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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)

Wednesday
Apr242013

{Terra Ignota} The Exceptional Wines of Fromm Winery

We are pleased to announce the next wave of releases is here from the brilliant Fromm Winery in Marlborough, New Zealand. We have cultured a great direct relationship with winemaker Willy Hoare at Fromm and are very excited to offer these wines exclusively in the USA.

I visited Fromm estate back in April of 2011 and knew that these wines were something special. I had previously experienced the wines in the UK selling wine in London. The wines have always been very pure, balanced and structured for great longevity. In fact I have had many great experiences drinking wines from this property at 10+ years of age, including Pinot Noir and their phenomenal Rieslings. The most recent Fromm releases from the excellent quality 2009 and 2010 vintages have struck me as even more exciting than the wines of old. The winemaking seems to be finding a way of combining a little more youthful exuberance and richness with the same classic underlying structure for extended cellaring. This means great wines for now…and the potential to lay some down if you can keep your hands off them long enough!

Fromm farms several estate vineyards in Marlborough’s various sub-regions. The vineyards are well down the road in conversion to organic and Biodynamic viticulture. Total production for the winery was around 5000 cases when I last checked. Winemaker Willy amazingly got his start in wine at the tender age of nine “helping out” at the world famous Cloudy Bay. You could say his Marlborough roots run as deep as some of Fromm’s old vine plantings in the gravel soils of the Wairau Valley. He, along with winemaking partner Hätsch Kalberer, certainly craft what I think are some of the best examples of truly inspiring Marlborough Pinot Noir I have tasted.

Thankfully I am not the only person waxing poetic about these wines of late. James Suckling’s recent visit and tasting of the wines brought a flood of 94-95 point ratings and comparisons to Grand Cru Burgundy! This high praise was a very welcome development for us as long time believers in the wines and was a great reinforcement for our direct relationship that had just recently been forged. We have just emailed the latest Fromm wines to our mailing list and they are probably going to snapped up quickly so grab some asap if you are interested. Below is a list and notes on the current Fromm offerings:

2010 Fromm Winery "La Strada" Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand $21.99

94-95 points James Suckling “A seamless red that starts off with pure strawberry and berry aromas and flavors. Full with beautiful tannins and natural beauty. It goes on for so, so long. Yes!” (12/ 2012)

This Pinot has a phenomenal bright, perfumed nose of crushed spicy red fruits and dark rose petals complicated by rich soil tones and a subtle Thyme note. This is a layered wine of real depth and intrigue. On the palate beyond its pure dark red fruit character lays an array of subtle complexities that really take it to another level of distinction. The wine has an effortless balance and silky elegant texture. This is wonderfully complete and stylish Pinot Noir at an everyday price thanks to our direct purchase from the winery. An exceptional value that will continue to develop and impress for another 8-10 years without a doubt.

Comments from the Winemaker: "Dense with nice clarity. A bright and lively wine offering ripe plums, black cherries and a hint of blueberries. Adding to the mix are spicy aromas (cloves, liquorice) and violet florals which combine with an earthy complexity to round off the nose. The palate opens with ripe, sweet fruit and shows good depth and concentration with ripe tannins providing structure. Quite a powerful wine yet one of refinement."

2009 Fromm Winery "Brancott Valley" Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand $29.99

95 points James Suckling “This is so powerful and rich with a dense structure and lightly chew tannins. So long and structured. Grand crus Burgundy character. Muscular. Better in 2015.”

A powerful nose of dark red fruits, black cherry and bramble. This wine is rich, dense and fleshy. A subtle whole cluster stem character adds structure and complexity and brings brightness to a fairly saturated mid palate. This wine is currently exuberant and youthful, brimming with fruit and has a plush texture. Despite this obvious density and power, the wine retains elegance throughout finishing with exotic warm spices and a tickle of fine tannins that suggest this wine will be a fantastic prospect for the cellar, as well as immediately rewarding. I have had many releases from this estate with 10 years of bottle age and can attest that they develop beautifully.

