Ata Rangi tasting with Helen Masters

Ata Rangi tasting 1

In the middle of October I attended a tasting at Regional Wines of the wines of Ata Rangi, the successful Martinborough producer, in the company of their head winemaker Helen Masters. Ata Rangi is a member of the Family of Twelve – a marketing-led ‘grand cru’ grouping of twelve of NZs most noted and celebrated wineries.

We would be looking at a couple of their Pinot Gris vintages, a couple of Chardonnays, their ‘value’ Pinot Noir and then a short vertical of their flagship Pinot Noir, then finishing off with a red blend that is a favourite of mine.

All wines are from Martinborough fruit.

Ata Rangi Tasting 2

2016 Ata Rangi Lismore Pinot Gris – Light rose gold colour. In an Alsatian style. Whole bunch pressed. 5.5g RS.  Lightly aromatic with aromas of licorice, apple and white pepper. Fresh and fine in the mouth. Light citrus, peppery, with balance, long and hot. Not oily, which I prefer.

2012 Ata Rangi Lismore Pinot Gris – Brilliant greenish straw colour. 6.5g RS.  From a cool year. Aromatic, forward and sweet and fruity, further scents of confectionery, apple, mandarins and orange peel. Crisp taste, some development, juicy and luscious, short, sweet and textured. Again, non-oily.

2016 Ata Rangi Craighall Chardonnay – Crisp light white gold colour. Mendoza clone, 20% new oak.  Fine bouquet with white florals, layered with citrus, honey and melon. Dense, some reduction. Flavours of citrus fruit, lemons and limes, lean and linear, dry and clean. Balanced. Crunchily textural. Lovely acidity and concentration. Like all great Chardonnays, this was luminous. I liked it very much, and bought a bottle for the Pool Room.

2012 Ata Rangi Craighall Chardonnay – Pale straw colour. Mendoza clone, 20% new oak.  Fine bouquet again, with citrus. Warmer-toned on the nose than the ’16, and showed light spice and butterscotch notes. Dense, flinty and very crisp to taste. There was a kick on the back palate as well. Less balanced, somewhat awkward. Showing the effect of the cool year I suspect. Helen talked this one up, I marked it down.

2016 Ata Rangi Crimson Pinot Noir – Bright ruby colour. A fruit-forward accessible early drinking style. Fruit selected from AR vines under 20 years old. Cheerful. Lean on the nose with red cherries. Red fruit on palate, light and washed, somewhat bitter and lean. Drying, some said supple tannins.

2015 Ata Rangi Crimson Pinot Noir – Bright ruby colour. Fruit-forward, more flavour and density and depth than the ’16, still with the typical bitter/spice finish. Stalky, seed-y tannins. I found both Crimsons were hard to like.

2015 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir – Deep carmine colour. Floral and tight and dense aromas of rich red fruit, dark cherries, savoury, cardboard. Rich fruit flavours, full and ripe yet with lovely crispness and lusciousness. Packed with flavour. Such tension and power. No bitterness at all at the finish. Presistence. Sensational wine.

2010 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir – Deep carmine colour, tending brown. Floral and light. Slightly stalky and bitter. My notes are otherwise silent on this one – I must have been looking the other way because other tasters judged this sensational also.

2008 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir – Deep brown carmine colour. Quite primary still, but some age characters emerging of herbs and forest floor. Punchy to drink, with dark cherries, pepper and spice. Huge extract, packed with fruit flavour. Showed gorgeous poise and elegance over time, and started to sing.

2013 Ata Rangi McCrone Vineyard Pinot Noir – Somewhat dumb, with subdued florality. Big chunky and fat. Big fleshy tannins. Showed the ripeness of the 2013 vintage.

2014 Ata Rangi Celebre – A Merlot dominant/Syrah/Cabernets blend. A cool climate energetic red blend, with fine savoury tannins and ripe berries. Delicious unctuousness.


What’s in the glass tonight November 10th – Pinot Gris


Triplebank Pinot Gris Marlborough 2016 – $

Fresh off the fields, this. Another Awatere Valley wine.

Brilliant pale gold. 14% alc.

Nice fragrance, smells sweet and lifted, with notes of sweet apples and rock melon.

Fresh on attack, with sweet ripe golden fruit flavours up front. Lots of flavour, a creamy mouthfeel. Citrus line through the mid palate, and a slightly bitter finish. A nice spice catch on the back of the throat.

