Cult Diary (Week 2, 2019)
This is very late in the 'week' so much so that I think it is now Week 3, in any event, I'll try and post again on Sunday to recap this week. This week reminded me how important it is to get out there and visit suppliers and producers but most importantly to get onto the vineyard. Even without tasting any wine, time on the vineyard is invaluable especially as you get to learn more about sub-regions. Over the break, I was able to visit North Canterbury for the day and this impressed on me how diverse the region truly is. I was able to visit three of our favourite producers Pyramid Valley, Black Estate, and Pegasus Bay. Each of these is in a different sub-region and each with a distinct soil type.
Waikari (home of Pyramid Valley and also Bell Hill) is to the north-west and is deep lime which has skyrocketed these two producers (alongside the high quality of grape growing and winemaking) to the pinnacle of NZ pinot both domestically and internationally. At Pyramid Valley (now under the ownership of the partnership of Steve Smith MW (co-founder of Craggy Range and ace viticulturist) and Steve Sheth (billionaire tech genius) they are extending the four home blocks: Earth Smoke and Angel Flower (both Pinot Noir) and Field of Fire and Lions Tooth (both Chardonnay) as well as prospecting new parts of the vineyard for additional plantings. As well as this they are also soon going to have (finally) North Canterbury wines under the Growers Collection range which I think is extremely exciting. Winemaking is now handled by Huw Kinch, previously of Escarpment whose philosophy fits well with the standards and ideas of the previous owners Mike and Claudia Weersing.
Visiting at Black too was a revelation, but a different one. I was finally able to see all three vineyards which each express something different. Home is picturesque and as well as Pinot and Chardonnay - grown on all three sites, is home to two of my favourite expressions of Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc that are grown in NZ. Nick and I talked at length about Pet Nat and how different their wines are from the majority of kiwi pet nat wines being disgorged, almost crystal clear and profoundly elegant. Next we visited Damsteep (named because it is Damn Steep) where tiny parcels of maybe a few rows are squeezed into a steep and rolling hill. As well as Pinot this is home to Riesling which is usually made in a dry style, Nick expressed the opinion (and I agree) that the dry style is more suited to the clay hills of Canterbury where the richer, off-dry style has become classic (more on this later). Finally, we ended our visit at Netherwood home to the winery and Nick and Penn's house. This vineyard is spectacular, tucked away and secluded. The winery, however, was my highlight. Here things are done the old-skool way with bottles of Pet Nat being hand riddled before disgorgement and most ferments occurring in wooden open top tanks.
Finally, I visited Pegasus Bay where I talked to Paul about Riesling and their botrytis influenced style. He also suggested that a richer, off-dry, botrytis infected style is more suited to the dryer gravels where the North-Western wind protects from disease influence meaning they are able to leave grapes hanging on the vine developing richness and intensity for long periods of time. I tried two new wines aptly called Vergence which is more experimental and lower intervention compared to the traditional PB wines. These will change every year buy the soon-to-be-released white is predominantly Semillon with a fair proportion skin-contact and the balance being Chardonnay, Muscat and Gewurtz. The red is a whole bunch Central Otago Pinot which was juicy, vibrant and powerful in lovely contrast to the aged-before-release super-savory PB releases.
Sadly I missed getting to The Bone Line, one of my other favourite vineyards as I had the wrong day of the week... next time!