First port of call was Ata Rangi, with Clive Paton in attendance. I chose to look at the two 2011 Pinot Noirs. The ‘Crimson’ 2011 is a model of fruit brightness with something more serious in its makeup underneath. Already very attractive, it’ll develop well. The ‘estate’ Ata Rangi 2011 is about to be released next month, and it’s darker in fruit expression showing riper selection. But it’s the fine-grained tannins and silkiness combined with tight construction that show there’s a lot more future in this one.
Onto Big Sky with their vineyard in Te Muna Road who seem to be making very elegant styles of wine. Katherine Jacobs poured a trio of Pinot Noirs, the 2011 with excellent fragrant cherry fruit, supple and fine-textured and a touch of smokiness. The 2009 had more weight, with some secondary savoury interest developing, still with crisp, lively acidity. The 2007 had gone further down the development track, more dried herby, with mushroom and earthy elements. Classic aging demonstrated here
Margrain have a point of difference, as well as being very traditional with their range and styles. Winemaker Strat Canning and Kate Throp his right-hand sales marketer showed the Chenin Blanc 2011, with its textbook white florals and flinty combination, this wine with 24 g/L rs, such a style quite common in the Loire. It was the Pinot Noir 2009 that I took a fancy to, soft, supple, still with sweet fruit and very Cote de Beaune-like.
I see Lance Redgwell of Cambridge Road a star in the making. His enthusiasm and passion overflows, and he’s not afraid of tweaking his vineyard to get it where he sees it should be. His vineyard field blend of Pinot Noir and Syrah ‘Dovetail’ 2010 is looking more plush and settled since I saw it last. Black and spicy fruits, with a soft concentration make this a winner.
I spent a bit of time looking at Hamden Estate, with David and Jo Iggulden, who come from Hawera in the ‘Naki. They have 2.8 ha of vines over two blocks on Dry River Road, between Coney and Murdoch James, with Stonecrop and Margrain’s ‘River Edge’ vineyard as neighbours. A new entrant with first grapes harvested in 2007, they have Strat Canning as winemaker. They’re pleased with their Chardonnay 2011, and I can see why, with its purity and more refreshing style, closer to the unoaked expressions. The Riesling 2010 with 15 g/L rs is showing pleasing honied and toasty bottle-age notes, with the textural line balanced by the sweetness. Their Pinot Noir 2009, based on 667, 777 and Abel is a lighter, pretty wine, with spicy oak interest. As their vines gain in age, no doubt their wines will become more sophisticated.
One producer that is showing a new-found confidence is Murdoch James. Winemaker Carl Fraser has handled the 2011 vintage reds with a deft hand, and I like their suppleness, approachability, balance and fruit-expressive nature. The Martinborough Pinot Noir 2011 is truly supple with toasty-char like notes behind the fruit. And the ‘Blue Rock’ SV Syrah 2011 has a fragrant spiciness and florality that builds to reveal a hidden power.
Stalwart of the region, Roger Parkinson of Nga Waka makes wines from well-established and some venerably aged vines that have the ability to deliver pleasure for many years. With a relatively small production, they are well-worth the effort seeking out. A Riesling 2005 demonstrated longevity, concentrated with a power-driven line, with toast and kero character, a touch phenolic, and very dry. Similarly, the Sauvignon Blanc 2010, though a little green-beany as could be expected, had richness and length. Nga Waka Chardonnay is a star and the ‘Home Block’ Chardonnay 2009 still unsettled on nose, but revealing superb citrus, mealy, nutty and oaky depth on the palate. I’ve seen 10 y.o. ‘Home Block’ in excellent condition, so this 2009 is a baby. And the Pinot Noir 2011 is a supple and spicy wine that is in every way as good as the Chardonnays.
Seeing Mark and Susan Haythornthwaite, I went straight to the ‘Pamela’ Auslese Gewurztraminer 2011, exotic, rich, luscious and subtly decadent. Though making the classical Martinborough Terrace Pinot Noir as their foundation, Gewurztraminer in any guise is my pick as their forte.
The tiny Schubert winery was represented by their girl Friday Christine Calmus, showing a bright and very Burgundian ‘Marion’s Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2010, feminine for sure and richness underlining the palate. The Syrah 2009 has the typical Rhone-like black fruits, black pepper and black spices, a little charry-reductive, as true Syrah often shows.
