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Revisiting New Zealand Pinot Noir on the Occasion of Spectacular 2013 Vintage

The New Zealand wine industry is thriving in a relatively small country that depends on exports for its survival. According the 2015 New Zealand Winegrowers Annual Report, the value of New Zealand wine exports grew 7% in 2015 to reach a new record of $1.42 billion. Three markets, Australia, UK and USA each account for around one quarter of exports (the USA is the largest export market by value) with significant future growth potential evident in North American and China. New Zealand wine is exported to more than 90 countries. Exports of Pinot Noir nearly doubled from 2008 to 2015.

New Zealand is still renowned for Sauvignon Blanc which accounts for the vast majority of the country’s wine production, but Pinot Noir, and even Chardonnay, is attracting the most attention from wine connoisseurs. As Nick Stock, Australia Gourmet Traveller Wine, pointed out in April 2015, “The attention given to New Zealand Pinot Noir is well above what’s deserved in terms of the amount made, but factor in their quality across a range of styles and it’s easy to justify the hype.” Refer to chart below for percentage of production by varietal.

From 2006 to 2015, the number of New Zealand wineries has increased from 530 to 673 and the number of growers from 87 to 762. Total producing vineyard area in 2015 was 88,609 acres. Pinot Noir acreage has increased from 10,039 acres in 2006 to 13,748 acres in 2015 (nearly equal to the 14,027 acres of Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley.

Although New Zealand Pinot Noir exports are increasing, only a small amount of the top end wines reach fine wine retail stores in the U.S.. Periodically, I like to assemble a representative sample of wines available here to see the quality and styles of New Zealand Pinot Noir. I have found that a range of wines are produced much like the variety of Pinot Noir evident stateside, ranging from elegant, classic Pinot Noirs, to more earthy, mineral-driven styles, to sappy, highly extracted examples. It is impossible to talk about a specific New Zealand style, especially since the Pinot Noirs from the three largest Pinot Noir growing regions, Martinborough in the North Island, and Marlborough and Central Otago in the South Island, produce wines that are quite different in character.

Prices for many of the better bottlings of New Zealand Pinot Noir are modest compared to similar stateside wines. There is also a vast quantity of value-priced labels that are fine, but no better than the value-priced labels from California and Oregon.

The commonly planted New Zealand Pinot Noir clones are similar to those in wide use stateside (Pommard- UCD 5, Martini - UCD 13, and Dijon 113, 114, 115, 375, 667 and 777) except for the Abel clone (also known as the Ati Rangi clone) that is allegedly a suitcase selection from Domaine de la Conti smuggled into New Zealand in the 1970s and unique to New Zealand. AM 10/5 (also known as Anton Meyer and origin is Wädenswil, Switzerland) and AM 2/10 (also a Wädenswil clone), were the first premium Pinot Noir clones imported into New Zealand in the 1980s.

Winemaking, at least for most of the wines reviewed here, is very similar to that employed in California and Oregon. The grapes are mostly de-stemmed, with variable but usually low amounts of whole cluster. There is a cold soak, followed by indigenous yeast fermentation in small vats, and a post fermentation extended maceration. Aging can vary from 10 to 18 months, usually in 30% or less new French oak barrels. The wines are usually unfiltered. The Kiwis are leaders in screwcaps, and the majority of wines are closed with a screwcap.

Early 2016 is a suitable time to look at examples of New Zealand Pinot Noir because the 2013 vintage wines are in our retail marketplace now. 2013 was an exceptional vintage in New Zealand and has been hailed as “vintage of a lifetime,” vintage to remember,” and “one of the best vintages in recent memory.” 2013 was a near perfect growing season in New Zealand leading to a record crop that exceeded the 2012 vintage by 28%, with the 2013 Pinot Noir crop 36% larger. 2014 turned out to be an even bigger crop for New Zealand (30% higher).

Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast review and score some New Zealand Pinot Noir, as do James Suckling and Jancis Robinson, but the most comprehensive coverage is by wine critics specializing in New Zealand such as Bob Campbell, MW - www.bobcampbell.nz, Raymond Chan - www.raymondchanwinereviews.co.nz, Geoff Kelly - www.geoffkellywinereviews.co.nz, and Sam Kim - www.wineorbit.co.nz. It is interesting that an article just appeared on January 20, 2016, at www.nzherald.co.nz, “Paid-for wine reviews draw flak.” The latest code of ethics of the Wine Writers of New Zealand strongly discouraged the practice of paid-for wine reviews, emphasizing that any minor conflicts “had to be fully disclosed to all interested parties.” University of Otago associate professor in marketing Lisa McNeill said, “It is naive for people to think the practice of paid reviews wasn’t common across all industries.” She encouraged wine writers to avoid engaging in accepting payment from a wine company to review its product. None of the wine writers mentioned here were implicated.

