- Discovering the Joys of New Zealand Wine

Newsletter for May, 2004

May is a transitional month. For those of us in the northern temperate zone, Spring is in full bloom with summer waiting in the wings. In the Southern Hemisphere, the 2004 harvest is winding down and fermentation tanks hold the hopes for a great vintage. This month, we feature four new Kiwi Wineries that have the pedigree to be stars. For your summer sipping, we have a review of some NZ Pinot Gris. We will also recap the 2004 update to the directory of New Zealand wineries.

Four Future Stars of New Zealand Wine

Many of nearly 80 new wineries that have been added to the 2004 edition of the Directory are small domestic-oriented ventures. A few of the start-ups, however, have formidable talent, expertise, and capital in place that should make them top-rated brands in New Zealand's export market. Here we feature four of these newcomers and the key people involved.

Dog Point Vineyard

Key Persons: Ivan Sutherland and James Healy
Resumé: Both men were stalwarts in the team that established Cloudy Bay as an icon; James Healy as winemaker and Ivan Sutherland as viticulturalist. Quality should be high right from the start with grapes coming from Mr. Sutherland's large, established vineyard. Dog Point has been featured for years with Goldwater Estate's Sauvignon Blanc. The wine list features Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay , Pinot Noir, and Section 94 "Sauvignon Blanc with a difference" - select grapes with extended lees contact in older oak barrels.

The Escarpment

Key Person: Larry McKenna
Resumé: Larry McKenna is one of the founding fathers of top-quality Pinot Noir in New Zealand. In the early 1980's, he joined the team that was developing Martinborough Vineyard and became a legend for his well-crafted wines; especially Pinot Noir. In 1999, he headed out to create his own winery, The Escarpment, in a new section of the Martinborough area. His new vines are just coming into full production. The wine list curently features Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. The 2002 Pinot Gris was scored at 90 points by Wine International magazine in London.

Waitaki Valley Wines

Key Persons: John Forrest and Greg Hay
Resumé: The first vineyard in an experimental project to develop a new viticultural area called North Otago. The Waitaki Valley lies east of the mountain ranges from Central Otago and the river flows directly to the sea. The viticulturalist for the project is Greg Hay, who has been instrumental in developing Chard Farm and Peregrine, his current mainstay. The first harvest was 2003 Pinot Noir with the winemaking performed by highly-regarded Marlborough vintner John Forrest of Forrest Estate.

Christine Lorraine Cellars

Key Person: Gary Andrus
Resumé: Gary Andrus has been the founder, CEO and winemaker for two prominent wineries in the States: Pine Ridge Winery in California and Archery Summit in Oregon. He left there and discovered the exciting possibilities of Central Otago in New Zealand. The first wine was a 2003 pinot noir. Not a lot of information yet, but expect Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. He is also back in Oregon with a purchased winery he has re-named Gypsy Dancer Estates. His team will be splitting their time between the two sites.
These wines are starting to reach production levels and a few are starting to arrive in American stores.

The long, hot days of summer call for a chilled, refreshing, aromatic white wine such as Pinot Gris. KiwiWineries submitted three NZ Pinot Gris to a panel of wine aficionados from a DC tasing group known as the Winos-in-the-Park. The wines were reviewed in the real-life environment of an outdoor picnic table rather than the artifical setting of a corporate conference room you get from other glossy magazine reviews. Here are their notes:

Grove Mill 2001 Pinot Gris

Pale yellow color. Floral nose. Very well rounded; flavorful from the attack to the mid-palate and through the finish. Notes of citrus, apricot, melon and vanilla. Good body; some residual sweetness and balanced acidity for a clean finish. Retail in DC at US21.49.

Huia 2003 Pinot Gris

Pale yellow color. Floral and fruit on the nose. A young wine; leaner, not fully rounded but opened up in the glass. Some citrus and tropical fruit; a touch of nuttiness. Solid structure. Retail in DC for US$17.99.

Peregrine 2002 Pinot Gris

Light yellow color. Floral nose with a touch of lime. Flavor was front-loaded; big burst on the attack; fades past the mid-palate. Notes of lime, tropical fruit, lichee, spice and nuttiness. Retail in DC for US$28.49.

The panel felt that, overall, the three NZ Pinot Gris were well-crafted and on profile for the variey. The wines were more full-bodied and less acidic than their Italian counterparts; fruitier nuttier and with more depth than those from Alsace. They also felt they were well-suited for the role of a summer drinking wine; could be served either stand-alone or with food. The panel thought that the prices were at the upper end of the range that they were inclined to pay for a Pinot Gris.

2004 Update to the Directory of New Zealand Wineries

The directory of New Zealand wineries has been updated with 76 new wineries. In addition, there are a half dozen name changes, some cross-referenced entries, and a few labels that have joined the "historical" ranks.
Here is a breakdown of where the new wineries are located by region:
North Island
South Island
Waiheke Island
Bay of Plenty/Waikato
Hawke's Bay
None of the Above
5 + 7



In general, the newcomers in Northland, Auckland, Waiheke, Waikato, Wairarapa, and Canterbury tend to be small, personal endeavors for the local market. The new establishments in Hawke's Bay, Martinborough, Marlborough, and Otago tend to be designed for the national and international markets.

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