One of our aims, when establishing up Wine Writers of NZ, was to ask if regional bodies would put on tastings, thereby allowing us to get an overall snapshot of the wines without necessarily being beholden to one particular producer. So hats off to Wines from Martinborough (WfM) who stepped forward and hosted the inaugural WWNZ visit.
Unfortunately several members were able to make the trip (Michael Cooper writing, Yvonne Lorkin filming, Neil Hodgson auctioning and Emma Jenkins looking after her new daughter). But the rest of us arrived in Martinborough on the most glorious March day, ready to taste.
I missed the New Release Aromatic tasting but got there in time to join Jo Burzynska and Charmian Smith for the afternoon visits (sensibly WfM had split us into smaller groups so that we could cover a greater range of producers. Divide and conquer).
First stop Margrain Vineyard where winemaker Strat Canning and Kate Throp (Sales and Marketing) kept us entertained whilst the Pogues provided the backing track. One of the longer established wineries Margrain has a relatively low profile possibly in part due to the quiet, understated Strat. An interesting line up, the Chenin Blanc particularly successful, and though none wines were particularly upfront or showy, they did have personality and a degree of structure.
2011 La Michelle Brut : 1/3 chardonnay, 2/3 pinot noir though I’d have thought chenin as a component. Lanolin and wet wool. Mineral salts. Dry.
2011 Pinot Gris : from 19 year old vines, bone dry, quite a tight style. Grapefruit and bruised apple, a delicate focussed wine
2012 Chenin Blanc : I’ve written “off 31 year old vines”. A ripe style, white nectarine, red apple, greengage. Carries its @ 20g/litre residual well. Very fresh and bright.
2013 Chenin Blanc : ripe nose of fresh apricot and peach. Seems to carry a little more sweetness.
2010 Home Block Pinot Noir : colour starting to show a little age. Raspberry ripple, strawberry and a touch of forest floor. Dried herb and nutmeg. Silky tannins, beginning to drink well now.
On to Cambridge Road to meet owner/winemaker Lance Redgwell. Sitting in pride of place in the tiny winery was Cambridge Road’s ceramic egg, newly arrived from Byron Bay, and (prompted by us) Lance gave a rundown of what he thought the egg will contribute to his wines. At one point I did have to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming but actually listening to a winemaker speak. I remain to be convinced that wines need to be ‘energised’ before bottling, but having tasted the eggless wines (2014 vintage will be the first time the egg is used) I had to begrudgingly admit that Lance has a deft hand on the tiller so perhaps I should reserve judgment. Certainly the recent release wines had bags of personality and charm and I was especially taken by the co-fermented whites – in a world where single varietal wines dominate, good to see someone experiment. Martinborough Edelzwicker if you like.
2013 Papillon Blanc : co-fermented gruner, riesling, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris. An intriguing wine, 100% wild ferment. Fresh soft green herbs, basil and oregano. Just a touch of phenolic grip. Well done.
2012 Papillon Blanc : co-fermented pinot gris, riesling and pinot noir. Amber, the pinot noir adding quite a bit of colour. Rose petal and white peach. Dried herbs. Textural and dry.
2011 Dovetail : a pinot noir/syrah field blend. Very aromatic; black pepper, rose petal with some fleshy opulence. Refreshing acidity, tannins quite subdued but a little grip on the finish. Apparently it is a wine built for ageing but I liked it now, the slightly grippy dark cherry character giving a nod to Italy.
2011 Syrah : 2% viognier added as skins to 50% of the ferment. Bacon fat, pepper and dark plum. Chewy tannins balance the blueberry, damson fruit. Great length.
Finally to Palliser Estate. Allan Johnson has been winemaker since 1991 so with 23 vintages under his belt should have a pretty good handle on Martinborough. The wines we tasted were very good with the Pencarrow range offering great value. But I couldn’t help thinking the wines were just a little on the safe side.
2008 Brut : delicious. plenty of autolysis with nougat and bran biscuit to the fore.
2012 Pinot Gris : greengage plum. Medium dry, fleshy and ripe.
2013 Riesling : talcum powder, mandarin peel and satsuma. Just off dry with an attractive depth of flavour
2012 Pencarrow Sauvignon Blanc : fresh herb, red capsicum and lime. Grassy.
2013 Palliser Sauvignon Blanc : icing sugar and talc. a slightly riper spectrum of fruit with passionfruit making an appearance.
2013 Pencarrow Chardonnay : Bran biscuit, some smoky sulphide characters. Creamy.
2012 Pencarrow Pinot Noir : red fruits, a touch of vanilla oak. generous, easy drinking style.
We finished with 2011 The Great Paloma Pinot Noir, the latest in the series of special pinot bottlings that honour dogs with a connection to the winery. 17 months in oak, 2/3rds new. Lifted aromatics of raspberry and strawberry. A fleshy, soft style, generously fruited with a warming finish.
In the evening WfM hosted a casual barbecue which gave us a great opportunity to talk to the winemakers we hadn’t been able to visit that day and to enjoy some older, large format wines. Pinot noir bottled in magnum seems such a sensible idea I wonder why more isn’t available. Or possibly it is and is all snapped up by those in the know. Whatever, the larger format definitely works a treat