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One of the most serious English Sparkling producers. This historic estate has been in the Goring family since 1743. The tiny 16-acre vineyard is close-planted on a steep south-facing chalk escarpment described as 'similar to the Côte des Blancs' in Champagne. The fruit is picked very selectively with quality being the absolute focus. The grapes are pressed gently using a traditional Coquard press. After three years on the lees this wine, composed of 45% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay & 22% Pinot Meunier, is hand disgorged and balanced with a minimal dosage of just 4g/L. It has a fine counterbalance between toasty richness and power from the wines élevage in Burgundian French Oak barrels, with racy acidity, tension and a focused chalky minerality.

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Entries in New Zealand (15)

Thursday
Jul252013

{Terra Ignota}: Seresin - One of NZ's Finest Estates

Working with the wines of Seresin Estate is a true pleasure. These are most definitely some of the best examples of authentic Marlborough wines I have ever come across.

I believe Seresin has truly become an iconic producer for the region that has elevated the quality of Marlborough wine. They have achieved this by making brave decisions in the vineyard and sticking by their convictions in the cellar. To paraphrase renowned British critic Jancis Robinson, they have raised their head above the parapet of mediocrity.

It is commonly known that most wineries founded by movie industry folks lack authenticity or shall we say - enological inspiration. Many are very commercial projects that simply pump out generic wines in very rigid, manipulated styles. However, heralded cinematographer Michael Seresin (known for works such as: Bugsy Malone, The Midnight Express and Harry Potter – The Prisoner of Azkaban) who founded this estate of the same name, clearly had more ambitious, engaged and dynamic visions for his vinous adventure.

Hillside Vines

The principles of Seresin are literally grounded in organic and biodynamic viticulture. They take the truly holistic approach to grape growing with a strong belief that natural balance and health in the vineyard will ultimately produce the truest expressions of place and vintage. The estate operates a full farm producing their own compost and biodynamic preparations. Beneficial cover crops, Goats and Chickens take the place of modern herbicides and pesticides. Their own cows fertilize the vines, and horses are used to do much of the labor in the vineyard reducing soil compaction from tractors etc. 

I have previously written at length about the erroneous application of Old World / New World labels. I much prefer to talk about producers using the terms Traditional vs. Modern. Seresin is a perfect example of this debate being that they are certainly geographically located in the “New World” but most definitely philosophically located in the “Old World.” These methods, carefully applied by winemaker Clive Dougal, have resulted in a line up of characterful wines, each an honest and vibrant representation of vineyard and climate. Every wine is a product of passion and dedication to healthy vines and delicate yet precise winemaking.

Seresin’s wines are loosely divided into two programs with the upper tiers of “Seresin” wines and the lower tier of “Momo” wines.  “Momo” meaning “offspring” in the native Maori pays homage to Momo’s place in the larger Seresin family. I believe the Momo range has long represented some of the best values in the category. The fruit is still largely estate grown and soon to be even more so. The fruit is farmed organically and some biodynamically.  The 2010 Momo Pinot Noir is taken mostly from the flat parcels of Seresin’s estate vineyards that lay on the floor of the Wairau Valley. Here the vines grow in deep alluvial gravels, producing bright fresh Pinot Noir. The Momo Pinot is hand picked, hand sorted and gently de-stemmed. The ferment is open top and uses only wild yeast. Post ferment, the wine is gently transferred to French Oak barriques, mostly older wood, for eleven months maturation. The wine is then bottled with very minimal, if any, fining or filtration, mercifully leaving the texture and authenticity of the wine intact. This wine represents way more true Pinot character than any other sub $20 contender I can think of from anywhere around the world.

2010 Momo (Seresin) Pinot Noir, Marlborough, NZ $16.99

The wine exhibits beautiful aromatics of crushed dark berries, plum skin, poultry herbs of sage and rosemary, earthy, fresh cut mushrooms. On the palate the wine is medium bodied with nice ripeness and moderate extraction. Again gently crushed berries and herbs take center stage with nice spicy French oak tones chiming in at just the right moment. The wine has great energy and life, with the freshness of the acidity and moderate extraction lifting the finish elegantly. This is serious wine at twice the price.