87 points

What’s in the glass tonight October 17th – Pinot Gris


From the Cellar: Hans Herzog Pinot Gris Marlborough 2015 – $$$

This wine comes from a long-established and committed artisan organic wine producer in Marlborough. The producer boasts 29 different grape varieties planted on the property. We enjoyed their cellar door hospitality on our last visit down south very much.


Orange mandarin blush. 13.5% alc.

Light and savoury on nose, a little hesitant to open up. I coaxed aromas of melon, soft pear and Turkish delight from the glass. It hinted at funky, and ‘worked’.

To drink, I tasted light strawberries and baking spice, apple. A soft mouthfeel initially, with a good citrus line throughout. Medium length. Finished grassy.

An appealing Gris with an attractive colour in the glass. Although it wasn’t presented as such at their Cellar Door when we first tasted it, but this wine could well fall under the category of “orange wine”. If so, it would be my first…

89 points

What’s in the glass tonight August 3rd – Pinot Gris

Woven Stone Pinot Gris 2014

Woven Stone Pinot Gris Ohau 2014 – $$

From one of my fav local producers. Brilliant gold colour. 14% alc.

Aromatic with sweet pears, manuka honey, and golden delicious apples. Lovely.

There were apples in the mouth also, and mandarin peel. A lively and well-formed wine. Balanced acid and lightly itchy spice. Salty through the mid-palate, some pepper, with an intriguing oyster shell iodine finish. A good Gris, this.

88 points

What’s in the glass tonight May 18th – Pinot Gris

Stone Cutter 2

Stone Cutter Pinot Gris Martinborough 2013 – $$

Pale greenish gold colour.  14.5% alc.

Clean lifted aromas of golden apple and pear.

Off dry, lightly spiced on taste.  Ripe and fresh. Typical notes of honey and Turkish Delight. This is a strong and delicious Gris. The lack of the typical PG bitterness on the finish is also very welcome. 90 points.

What’s in the glass tonight May 8th, 9th – A Ramble Around Martinborough

Martinborough Rows

Two Saturdays ago L and I stayed in Martinborough for the weekend. On the recommendation of our friend LH I had booked dinner for us at Tirohana Estate on Puruatanga Road. The proprietors picked us up in their van which was mighty decent.

The restaurant was in a beautiful white-gabled colonial house on the Estate. We enjoyed an amuse bouche, homemade pate, fish and lamb shanks, petit fours for after – so rich and good! Toby our Maitre’D was friendly, attentive and knowledgeable about the estate’s wines.


I had a glass of Tirohana Estate Sauvignon Blanc Martinborough 2014 to start, which showed apple, pear and petrol /aftershave. Flavours of mandarin peel and Gran Marnier, light, ripe & fleshy. Not a hint of grass or capsicum to be seen. Interesting. With my lamb I had a glass of Tirohana Estate Pinot Noir Martinborough 2013.  The nose exhibited density, florality and spice. The palate was fine, with bright ripe red cherries, fine tannins, and a hottish finish. Good.

The next morning, we wanted to burn off a big cooked breakfast, so we went out for a walk. We headed for a far-away hill track, but it turned out to be a bit further that we reckoned. We had walked for over an hour from our accommodation, and we hadn’t even got to the start of it. And then the morning’s meal caught me short and in trouble. I was about to touch cloth, but luckily we saw a winery open nearby for tastings. Two birds, one stone etc!

Stone Cutter

We got a great welcome from the new owner at Stone Cutter Vineyard on Todds Road. We tried their Stone Cutter Pinot Gris 2013  and Stone Cutter Syren Pinot Gris 2013, their Stone Cutter Pinot Noir 2013 and Stone Cutter Syren Pinot Noir 2013. L tried also their Stone Cutter 2014 Topaz – a sweet blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurtztraminer – & liked & bought a bottle, along with their PG.

Poppies wine list

We had lunch at Poppies Martinborough also on Puruatanga Rd later that afternoon, after the Mothers Day rush had eased (a little). Super-enthusiast winemaker Poppy and her viticulturist husband Shayne made us so very welcome. She led us through a tasting of their wines (they had sold out of their rose & chardonnay alas) – their age-worthy Sauvignon Blanc, fruity Pinot Gris and dusky Pinot Noir wines tasted delightful in the faded-euro elegance of their tasting room.