John and Annabel Porter celebrated 20 years of wine growing recently, and the ‘Porters Pinot’ Pinot Noir 2011 as presented by John and son Hugo is in their house style of delicacy and fragrance. It’s not your usual, savoury, masculine Martinborough style, and they have fans for not being so. On the other side, they have produced a big, robust and powerful ‘Reserve’ Pinot Noir 2009 to mark their 20th Anniversary, and if power and strength are what you crave, this is the one.
Representing Martinborough giant Te Kairanga were winemakers John Kavanagh and Craig Fryett, the former newly arrived from Neudorf, and Craig with TK for around a decade. I tasted the cool, but pretty, approachable ‘Estate’ Pinot Noir 2010 and the more seriously constituted ‘Runholder’ Pinot Noir 2009 which is now showing some complex secondary notes to match the full structure. With the Foley Family Vineyards group investments, TK will be stepping up a gear.
From large to micro, next was David Bull of The Cabbage Tree Vineyard, where I had another look at his Chardonnay 2010 which I saw at its debut at the ‘Unique and Boutique’ showing in the middle of September (click here to see my article).It’s still tight, crisper and more acidic than the crowd-pleasing 2009, but its refinement could see it develop better.
My partner Sue Davies represents Vynfields in her wine distribution business and she was assisting owner Kaye McAulay pouring the BioGro Certified Organic range. Newly released is the ‘Estate’ Pinot Noir 2011, black-fruited and minerally-earthy as many 2011s are, this has a well-structured and ageworthy palate, and the goods to continue the Vynfields’ run of success with this variety made by Kai Schubert and Marion Deimling. A runaway success for Vynfields is the ‘Bliss’ Sparkling Riesling 2011, which shows Riesling in a most delightful way. Soft, creamy mousse and floral, lime and honey lift.
One producer from Martinborough I’ve not really had the chance to visit and taste the wines properly is Brodie Estate with 9 ha on Dublin Street. Again I could only go through the range offered very quickly. The very friendly James and Ann Brodie were on hand pouring their wines, which also appeared very friendly and approachable. A trio of Pinot Noirs displayed the characteristics of each vintage faithfully. The 2008 elegant and with fragrances combined with spices. The 2009 fuller, riper, firmer and with more alcohol drive to match the richer fruitiness and structure. A wine to take note of. The 2010 a return to the fragrant, refreshing style with well-handled supple tannins.
Another affable couple, the ever-smiling Jeremy and Margaret Coney were manning the stand at Coney Wines. They make any visit fun, and their labels reflect their love of music. Their Rieslings hit the spot for me, the ‘Rallentando’ Riesling 2009 similar to the dry and toasty versions from Australia’s Clare Valley. I found great appeal in the ‘Ragtime’ Riesling 2010, at 12 g/L rs, with its touch of florals and honey, with lush lime flavours and a textured palate. ‘The Ritz’ Riesling 2010 is a slightly sweeter, more luscious version again, with hints of decadence allied to lightness. It’s lower alcohol and carries 34 g/L rs.
I’ve made mention of newcomer The Elder Pinot on my site several times now. Mike Hanson and Nigel Elder are the ‘blokes’ behind this promising label, and they are well supported by their wives Margaret and Bridgit, launching their wines with great professionalism and enthusiasm. The second release Pinot Gris 2011 is refreshing and textbook stuff. And the ripe and fulsome Pinot Noir 2010 is now beginning to soften and come into its own.
One of the originals of the district, Martinborough Vineyard produces a rock-solid range that everyone in the region can aspire to. Winemakers Paul Mason and Phil McArthur were assisted by new marketing man Mark Field in pouring the Burnt Spur and Martinborough Vineyard wines. From an excellent selection, I can single out the MV ‘Jackson Block’ Riesling 2012 as especially smart, with limes and lemon clarity, brightness and beautiful drive. An impressive dry Riesling. And as good as ever, the MV Pinot Noir 2010, elegant, supple, but with layers of savoury, complexing nuances under the seamless flowing, finely firm palate.
The very last exhibitor I saw was Escarpment Vineyard, and time for only one wine to taste before the organisers closed the proceedings. What to choose…. Larry McKenna and Huw Kinch suggested the Chardonnay 2010. An excellent note to finish the night on, this rich, nutty and powerful white burgundy look-alike shows that they are on the international stage for sure.