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Old 19-02-2012, 10:25 AM posted to
Mark Lipton[_1_] Mark Lipton[_1_] is offline
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Default [LONG] Ten Years After - The AFW Field Trip Revisited

In the Spring of 2001, talk began here on about meeting in
New Zealand for a tour of the local wineries hosted by St. Helier, our
denizen on the ground there. Plans were made, only to be thrown into
complete chaos by the tragic incidents of 9/11. In the end, 3 of us --
Ian and Jacquie Hoare and I -- made the trip in 12/01, and a grand time
we had with St. Helier. For background, see:

This year, by chance, Ian, Jacquie and I all reconverged on New Zealand
and so decided to continue our "field trip" of a decade ago. To that
end, today I traveled to Queenstown, where Ian and Jacquie met me and
from where we commenced our two days of winery visits.

First stop was Chard Farm Winery in Gibbston Valley, just outside of
Queenstown. Chard Farm was one of the first wineries established in
Central Otago and is reached by means of a winding, gravel road that
snakes through the hills overlooking the river gorge. Ian regaled us
with a recounting of their previous visit, in which he encountered a bus
on the one-lane gravel road overlooking a treacherous precipice.
Fortunately, this time there were no buses and a wider road. We entered
the small tasting room with 4 other people and were attentively looked

2008 Closeburn Chardonnay
n: minerals, yeast, lemon
p: good acidity, lactic acid

This wine was aged in stainless steel and so saw no oak. Quite like a
Petit Chablis in character, it showcased the more mineral aspects of

2009 Judge and Jury Chardonnay
n: muted, with a hint of minerality
p: decent acid, slight hint of lactic acid, structured

This was their oak-aged Chardonnay, though the barrels used were all
used French oak. Overall, I found it a bit lacking and not as
interesting as the INOX version.

2011 Pinot Gris (3.5 g/L sugar)
n: spicy, stones
p: medium body, moderate acidity

Quite a lovely example of Pinot Gris, this was very restrained, just
barely off-dry with a very aromatic nose.

2009 Gewürztraminer (15 g/L)
n: muted, slightly spicy, lychee
p: medium-light, off dry

2009 Riesling (16 g/L)
n: petrol
p: light, citrus, off dry, long finish

2010 Vipers Vineyard Riesling (38 g/L)
n: slightly mineral
p: white peach, off dry

Both of the Rieslings were very well done, with the latter being heavier
and riper smelling.

2010 River Run Pinot Noir
n: slightly hot, light cherries
p: dry, thin, bitter finish

2009 Mata-Au Pinot Noir
n: cherries, rose petals
p: decent acidity, a bit hollow mid-palate

2009 The Viper Pinot Noir
n: cherries, hint of smoke
p: firm acidity, deep fruit, tannic finish

Of the three Pinot Noirs, only the last was really of serious interest.
The River Run was their "easy drinking" blend, but didn't have the
depth of fruit to hold interest, whereas the Viper was the complete
deal. Overall, we left with the impression that they were more
successful with white than red wines.

After an abortive attempt to visit Gibbston Valley winery (too touristy
and commercial) we had lunch at Wild Earth winery. Ian and I shared an
absolutely fabulous lunch of foods prepared by smoking over oak chips
paired with Wild Earth wines.

Our aperitif was:

2009 Riesling (13 g/L)
n: slight hint of petrol
p: crisp acidity, peachy fruit, minerals

With hot smoked salmon on a celery root/apple salad:

2011 Pinot Noir Rosé
n: strawberries and dusty rock
p: light, bright berry fruit

With smoked green lip mussels with a prawn aioli:
2010 "Chelsea" Riesling (46 g/L)
n: muted
p: one dimensional, simple, sweet

With chili-seasoned chicken on a wild thyme stick:
2011 Pinot Gris (9 g/L)
n: spicy, earthy
p: medium body, off dry

With lamb with mushroom and caramelized onion:
2009 Pinot Noir
n: lactic acid, spice, dark fruit
p: medium body

With ground venison with tomato sauce, mushrooms and caramelized onion:
2009 Pinot Noir "Deep Cove"
n: minerals, cranberries, tart cherries
p: firm acidity, deep fruit, great focus

As an added bonus:
2009 Pinot Noir Reserve "Earth and Sky"
n: deep, dark sappy fruit
p: vivid acidity, tight, deep fruit, tannic finish

Across the board, the wines were very impressive and the food matches
with lunch were well chosen and at times inspired (the rosé with the
smoked salmon was a highlight). The trio of Pinot Noirs were all good
(astute readers may note that the '09 Pinot Noir was the wine we served
Ian and Jacquie at our home) but the Deep Cove and the Earth and Sky
were standouts. For near term drinking, I'll take the Deep Cove, but
the Reserve is a wine that'll reward 5-10 years of age.

After lunch, we headed to Bannockburn where we visited two more
wineries. First on the list was Bannock Brae.

2009 Dry Riesling (8.5 g/L)
n: hint of petrol
p: crisp acidity, citrus, mineral finish

2010 Cathy's Rosé (Pinot Noir)
n: strawberry
p: moderate acidity, candied fruit, slightly sweet finish

2009 Goldfields Pinot Noir
n: candied cherries
p: straightforward, foursquare Pinot Noir

2009 Barrel Selection Pinot Noir
n: sappy, dark cherry
p: decent acidity, cherries, slightly lactic, moderately tannic finish

A small mom-and-pop operation run by a very nice couple, the winery is
situated in a lovely corner of Central Otago. The wines, alas, were
uninspiring for the most part, though competently made.

Our final stop of the day was next foor at Akarua.

2010 Chardonnay
n: minerals, citrusy fruit
p: slightly oaky, decent acidity

2011 Riesling
n: hint of petrol, stone fruit
p: light, refreshing, off dry

The vines for this wine are only 4 years old (they replaced Shiraz vines
that never ripened) and the wine refelected that youth in being light,
friendly and uncomplicated. The wine was varietally correct, though.

2010 Pinot Gris
n: spice, minerals
p: crisp acidity, juicy fruit, medium-light body

2011 Pinot Noir Rosé (13.5% ABV)
n: strawberries, stones
p: juicy acidity, gooseberry

2011 Pinot Noir "Rua"
n: not much there
p: decent acidity, moderate fruit

2009 Pinot Noir Reserve
n: intense, sappy, deep cherry fruit
p: good acidity, cherry, cranberry, tannic finish

All the wines here were well made and varietally correct. Of the Pinot
Noirs, the Reserve bottling was the clear standout.

With a light dinner, we had two wines from Rippon Vineyards in Wanaka.

2011 Sauvignon Blanc
n: grassy, grapefruit
p: medium body, firm acidity, long finish

2009 Pinot Noir
n: red cherries, rose petals
p: velvety smooth, medium body, balanced acidity

Both wines were quite nice, reflecting the cooler climate found at Lake

Overall, a very fun day of wine and food in Central Otago. Ian and
Jacquie, who had visited here 10 years ago, found the wines much
improved over their earlier encounter. All of the wines we tried were
well-made, usually from vines that were 10 years or older. Tomorrow
we'll try the wines of Cromwell and Bannockburn.

Mark Lipton