2012 Momo (Seresin) Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ $14.99

The 2012 Momo Sauvignon Blanc also has dynamic drive and freshness. Snappy acidity of citrus and grapefruit with some tropical notes typical of the warmer areas from which these grapes are grown in the Wairau Valley. There is only a subtle hint of that “greenness” more commonly found in Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is very dry, very refreshing, quaffable with nice chalky minerality and little more substance than most of it’s competitors. A great seafood wine for oysters etc.

Seresin's Horse Drawn Biodynamic Preparation Spayer

2011 Seresin Sauvignon Blanc, Wairau / Omaka Valley, Marlborough, NZ $25.99

Moving now into the Seresin upper tiers, everything is Biodynamically certified fruit. Again everything is very carefully hand picked  / sorted and wild yeast ferment. The 2011 Seresin Sauvignon Blanc is surely up there as one of the most impressive wines I have tasted from New Zealand. The grapes were sourced from the upper terraces of the Home vineyard, which are comprise of varied Waimakiriri type soils of alluvial origin. This was supplemented with portions from the Tatou vineyard which is made up of a mixture of alluvial shingles, and the clay rich Raupo Creek vineyard. All in all twenty different individually fermented vineyard parcels of Sauvignon Blanc are painstakingly blended together to make this wine. The finishing touch is two small parcels of Semillon added to the blend. 15% of the wine is fermented and aged in neutral French oak barriques to give texture and complexity. The wine has such exotic, floral aromatics and yet tremendous restraint and balance to boot. Fresh cut herbs, freshly grated citrus rind and tropical flowers. The palate has phenomenal texture and persistence that is quite remarkable.  Fine minerality runs through into the finish that is immeasurably long because it will still be there when you are reaching for another sip (or bottle!) Truly special wine, and exactly what Jancis was talking about when she noted how Seresin have set about separating themselves from the plethora of others good producers in the area.

2010 Seresin "Leah" Pinot Noir, Wairau / Omaka Valley, Marlborough, NZ $29.99

The 2010 Seresin “Leah” Pinot Noir is named after Michael Seresin’s daughter. This beautiful wine is created from carefully selected parcels of fruit coming predominantly from the clay rich soils of the Raupo Creek vineyard in the foot hills of the Omaka Valley. The remainder coming off the alluvial soils of Tatou vineyard and the Home vineyard. The fruit underwent a long cold soak. During the native yeast ferment the cap was gently punched down by hand. Post-ferment came another two weeks of carefully observed maceration. The Pinot was matured in French oak barriques, 20% new, for 11 months. It is bottled completely unfined and unfiltered. This wine has a stunning perfume of crushed rose petals, red fruits with darker cherry notes. Savory elements are also on show with tree bark, moss, and warm toasted spices. This wine has a fantastic density and saturation on the palate whist remaining poised and bright. The tannin structure is super fine and silky as you would expect from the clay based soils. Succulent and rich, fuller bodied than the Momo with a rounder feel on the mid-palate and a touch more extraction. The wine finishes long and supple with invigorating acidity and excellent concentration of flavor.

Seresin also make some fantastic single vineyard wines that we hope to make available to K&L customers through a special direct purchase deal. Please keep an eye out for more Seresin wines coming soon. For now I implore you to try any of these wines. The Momo's are perfect to make your everyday drinking a little more interesting or the Seresin tier to really give you an extra special experience with these magic wines. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me or leave comments below.

Cheers!

Ryan Woodhouse, NZ / Aussie Specialist

***

 Terra Ignota is Latin for "Unknown Land". It was the name for the South Pacific region during intial mapping and exploration of Australia and New Zealand. As we are going to be exploring new and exciting wines from this region, we think this is a fitting title for our blog series on wines from this part of the world. Stay tuned for more!

 

Wednesday
Jun052013

{Terra Ignota} K&L Exclusive Direct Import of Spectacular Te Mata Estate Wines

During my travels around New Zealand in 2011 I visited over 50 wineries. In general I was amazed by the quality and diversity of the wine I encountered. Marlborough was great, Central Otago too, but I think it was Hawke’s Bay on the east coast of New Zealand’s north island that really blew me away. The cornerstone of that revelation was most definitely the wines of Te Mata Estate. 