I picked out wines to review that were well regarded by New Zealand wine critics and available for sale in the USA. There are many stunning wines here and some that combine excellence with value. I believe you will find these Pinot Noirs are more akin to California brethren in style than Old World, offering plenty of extraction and ripe phenolics, yet ABV levels that are generally lower than California Pinot Noirs. I found that a number of wines when tasted two to three days after opening, had lost vibrancy and charm, seemingly bogged down by the fruit load. The tannins had melded, but the wines lacked acidity. If you look at the acidity levels of the wines reviewed (where available), they are not particularly high. With a few exceptions, I think these are showy wines for early drinking, but not long term cellar candidates. They are like noted female actors at the Oscars: primped and primed for television, but when seen two days later at Starbucks, seem rather ordinary.

Look for these wines at retailers such as K&L Wine Merchants in California, Saratoga Wine Exchange in New York and other sources listed on www.wine-searcher.com.

2014 Cognizant Marlborough New Zealand Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 112 cases, $16.99 (sold out), screwcap. Imported by DJK Imports, South San Francisco, CA. Cognizant is a new collaborative project between K&L and some of New Zealand’s best winemakers. This wine was made from the same grapes as TWR (Te Whare Ra) 2014 Pinot Noir that was Decanter magazine’s Top New Zealand Pinot Noir for 2014. Winemakers are Jason and Anna Flowerday of TWR. Fruit is from home block in Renwick and a neighboring block in Raiwiri. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Challenging to pull any fruit out of the nose which features aromas of woodland and roasted almond. Light to mid weight sandalwood-infused flavors of cherry, red and purple berries, and spice. Easy to drink, with modest tannins, and a cherry-fueled finish. Score: 88

2014 Rod Easthope Central Otago New Zealand Pinot Noir

14.0% alc, $11.99 (NakedWines.com Angel Price), screwcap. Imported by nakedwines.com, Napa, CA. Includes a measured amount of whole cluster. · Moderate reddish purple hue in the glass. Nicely perfumed with aromas of cherry, eldeberry and woodfern. The mid weight core of dark red cherry and berry fruits framed by silky tannins is easy to like. The intense mid palate fruit attack continues with through the finish. I like this wine for its open, gregarious personality. A terrific value. Score: 91

2014 Akitu “A1” Black Label Central Otago Pinot Noir

$29.99, screwcap. Imported by DJK Imports, South San Francisco, CA. This is the premier wine of the estate. Vineyard is near the town of Wanaka in one of the highest and coldest spots in the region with dense schist soils. 71% Abel, 17% Pommard 5, and 11% 115. 28% whole cluster. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 24% new. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Very complex nose displaying hitone aromas of black cherry, black raspberry, peppered beef, beef bouillon, cake spice and a hint of oak. The flavors echo the aromas in a middleweight format. A very lovely wine with admirable balance and a finishing burst of fruit that really hangs on. Score: 92

2014 Felton Road Block 3 Bannockburn Central Otago Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., $69.99. Imported by Young’s Market Co., Tustin, CA. 100% organic and biodynamic viticulture since vineyards first designed beginning in 1991. This wine is taken from older vines in Block 3 of The Elms Vineyard, one of four properties farmed by Felton Road in the Bannockburn subregion of Central Otago. 25% whole clusters, fermented with indigenous yeast, moderately long maceration on skins, aged 13 months in French oak barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Engaging aromas of black cherry, sous-bois and tobacco. Beautifully composed, with a delicious attack of black cherry fruit accented with sweet oak and well-proportioned tannins. The finish has remarkable staying power. The oak overlay is not imposing and should further integrate over time. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine was even more appealing. Easy to find superlatives for this gorgeous Pinot. Score: 94

