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NZ Pinot Noir >$35 worth cellaring


A New Zealand wine lover's wine blog.


NZ Pinot Noir >$35 worth cellaring

Elissa Jordan

Last week I attended Geoff Kelly’s ‘Worth Cellaring’ Tasting where we tasted 16 New Zealand Pinot Noirs over $35 at Regional Wine and Spirits. This was part two of a series, part one, in October, looked at Pinot Noirs under $35.

The tasting was designed to help punters decide which Pinots might be worth cellaring. The assembled list of Pinots were collected to highlight ranges: ranges in price, style, producer and region. Wines were tasted in two flights. All the wines were from the 2009 and 2010 vintage, there were no single vineyard or “pick-of-the-crop” wines.

We were supplied with comprehensive tasting notes on the wines including the price, percentage alcohol, wine closure and fermentation treatment. Alongside the wines to be tasted we had the reference wine, the 2010 Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir. That was essentially the setup for the evening. Oh – and Mr. Pinot, Larry McKenna himself was sitting across the table from me.

All wines were presented blind and while tasting we were asked to pick our top and bottom wines of the flight. Some people got hung up on the current quality of the wine, forgetting that we were assessing the cellaring potential of the wine.

Flight one

With the first flight there were more wines I disliked than those I did. These notes are ordered by my personal preference starting at the top, in parentheses are the group votes (top, bottom). The wines in the first flight were arranged to show the range of fruit and florals expressed in different Pinot Noirs.

2009 Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir (7,1) an interesting and complex wine with notes of red cherry and strawberry, sharp acidity and healthy tannins. There is a touch of basil and herbal spice with a lingering finish and good structure.

2009 Vynfields Pinot Noir Reserve (4,1) an exciting palate with a crisp acidity and a hefty dose of red fruit and floral notes there’s even a touch of spice to tantalise. Expect this will cellar very well.

2010 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir (4,2) Ata Rangi have since moved on to the 2011 release of their Pinot Noir. Larry assured us all that it’s a very similar style. I sure hope so. The wine was full of spicy star anise qualities and subtly sweet liquorice root that danced around the red, red cherries. Top marks for being quite interesting.

2010 Escarpment Pinot Noir (-,-) a classic Pinot Noir with plenty of fruit designed for good cellaring. A super dry wine with hints of florals and the earthy notes of mushroom. The wine was very changeable with a different expression each time I came back to it.

2010 Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir (-,7) this wine was served second in this first flight. Geoff encouraged us all to come back and re-taste this one after we had tried a few and had gotten used to the tannins and acidity. It was a valuable piece of advice as this earthy, super dry wine blossomed into a bouquet of dark roses on the second go around.
2009 Rippon Pinot Noir Mature Vine (-,-) the 2009 Rippon may have been picked too early robbing it of a fuller fruit and florals expression that is oh-so-essential when picking a wine to cellar.

2009 Palliser Estate Pinot Noir (1,1) a very masculine style the Palliser Estate was giving off smoked and charred wood and a really gamy leather flair. With air and time the sharp edges of the wine softened, but with a limited expression of fruit, this wine is likely better enjoyed young.

2010 Craggy Range Pinot Noir Te Muna Road (1,6) what’s really interesting about this one, is that the end result was described to be a stylistic choice as the team at Craggy Range are picking their Pinot earlier than they ever have before. The result for myself, and many others, were green tannins and stalky characters that denote a wine lacking in ripeness. Especially as this was a cellaring tasting where we measured wines to see if they could stand the test of time, the overwhelming opinion was that the 2010 Te Muna would not.

Flight two

Absolutely opposite to the first flight. With this bunch I was stuck searching for the bottom wine. The wines continued to be grouped in the flight so that similar styles were presented together.

2010 Greywacke Pinot Noir (6,-) this wine just continues to improve with an exciting and enticing mouthfeel and plenty of fruit and floral characters mixed with the more masculine notes of tobacco and forest floor.

2009 Pisa Range Estate Pinot Noir Black Poplar Block (4,1) the Pisa Range was paired well with the Greywacke stylistically there’s plenty of fruit as well as notes of honeycomb and a slight caramelisation. Geoff recommended that this wine is cellared and not opened for at least five years.

2010 Neudorf Pinot Noir Moutere (2,2) big, big fruit with a herbal freshness, this wine really has character and flair. The same fruity, floral, spearmint-y/herbal aromas are mimicked in the mouth.

2010 Dry River Pinot Noir (3,5) purely plum with a slight hint of lilac. Packed with super dark fruits the wine is well balanced with a healthy hit of oak. The pricey Dry River was appealing and pleasing.

2010 Quartz Reef Pinot Noir Bendigo Estate Black Label (-,1) this was the first wine in the second flight and it mimicked some of the herbal and basil notes seen in the first flight. That this has been pushed halfway down the list speaks volumes about how nice the other Pinots that came before really are. The Quartz Reef had an full, voluptuous mouthfeel, not too much oak and the right amount of red fruits and florals. A perfectly lovely wine.

2010 Peregrine Pinot Noir (3,1) another dark fruit red that was paired in the flight with the Dry River as a similar style. The black cherry notes were fairly subtle with the predominant character being one of oaking and sharp, spiky tannins. As there is some fruit character present, this wine may just require some more time in the cellar.

2010 Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir (1,1) a rather shy flower was the Martinborough Pinot as it flashed a teasing peak at red fruits and luscious ripeness but then hid it’s inviting nature away amidst the oak and tannins.

2009 Misha’s Vineyard Pinot Noir High Note (-,8) the wine lacked structure with yeasty aromas and bread-like flavours. Misha’s wasn’t as immaculately clean and vibrant as the other wines. I was surprised when the wine was unveiled as I’ve read really good things about Misha’s in the past.


It’s really wonderful to have the opportunity to taste so much variety. As these were blind there were no preconceptions attached to label, location or price when tasting, which can be really valuable.

Overall the idea of picking a top and a bottom wine was challenging as more appropriately the divide was more along the lines of amazing, best, better, good – with no truly terrible wines in the mix. I will be looking out for some 2010 Ata Rangi that may still be hidden away somewhere, but I’m not holding out much hope and I will definitely be investing in some of Kevin Judd’s Greywacke. As always Geoff’s enthusiasm and experience made for an enjoyable and enlightening evening.