The famous landmark of Te Mata Peak that towers over the winery

I was so impressed that on my return to K&L I worked hard to develop a relationship with them and am pleased to say that we are now the exclusive importer of the Te Mata wines to the USA. Te Mata Estate is New Zealand’s oldest family owned winery. Founded in 1892 by an English immigrant, the winery still uses the original plots nestled into the lower slopes of Te Mata Peak, a dramatic rocky out crop that towers above the flat plains of Hawke’s Bay. The vines grow only a couple miles from the ocean and are perfectly tempered by cool sea breezes. These rocky free draining soils are perfect for balanced, finessed wines but with the concentration and power I have come to expect from Hawke’s Bay.

The orignal Coleraine Vineyard first established in 1892

Te Mata’s wines are held in very high regard and many immediately sell out upon release from the winery. Their four most iconic wines have long been regarded as the most prestigious and awarded wines in New Zealand. The long lived, Bordeaux like Coleraine. The undeniably rich and delicious Awatea. The complex, layered, very Burgundian Elston Chardonnay and perhaps the most sought after all, the stunning Bullnose Syrah. We have also brought some of their other estate wines to the US as part of a K&L exclusive direct import. These wines are truly the pinnacle of what New Zealand can produce.

2009 Te Mata Estate “Coleraine” Bordeaux Blend, Hawke’s Bay, NZ $49.99

This is a stunningly complex and delicious Bordeaux style blend that takes its name from the tiny vineyard directly adjacent to the winery. The Coleraine has been produced since 1982 and is regarded as one of New Zealand's finest and most age worthy wines. Quite compellingly the wine is made each year using a blind tasting and blending of the estates fine parcels of Bordeaux varietals.

The winemaker describes it as “saturated magenta in color with concentrated aromas of blackcurrants, spice and dark old fashioned roses. The palate opens with the dense sweet, dark berry fruits indicative of a great year. The focus quickly turns to rich fine tannins that fill the mouth, leaving a lasting impression of a wine of significant ageing ability. Coleraine '09 [is] considered amongst the greatest Coleraines. A blend of 52% cabernet sauvignon, 43% merlot, and 5% cabernet franc, it will continue to develop in bottle and provide great enjoyment up to 15 years from harvest.” My personal notes echoed these, being particularly impressed with the balance between rich dark fruits and a firm structure. This is clearly a wine for the long haul but with just enough extraction to please the bigger cab drinkers and those who enjoy riper Bordeaux vintages such as 2000, 2005, 2009.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate also gave great reviews to this wine awarding 95 points and writing:

“Blackberry, dark chocolate, a touch of sloe and liquorice. The finesse is there on the long, languid finish. A masculine Coleraine with great intensity and promise for the future.”

James Suckling writes: “94 points, this is an awesome Bordeaux blend with light mint, flowers and dark fruits. Currants and slightly dried fruit. Full-bodied, with layers of ripe tannins and long, long finish. Still slightly chewy. Needs another three to four years to come around.”

2010 Te Mata Estate “Awatea” Cabernet Blend, Hawke’s Bay NZ $29.99 

This is the 2nd wine to the Coleraine, made in a slightly more plush, drink earlier style and represents an excellent value for a remarkable bottle of wine. Te Mata Estate believes this to be one of the finest Awatea’s it has produced to date. Winemaker’s notes: “2010 Awatea is a dark magenta colour with aromas of fresh blackberry and raspberry infused with rosemary and sandalwood. The palate is pure, powerful, and well balanced, with mineral freshness and fine powdery tannin warmth contributing to its length. Awatea ’10 is a blend of 42% cabernet sauvignon, 40% merlot, 12% cabernet franc and 6% petit verdot. It will continue to evolve in bottle, providing great enjoyment up to 10 years from harvest. It is a natural partner for savoury red meat dishes and hard cheeses.”

