz


Wilco Lam – Dry River winemaker

The Autumn Release Wines
I attended the Dry River Autumn Release mail order client tasting at the Museum Hotel, just before the 30th Celebration Dinner to be held at the Hippopotamus Restaurant later. In attendance were Wilco, administrator Heather Gibbs, who will be retiring this year, and former owner Neil McCallum. Here ae my impressions of the four wines tasted. As the wines were tasted ‘on the trot’, I haven’t added these notes to the database. I look forward to reviewing them fully in the near future.

First up for tasting was the Dry River Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013 (19.0+/20). This just gets better and more complete every time I try it. Very dark, deep ruby-red, and youthful in appearance. This is full and softly packed with dense layers of ripe dark red berry fruits, along with plum notes, lifted violet florals and piquant herbs. There is some oak shine, so subtle and sensitive. Not a blockbuster, more medium to medium-full bodied. finely textured extraction and densely concentrated, sweetly ripe, succulent dark red berry fruits show with harmonious plum nuances. The acidity is in the background, lending tension, but this flows smoothly, as silk, across the palate. This is rich and very long on the finish. A candidate for 8+ years.

Then the Dry River ‘Craighall’ ‘Selection’ Martinborough Riesling 2014 (19.0-/20). This is the first time this moniker has been used, as it was a blend of various pickings to make a sweeter style, rather than made from grapes hung for a longer time. This is 9.0% alc. and 50 g/L RS. Very pale, near colourless. The nose is very pure and penetrating with limes and florals and a concentrated minerality at the core. A little flintiness enhances the mineral tones. This smells textural. Medium-sweet to taste and light bodied, this is gorgeously soft and refined in texture with a pillowy mouthfeel. An array of exotic citrus fruits show, with tangerine and jasmine coming to the fore. The acidity is ripe for sure. The softness and delicate purity is wonderful. It’ll mature a little earlier, maybe 6+ years. The wine maybe a little higher in pH than classical bottlings.

Onto the Dry River Martinborough Pinot Gris 2014 (18.5/20), made from ‘Craighall’ and ‘Dry River Estate’ fruit, undergoing a slow, long and cool ferment to 14.0% alc. and 25 g/L RS, the wine given plenty of lees contact. Bright, very, very pale straw colour. The fruit clarity and varietal expression on bouquet is textbook. Well-ripened yellow stonefruits, pears and stonefruit kernels with hints of lees and nuts. Pure and the definition is precise. Medium to taste and medium-full bodied, the flavours are nearly bold, but not brash, more up-front with ripe pears and stonefruits. The mouthfeel isn’t rich and rounded, but more elegant, slender and direct. The wine tapers a little. It sure doesn’t have that later-pick opulence, but the Pinot Gris truth is here. One to drink over the next 5+ years.

Then the Dry River ‘Lovat’ Martinborough Gewurztraminer 2014 (18.5+/20), possibly made under the same circumstances as the Pinot Gris. Some minor botrytis influence, and the wine 13.0% alc. and 30 g/L RS. Bright straw yellow with slight lemony hues. This is refined for Gewurztraminer, rather than brassy. But there’s real intensity and power still. Lovely root ginger notes showing ripe fruit and possible slight botrytis marmalade complexing layers. The rose-petal notes are there, in support. Medium to taste and more medium-bodied, ethereal root ginger and rose-petal fruits blossom in the mouth, growing in volume and presence. This is more open and accessible, rather than firm and tight. Complexing savoury ginger elements are balanced by honied notes. The acidity is soft, and in the end the sugar and phenolics are the flavour carriers. Classical ginger, floral and honey notes linger on the finish. 4-5 years.


Neil McCallum and Heather Gibbs

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