2013 Felton Road Bannockburn Central Otago New Zealand Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $55, screwcap. Imported by The Country Vintner, Inc., Ashland, VA. A blend of three vineyards: Cornish Point, Calvert and The Elms. 25% whole clusters, indigenous yeast fermentation, moderately long maceration on skins, aged 11 months in French oak barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Lovely aromas of black cherry, rose petal and Asian 5-spice reflecting some whole cluster inclusion. Luscious, yet lively, mid weight flavors of black cherry, black raspberry, blueberry and pomegranate, framed by firm, but balanced tannins. Beautifully composed with the right touch of oak, and a pleasing finish. Score: 92

2013 TWR (Te Whare Ra) Marlborough New Zealand Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 800 cases, $26.99, screwcap. Imported by DJK Imports, South San Francisco, CA. Hand selected from two single blocks, one in deep alluvial gravel soils and one from heavier clay soils. Clones 113, 114, 115, 667, 777, 10/5, Abel and Pommard 5 from TWR Vineyard in the Omaka Valley. 100% de-stemmed, cold soak, fermented whole berry, small portion by indigenous yeasts. 17-days on skins, aged 12 months in French oak barrels, 30% new. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Engaging aromas of black cherry, Asian 5- spice, sandalwood and fir tree. Delicious core of dark red cherry and raspberry with a silky entry and exit. Forward and embracing, with impeccable balance, and an intense cherry-driven finish. A very stylish Pinot Noir that is light on its feet. This wine really captured my attention, especially at this modest price. Score: 94

Escarpment

As legend would have it, Maori navigator Kupe abandoned three canoes at the site of Escarpment Winery after discovering the land now known as New Zealand. Escarpment rests on 60 acres of alluvial gravel in the Te Muna Valley near Martinborough. The soils are over 75,000 years old and are a nurturing matrix for grapevine roots. The estate!s four vineyards provide 70 percent of Escarpment!s grape supply.

Kupe Estate Vineyard is a high density planting of Abel clone with deep alluvial gravels and own rooted vines. Pahi comes from McCreanor Vineyard that was first planted by Jack McCreanor in 1986 and is among the oldest Pinot Noir vineyards in New Zealand. Both grafted and own rooted clone 10/5 vines. (This vineyard was sold after Jack McCreanor!s passing so the source of this bottling will change) Te Rehua contains multiple clones of Pinot Noir planted in 1990 by Geoff Bunny and now owned by Tim and Ruth Bartin (Barton Vineyard). Kiwa comes from Cleland Vineyard that was planted on the Martinborough Terrace alluvial gravels in 1989 by Graham and Gill Cleland and contains a blend of UCD Davis clones 5, 6 and 13.

The winery buildings are inauspicious, standing watch on the renowned Martinborough River Terraces and overlooking the river itself. The barrel room is tucked underground and enjoys ideal cellar temperatures below its grassy roof.

Escarpment was established in 1998 as a joint business venture between Robert & Mem Kirby (of Australia!s Village Roadshow and owners of Yabby Lake Winery in the Mornington Peninsula of Australia) and Larry and Sue McKenna.

Larry McKenna is an iconic New Zealand winemaker who was anointed “The Prince of Martinborough Pinot” by James Halliday, but his self-anointed title is “Larry McPinot.” Larry was born and raised in Adelaide, South Australia. He graduated from Roseworthy Agricultural College in 1976, and has nearly three decades of winemaking experience. In 1986 he became CEO and winemaker at Martinborough Vineyard and put the winery on the world map as one of the preeminent New World Pinot Noir producers. Since 1999, Larry has been director and winemaker for Escarpment. Escarpment was a featured winery at the 2015 International Pinot Noir Festival (see photo below)

Besides the Escarpment bottling, the four wines in the Martinborough Insight Series (Kupe, Kiwa, Pahi and Te Rehaua), offer an insight into the terroir of Martinborough. They are particularly inspiring wines, in 2013, and will certainly age for 10 to 15 years with aplomb. A mid price point series of wines is offered under The Edge brand. The winery also offers a Rose, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Riesling from Escarpment Vineyard.