I found this wine to be very expressive right now with a touch more generosity. Dark lush fruit and spice box with wonderful energy and brightness on the palate. A dynamic wine that evolves beautifully in the glass. The perfect steak wine! Truly over achieving against any other $30 Cab blend I would put in it’s category.

The 2010 Awatea has not been professionally reviewed yet, however the 2009 garnered 92 from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.

2009 Te Mata Estate “Bullnose” Syrah, Hawke’s Bay, NZ $31.99 

This wine sells out immediately upon release in New Zealand, it’s almost a national treasure! Made from a tiny, steep single vineyard, the winemaker writes: “An impressive deep magenta colour, with aromas and flavours of raspberry and sweet cherry, baking spices and lavender. The rich palate displays velvety tannins underpinning plum and cream notes, leading to a long, elegant finish. It will continue to evolve in bottle for eight years from harvest.” This is a stunningly elegant and perfumed Syrah again playing a perfect balance between old world structure and beautifully pure new world fruit.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate awards 94 points and writes: “Produced since 1992, the vines for the Bullnose Syrah are now 20 years old. Purple-black in color, the 2009 Bullnose Syrah gives up a pronounced nose of blueberry compote and blackberry pie filling with hints of cloves, moss covered bark, allspice, toast and aniseed with a whiff of white pepper. Medium bodied and concentrated in the mouth, it gives a good structure of crisp acid and firm, ripe, rounded tannins, finishing long and peppery. Drink it now to 2018+.

2011 Te Mata Estate “Elston” Chardonnay, Hawke’s Bay, NZ $29.99

Once more finding a perfect balance between the restraint and mineral intrigue of great white Burgundy and the slightly more exotic fruit expression of New Zealand. This wine is fascinating as it tip toes across the palate and goes on and on in the finish. The winemaker describes it beautifully: “Elston ‘11 has a brilliant, green gold colour, and lovely aromas of nectarine and white peach, with a background of oatmeal and cedar. It is elegant and intense, with a mineral tension in the extended palate that suggests considerable cellaring potential. Elston ‘11 will continue to evolve in bottle for five years + from harvest and matches well with full flavoured dishes based on seafood, poultry and white meats, as well as soft ripened cheeses."

The 2011 vintage has not yet been professionally reviewed, but the 2010 garnered 95 points from James Suckling with him writing “This is really fabulous with insane density like grand cru Burgundy. Full and layered with great concentration and structure. Lemon rind, apple pie and mineral undertones. It's all about tension and structure here. Needs time to come around. Better in 2015.”

I think the 2010 is a better wine than the 2009 with more brightness and minerality. This wine is considered one of New Zealand’s most prestigious Chardonnays and I urge you to try it.

2011 Te Mata Estate “Cape Crest” Sauvignon Blanc, Hawke’s Bay, NZ $19.99

 

One of New Zealand's top Barrel Fermented Sauvignon Blancs. The Winemaker describes it as “fermented and aged in a combination of new and used French oak barrels. Eight months aging on the lees lends this Bordeaux-style blend (85% Sauvignon Blanc, 11% Semillon, and 4% Sauvignon Gris) incredible mid-palate richness and length on the finish. It reveals intense aromas of tropical fruit, citrus, pear, and blossom in the nose, with accents of buttered toast and vanilla. The palate is layered and creamy, with fine acid structure and a very long lingering nutty finish.” Very classy stuff and a gives a whole new meaning to most peoples understanding of Kiwi Sauv Blanc.

James Suckling writes: 92 points “This is like top white Bordeaux with lemon / lime, green apple and mineral character. Great intensity. Full body with lovely balance of fruit and oak. Excellent finish. Drink now.

Jancis Robinson writes: 17/20 Brilliantly forthright oak, like all-butter shortbread. Lemon citrus and vegetal notes present on the palate, good restraint despite the potent nose. This could be Graves or Pessac-Léognan.

Last but not least is the wonderful if not slightly quirky 2012 Te Mata Estate Gamay Noir, Hawke’s Bay, NZ $16.99.