Comments from the Winemaker :"The 2009 Fromm "Brancott Valley" Pinot Noir shows intense, bright black plums and dark cherries with subtle mocha aromas and an underlying savouriness. On the palate, again generous cherry/plum fruit with trademark Brancott Valley spice. Ripe fine tannins contribute to a lovely silky texture. An expansive wine of refined structure and elegance - a juxtaposition of power and finesse."

2010 Fromm "Clayvin Vineyard" Pinot Noir Marlborough New Zealand $40.99

92+ points Robert Parker  “Medium deep ruby-purple in color, the 2010 Clayvin Vineyard Pinot Noir is slightly closed, revealing subtle hints of cranberries, black raspberries and red cherries plus suggestions of lavender, cardamom and pepper. Medium-bodied and crisp with a medium level of grainy tannins, the fruit is taut and it finishes long and layered. It needs 6-12 months more in bottle and should drink to 2019+”. (92+)

Comments from the Winemaker: Dense, deep plum-cherry colour. Intense, vibrant wild berry aromas with dark, lightly toasty mocha notes. Concentrated, spicy fruit with lots of underlying power and richness; well structured and supported by fine, ripe tannins. Dense and silky textured with great presence and harmony, resulting from pristine fruit in a top year. A classic Clayvin Pinot Noir.

2010 Fromm "La Strada" Syrah, Marlborough, New Zealand $21.99

James Suckling “Blackberry and tar and asphalt undertones with hints of black peppers. Full and rich with lots of fruit, yet balanced and delicious now.”

Comments from the Winemaker: "Deep crimson in colour. This Syrah shows dense but bright blue fruit with lifted sweet aromatics of juniperberries and five spice, all combining with florals of dark violets. The palate is concentrated and mouth filling but retains an elegant, easy drinking quality thanks to balancing acidity. Ample flavour and fine, well layered tannin support provide for lovely length. An expressive young Syrah, drinking well now but will happily develop for another 2-3 years."

2012 Fromm Riesling, Marlborough, New Zealand $18.99

Fromm is well known for their spectacular Rieslings. This wine is made in a Spätlese style at 7.5% Alc and 94g/L of Residual Sugar. The wine is so concentrated and powerful. Tons of honeyed apricot and tangy preserved lemon is punctuated by lime zest acidity. Some subtle river stone mineral notes and citrus peel linger on the very long finish. This wine is very young, forward and primary right now, despite it being super moreish and drinkable at present, experience with older bottles from this great estate tells me this wine will continue to develop as only great Riesling does for another 10yrs+. This is a spectacular value and a must try for all Riesling lovers!

Comments from the Winemaker: "Clean ripe fruit on the nose of limes, nectarines, pristine red apples and subtle mandarin. Also offered are lifting florals of orange blossom and honeysuckle all combining with focussing minerals. The palate is one of rich concentration, bright fruit and alluring sweetness - refreshed by cleansing acid. This is a Riesling of purity, free of botrytis and low in alcohol. Drink well chilled. Alcohol 7.5 % Total acidity 9.4 g/l pH 2.76 Residual sugar 94 g/l

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!

Monday
Mar182013

{Terra Ignota} 100 Years in the Making: The Voice of Rippon

This week I was lucky enough to attend one of the most interesting and inspiring tastings I have ever been to. A "20 Year Vertical of Rippon Pinot Noir" the invite read. On the surface a 20-year vertical of any wine is a great accomplishment, (if the wines have held up anyways) but the thing with Rippon is that the story runs so much deeper than your basic chronology of vintages. This is a story about four generations of passionate farmers, a strong affinity to a place, the toils of a father, son and many others to bring forth the “voice of the farm,” the true expression of a special terroir.

