Winemaker’s Comment – Spring Newsletter 2008

 Our earlier (and perhaps somewhat bold) predictions of our 2007 wines being regarded as landmark and the best we have done are being solidly confirmed. The wines have settled down in bottle and are now really showing their true class. At various tastings over the last 6 months, feedback from the many trade and media visitors we receive at the winery, write-ups the wines have received around the world and not to mention feedback from you, all agree with us that this is indeed a very fine vintage. It is not just a great vintage because of sheer size or power, but more because of the elegance, harmony and textures that the wines possess and what we see as a perfect as we can imagine aroma and flavour profile. 

One review that we were particularly thrilled to receive was from the highly regarded (and often difficult to please) US writer Stephen Tanzer. In his review of over 80 New Zealand Pinot Noirs, four of our 2007s were in his top seven. And if you include the 2007 Pyramid Valley Calvert Vineyard Pinot Noir, we grew five of the seven! Hats off to Gareth and his team. 

We’re pleased to still be able to offer the 2007 Felton Road Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. With the smaller 2007 vintage, our remaining stocks of 2007s will be snapped up pretty fast so we encourage you to act quickly in order to avoid disappointment. A new release in this newsletter is the second vintage of the Calvert Pinot Noir. The wine expresses this great vineyard site well with considerable personality and depth and all the positive 2007 attributes. 

With all this excitement about the 2007’s, it’s with some trepidation that I begin to describe the 2008 vintage to you! Its not the first time that we’ve had a very good vintage then struggle to get as excited about the next: 2005 to 2006 is a good recent example. While initially somewhat muted about the potential of the 2006s, it took outside critical acclaim (with our highest scores ever from the Wine Advocate), to remind us how good these wines are. 2008 shares the same good sized crop as 2006 but had a cooler finish to the season compared to the warm harvest that we experienced in 2006. As in 2006, with berries a little larger than we would have liked in the Pinot Noir, we bled the must to make a Vin Gris, but due to the cooler season it appears at the moment that the wines have a little more depth than the 2006s. One advantage we enjoy is that in these cooler years when we need to wait patiently for the grapes to achieve optimum ripeness, we can do so without the threat of disease because of our very low rainfall and humidity. This is quite a unique attribute for fine Pinot Noir growing regions and one the Burgundians would give every eye-tooth for. Its still early days yet for the Pinot Noirs and we look forward to monitoring their development over the summer. In the meantime, the 2008 Rieslings and 2008 Vin Gris should provide you with something interesting to monitor over the summer!  

Caroline has just returned from working 6 weeks vintage with our friends at Saintsbury winery in Carneros, Napa Valley California. While I bet sometimes she wishes it would be nice to make more Pinot Noir to make allocations easier, I think making 60,000 cases of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay may just have reaffirmed her view that small is beautiful. In July, I spent 10 frantic but fantastic days in Japan. Our hard working importer Village Cellars organised tasting, after seminar, after working lunch, after bottle signing, after winemakers dinner etc. I must have met almost every Japanese New Zealand Pinot Noir enthusiast and I now have a glimpse of what it must be like running in an election! However, remembering that I live three hours from the nearest traffic light, it doesn’t take too many wonderful Sushi meals and late night wine bars to make it all worthwhile for me!

After Japan, Nigel and I spent a few days in the Mosel visiting producers there and tasting their already legendary 2007s. We then attended two international wine events in the USA. First was the International Pinot Noir Celebration in Oregon where Nigel presented on sustainability issues, then immediately after an International Riesling event in Seattle. It was probably one gig too many on the global rock and roll tour that is my winter travels, either that or I’m just getting too old, but I was glad to get home and see if the builders were any closer to finishing my new house. Credit crunch castle, as I may have to name it, will be my new home by the time you get this… Please! 

Lastly, in our efforts to reduce our environmental footprint, our next newsletter will also be available by email. While we still prefer an old-fashioned physical newsletter, we know some of you travel a lot and receiving wine offers by email is preferable (several wine merchants in NZ know this works very well on me!). Please tick the box on the order form if you would prefer to receive it by email only, continue to receive a hard copy in the post, or both email and post.

We hope you enjoy these new releases.


Blair Walter