This day featured the three regions of Nelson, Waipara (North Canterbury), and Martinborough.
Plantings at Nelson started early i.e. in the late seventies, but did not develop into large holdings. I only tasted two Neudorf Pinot Noirs from there. The Moutere Pinot Noir was quite fresh and acidic, lacking some mouthfeel (88 points). The Home Vineyard Pinot Noir showed much darker colour and a savoury complexity on the palate. I enjoyed this wine (92 points).
The region battling it out with Central Otago for best area to grow Pinot Noir is Martinborough. It is a small area, one hour north of Wellington. You can visit most wineries on foot. Martinborough has quite a marginal climate, resulting in a lot of vintage variation. The Pinot Noirs tend to be lighter in colour, often with a strawberry flavour and a long finish.
The star in general, and of this show as well, is Ata Rangi. The 2010 Pinot Noir is amazing: a lot of depth and elegance, an ethereal mouthfeel, great length and enough acidity to guarantee a long life (96 points). The second wine, the Crimson Pinot Noir is nothing to sneeze at, either. It is a much simpler wine, but has beautiful fruit from newer plantings, and an excellent structure (92 points).
The big eye-turner was Kusuda. If you have ever visited the fruit section of a shop in Tokyo, you would have seen how carefully each individual fruit is treated and displayed, and purchased. This is how Hiroyuki Kusuda treats each individual grape. He released his first wine in 2002 and has kept his production minuscule. It seems he may now enter the big time. The wine tastes of dark cherry, is extremely elegant and very long. Too pretty (95 points)? I also tried the 2008, which has a similar profile, but not as much depth (93 points).
Martinborough Vineyard is one of the pioneers of the area and has kept its quality high since the beginning. In the past, I have tried beautifully aged wines from this producer. The 2010 shows great fruit intensity, is elegant and finished with very polished tannins (94 points).
The best known cult winery from this area, maybe because it is the most expensive wine, is Dry River. The wines tend to be much more savoury and European than the other wines. The 2010 shows great colour, with black and red fruit flavours - an elegant and velvety wine. The structure has not quite come together yet, but probably will (94 points). I also tried the 2000 and 2003, which showed more of the earthy characteristics referred to above (92 points).
Not in the same league as the wines above were Craggy Range Te Muna Road, Brodie, Escarpment (a major disappointment), Gladstone, Johner and Schubert. Some of these wines were a bit fruity, some a little thin in the mouth.
Review of Waipara will follow in the next post