Friday, February 15, 2013

Pinot Noir NZ, part3b, The Pioneers

While the other regions show quite typical sub-regional characters, this is less clear for Waipara (North Canterbury). This has probably to do with the fact that very strong winemakers and individual philosophies come to the fore here. The main wineries in the valley are Pegasus Bay, Muddy Water, Mountford, and Greystone.

The Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir is very feminine, very balanced, with great texture and velvety tannins (93 Points). The low volume Prima Donna Pinot Noir shows similar characteristics, even more pronounced (93 points). The Muddy Water Pinot Noir was lighter, a pretty wine, but not much individuality, I thought (91 points). The single vineyard Hares Breath, on the hillside, is similar, with a nice balance and a bit more acidity on the palate (92 points).

The Mountford Liaison Pinot Noir, from younger and bought-in fruit, shows great purity, but is a little simple (92 points). One of the great wines of this show is the Mountford Estate Pinot Noir. In palate weight, it sits between Central Otago and Martinborough. The wine has great complexity and structure and finishes long, with silky tannins (95 points). I also tried one of the single vineyard wines, the 2009 The Rise. This is a more elegant wine, but the finish is a little flat (93 points). Mountford is an Estate worth watching. I have tried some  of their other wines in the past, they are uneven, but can reach soaring heights. I sampled the 2008 and 2009 from Greystone. The 2009 is big, a bit alcoholic, but displaying good length (92 points). The 2008 is more elegant and balanced (93 points).

Inland in the Canterbury region are two quite extreme producers: Bell Hill and Pyramid Valley. Their plantings at high altitude, on limestone, with high density planting, and their small volumes have given them cult status, not necessarily deserved, yet, I find. I found both the Pyramid Valley Angel Flower and Earth Smoke Pinot Noirs a bit bland (91 points). Note: I may have been a tired taster by this time. The Bell Hill Pinot Noir was fuller bodied, quite dark and brooding, with a balanced structure (93 points). The Old Weka Pass Pinot Noir is a little lighter (92 points).

Waipara is at risk of being overlooked between Martinborough and Central Otago, yet it is definitely a region to watch, with good sunshine and limestone soils. I find the wines here quite individualistic and interesting.

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