An Insight to Escarpment Vineyard with Larry McKenna and Huw Kinch – October 2015

Escarpment Tasting 2015

Escarpment Martinborough Tasting, and the superlative 2013 Kupe Pinot Noir.

Another tasting at my favourite bottle store Regional Wines and Spirits, hosted by Richard Sheriff. I remember vividly the last time I tasted a horizontal of Larry McKenna’s wines. He produces some great ones. I recall being really taken with his Pahi Pinot Noir back then, and still have a bottle of it in the Pool Room.

Good news for the producer is that their investor has recommitted to the venture, and this security of investment is driving export expansion and new construction in the winery. 70% of what Escarpment produce is being exported now. Which is good for them, but not so good for us who want to drink the wines here…

The bad news is that they have lost access to fruit from the Pahi vineyard. The owner passed away, and the plot was sold to a higher bidder, and rival winemaker. Still, Larry sez he still has the ’14 and ’15’s in barrel…

And so to the wines:

2013 Escarpment Riesling – 12%. Very pale greenish straw colour. Fresh, fruity and gracious, with a phenolic tang. Sharp and light to taste, bracing acidity to the mid-palate, lemony green and sharp. Good now, will really hit its straps in another year or two. Excellent start to the flight! 4

2012 Escarpment Chardonnay – Wow. This boasted aromas similar to a European Chardonnay. Was it sulphur, was it reductive?  Anyway, it smelled complex and intriguing, and bold, with sensitive oak and soft golden fruit notes. In the mouth it was lean and linear, with lemon/lime flavours in a Chablis style. A mouthwatering finish. Wild fermented in 15% new lightly-toasted barrels. A compelling wine. 4+

2012 Escarpment Kupe Chardonnay – Single vineyard Chardonnay. 25% new oak with full malo treatment. Floral bouquet with vanilla and honey, slightly sweet. To drink it tasted tight and angular, locked-in, almost unfinished in a way. Ended on the bitter side. A much different wine to the estate wine just before it, and not as successful to my taste.

2013 Escarpment Pinot Noir – 50% whole bunch fermentation. Deep carmine colour. The ‘district’ blend. Notes of black cherries on the nose, a little closed. ‘Hay’-like typicity. To taste – dusty, smooth, with ripe fruit, fine tannins, and a light spicy finish. Nice.

2013 Escarpment Pahi Pinot Noir – The first of the SV Pinot’s. Deep carmine. Lovely floral character, light and sweet, with ripe red cherries. There was enough density in the glass to hold up very well, with perfect ripeness, generosity, and pure fruit. A joyful expression of Pinot Noir. 4+

2013 Escarpment Kiwa Pinot Noir – Picked earliest, whole bunch fermented for texture, with vine age. Deep carmine again. A nose that was dense and composed with a lovely floral quality. Savoury and gamey to taste, a step up in intensity from the Pahi. It was tannic and brusque, with medium grained tannins. Showed purity and ripeness. Explosive. 4+

2013 Escarpment Te Rehua Pinot Noir – 50% whole bunch fermentation, plunged twice daily. Deepest carmine colour. A lifted, increased intensity on bouquet, showing more weight and structure, and ticklish on the nose with bold spice. Deep and impressive in the mouth. Compressed. Lots of deep fruit flavours, with oak and vanilla. Soft, fine tannins. It shows the deepest fruit weight of those shown so far. Delicious. 4

2013 Escarpment Kupe Pinot Noir – The nominal ‘top’ wine of the stable. 70% whole bunch fermentation. Deep carmine. High level of dry extract. An amazing wine. – spectacular in structure and depth. A fine blend of balance and power. Dusty and dry, fruity and powerful. Lots of ‘stuffing’ in this wine. Gorgeous, I was blown away. 20/20 by one critic. I agree. Outstanding! 5

2012 Escarpment Kupe Pinot Noir – 35% whole bunch fermentation. Brownish deep carmine. The nose exhibits bright medicinal top notes, with some tertiary evidence of age beginning to show. Slightly stalky to taste (it was a cool wet vintage), less fruit on show, and savoury. SV elegance, with structure.

2011 Escarpment Kupe Pinot Noir – 70% whole bunch fermentation. Brownish deep carmine. Somewhat closed nose. An attractive medicinal character peeks through. There is power and intensity on palate, supported by fruit ripeness. The tannins are grippy and crystalline. Shows the benefit, yet again, of a superb vineyard site.

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This tasting was held the night before my wedding. A very kind and thoughtful friend, GN, who was there also, made a gift of a bottle of 2013 Escarpment Pahi Pinot Noir to me and my wife L, and delivered it to the venue the following day. Thank you very much, G. You must come over sometime soon and help me drink the ’10.

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