Winemaker's Comment Autumn 2006

This year our cover picture shows the winery library where we keep the reference bottles of every wine we have ever made. To date we have bottled 72 wines (including the three notorious Sauvignon Blancs!), a number that surprised me when I came to count them all.  Were offering a free case of 2005 Pinot Noir for the first person who can fax or email us with the correct list of all the wines we have bottled. (A clue: the 1995 Pinot Noir doesn’t count as I didn’t make it. Also past employees and owners excluded!). 

This letter marks the release of our 9th vintage and we are just finishing making the 10th as I write. It seems rather sad that for the first time since the winery’s inception, on this release we are offering just two wines to you. But what wines! More on that further down. 

The reasons for this small offer are simple. All our 2005 Rieslings have long since sold out from their release last year. Normally we would have some left, but demand seems to inexorably increase and 2005 was a small vintage. The Chardonnay would normally be in bottle now but, as I write, it sits in the winery still going through its malolactic fermentation with aching slowness. I showed it to Pascal Marchand the celebrated Burgundian winemaker when he popped by some weeks ago and asked his advice about my reluctant 73rd child. He was hardly helpful: “Late malo? fantastic it always makes the best wines”, was his cheerful reply. So we have to be patient, but it will be worth the wait I am very sure. We plan to release it to you in the winter. As usual, the 2005 Pinot Noir Block 3 (number 72!) has been offered to those on the Block list. Please tick the box on the order form if you would like to be placed on the waiting list for the Block offerings. Number 74: the 2005 Pinot Noir Block 5 will be bottled in the spring. 

Then there are the wines (numbers 75-84) we are making from the 2006 fruit that is now in the winery. We had a very successful vintage, very early and pleasingly, a return to normal yields. The vineyard survived the heat spikes (temperatures as high as 39C) during early February and the Biodynamic viticulture is really starting to take strong affect. It was a very dry growing season and the increasing organic matter and improved health of the soil provided a wonderful moderating platform for the vines. 

Due to the long line of sold out stickers on the cellar door list, Caroline was twiddling her thumbs a bit this year so she helped us out in the winery during vintage. She found muscles that she didn’t know existed, realised the importance of the hop to any good vintner, and will have better explanations for you all as to how this is made or why there’s simply none left! Also new in the winery is Jane Docherty my new assistant. Apart from being a pretty talented budding winemaker makes a mean brownie and espresso, not to mention a great emergency back up lunch chef when Nigel’s gone fishing! Sarah Lundon has also joined us in the office, and with all the great lunches, wines and banter, is wondering what on earth she has gotten herself into. 

While it was depressing to look at the small pile of 2005 Pinot Noir after our bottling, we cheered up when we tasted the wine. We see it, of course, in barrel in its 20 odd components, then blended in tank ready to bottle. Somehow though it has to come from a sealed, finished bottle to be the real thing. We are confident it is a benchmark for us. It is impossible to say this early exactly what the future holds, but we are in no doubt that it is one of the very finest wines we have ever made. It is not a wine for early drinking - the nearest thing to a Vin de Gard yet - but I look ahead with huge satisfaction to my trip to Burgundy in July, when I can pass a bottle of this across the table and say: Here’s one of ours. 

The Burgundy trip will be an important part of my winter; the first time I’ve had time to get over since 2002. A lot has changed in that time. On my last visit, many had never heard of Central Otago and only a few knew of our wines. This trip will be one where most of the winemakers know us and the wines we make. Among the younger winemakers especially, there is a huge camaraderie within the Pinot world, so we can expect a warm welcome and some fine wines to try from their exceptional ‘05 vintage. 

We have just finished compiling a cellaring guide for our website. It offers recommendations on the optimum cellaring times to get the most enjoyment from our wines. There are also tasting notes from when we last tasted the wine to give an indication of what to expect. 

Lastly, we are very confident that these 2005 wines will be able to hold pride of place in your cellar and to be enjoyed over the next several years. 


Blair Walter