Made in a very convincing Beaujolais style with partial carbonic fermentation, this is such a fun and delicious wine. Spicy, crunchy red berries with silky, supple tannins and just a whiff of cracked black pepper to distinguish it as a Hawke’s Bay wine. Perfect for summer BBQ with chicken and fish. Once you try one this will be a new favorite I’m sure!

James Suckling agrees saying: “90 points, amazing Beaujolais style to this wine with grapy, wet earth character. It's medium-bodied, with fresh acidity and a long finish. So much going on here. One of the only producers in New Zealand of Gamay. It was started in 1995. Cuttings came from Beaujolais. Lovely texture to it. Drink now 

Please check out these wines. They are all truly remarkable. Any feedback will be truly appreciated.

 Cheers

 -Ryan Woodhouse, Aussie/NZ Specialist

 ***

Terra Ignota is Latin for "Unknown Land". It was the name for the South Pacific region during intial mapping and exploration of Australia and New Zealand. As we are going to be exploring new and exciting wines from this region, we think this is a fitting title for our blog series on wines from this part of the world. Stay tuned for more!

Tuesday
May072013

{Terra Ignota} New Wines Direct from Pyramid Valley Vineyards, NZ

While we have been working with the wonderful wines of Pyramid Valley Vineyards for quite some time now, a new direct purchase deal means we can now offer these magnificent staff favorites for an even better price! Pyramid Valley is the labor of love for Mike and Claudia Weersing. Orignally from the Bay Area and with family still in Pescadero, Mike and Claudia have been working hard, living and producing wines in New Zealand since 1996. Mike originally made wine at the esteemed Neudorf Estate in Nelson before he and Claudia bought the property in North Canterbury. The Pyramid Valley Vineyard wines are defined by Organic and Biodynamic viticulture, a very non-invasive winemaking style and have an intense focus on integrity, sense of place and reflection of vintage.

The very steep Angel Flower Block with Lion's Tooth Block in the background

The wines are divided into a “Growers Collection” and “Home Vineyard” single block ranges. The Growers Collection is made up of single vineyard bottlings sourced from growers with whom Mike and Claudia work very closely. The selected vineyards are farmed Biodynamically and to their own very strict quality standards. Many of the wines represent very unique and quirky varietals not commonly seen in New Zealand such as Savagnin Rose, Semillon, Pinot Blanc and Cabernet Franc. They also make great Riesling and obviously a selection of Pinot Noirs from different regions and sub-regions of NZ.

The "Home Block" wines are from Mike and Claudia's tiny estate in North Canterbury. Vines are planted in very high density with minute spacing to make sure yields are concentrated. Most blocks are on steep slopes making the farming, which is meticulous and all by hand, a very laborious job. The vineyards have been organic and biodynamic since inception. Each individual block is named after the wildflowers that thrive there. These single block wines are microcosms of each section of this unique estate. The wines show remarkable nuances of flavor and texture due to slight differences in orientation, soil and aspect.

Minimal intervention wine making is often referred to as a "hands-off" style, however I might argue that Pyramid Valley employ an intensely "hands-on" style of production. The difference being that these are very “green thumbed” hands. Everything is done by hand, (and foot, the grapes are foot trodden for gentle extraction) down to hand de-stemming each bunch of Pinot Noir. The wines are truly lovingly crafted pieces of natural artistry.

Pyramid Valley Team Hand De-stemming Home Block Pinot Noir

Below are detailed notes notes on the various wines we have from Pyramid Valley. I really encourge you to check out these wines. They are something very special and represent the absolute pinnacle of artisinal winemaking.

2010 Pyramid Valley Vineyards "Angel Flower" Pinot Noir, North Canterbury, New Zealand $49.99

An enchanting wine, very floral nose of dried rose petals and lavender. Bright high-toned red fruits on the nose lead to slightly richer sappier dark red fruits on the palate. This wine has compelling energy and vibrancy. Crisp acidity and grainy tannins mean this wine will hold in the cellar. This is definitely more a Burgundy drinker’s wine than a modern fruit forward style. The wine has great texture and an authentic sense of place. This is a very interesting bottle that deserves some reflection and consideration if it is to be fully appreciated.

