I suspect Neudorf’s new winemaker Todd Stevens came into work before his official starting date specifically to meet us as we were visiting the winery. While there, issues usual to the normal running of any winery operation came up, and straight away, Todd was thrust into the workings at Neudorf. To his credit, Todd came up with plenty of ideas and recounted his experiences in the matters that arose, and his thoughts, opinions and recommendations were duly noted by Neudorf’s owners Tim and Judy Finn, and viticulturist Richard Flatman. It was patently obvious that Todd is going to become integral with the Neudorf management team very quickly. And so he should, with many years of experience with Rudi Bauer at Quartz Reef and Blair Walter at Felton Road. Todd has Jane Docherty as his partner, Jane working as winemaker herself at Carrick and Felton Road before starting a family, so wine flows freely in all aspects of his life, and Pinot Noir is the lifeblood. The changeover of winemakers at Neudorf, with John Kavanagh leaving to Te Kairanga, and Todd coming on board should be very smooth.
Sitting in on the management workings at Neudorf, I was impressed with several aspects of how things are done. Everything is open and on the table, so that all the facts are presented. Details and options are investigated thoroughly with all the possible scenarios that could result discussed. Decisions are made with action time frames in place, for the best possible outcome for the integrity of the wine and the brand, and for the benefit of all the people down the distribution chain, with the satisfaction of the final consumer paramount. This is the agenda, and it’s one that is not hidden. Tim and Judy Finn have run Neudorf this way for around 30 years, and this is why Neudorf Vineyards is one of this country’s most respected wine producers, making some of the best wines in New Zealand.
The ‘Home’ Vineyard and the Brand
Tim and Richard took us for a walk around Neudorf’s ‘Home’ vineyard in the Upper Moutere. In New Zealand terms, the vineyard is a venerable one, with some of the vines, Mendoza clone Chardonnay at 35 y.o.. Pinot Noir is the other star here making the ‘Home’ vineyard Pinot Noir wine, arguably one of the country’s greats as is their Moutere Chardonnay. Pinot Gris, including the ‘Mission’ clone is planted on the site too. The Neudorf ‘Home’ block also has ‘coupled’ vines where two vines are planted together, as twins on the same spot. The ‘coupling’ wass designed to create competition and reduce vigour. Strangely these vines are intertwined, nearly around each other as lovers, and still produce fine fruit. But advances in clonal material and canopy management have relegated these to history and curiosity status. This vineyard is dear to Tim and Judy’s hearts as it is a living reminder of the trials and tribulations they worked through to get the business and the wines to the place where they are today.
Fruit for the Neudorf ‘Moutere’ label is obtained from neighbouring and nearby sites in the Moutere area and is often combined with the ‘Home’ block fruit forming the pinnacle of the Neudorf range. The ‘Moutere’ designation represents both a geographical source of the fruit and a quality marker, these wines being the finest that Neudorf can produce. The ‘Nelson’ wines are the next tier down, and can include fruit from vines outside the Moutere area, from soils that are not so heavily influenced by clay. Their position is easily seen by the lower pricing. But most followers of Neudorf will have noticed the closing gap between the ‘Moutere’ and ‘Nelson’ wines. I regularly rate the ‘Nelson’ tier wines in the 5-star category, and see them offering immense value, as well as slightly earlier accessibility.
Neudorf Wines Tasted
My visit included tasting a number of wines. The Finns have made a Moutere Viognier 2011 fruit from a nearby vineyard, their first attempt at this variety. And they’ve done an excellent job from the get-go. Lighter in the South Island mould, it is pure with classical apricot and exotic citrus zest flavours, but with the prerequisite near-unctuousness that makes the variety so appealing. It avoids any alcoholic burn that often mars other examples. At this stage, the Neudorf team seem content to not play too much with it, but I can see some more lees work and the introduction of oak textural influences as the next step. The Moutere Riesling has now morphed into two expressions. The Moutere Dry Riesling 2011 carries 12.0% alc. and 9.3 g/L rs. Very tight with a beautifully refined lime, mineral and saline expression that slowly blossoms with subtle, building richness, while remaining tight and linear. This is stunningly beautiful. The Moutere Riesling 2011 is 9.0% alc. and 49.2 g/L rs. This is a German kabinett look-alike, a touch reduced and minerally on bouquet, but with electric vitality and vibrancy from the acidity, and balanced, underlying fruit sweetness. This is already a crowd pleaser. Both Rieslings have real fruit extract and the finest textural qualities. An older Nelson Chardonnay 2009 took a while to unfold, especially as it had been served at cold cellar temperature. By the second half of the bottle, it was concentrated and packed with a citrus-mealy amalgam layered with oaken complexities. This has developed into a superb wine. Two current release reds completed the picture. The ‘Tom’s Block’ Pinot Noir 2010, is right down the stylistic line with deep and rich dark berry and cherry fruit flavours, perfect oaking and rounded mouthfeel backed by very fine structural tannins. Textbook and enviable. The Moutere Pinot Noir 2010 was more restrained than my last tasting experience of it, but it seemed even more concentrated and brilliant in energy. The acidity and minerality gives this an ethereal power and its potential is undeniable. As it breathed, much more appeared. The wines tasted show Neudorf safely carries the mantle as a leading producer in New Zealand. www.neudorf.co.nz