2013 Escarpment Martinborough New Zealand Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.49, $56, screwcap. Imported by Meadowbank Estates (a division of Empson USA Inc), Alexandria, VA. Ideal crop that did not require thinning. Fermented with indigenous yeasts, on skins for 18 days, aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 30% new. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Inviting earth-kissed aromas of black grape, blackberry jam. Impressive fruit expression, with an exhilarating array of juicy purple and black fruits backed by modestly muscular tannins. The finish embraces with a cornucopia of ripe fruit. Score: 92

2013 Escarpment Single Vineyard Kiwa Martinborough New Zealand Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., pH 3.62, TA 0.48, $56. Grapes come from Cleland Vineyard. 24-year-old vines, deep alluvial gravels, clones UCD 5, 6 and 13. Fermented in wooden vats, on the skins 16 days, aged 18 months in French oak barrels, 40% new. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The least expressive wine of the three single vineyards reviewed here, but still offering a peak at impressive potential. Aromas of mixed berries and loamy soil lead to a gorgeous core of blackberry and black raspberry fruits beautifully accented with spice and oak. This well-structured, mid weight plus wine has nicely balanced acidity and a finish replete with dark fruited goodness. A brooding wine that only hints at the 10 to 15 year future. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine was more showy and pleasurable, but still revealed a need for further cellaring to bring the tannins into further harmony. Score: 94

2013 Escarpment Single Vineyard Pahi Martinborough New Zealand Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., pH 3.58, TA 0.50, $56. Sourced from McCreanor Vineyard that has vines that are 26-years-old. Clone 10/5. On the skins 19 days, aged 18 months in French oak barrels, 40% new. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Engaging aromas of cherry, strawberry and wilted rose. Impeccable marriage of black cherry fruit and oak in a mid weight style with suave supporting tannins. Admirable harmony, with an array of perfectly ripened dark red fruits, finishing with a peacock tail of aromatic good will. The most “feminine” of three Single Vineyard wines tasted together. Score: 94

2013 Escarpment Single Vineyard Te Rehua Martinborough New Zealand Pinot Noir

13% alc., pH 3.54, TA 0.51, $56. Grapes grown on Barton Vineyard that has vines over 22 years old and many clones. Soils are deep alluvial gravels. Fermented in wooden vats, total vat time 18 days, aged 18 months in French oak barrels, 40% new. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. The seductive nose is incredibly exotic and intoxicating, with highly expressive aromas of blackberry, black plum, spice and tobacco humidor. The heavenly fruit core is both savory and succulent, offering an array of purple and black fruits. A subtle spice and floral note adds intrigue. The wine exudes mouth watering vigor and fruit expression with well-defined, bold tannins adding substance. More expressive on the nose than palate now but the divine flavors will catch up over time in the cellar. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the strikingly exotic aromatics persisted, along with a noticeable oak overlay. Score: 93

2013 Tongue In Groove Clayvin Vineyard Marlborough New Zealand Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $29.99, screwcap. Imported by DJK Imports, South San Francisco, CA. An iconic site in all of New Zealand sitting at the top of Brancott Valley, one of the first areas in Marlborough recognized for winegrowing potential. Deep clay soils, high-density planted, organically farmed. Cold soak, indigenous yeast fermented with 25% whole clusters, high portion of whole berries, 21 to 25-days on skins, aged 17 months in French oak barrels, 25% new, natural malolactic fermentation. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Little fruit on the nose which features aromas of underbrush and oak. Mid weight plus flavors of dark red and black fruits with generous power on the mid palate and finish. Well-matched, muscular tannins. A solid fruit-driven expression of Pinot Noir. Score: 89

2013 Grey’s Peak (Greystone Wines) Waipara Valley New Zealand Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $24.99, screwcap. Imported by DJK Imports, South San Francisco, CA. Hand selected by K&L Wines. Vineyard is in South Island, one hour north of Christchurch, and sits in the rain shadow of the Southern Alps of Lord of Rings trilogy fame.100% de-stemmed, native yeast fermented, post-fermentation extended maceration up to 3 weeks, aged 12 months in French oak barrels, 25% new. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. The nose leads with aromas of toasty oak and pipe smoke. On the palate, the juicy black cherry core has plenty of oak overlay. Modest tannins and easy drinkability, with a sweet and sour cherry-driven finish. Score: 88

2013 Valli “Bendigo” Gibbston Central Otago New Zealand Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., pH 3.37, TA 0.79, 440 cases, $44.99, screwcap. Grant Taylor has been making wines in the region since 1993 and has crafted wines for many iconic Central Otago wineries as well as his own label. Valli was established in 1998 and named after his great-great grandfather, Giuseppe Valli, who immigrated to New Zealand. This wine is a single vineyard bottling from Bendigo. Harvest Brix 25.3º. Clone 777 planted in 2000. 33% whole cluster, 22 days on skins, aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 34% new. · Dark reddish purple color in the glass. The perfume of blackberry, cassis and spice draws you into the glass. On the palate, the fruit intensity is remarkable, featuring a sensory onslaught of violet and black fruit and peppery spice flavors. The bodacious fruit sap is matched to daunting tannins which surface with an astringent charge on the finish. This wine will benefit from several years in the cellar to ameliorate the tannins, and can certainly last well into a second decade. Score: 94