James Suckling 95 points and featured in his Top Ten Wines of the World for 2012. “Aromas of roses and sweet plums with strawberry. Full body, with super fine tannins and beautiful fruit. Silky and fine with such beauty. This is insane with a rust and iron character. Fascinating. Drink or hold.

Winery Notes: "1.1 tonnes per acre from this north-facing parcel; ten year old vines. Denser, shallower soils, still clay-limestone: 20% clay, 3-7% active lime. Biodynamic from before planting. Late April pick, entirely hand destemmed, 25% foot crushed. Ambient soak of 5-7 days, warm vineyard yeast fermentation (33C), 27-28 day cuvaison. Natural, spring malolactic. Ten months on original lees, in French barriques, 15% new, then held a further six months in tank. Bottled unfined and unfiltered, in September 2011. Alcohol 13.7%. Production: 180 cases.  Good deep ruby. Flowers, red fruits, and bags of spice on the forward bouquet. Lush but crisp, with very fresh fruit, and all that spice. Very long and elegant palate.

Soil Profile of Earth Smoke Block

 

 

2010 Pyramid Valley Vineyards "Earth Smoke" Pinot Noir, North CanterburyNew Zealand $49.99

The Earth Smoke is very slightly my preferred bottling from the Home Vineyard offerings. I love the depth and intrigue this wine brings to the table. The fruit, especially aromatically, is more reserved than the Angel Flower block; however the wine has awesome layers of detail and interest. Dense earthy tones and the rich limestone soil show through in this wine. The whole thing is more guarded and veiled yet within that subtlety there is ample finesse and character. A really soulful bottling that will truly engage Burgundy drinkers and shows the complexity and subtly that New Zealand Pinot can have.

James Suckling 94 points: “A fabulous nose of dried strawberries, plums and hints of smoke and bacon. Full body, with beautiful tannins and acidity. Super intense and beautiful. Long and gorgeous. No new oak. Better in 2016.”

Winery Notes: "1.4 tonnes per acre from our east-facing home block; ten year old vines. Deep, well structured, clay-limestone soils: 30% clay, 12-15% active lime. Also biodynamic from inception. Late April pick, hand destemmed, 25% foot crushed. Ambient soak of 5-7 days, warm vineyard yeast fermentation (33C), 27-28 day cuvaison. Natural, spring malolactic. Ten months on original lees, in French barriques, 15% new, then held a further six months in tank.  Bottled unfined and unfiltered, in September 2011. Alcohol 13.2%. Production: 250 cases.  Similar robe to the Angel Flower, perhaps a bit deeper. Very engaging and complex nose of soil, wild fruits, and spiced orange peel. Real power and lovely texture in the mouth, and again wilder and more earthy than the Angel Flower.

2009 Pyramid Valley Vineyards Growers Collection "Calvert" Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand $34.99

The Calvert vineyard is shared between three of NZ’s leading Pinot Noir producers: Pyramid Valley, Craggy Range and Felton Rd. The vineyard is farmed Biodynamically (by Felton Rd) and each partner gets an equal split of the fruit to craft the way they wish. Pyramid Valley’s philosophy is based around as little intervention as possible to let the site speak for itself. This wine shows classic Central Otago power and muscle without compromising balance and elegance of texture. I found the wine to be quite black fruited but with raspberry high-toned notes peaking through. The wine has compact layers of flavor that I suspect come from its schist soil origins. It really unfolds in the glass showing spice and sweet crushed herbs with more air. The wine finishes with remarkably fresh acidity despite the dark fruit succulence and ripe tannin structure. This is great wine especially for those seeking to try some New Zealand Pinot whilst transitioning from more dense California styles.

Stephen Tanzer 92 points: “Good medium-deep red.  Knockout nose combines raspberry, smoke, spices and loamy soil tones.  Fat, sweet, sexy and rich, but with ripe, harmonious acidity giving shape to the red berry and underbrush flavors.  Velvety in the middle and nicely sappy on the long, sweet finish, which features thoroughly ripe, smooth tannins.  A liquid confection.”