Nick's father Rolfe looking out over the land that would become Rippon Estate.For those of you that don't know the wines of Rippon, it is an estate in Central Otago on the south island of New Zealand. This is an area famed for its Pinot Noir and much of Rippon's success can be attributed to this wonderful, fickle variety. The vineyard occupies a very unique and special site. The majestic Lake Wanaka lies to the east, and to the west are looming snow capped mountains of the Mt. Aspiring National Park. Current viticulturalist / winemaker Nick Mills who hosted the tasting at RN74 in San Francisco, is part of the fourth generation to call this place home.

Whilst the land has been owned by the family for more than 100 years, the first thoughts of vines began when Nick’s Father discovered the intricate and special relationship between Vitis vinifera and schist soils in Portugal sometime after his tours of service World War II.

(Schist is probably the most important feature that gives Rippon its character, texture and detailed nature. In a later video we will hear Nick talk a little more  about the complex geology that makes this site so special.)

Nick’s father planted experimental vines on the property in the 1970s, and the first “commercial” plantings were established in 1982. Here you can watch Nick talking about his family’s history linving on the land and the establishment of the vines there.

Wanaka’s climate is also very important to the character of the wines produced. Nick believes the growing season is characterized mostly by “gross climactic events at either end of the season”. Indeed with this kind of elevation and the southerly latitude of Central Otago, frost danger looms both at the beginning and end of the vine’s cycle. Despite this Nick describes the mid growing season as “clear and sanitary”, with very little pest or disease pressure on the vines to prevent them from producing clean fruit of the highest quality.


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He describes the site in Wanaka as having more “temperance” than the rest of Central Otago. Temperance from heat and cold accorded to it by the air flow off the Mountains, the thermal mass of the lake and the clouds that make it over the towering ranges to the west before dissipating over the high desert of Central Otago. This temperance produces a long and consistent growing season for the development of depth and flavor.

With high hopes and tangiable anticipation in the air, the first flight of the day was poured consisting of:

1990 Rippon Pinot Noir (Barrel Selection)

1991 Rippon Pinot Noir (Barrel Selection)

1992 Rippon Pinot Noir (Barrel Selection)

1995 Rippon Pinot Noir

1998 Rippon Pinot Noir

2000 Rippon Pinot Noir

The 1990 bottling was the first indication of how great this line up was going to be. Still bright, fresh, pure and with great balance. The wine showed the ripeness of the vintage all these years on with soft sweet fruits, silky and saturated. Notes of leather and hint of coffee emerged with air.

1991 was quite different but equally intriguing. Much less ripe fruit and some more dried herb qualities. Characters of cherry skin and more savory notes of mushroom and moss. The wine had notably higher acidity and a remarkable "grapey" quality that defied the wines age.

1992 was different again. Dense, rich and more concentrated. Dark earthy aromas, sandalwood and spice. A youthful, dynamic mid-palate makes me think that this wine has years ahead of it.

These three wines were all made by the esteemed Rudi Bauer, now of Quartz Reef winery in Bendigo, Central Otago while current winemaker Nick was living life as a transient "Ski Bum".

The 1995 was interesting in that it was much more herbal and less ripe than any that had come before it. I got notes of underbrush, fresh tobacco, even mint, a real green vegetative character. Nick then brought everything into perspective explaining that the volcanic eruption of Mount Ruapehu that year threw ash into the atmosphere starving the south island of vital sunlight luminosity. Quite fascinating I thought.

2000, the last wine of the flight, joined 1990 as my two favorites thus far. It was starting to show the detailed layers of complexity that I know and love about the Rippon wines. The palate was more layered and complex with a real textural elegance and ethereal qualities.

While we enjoyed the wines Nick continued to speak about how he felt these wines, despite tasting great, were “more defined by cultivar than the by place,” more “Pinot Noir than Rippon”.

Here he is talking about the development of the vine age and how he likens their early expressions to a young child’s artwork.

I found the analogy of a crayon drawing very intriguing. Yet another of Nick’s adept illustrations of how he understands wine and the ultimate goal of how to capture the sense of place.

