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Pinot Capital – Wines From Martinborough at Le Cordon Bleu

By August 28, 2015No Comments

WOAP – Wellington On A Plate has been a huge success in enticing the broader public to enjoy accessible fare in the capital city. The varied burgers and cocktails have been consumed by the masses, but it’s the special events that make WOAP different and worthwhile. Over several seasons, Wines From Martinborough have partnered a series of wine themed dinners, matched to the cuisine from the staff and students of Le Cordon Bleu. The events are highlights of WOAP and sell out quickly.

I can’t help but be impressed by the cohesive marketing activity of the winemakers of the Martinborough region as co-ordinated by the Wines From Martinborough collective. There’s a wealth of talent, knowledge and ability to communicate, and the message of the variety and quality of the district’s wines has been spread most effectively. Last month, I attended the grand finale Pinot Noir Dinner which was part of ‘Conversations with Winemakers’ (click here to see my report). www.winesfrommartinborough.com

Again, I was able to attend a Pinot Noir themed dinner – ‘Pinot Capital’ as part of WOAP. This was the third Martinborough wine dinner at Le Cordon Bleu, and it was preceded by ‘Varietal’ and ‘Chardonnay’ matched dinners, each presented by two high-profile Martinborough winemakers. At this event, the theme was 2013 Martinborough Pinot Noirs, the presentation shared by Larry McKenna of Escarpment Vineyard and Helen Masters of Ata Rangi. I make no secret that I consider 2013 to be one of the great Martinborough vintages, the wines rich and ripe, with beautiful flavours and proper structure, as well as excellent acid vitality and vibrancy. Following the wines from early on in their life, they continue to improve. So the dinner was another opportunity to confirm my findings.


Catherine Baschet – Le Cordon Bleu, Paris

The Dinner and The Wines
The dinner was held at the Le Cordon Bleu Restaurant and executed and delivered by the staff and students. It was very professional, and I’m sure the near 60 diners attending would agree it was faultless. Among the guests was Catherine Baschet of Le Cordon Bleu Paris who was very pleased with the standards of the students, and also with the quality of the wines. www.lecordonbleu.co.nz

As can be expected, Larry McKenna and Helen Masters spoke with clarity, humour and great authority about Pinot Noir as a variety, the special place the variety has in Martinborough, and how the wines taste, especially with food. 12 wines were served matched with three food courses. The wines were served in Gabriel Glass, the adopted stemware for the region, proven to show wines well. The glasses are available from Schubert Wines. www.schubert.co.nz

I made a point of enjoying the night, so made only brief notes with my impressions of the wines. I’ve given the wines (tentative) scores, but the notes and ratings have not been added to my database of notes, due to the relaxed and social nature of the situation. I’ve quoted the retail prices as available from Martinborough Wine Merchants. www.martinboroughwinemerchants.com

Flight One
Arancini of porcini with liquorice foam and chicken thyme jus
The introductory flight of wines, clearly designed to show a range of styles and levels of quality. The arancini densely textured, but moist and with good mushroom flavour. I enjoyed the Te Kairanga wine best with the food, as it had power and depth, with acid vitality to penetrate the density and provide cut.

Martinborough Vineyard ‘Te Tera’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013 
Medium deep ruby-red colour. The nose is fresh with primary aromas of dark red cherry fruit, the aromatics with depth, revealing spices and dark herbal elements. This is well-fruited and with depth on the palate, the mouthfeel accessible and rounded with supple tannins. The wine balances restrained, gentle richness with fine textures that carry to a dry finish. This second tier wine has it all there and is approachable now. (17.5+/20) RRP $36.00

Te Kairanga ‘Runholder’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013 
The darkest colour of the flight, with deep ruby-red, youthful in appearance. The fruit aromatics are deep and well concentrated on bouquet, showing bright, ripe dark red berries. This has richness, intensity and depth on palate, the fruit bright, lively, and vibrant. The palate is balanced with firm tannin linearity showing its youth. This has good structure and potential to develop. The fruit vitality is the feature of this wine. (18.5/20) RRP $36.00

Coney ‘Pizzacato’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013 
The lightest in colour of the flight. The bouquet is ethereal and fragrant with soft red florals and strawberry fruit, lifted by spice notes and oak cedar. An elegant wine with delicacy. Lighter fruit expression, with savoury red fruits, florals and a little dried herb, cooler elements. Fine-grained tannins with a more modest extraction, dry finishing. A lighter, aromatic-expressive wine showing its different soils? (17.5-/20) RRP $36.00

Palliser Estate Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013 
Full, even, dark ruby-red colour. The nose is rich and densely packed with ripe dark red and black berried fruits, unfolding layers of aromatics and savoury detail. This has complexity. On palate very sweet and succulent, the wine showing a degree of elegance with the richness. Plenty of complexing aromatic and savoury detail unfolds, and very fine-grained, supple tannins support the fruitiness. The finish is very long. I’ve tasted this on a number of occasions and it is one of the stars of the vintage. (19.0/20) RRP $48.00

Flight Two
Fillet of gurnard with bread crust and puffed rice, grilled leek and jus reduction, with red wine and kawakawa, and tapioca pearls
This was the star flight of wines with the biggest names. Three of the wines particularly ageworthy. The question was posed: should this flight have been served last with the venison? Here the fish had delicacy of flavour, which was interpreted as allowing the wines to speak more fully. Elements of the bread crust and grilling worked well with the wines, but generally the wines were stronger than the food. The fish was cooked perfectly in any case.

