Monday, February 19, 2024

Russian Jack Martinborough (New Zealand) Pinot Noir, 2020

Another excellent value in New Zealand Pinot Noir ($19.99NZ or $13US). For my taste, the quality is similar to the Central Otago Mt Difficulty Pinot (below). Maybe even a little better. Martinborough is at the extreme northeastern tip of the mountainous south island of New Zealand.

Bright ruby, considerably lighter than the Mt Difficulty. Red berries, dark cherries, spice. Lighter on the tannins, good acidity on the ripe fruited finish. I like the depth and complexity. This could match up with salmon or lighter dishes as well as the lamb shanks on the table. 

Mount Difficulty Roaring Meg Central Otago Pinot Noir, 2022

This is a relatively inexpensive Central Otago Pinot Noir ($29.99NZ or about $20US). But it shows the potential of this high altitude, cool climate appellation on the south island of New Zealand.

Very deep and dark for a Pinot Noir. A big wine that matches up well with the lamb shanks on the table. Strawberries, boysenberries and spice. Ripe tannins on the mid-palate and good Pinot acidity on the finish. A very enjoyable wine but doesn't measure up to the North Canterbury Pinots tasted at Greystone Winery (see below) or Pegasus Bay.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Greystone Thomas Brothers Waiparu Valley (New Zealand) Pinot Noir, 2021

The winery considers this wine "one of our finest single block expressions ever, showing the effects of fruit intensity & gentle handling." Also from high-sited, north-facing vineyards on a limestone/clay soil, the high quality fruit is apparent even from a tasting.

Medium deep ruby, darker than the Vineyard Ferment. Greater intensity, more tannin with acidity and concentration similar to the Vineyard Ferment. Ripe red berry fruit with complex, savory flavors that will undoubtedly develop even more with cellar aging. Sells for $135NZ (about $80US) at the cellar door.


Greystone Winery Vineyard Ferment Waiparu Valley (New Zealand) Pinot Noir, 2020

Tbis wine literally made itself. Grapes were hand picked, destemmed and then fermented between the rows where they were grown. Then it was aged for 15 months in old oak barriques. The idea is to eliminate any outside influences and make it "a pure expression of the hillside." Once grapes are brought into the winery, they are introduced to a new environment--temperature controlled and a new yeast population. In the vineyard, only native wild yeasts contribute to the fermentation, and the climate of the vineyard and the vintage are preserved.

The 2020 Vineyard Ferment Pinot comes from a high, north-facing vineyard on limestone bedrock covered with clay soil. Grapes are Dijon clone. The wine is exceptional.

Light color, even for a Pinot Noir. Red fruit, spice, flowers with delicate tannins. Expands on the tongue with sloiw waves of beautiful flavors. Plenty of acid, but a calm rather than lively feel. Dances across the tongue in a slow waltz leading to a long, complex finish. My favorite of the tasting; I ordered a full glass with lunch.

Greystone Wines, Erin's Waipara Valley (New Zealand) Chardonnay, 2020

I will start with the bad news: Greystone wines are not imported into the United States.And they would not be budget wines if they were. Our tasting at the winery on the south island of New Zealand, however, confirmed to me that Greystone wines represent thre essence of what I consider artisanal. As the winery puts it: "We believe true fine wines are temporal, each vintage a fleeting snapshot of a place in time. We don't seek to manipulate the final product with additives or flavourings--instead we allow a true interpretation of the soil, vines and season to shine through." The woman who led us through our tasting of three "reserve wines" mentioned again and again the challenges faced by vines on the limestone/clay soil and the cool climate. That is good, she told us. We seek quaality, not quantity.

Erin's Chardonnay comes from high slopes planted to the Mendoza clone. Following what the winery considered an ideal summer for Chardonnay, the grapes were handpicked, then given 100% whole bunch pressing, wild fermentation, full malolactic and aging in French oak barriques (40% new) for 16 months. The result is a very special Chardonnay indeed.

Medium deep, bright yellow. Lime, butter, minerals. The oak has given it a richness with no sacrifice of vibrant, acid-driven fruit. Layers and layers of complex flavors and smells. More like Oregon than French or California Chardonnay. This wine sells at the winery for $135NZ (about $80US), and it is worth every penny.

Later in the day, with lunch and dinner, Donna and I sampled Greystone's regular (lower priced) Chardonnays from 2019 and 2018. Both were very good.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Main Divide North Canterbury Pinot Noir, 2021

Like the Waipara Hills Pinot (below), Main Divide comes from a cool climate on the mountainous south island of New Zealand. Side by side on the table, I like both but had a slight preference for this wine.

Medium deep ruby. Slightly funky aromas but more intense at this stage than the Waipara Hills. Cherries, red plums, black tea and oak.Good tannin/acid balance. Some unexpected complexity on the finish.

Waipara Hills Waipara Valley North Canterbury (New Zealand) Pinot Noir, 2021

Waipara Valley is located about an hour north of Christchurch on the mountainous south island of New Zealand. It is a cool climate with brisk ocean breezes that should be good for growing Pinot Noir grapes.

Medium deep ruby. Aromas of dark cherries, violets and spice. Medium intensity. I like the hints of white pepper/citrus zest on the finish. A good value at $10 to $15 a bottle.