I had heard Nick speak about his wines before at a small staff tasting at K&L and one concept he spoke about that day has always stuck with me. This is the idea that the flesh of the grape is all about attraction and getting the bird / animal to eat it in order to (eventually) propagate the seed within. The color, sweetness and flavor are all simply to get the fruit eaten by something. However a plant’s real focus is to thrive in its environment. To pass on what it has learned about its specific surroundings to its offspring so they too may flourish. The genetic material, everything the plant has learned, the instinct if you will, is contained within the seed. This data of ecological analysis gathered by the plant, is basically terroir encapsulated. Nick believes that allowing the seed to reach full and natural maturity is how wines convey textural and sensual markers that reflect their origin.

Here he is at the tasting explaining his thoughts on this:

As we moved into the next flight (2001 - 2008) the theme turned to the "adolesent" period of the vineyard and perhaps more importantly to the era when Nick returned home to take the helm as winemaker. Nick’s many years of experience making wine in Burgundy and beyond allowed him to return to the family estate better equipped to seek the true expression of Rippon. Whilst working at many esteemed Domaines in Burgundy, including Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (yes that’s DRC for short), Nick learnt what he describes as a “humility and deference to the land.” On his return the vineyard that had been farmed organically since the beginning, was converted immediately to Biodynamic farming. Nick believes that “vines must be in complete symbiosis with the land or they cannot produce a true vin de terroir.”  In his own words the journey from here on out was about one thing only, his quest to “deliver the land.”

Dry farming is another decision that Nick is adamant about. He describes how not watering the vines forces them to search the soil for their own sustenance. Micro root hairs penetrate the compacted schist searching for water. That water is often found in the form of algae and other micro-biological formations within the soil and rock all adding, he believes, to the complexity, depth and detailed nature of the resulting wines.

Nick’s first vintage back at Rippon 2003, produced a magnificent wine. One that I have tasted on numerous occasions and have always been impressed with. The ‘03 has the compact layers and precision that Nick talks about being the real textural markers that define the site. The wine has an incredible brightness and vibrancy.

The 2004 was the first wine to go from conventional cork to DIAM cork closures (which remain his closure of choice till this day). This technology combined with biodynamics and the vines gathering maturity has resulted in a quite remarkable consistency of quality throughout the wines from this point forward. Nick again modestly equates this to the symbiosis of the vines with the land and the climactic temperance that the site allows, however, I feel I must add that the guidance of his steady hand at the helm probably helps too. He concludes that schist is really the linear thread that gives precision and consistency to the wines.

Here is nick talking about the complex soil composition of the Rippon estate that is a combination of pure schist, moraines (glacial deposits) and schist laced with lateral clay lenses:

After six years back growing grapes and making the wines, Nick decided that he finally had the “courage” to bottle some single block wines to illustrate some of the unique geographic units within the larger farm. These single block wines in comparison to the “whole farm voice of “Rippon”” made up the final flight of the tasting.

2009 Rippon “Rippon” Mature Vine Pinot Noir

2009 Rippon “Emma’s Block” Mature Vine Pinot Noir

2009 Rippon “Tinkers Field” Mature Vine Pinot Noir

2010 Rippon “Rippon” Mature Vine Pinot Noir

2010 Rippon “Emma’s Block” Mature Vine Pinot Noir

2010 Rippon “Tinkers Field” Mature Vine Pinot Noir

Here is Nick talking about his decision to make these very limited production (100 case) single block wines.

 

The Emma’s block wines are from a parcel of vines directly on the lakeshore. The schist here is laced with clay deposited over many thousands of years as the lake setted. The wines have a remarkable supple character and silky texture. The palate is not as dense and layered as the “Rippon” bottling, yet it has more exuberance and a malleable texture and softness that makes it instantly gratifying. The Tinkers Field bottling by comparison comes from a pure schist parcel and really illustrates the detailed, compacted and indeed quite structural element of the estate. The flavors are not as obvious as Emma’s and yet the wine unfolds in an intriguing fashion with each sip revealing a new element. The Tinker's Field wines to me were quite grippy and spicy showing a lot of pent-up energy and power and I imagine are the component that gives "Rippon" its longevity.