Winery Notes: "A sufficient, but small-berried harvest from this beautiful Bannockburn site. Managed biodynamically by the consistently brilliant team at Felton Road. Soils of schist and quartz sand. Fruit is all hand picked, 75% destemmed, thus 25% whole cluster, transferred by gravity to tank. Ambient soak of 3-5 days, warm indigenous yeast fermentation, 27-28 day cuvaison. Natural, spring malolactic. Fourteen months on original lees in French barriques (25% new); bottled unfined and unfiltered on the winter Solstice, June 2010. Alcohol 14.3%, pH 3.71. Production: 450 cases.  Lifted and luscious at the same time, with a broad spectrum of fruit and plant aromatics: from pomegranate through redcurrant jelly and fresh plum to raspberry; beyond juniper berry to crushed thyme to bramble to bark. Also a teriyaki/root beer note like an umami version of the spice we so often see from this site. Broad and enveloping, yet with ripe and bracing and infiltrating tannin. Finishes with a long and lovely interplay between structure and succulence."

2009 Pyramid Valley Vineyards Growers Collection "Cowley Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand $29.99

This Pyramid Valley Growers Collection bottling comes from one of my favorite sites within the region of Marlborough. The Cowley vineyard is nestled into the hills rising away to the south of the Wairau plains that make up most of Marlborough’s wine country. Here on the north facing slopes the soils turn from alluvial gravel to mixes of clay and decomposed bed rock, glacial deposits and volcanic uplift. The site produces complex pinot of real depth and character. The 2009 bottling has quite a rich dark fruit edge that illustrates the ripeness of the vintage. A seductive silky wine showing crushed plums, and red berries mingling with some freshly ground spices. Very drinkable and crowd pleasing in style, whilst retaining that authentic vibrancy that Pyramid Valley wines have in abundance.

Stephen Tanzer 91 points: “Slightly hazy medium red. Musky aromas of raspberry, coffee and smoke. Lush, silky and sweet, with velvety plum and earth flavors spreading out to saturate the palate. Seamless pinot with excellent depth and sweet tannins.”

2009 Pyramid Valley Vineyards "Lion's Tooth" Chardonnay, North Canterbury, New Zealand $39.99

Fantastic Chardonnay. This wine has a real drive and energy. It shows rich orchard fruits, poached pears and some depth given from a lovely grain or barley character which I can only assume is from a healthy dose of sur lie ageing. This is quite a rich wine but a bright acidity keeps all that texture and power taught, linear and focused. Treat this wine like a good white Burgundy and it will reward you in kind. This really shows the potential of New Zealand to produce top class Chardonnay.

Winery Notes: "20hl/ha from this steeply inclined, east facing home block. Gorgeous soils, with nut and crumb structure and great mineral fertility: 30% clay, 15-20% active lime. Again, biodynamic from inception. Early May pick, whole bunch pressed; no settling, no SO2. Vineyard yeast ferment of 15 months, in used French oak, primarily 450-500L puncheons. Natural, spring malolactic. Eleven months on lees in barrel, then transferred to a variable capacity tank for a further 9 months; bottled unfined and unfiltered in December 2011. Alcohol 14.5%. Production: 100 cases. More golden yet, still bright and brilliant. More complex, fermentative aromas: less fruit and leaf and flower than the Field of Fire, rather popcorn, brioche, grilled nuts.”

2009 Pyramid Valley Vineyards Growers Collection "Howell Family" Cabernet Franc, Hawke’s Bay New Zealand $28.99

Phenomenal Cab Franc. This wine draws the perfect line between the more lean and herbal Cab Francs of the Loire and the bigger and more dense California versions that are out there. It has plenty of green tobacco and freshly crushed herb varietal character but also rich, concentrated dark red fruit and spice. Some fine oak nuances round out the wine which has great length and balance on the palate. This wine comes from a very interesting sub-region of Hawke's Bay know as the Red Metals Triangle for its red, iron-rich gravelly soils. These complex soils produce low, concentrated yields and impart a fascinating mineral tinge to the wine produced here. There is so much complexity and intrigue here all cloaked beneath a rich and crowd pleasing style. Yum!

