Felton Road at Regional Wines & Spirits – February 23 2016 – with Richard Sheriff
This was probably the best tasting I have ever attended…
Blair Walter is the winemaker for Felton Road. I believe he leads one of New Zealand’s few producers that could claim Premier Cru status if we had it. He honoured us all who attended the tasting by raiding his library and presenting mini verticals of his Rieslings, Chardonnays, and Pinot Noirs. The tasting accommodated 30 seats, and sold out in 25 minutes. I was one of the lucky ones.
Blair runs his place like a clos. He caps production at anywhere from 9000-12000 case PA. The owner does not look for growth or acquisitions. Felton Road aims to produce the best wine they can off their land, and bio-dynamically since 2005. Demand outstrips supply. They sell all that they make – 75% is exported. They have a strong and loyal customer base within New Zealand. There is a waiting list for Block allocations. You must request an appointment to visit the Cellar Door.
Here is what we tasted:
Felton Road Riesling Bannockburn 2015 – At 8.44% measured alc, this produced a small problem for Blair – the wines were too low in alcohol to be accepted into the EU as ‘wine’, (or something legislative/regulatory like that), and the shipment had to be returned to New Zealand! Pale green straw colour. Off dry. Sweet nose opens up in the glass. Sweet attack, bracing fresh apples – delightful. Germanic in influence. Very balanced acid with fruit. So approachable now, can age for 25 years. I bought some of this.
Felton Road Riesling Bannockburn 2010 – Pale green straw colour. Sweet again on the nose, I smelt Golden Delicious apples amongst everything else. Balanced in the mouth, smooth, notes of honey, not as acidic as the ‘15
Felton Road Riesling 2005 – Pale gold green straw colour. Sweet, big, bold, bracing. Lots and lots of flavour. The wine has a gorgeous aged tang about it – so Riesling! Drinking fabulously.
Felton Road Riesling 1997 – Brilliant gold colour. A funky nose, slightly bitter and burnt. Lean, receding ripe fallen orchard fruit, biscuits, surprising acidity. Stunning.
Felton Road Chardonnay Block 2 2014 – Pale straw colour. An old-world nose, lean, elegant, green citrus notes. Minerally austere stone fruit to taste. Good depth of fruit, quite linear. Tight, crisp, salty finish. Oyster shells. I bought this too.
Felton Road Chardonnay Block 2 2011 – Pale straw. An European nose again, remarkable. I haven’t see this so markedly in a New Zealand white wine before. Notes of burnt match and flint. This is a cool climate wine – green leaf, lesser ripenes, mineral, austere. Like a Chablis. Showing some age development.
Felton Road Chardonnay Block 2 2007 – (served in Magnum) Pale straw colour. Made in oxidative conditions. Showing good development. Gorgeous floral notes on bouquet, also a ristic feel. Totally European in expression. Marvellous.
Felton Road Chardonnay 2001 – Developing straw gold colour. An old nose – showing caramel, cashews. No oxidative characters. Solid fruit flavours, muscular, a strong backbone of acidity. A treasure in bottle. Totally remarkable.
Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5 2014 – Pinot ruby. Delicate sweet fruit, opening up in the glass as I write this. Subtle oak handling. Big ripe, soft flavours, freshness and ripe cherries. No green flavours. Delicious.
Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5 2008 – Pinot ruby. Showing age development, warming and sweet manuka honey, very elegant, with savoury and savoir characters. Density and cleanliness of flavour, dark cherries and a hint of burnt tobacco. Big again.
Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5 2004 – Pinot ruby. This wine is truly ‘kicking’ – savoury, herbaceous, slight underripeness/green leaf & funk. Big body, density and acidity, & strong fruit expression. Aging wonderfully.
Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 3 2004 – Pinot ruby. This wine was provided for tasting by a participant guest. This wine was more developed than the Block 5, and showed more fruit. It was gracious, rich and intense. Delicious.
Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5 2001 – (served in Magnum) Pinot ruby, tending brown. Sweet tobacco, toffee, caramel on bouquet. Great acidity, quite advanced on the pinot flavour/age profile. Splendid fruit density and intensity. Another treasure in bottle.
* * * *
Across all their grape varieties I think Felton Road is the best producer of fine wines in New Zealand. They drink superbly when young, and they appear to age impeccably and reliably. The winemakers totally get their terroir. They make wines that are to be admired and emulated, coveted, and enjoyed, by drinkers, not collectors!
It was a total treat & privilege to be there.
Kia ora Blair and Richard.