Gathan Beaga

Pinot Noir 2010

Pinot Noir 2010We just got back from the public tasting event at Pinot Noir 2010. This is a triennial trade conference for NZ Pinot Noir growers, winemakers, and various industry types. I’m none of these. But lucky for us, I won tickets to the public event for R. and me on Twitter.

There were 107 stands. Two hours was therefore not enough. Hell, two DAYS would not have been enough. Hats off to the professionals who have the stamina and the talent to get around everything with their palate and liver intact, and still deliver relatively meaningful and consistent judgements. (We hope.)

As for me, I’m not likely to deliver any meaningful or even useful judgements. I didn’t even get time to send any reviews to Corkscore! But we had lots of fun getting around the tiny few we managed to visit. In general the standard was pretty amazing, so any negative comments I may make should be viewed in that light. (We’ve found by experience that even a Pinot that seems average in a lineup is often pretty bloody good when you have it by itself with food of an evening.)

  • At Johner, we met the avuncular Karl Johner. I follow Patrick Johner on Twitter, and we all had a little bit of a laugh trying a barrel-drawn sample of the upcoming 2009, something Patrick (who is in Germany on the family’s vineyard over there at the moment) hasn’t tried yet. It was very good, too. At the very end we returned to try some of his Noble Pinot Noir, a beautiful and unusual dessert wine that we’ll have to get some more of.
  • at Pisa Range, we met the Hawkers. We’d enjoyed their Black Poplar Pinot when we were down south on holiday, and it was good to calibrate our expectations of the wines on something we’d had before and really enjoyed. It’s fair to say that not many wines exceeded the Pisa Range for us. Their 2005, which they dug out of their wine library specially for this tasting, was unbelievably intense and unlike any others I had (in a good way).
  • at Pyramid Valley we tried their Calvert Block Pinot. There’s three wineries that have made wine from the same block in the same year, and we were going to try and get around all three of them (Felton Road and Craggy Range are the other two) but we ran out of time.
  • at Brown Family Vineyards / Cape Campbell we met Alana, the winemaker (at the recommendation of Lucy who runs the Cape Campbell twitter account). I really wanted to like their Pinots but we found them a little too acidic compared to others we’d tried; though the Lobster Reef ‘09 (if I remember correctly) wasn’t too bad.
  • at Pegasus Bay I had high expectations but again I was a little disappointed with the acidic mouth. The Prima Donna reserve was beautiful up front and more balanced in the mouth compared to their standard range—but then that’s to be expected.
  • while we waited to edge into Felton Road I tried a couple of the Foxes Island wines. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t understand enough about the regional differences between Marlborough and my usual favoured Martinborough and Central Otago so I’ll need to leave it to others to explain it. For me, and this was true of many of the Marlborough Pinots, they just seemed flatter and less interesting (though I hate saying this, as the passion, effort, and love that’s gone into all these wines on show is plainly evident).
  • At Felton Road we tried one of their range, but sadly not the Calvert Block to extend our trio tasting. Felton Road was another one of those wines we wanted to love, being a big name Central Otago winery (and always closed when we wanted to visit it, the tease). But it didn’t grab us, and the crowd was closing in, so we moved on to the next stand on our list. So. Many. Wines. So. Little. Time.
  • At Valli Wines we tried all three of their rather amazing wines: the Gibbston, the Bannockburn, and the Waitaki. All three were great in their own right: but by this time, having neglected to spit out much of the wine and missed out on filling up on the delicious finger food, I was struggling to express exactly what the differences between the three were. R. and I both agreed that the Valli Gibbston Pinot Noir was one of the best we’d tasted all evening, if not the best—rounded and full. The Valli Waitaki, grown in limestone, really did taste minerally, something R. didn’t like so much, having had enough of hard water in her youth.
  • At Martinborough I’d heard (again via Twitter, this time through their winemaker Paul whom we met on their stand—I love how Twitter & wine just go together) that they’d had one of their ‘06 Marie Zelie Reserve opened. It was a clear step up from their two other Pinots, so much so that I’m unlikely ever to afford any. One to watch out for.
  • Finally, we saw that Larry McKenna of Escarpment was almost free, so while we waited to thank him for the tickets I won (for it was he who had organised the comp) we tasted his Escarpment, Kupe, and Kiwa Pinots. Of the three, we liked the Kupe best, though by this time neither of us could explain why. It was great to finally meet Larry too, and it’s clear we need to spend more time “researching” Martinborough wines.

So yes, two hours was not enough—we had a list of other wineries we didn’t get time to check out; and yet, it was probably enough on this amateur’s empty stomach. R. and I had a power of fun meeting the winemakers; hearing their stories; and trying their wines. It was a fantastic event.

The standout wines for us were, in no particular order, the Valli Gibbston; the Escarpment Kupe; the Pisa Range; and the Johner dessert Pinot.

Now: when’s the Riesling conference?