Dry River Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013
Very dark, purple-hued ruby-red colour. Quite complete on the nose with very rich and concentrated aromas of dark red berry, cherry and nuances of plum fruit. Intense florality and suggestions of spice, along with complexing savoury, detail. Very rich and sweet fruited on palate, but equalled by considerable extraction giving firm structure. Sweet fruit, spices, savoury and floral amalgam, the vibrancy startling. On this showing, looking very structured and needing time. (19.0+/20) RRP $94.00

Ata Rangi Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013 
Very full and even coloured, dark ruby-red. Extremely elegant on nose but tightly bound and concentrated. Smells sinewy, with rich and savoury fruit along with an unfolding array of complex detail. Florals emerge in the glass. Beautifully elegant and rich, but with piquant acid freshness along with very fine, but serious extraction. This has detail, linearity, and textures. A superb classical style here. The consummate Martinborough Pinot Noir. (19.5/20) RRP $89.00

Escarpment Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013 
Very dark, purple-hued ruby-red colour, youthful in appearance. The nose is full and deeply packed with aromas of ripe black fruits unfolding complexing savoury herbal, earth and minerally notes. Whole cluster interest shows. Fulsome, structured and robust on palate, the fruit richness and sweetness provides boldness, and tonight prevails over the texture as seen previously. The balance is exceptional. Complexity and savoury interest abounds. The best I’ve seen this wine. (19.0-/20) RRP $54.00

Julicher Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013 
Dark ruby-red colour, and a little lighter on the rim. This is tightly bound, elegant and slender on bouquet with classical black cherry fruit along with subtle fresh herbal detail. On palate showing elegance and moderate ripeness, with black and red fruits, red floral perfumes. This is sweet, juicy and lush, with supple and accessible tannins. Some acid laciness provides freshness and tension. Drinkable now and keep 5-6 years. Lovely approachability. (18.0/20) RRP $45.00

Flight Three
Tournedos of venison with chicken and hazelnut mousseline, celeriac puree, beetroot and sweet pickled onions, and venison jus
The most varied flight of wines, demonstrating the influence of winemaker signature, house style and possibly ‘sense of place’. I compared the wines to appellations in Burgundy as a fun exercise. Here, all four wines worked well with the venison, this being my food course of the night!

Porters Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013 
Lighter ruby-red colour lighter on rim. The aromatics are fresh and still to come together, showing black and red fruits with notes of spices and pepper and lifted herbs. On palate much more in balance with a beautiful lusciousness, the energy, florals and lift enhanced by fine acidity. This blossoms in floral perfumes, and follows a very fine, sustained line leading to a dry finish. This is my Chabolle-Musigny. (18.5-/20) RRP $45.00

Nga Waka ‘Lease Block’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013 
Dark, deep ruby-red colour with youthful purple hues. The darkest of the flight. The nose is deep with brooding black and dark red berry fruit aromas that form a ripe, sweet, dense core. Violet perfumes and florals unfold with complexing savoury herbal nuances. Rich and lush on palate, rounded and the fruit harmoniously melded with the tannin structure. This is rounded and near opulent, with considerable grip and extract. This is akin Vosne-Romanee. (19.0/20) RRP $54.00

Schubert ‘Block B’ Wairarapa Pinot Noir 2013 
Dark ruby-red colour with some garnet hues. This is elegant and lifted with an array of red florals along with savoury red fruits and a herbal overlay. Nuances of reduction are present. The bouquet has a fine core. Elegant and shy even on palate, with sweet and juicy red berry fruits with complexing herb and reductive nuance. Lovely supple mouthfeel with fruit sweetness prevailing. This has the red-fruited Beaune accessibility. (18.5-/20) RRP $67.00

The Elder Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013
Dark, deep ruby-red colour. On nose quite tight and restrained in fruit expression. Subtle dark red fruits with nuance and some detail emerges. Full-bodied and weighty, with great presence. Rounded and deep at the heart, with soft, fine-grained tannin structure. The mouthfeel has gentle vitality. This is much more subdued that other bottles I have tasted recently. Normally with an openness and robustness of character. A Morey-St-Denis style, and this bottle scored at 4-stars, rather than 5-stars as usual. (18.0/20) RRP $63.00

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