2013 Quartz Reef Bendigo Single Vineyard Central Otago New Zealand Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., pH 3.71, TA 0.50, $31.99, screwcap. Imported by Station Imports, San Jose, CA. This winery is named after New Zealand’s largest quartz rock deposit that underlies the estate’s vineyards at Bendigo, Central Otago. Winemaker Rudy Bauer is a pioneer in Central Otago. The biodynamic Demeter® Certified Bendigo Estate Vineyard was planted in 1998 to clones 115, 10/5, 667, 777, and Abel on various rootstocks. 5 to 7-day cold soak, indigenous yeast fermented, postfermentation maceration of up to 12 days, aged in 24% new, 33% 1-year and 43% older French oak barrels. Gently egg fined. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The scent of wild berries, rose bush and oak lead to a mid weight core of blackberry and boysenberry fruit flavors embellished with hearty tannins, finishing with a lip-smacking charge of well-ripened and aromatic fruit. Score: 91

2013 Two Paddocks “The First Paddock” Central Otago New Zealand Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., $69.99. Imported by Negociants USA Inc., Napa, CA. A small family winery started by noted actor Sam Neill in 1993 with modest ambitions and 5 acres of Pinot Noir in Gibbston, Central Otago. At the same time, a friend, Roger Donaldson, planted the land next door (his brand is Sleeping Dogs), hence the name Two Paddocks. The first vintage from this vineyard (the bottling is named “The First Paddock”) was 1997 and by 2009 was producing world-class Pinot Noir. The original vineyard has now been augmented by Alex Paddocks, a 7-acre vineyard planted in 1998. Two Paddocks “The Last Chance” Pinot Noir has been produced from this vineyard since 2002. In 2000, Redbank, a 130-acre farm planted to Dijon clones of Pinot Noir was acquired and forms the backbone of the Two Paddocks Pinot Noir. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry and toasted oak lead to a mid weight plus styled wine featuring juicy black cherry and blackberry fruits with an earthy undertone and a rather marked oak overlay (toast, espresso). The wine is particularly notable for the intensity of the lingering finish that speaks of liquor-soaked Maraschino cherries. This wine will appeal to those who prefer their Pinot Noir well-oaked. When tasted two days after opening, the wine still had noticeable oak influence. Score: 91

2012 Clos Henri Marlborough New Zealand Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., pH 3.68, TA 0.49, $29.99. Imported by Chambers & Chambers, San Francisco, CA. This winery was established and originally run by the famous Sancerre winegrowing family of Henri Bourgeois. Arnaud Bourgeois is the current GM of Clos Henri. Close-planted vines (twice that of most Marlborough Vineyard) in heavier clay soils of estate vineyard. Clones Pommard 5, 10/5, 667, 777, 114, 115, and Abel. 8 to 13-year-old vines grown in the Wairau Valley of Marlborough. 100% de-stemmed, whole berry fermentation, 1-week cold soak, 3-week cuvaison, aged 12 months in French oak barrels, 25% new. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The oak-themed nose offers aromas of tobacco, espresso, toast and spice. The lovely core of fresh dark red and black fruits wears a significant oak imprint. The silky tannins well integrated, and the wine finishes with good length.

2012 Pegasus Bay Waipara Valley New Zealand Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $34.99, screwcap. Imported by Empson USA Inc., Alexandria, VA. The Donaldson family, who own and operate this winery, are pioneers of local winegrowing and winemaking. Ivan Donaldson is a wine writer, wine judge and viticulturist. His eldest son, Matthew, is a winemaker and 2012 marked his 20th vintage at Pegasus Bay. A multi-clone blend from vines up to nearly 30-years-old and on their own roots. Mostly de-stemmed, whole berry fermentation, 10% whole clusters added to vats. Cold soak, postfermentation cold maceration of 1-2 weeks, aged 18 months in French oak barrels, 30% new. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry, spice, underbrush and barnyard lead to a middleweight styled wine with earthy dark red and black stone and berry fruits underpinned with a light touch of toasty oak. Inviting elegance, modest tannins, and a very enjoyable finish. Score: 92

