Wine Tasting – Single Vineyard Specialists – April 30th

Just got back from a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir tasting that was totally amazeballs. My mouth and throat is coated with the most wonderful wine flavours…

The event was a tasting at Regional Wines where Michael Brajkovich of Kumeu River and Larry McKenna of Escarpment presented their single vineyard wines. The winemakers considered each single vineyard site as having special characters that could be seen in a single-site wine, but which would be lost in a blend.

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Flight One – Kumeu River:

Produced in Kumeu, north of Auckland, KR is known particularly for their chardonnays. The chardonnay vintage we were to taste (2010) was their 26th. Vintage 2010 was outstanding for weather, with no botrytis. Having said that, 50% of the bud was lost to a severe frost during Sept ’09. This resulted in a very low yield at vintage, but produced fruit with great intensity of flavour.

Michael sez that KR handpick, whole-bunch press and ferment with wild yeasts. The diacetyl that is produced is consumed by the malolactic bacteria during a long period of lees content, which reduces (deliberately) the ‘buttery’ character of the malo’d wines. They favour a cooper that produecs quite heavy-toasted barrels, but leaves the heads as raw oak. During a low yield year, less new oak barrels are used, and more 1-yr barrels.

Estate Chardonnay 2010  – $$$ – their ‘district’ wine from six Kumeu vineyards. Pale straw. Aromatic. Refreshing acidity; peachy; lean, notes of green apples. 20% new oak barrels with balance of 1 yr old oak barrels. Nice start to the tasting.

Coddington Chardonnay 2010 – $$$ – Light gold; aromatic, perfumed, spicy; rich, with lemons and firm acid. Superb.

Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2010 – $$$+ – Light gold; restrained perfume almost austere; expressive fruit, dense, peach and nectarines; some match head character.

Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2009 – $$$+ – Light gold; lovely fruit expression

Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2006 – Gold; deep aromatics; warm, showing bottle age with mealy notes, the acids are still very fresh. Drinking well.

Mates Vineyard Chardonnay 2010 – $$$++ – Gold; from the Mendoza/McCray clone; deep, elegant, spicy, with pears and nuts; textural. Superb.

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Flight Two – Escarpment:

Centered on Te Muna Rd in Martinborough, Escarpment are known for their pinot noir, though they also produce a chardonnay, pinot gris and reisling. They hand-pick their fruit, sort it on a shaker table, and whole-bunch press. If ripeness levels are good, will also include stems in the ferment.

Larry is also looking to take more control of fermentation by inoculating certain barrels against wild yeasts to slow the alcohol conversion process and keep the alcohol levels of the wine under 14%.

Correct tannins are important, and also producing the forest/ floor/ fungal characters so attractive about pinot noir. Larry maintains the ‘ markers’  each site maintains from vintage to vintage.

Kupe Chardonnay 2011 – $$$+ – pale straw; spicy aromatics; green apples; a lovely cool climate chardonnay with pleasing minerality. Very good.

Escarpment Pinot Noir 2010 – $$$ – the district blend – carmine colour; game-y, savoury, plum-y, fruit-driven; lovely.

Pahi Pinot Noir 2011 – $$$ – dark brownish carmine; herbal/savoury notes; others thought it was corked but it seemed fine to me, perhaps a little more restrained on the nose and simpler in the mouth than the others.

Pahi Pinot Noir 2010 – $$$+ – deep carmine; savoury, aromatic; velvety power, intensity of fruit, supple tannins; wine of the night for me.

Kiwa Pinot Noir 2011 – $$$+ – very dark brown/carmine; delightful perfume; tannic; oldest vines, perhaps strongest site expression of terroir; game-y and savoury

Te Rehua Pinot Noir 2011 – $$$+ – lovely rich carmine colour; powerful; warm ripeness and spicy cinnamon notes

Kupe Pinot Noir 2011 – $$$++ – rich carmine purple; sweet nose, truffles; old world, complex high intensity flavours (1×1.5 planting density which is not far off Bourgogne); lots of whole bunch and stalk character; good tannins. Needs time. GK sez the best Kupe yet. But very expensive…

Wow. I count myself really lucky to have tried these wines. Each was an experience in their own way, and prove that quality shows through and justifies a higher price. I see a Pahi 2010 and Coddington 2010 finding it’s way into the pool room …

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