I selected the Poppies Martinborough Dry Riesling 2015 to have with the fantastically delicious vineyard platter served on the sunny terrace. Nose of apples. Very astringent and lean and fresh, lots of green apple, needs time to ease out of a current austere & angular phase. This too was selling out as we tasted. They are keen to secure additional grapes, as their business in barnstorming along.

Ata Rangi tasting room

We finished our amble at one of Martinborough’s, and New Zealand’s, 1er cru vineyards – Ata Rangi, further along Puruatanga Road. A rustic looking tasting room, containing stunning wines. We tried their current fresh Sauvignon Blanc, ripe and simple Crimson Pinot Noir (second label), their wonderfully rich and age-worthy Celebre red blend, and the fragrant powerful Craighall Vineyard and elegant Petrie Vineyard Chardonnays. A fine way to end the afternoon!


What’s in the glass tonight October 22nd

Oyster Bay PG 2014

Oyster Bay Pinot Gris Hawkes Bay 2014

A regional HB blend. 13% alc. Pale straw.

Clean clear aromas. Pears, light apples. Smells like summer 🙂

An off dry style in the mouth. Crisp pear flavours, slightly bitter. A light, approachable and agreeable fruit-full quaffer.

BTG 3+

What’s in the glass tonight Sept 17th

Thornbury PG 2015

Thornbury Pinot Gris Waipara 2015 – $$

Pale green-gold. 13.5%.

Pears and apples on the nose. Spicy, lifted aromatics. Quite a bold style. Nice.

Off-dry. Rich flavours of apricots and pears, fresh and sweet. Slight spicy/bitter finish – typical of PG. Once the glass warmed up I got a lovely hit of mandarin.

VG 4

What’s in the glass tonight May 19th

Turnstone Pinot Gris 2014

Turnstone Pinot Gris Marlborough 2014 

13.4% alc. Brilliant lemon gold yellow. Pear and orange on the nose, with hay barn straw. Very lifted and aromatic and inviting. Promises much..

..and delivers. Pear and crisp apple flavours. Sweet and long. I see honey, and slight bitterness and spice heat on the back palate. A seriously good and tasty PG!

VG 4

What’s in the glass tonight January 2nd

Coney Pinot Gris 2013

Coney Piccolo Pinot Gris Martinborough 2013

The story of Coney Wines from their website:

When people ask us, as they frequently do, why two city dwellers should suddenly buy a 16 acre bare paddock in Dry River Road, Martinborough, dismiss the sheep and plant 10,000 vines by spade, the answer is palpable – we’d simply lost our marbles.

What had been envisaged as a gentle descent into middle age retirement has turned into a thriving 24/7 bustle of vinetending, winemaking, marketing and restaurateuring – each operation undertaken in the hallowed, self-flagellating Martinborough tradition – by manual labour. Be it leaf-plucking or bunch thinning by hand in the vineyard to ensure umblemished, perfectly ripe fruit, or the sheer tastiness of Margaret’s cuisine which derives from the traditional “homemade” quality of every ingredient served to appreciative diners – the Coney aim is to pay keen attention to detail.

And so the old-fashioned notion that small is beautiful, that honest sweat produces happiness turns out to be our guiding principle. In the modern world, a small vineyard/winery represents one of the few remaining occupations where a bloke can go from planting to bottle, get out of the house/office and enjoy the sun on his back to music.

Our logo, the treble clef, with grape bunch delicately appended, comes from the family’s love of music – it is also a nice metaphor for the harmony experienced in a lovely wine. Headphones are mandatory in the vineyard, and many a passing local has marvelled at the gangly Coney legs in gyration to an Eagles, LRB or Beatles number. Scientific tests also confirm that grapes respond positively to a diet of 1970’s music!! The wines themselves have harmonious names – Rallentando, Ragtime, Ramblin’ Rose and Pizzicato. These three have now been joined by tiny quantities of Piccolo Pinot Gris and Que Sera Syrah.

I am advised that Piccolo is made in the fuller, broader Alsace style.

Pale straw colour. 13.5% alcohol.

Floral and fragrant, with forward ripe stonefruit on the nose. Pears, apricots and ginger on the palate. Substantial body. I like it! Very Good 4