2012 Mount Edward Estate Morrison Vineyard Central Otago New Zealand Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 371 cases, $39.99, screwcap. Imported by DJK Imports, South San Francisco, CA. A small winery in Gibbston founded in 1997 by one of the pioneers of Central Otago wine, Alan Brady. The owner has been John Buchanan and winemaker Duncan Forsyth since 2004. Grapes are sourced from several organically certified vineyards in the sub regions of Central Otago. The Morrison Vineyard was planted in 1997 on Wanaka Road. Indigenous yeast fermented, aged 15 months in French oak barrels and bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Medium reddish purple color in the glass. The nose is flush with earthy black cherry and black berry fruits complimented by notes of spice and clay pot. The mid weight black cherry, boysenberry and blackberry fruit is well-ripened and juicy, framed by well-matched ruddy tannins. Gorgeous harmony, finishing with a burst of lip-smacking dark fruit aromatic goodness. This beauty definitely has an earthy tone. Score: 93

2011 Craggy Range Te Muna Road Martinborough New Zealand Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., pH 3.62, TA 0.53, $34.99, screwcap. Imported by Kobrand Corp., New York, NY. Business man Terry Peabody established this winery and engaged Kiwi viticulturist and Master of Wine, Steve Smith, to become his partner. This winery planted most of its vineyards in the late 1990s and early 2000s. From the beginning in 1998, they pursued single vineyard wines and Craggy Range was the first in the Southern hemisphere to adopt making single vineyard wines from multiple regions of the country. The 230-acre Te Muna Road Vineyard was planted largely to Pinot Noir in 1999 in the Martinborough Terraces subregion of Martinborough. There are eight clones in more than 40 different parcels. The current winemakers work under the direction of Steve Smith. 10% whole cluster, inoculated yeast fermentation, aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 27% new. Filtered. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Lovely aromas of Bing cherry, rose petal, sandalwood and toasty oak. An intense charge of cherry fruit greets the palate, carrying its goodness through a pleasurable finish. A very sleep wine with a silky texture, a deft touch of oak, and a delightful kiss of cherry on the finish. Score: 93

2010 Dry River Martinborough New Zealand Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.58, RS <2.0g/l, $69.99. Neil and Dawn McCallum planted a vineyard in one of the oldest Martinborough sheep stations in 1979. The area has became known as the Martinborough Terrace (and Martinborough Terrace Appellation), a gravelly, free-draining area within the lowest rainfall zone in the North Island. In 2002, the winery and 30 acres of vineyards were sold to New York businessperson Julian Robertson and California winegrower Reg Oliver who owns El Molino Winery in St. Helena, CA. Neil McCallum remained the winemaker until his retirement in 2011 and was replaced by Wilco Lam. Currently, the estate vineyards include Dry River Estate (first plantings 1979), Craighall Vineyard (first plantings 1983), and Lovat Vineyard (first plantings 1992). Dry River wines are highly valued, sold primarily by mail order, and only tiny quantities reach the USA retail market. Harvest Brix 23.0º. · Dark reddish purple color in the glass. Intriguing aromas of dark fruits, Mexican-spiced dark chocolate, clay and damp earth. Mid weight plus core of purple and black fruits accented by notes of spice, espresso and bittersweet chocolate. Luscious and sappy, but suave and sleek, with mildly firm tannins and vital acidity, finishing with a charge of sweet blackberry fruit. Trends toward very ripe, even slightly roasted fruit flavors. A unique and individualistic wine quite distinct from other New Zealand Pinot Noirs tasted for this review. Score: 91

2010 Terra Sancta “Jackson Block” Bannockburn Central Otago New Zealand Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., pH 3.59, TA 0.58, 350 cases, $29.99, screwcap. Imported by Terrell Wines, San Francisco, CA. The winery name means “sacred earth or special place.” Sourced from the 64-acre estate that contains four vineyards. This block runs along Felton Road where the vines grow in schist gravels. This bottling is named after Jackson Barry, who ranged the area telling yearns and seeking fame and fortune. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Floral, earthy and fruity (black cherry) on the nose. A full-bodied and delicious attack of blackberry, Hoison sauce, black tea, dark chocolate and spice flavors saturate the palate. A good grip of dry tannins are in line with the fruit load in this very suave wine with a velvety mouthfeel that is particularly majestic. A compliment of oak and a generous, lengthy finish complete the picture. Score: 93


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