The Wild About Wine 2012 event showcased 21 Martinborough producers with over 90 wines available to sample. Walking into that much choice, you need to have a plan. Some people I talked to were only sampling the Pinot Noir or the Chardonnay available. A few were spitting, to allow them to taste more but maintain their clear head. My plan was to bring assistant tasters (also known as friends), they were tasked with alerting me to the best of the best so I was sure not to miss a thing. Obviously we’re not going to agree on every glass; every plan has it’s compromises.
As for the execution of the plan – tasting as wide a variety as possible – I attempted to visit tables when they were quieter to allow me to chat to the winemakers and their team. As with the wine, the people behind the wine all had their own approach. Some would offer you what they thought you should try, or in what order you needed to try wines. Others would pour you whatever you asked for in whatever order. Some would offer up a commentary on what they believed their wine to be, or what their vision was and if they felt they had executed it, and yet still others would simply comment that the wine was whatever you believed it to be.
These are the wines I didn’t need to look at my sheet of scribbles to remember.
Winemaker, Lance Redgwell, has a very clear, distinct vision for his wines. His Animus Pinot Noir 2011 he described as the non-selection. When picking grapes in his vineyard he’s consciously looking for a light and feminine nature to go into his top blend, Dovetail. Those grapes that don’t fit the delicate and refined profile of the Dovetail are perfect for the dark and edgy masculine Animus blend. Both the Animus and the Dovetail are Pinot Noir/Syrah blends but the character of the two wines couldn’t be more different. Typically when a winemaker is looking to enhance that lovely feminine nature in their wine, it comes off weak. The Dovetail had elegance and finesse but it was still full and rich. Simply beautiful.
Cambridge Road Dovetail 2010 Pinot Noir 71% Syrah 29% $65
I tasted the Syrah without thinking. Of all the reds, I am most drawn to Syrahs and the Schubert Syrah didn’t disappoint. Dark earth, charred wood and burnt cherry. It was only at the recommendation (read: insistence) of another punter that I went back to try the Pinot Noir and – wow – as someone who isn’t readily impressed with Pinots, this full bodied classic was lovely.
Schubert Marion’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010 Pinot Noir 100% $50
Te Kairanga were one of the teams that brought some tiered wines. They brought their everyday Estate Pinot Noir 2010 and their extraordinary Runholder Pinot Noir 2009. I only got halfway through the Pinot tiers as it was about this time that my swirling skills showed their limitations and I splashed Pinot Noir all down the front of my new silk top. Napkins, both clean and soaked in Sauvignon Blanc, were procured quickly by the lovely new Te Kairanga winemaker, John Kavanagh; from my assistant tasters a cardigan. After the embarrassment passed it was back to tasting.
I was glad I finished the tasting as the Runholder ticked all the right boxes as a full bodied wine with approachable tannins, healthy acidity and vibrant fruit characters – a balanced, easy drinking red at a very affordable price.
Te Kairanga Runholder Pinot Noir 2009 Pinot Noir 100% $32
This certified organic and biodynamic outfit has produced summer in a glass, times two. Their Bliss Sparkling Riesling 2010 and their Dry Riesling 2011 were perfect companions to the stunning sun that was streaming through the windows on a beautiful Wellington day. The two wines site on the opposite ends of the spectrum, where Bliss is bright, sweet floral and honey notes, the Dry is bone dry and earthy combining puckering grapefruit and the minerality of a wet riverbed. Both wines let the best of the summer shine.
Vynfields Dry Riesling 2010 Riesling 100% $29
It was their 2009 that did it for me. The 2008 was very welcoming and fruity, it was a perfectly pleasant wine. The 2010 was still a bit young. But it was the moody, darker nature of the 2009 that captivated my interest and wedged itself into my mental catalogue of wines to remember. It’s interesting that it was a warm and sunny vintage that produced such a sharp and masculine wine. Think of a friend who wasn’t so easy to get to know, but once they let you in, you absolutely adore them. That’s what this wine is like.
Brodie Estate Pinot Noir 2009 Pinot Noir 100% $39
Honourable mentions go to Haythornthwaite Gewurztraminer 2008, a lively, spicy and exciting Gewurtz and the Ata Rangi Syrah-Merlot 2010, a spicy, mouth-filling blend.
And from my tasting assistants top marks go to Vynfield’s Bliss Sparkling Riesling 2010 for Mary and Schubert’s Marion’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010 for Matt. Matt’s very close second was the Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010. Until I gave him a sip of my Schubert PN he was content to drink nothing but the Martinborough Pinot