Robert Parker 91+ points: “Medium-deep ruby-purple in color, the 2009 Howell Family Vineyard Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Franc is a little closed, offering delicate to moderately pronounced notes of red currants and red cherries over nuances of black pepper, moss covered tree bark and game. Ripe and rich in the medium bodied mouth, it has medium-firm silky tannins, crisp acidity and a long savory finish. Drink it 2012 to 2017+. Mike and Claudia Weersing continue to work nature’s magic on their wines. The results are truly unique wines that can only come from these creative hands working out of this pretty patch just inland from the Waipara. Even more exciting is that the quality straight across the estate and growers labels just gets better and more consistent each year from this relatively new operation.”

2010 Pyramid Valley Vineyards Growers Collection "Twin Valleys" Savagnin Rose, Marlborough, New Zealand $19.99

When I learnt Pyramid Valley had a Savgagnin Rose they wanted us to taste I had absolutely no idea what to expect…Savagnin Rose? Turns out that this is a most fascinating floral, aromatic and richly textured wine. One of the most interesting wines I have tasted this year. The wine definatley shows its relation to Gewurztraminer in those 

Winery Notes: "We were thrilled when Peter and Anne Reed called us about their small parcel of this extremely rare variety. Savagnin Rose is the non-musqué progenitor of Gewurztraminer: it is less gaudily aromatic, and retains fresher acidity. We prize its delicately spicy, floral nature, as well as its bold structure and elegant strength. 4.1 tonnes/acre from this lifted Fareham Lane block, in a corner of Marlborough we believe produces exceptional aromatic wines. Whole bunch pressed, no settling, no fining agents. Indigenous fermentation of 15 months, in 500L puncheons, 5% new. Bottled on the spring equinox, September 2011. Alcohol 13.9%, pH 3.52, TA 4.3 g/l, RS 25g/l. Production 410 cases. Brilliant gold. Very delicate and subtly perfumed, with brown, yellow and ochre spice turmeric, curry, sumac, saffron and equally fine floral notes, especially rose. Still some light leesy fermentative notes, from a very long gestation in barrel. Juicy and freshly sweet, like a Golden Queen peach. Feels lush and bright simultaneously, as ripe acid and girdling phenolics lend focus and drive to the luscious finish. Really like a perfect, yellow, tree-ripened fruit a mirabelle, say, or an Anjou pear.

2010 Pyramid Valley Vineyards "Kerner Estate" Pinot Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand $18.99

An excellent growing season yielded small, clean berries from Pyramid Valley's Kerner Estate Vineyard for this 2010 Pinot Blanc. The grapes were hand-harvested and whole-cluster pressed and fermented on native yeast in old French oak puncheons. From the winery: "Pale yellow gold. Leesy/biscuity fermentative notes, with a lemon custard sort of high-tone comfort; also a subtle, blossomy sweetness, like alyssum. Really quite elegant and understated: after the complex boisterousness of the 2009, this marks a return to delicacy and ethereal grace. Light and bright and lively, despite its adamant phenolic structure and intensity of flavour. Perhaps the most poised and complete wine we’ve seen from this lovely block."

James Suckling 90 points: "This Pinot Blanc shows lovely floral and melon character with full body, good acidity and a clean finish. Balanced and chalky."

Pyramid Valley Vineyards under snow

2009 Pyramid Valley Vineyards Growers Collection "Rose Vineyard" Riesling, Marlborough $21.99

Robert Parker 90 points: “The 2009 Rose Vineyard Marlborough Riesling gives a chalky, mineral nose with some straw and lime leaf plus a little citrus zest and freshly made bread dough. Made to a relatively dry style, it has a medium body and lively acidity cutting through the elegant fruit, finishing long and steely. Approachable now, it should drink well to 2016+”

Thanks so much for reading and I hope you enjoy the wines!

Cheers!

Ryan Woodhouse, NZ / Aussie Specialist

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 Terra Ignota is Latin for "Unknown Land". It was the name for the South Pacific region during intial mapping and exploration of Australia and New Zealand. As we are going to be exploring new and exciting wines from this region, we think this is a fitting title for our blog series on wines from this part of the world. Stay tuned for more!