Winemaker's Comment Autumn 2008

2007 represents something of a watershed for us. Ever since we started with organic and biodynamic farming, people would ask us: can you taste the difference in the wine? The only reply we could give was: we don’t know, because we don’t know what the wine would have tasted like if we didn’t do it. 

The 2007 vintage has changed that. The season started with a cold spring and early summer and many of the vines throughout Central Otago started to show signs of stress. Although the second half of the growing season was warm and kind, many vines stalled on their way to ripeness, simply lacking the strength to finish the job. That was the regional picture. 

We saw a different story. Our vines stayed dark in colour and full of resilience. They cruised through to ripeness. We were possibly the first to start picking, an unheard of thing when many other vineyards are about a week ahead of us in a normal season. We were the first to finish, having put all the fruit away while some were just starting their harvest. For a full month after picking, the vines stayed green and fresh looking; something we have never witnessed before. At first all this was a bit disconcerting; had we missed something? Should we have waited? 

In the last few months we have been somewhat surprised to hear many people describe the 2007 vintage in Central Otago as OK… quite nice… a bit stressy. For us these are wines of unmatched concentration and rich complexity. They combine the ripeness of the 06s with the concentration of the 05s and a certain extra magic that is unique to this vintage. In short we see them as landmark wines. 

There are other signs. For years we have had problems with yields and general vine strength in Block 9: a smaller Chardonnay block. Gareth decided to try an application of preparation 501: a biodynamic silica, buried through the summer months, which is supposed to increase energy in the vines. We have just harvested the best crop from this block we have ever seen with vine health looking transformed. 

So this is the year when we can really say: yes, we can see a clear difference in the wines that relates straight back to the vineyard programme.  

It is also the year that we finally bring Cornish Point into the Felton Road stable. Ever since we planted our Pinot Noir laboratory as many have termed it, we have been keenly watching Cornish Point’s evolution and have been using some fruit to produce a Pinot Noir under the Cornish Point Label as well as using it in Felton Road Pinot Noir. This is the fifth vintage from Cornish Point and we have decided to take some of the vineyards finest blocks to create a single vineyard wine that sits alongside our Calvert Pinot Noir. 

They form a fascinating contrast: where Calvert displays elegance and great purity, Cornish Point displays heady perfume and seductive opulence: very much the feminine vineyard out of the three estate properties. This probably brings the range of wines to its logical conclusion as well: the Felton Road Pinot Noir being the blend of the three vineyards, then single vineyard wines from Calvert and Cornish Point, and the two single block wines from Elms (Block 3 and Block 5). 

What else is happening? Jane has just left us to start her new position as winemaker at nearby Carrick. She will be a tough act to follow, having played a key part in making not just the wines, but brownies when treats are needed and stepping in to cook lunch when Nigel’s not around. Well miss her, but she is being replaced with Todd Stevens, who joins us from Quartz Reef (sorry Rudi!). Todd has settled in very fast and while not displaying quite the same skills with brownies, he’s certainly at home making his first Felton Roads. 

It is also great for me to have Alex Kongsgaard here to help for the vintage. Alex’s dad; John, was my early mentor, taught me much about Chardonnay (he makes one of America’s very finest), and its nice to return a little of the favour and show Alex something of how we make wine.

Sustainability has been in the news a lot this year as has the issue of Carbon footprints. We have added a novel twist to sustainability by planting a large veggie patch at Calvert and another at the foot of Block 5. We are specialising in growing some of the old varieties long forgotten by modern farmers. Pink Fir Apple potatoes and Brandywine tomatoes have been very popular as well as French beans. Next year we intend to extend the programme and increase the varieties and selection. 

We have been doing a lot of work measuring our carbon footprint and comparing it against other producers. The detail would take far too long to go into, but we are very proud of where we stand in the comparison charts and we have been asked to present some of our work at a conference in the US later in the year.

I hope you enjoy drinking the 2007 wines. We are very proud of them and we trust you’ll share our enthusiasm.


Blair Walter