Only at this late stage of the tasting did any details of cellar methodology emerge. To sum up: "it’s not a sorting table, it’s a tasting table; anything you don’t want in the wine stays in the vineyard!" In the cellar nothing is added or taken away, all wild yeast and enzymes. The wines spend two winters in barrel, the first in 25% new French oak, the second winter, after one racking and blending, is spent in entirely neutral wood for "slow repose and natural clarification". The wines are completely un-sulphured for the first year. His policy on whole cluster stem inclusion (quite the buzz concept right now) is that if its digestible it can stay in, if the stems aren’t right they stay out. This is about digestible material giving something to the wine, not making a stylistic statement. All in all you can see here that the expertise and skill is in the lack of manipulation and the absence of formulaic winemaking.

All that remained to do now was drink a little Rippon Riesling (2011 and 1991 side by side) and enjoy the charcuterie. (Riesling by the way is another thing that Rippon does exceptionally well but that’s another story!)

All day the wines spoke for themselves and illustrated what a special place Rippon is. Nick’s self confessed humility and deference to the land has gifted us some pretty special wines that I urge you all to experience at some point.

We have current vintages of 2008 Rippon “Rippon” Mature Vines Pinot Noir and a library release of 2003 Rippon Pinot Noir available on the shelves and online, as well and the Riesling and Gewürztraminer. Some of the older vintages featured in this tasting are available as library releases. The 2009 single block wines (Emma’s Block and Tinker’s Field) are also available in very limited quantities. Please do not hesitate to contact me directly via email if you are interested in any of the Rippon wines.

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!

Thursday
Jan032013

Blind Tasting Series: International Sparkling Friday 1/4 & New Direct Imports Tasting Saturday 1/5

Caves at Schramsberg, Napa Valley Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all enjoyed some great bubbles during the holidays (I can assure you I did!). After drinking all that fizz, do you think you can distinguish grower/producer Champagnes from the Grandes Marques? How about Cava from Prosecco? Can you pick out that Loire sparkler, or identify one from New Zealand? Well, now is your chance to find out...and enjoy some fabulous sparklers along the way. Friday Night Tastings in Redwood City are back, and we're kicking off the year with the next installment of our popular Blind Tastings Series with a special Blind International Sparkling Tasting Challenge! So far the Blind Tasting Series has been great fun and we have seen some huge upsets and perhaps unlikley winners. I hope you can join us.

Blind International Sparkling Tasting Challenge

Friday, January 4th @ K&L RWC

5pm-6:30pm | $10  K&L Local Events

We will be pouring a flight of 12 fantastic bubblies from all over the globe and invite you to try to identify the country, region, and price, and to vote on your favorite. The "key" will be revealed after tasting, and the most popular wine will be announced on Uncorked soon after.

Te Whare Ra is our first Direct Import from New Zealand

Tasting Saturday, January 5th: Direct Import Wines from the Southern Hemisphere | 1pm-4pm

Our first Saturday tasting of the year will be feature a fantastic line up of Direct Import wines from new ventures in the southern Hemisphere. As of last year we have been seeking out new winemakers and properties in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa that have not previously been available within the USA. The idea is to bring the very best small producers direct to you, our customers.

Our new Direct Import from South Africa Waterkloof Estate

So far the project has been a great success and this tasting will feature wines from: Te Whare Ra (Marlborough, New Zealand), Amelia Park (Margaret River, Australia), Hewitson (Barossa, Australia) and Waterkloof (Stellenbosch, South Africa). This is a great oppourtunity to taste some of the most exciting wines coming from these countries and almost all are exclusive to us at K&L!

There will be 12 wines and the cost is $20. The tasting runs from 1pm-4pm. Visit K&L Local Events for more details.

I hope you can make it.

Cheers!

Ryan