Mountford Estate has always more closely resembled a southern French villa more than a Kiwi winery. One imagines it on the outskirts of a small village somewhere in the sprawling Languedoc where the dry and sunny Mediterranean climate gives visitors the impression that life has slowed down several notches, due to the heat and relative ease of growing all manner of edible food and grapes that anyone ever wanted. And there is a similar climate at Mountford, in summer at least. The long, languid days seem to stretch on forever into a slightly cooler autumn, which provides grapes with an extra burst of growth to bring out the best in them. The winters are undoubtedly harsher than in the south of France, but there is a feeling to Mountford’s home in North Canterbury that makes it seem much further away from Christchurch city (damp and chilly) than the 40 minutes it actually is. Mountford is one of the smallest wineries in the heart of North Canterbury and it changed hands for the second time in its life in 2017 when Takahiro Koyama bought the 10 hectare estate. I first discovered Mountford when writing about design for New Zealand Home & Entertaining magazine in the late 1990s. Back then it was in its infancy and run as a high end, small scale place to stay by its founders, Michael and Buffy Eaton. He is an artist and she’s a hard working style queen who really did put the capital ‘b’ into Boutique accommodation, raising its quality to the next level. Their wines were superlative too, thanks to former winemaker CP Lin, who was as famous for being blind as he was for making outstanding wine. CP continued to make wine for Mountford when it sold several years ago and then fellow Cantabrian winemaker Theo Coles made the wines in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Ironically, there was no wine made at Mountford in 2017 when winemaker Takahiro Koyama bought the property, beautiful home, vineyard and tiny winery all included.
I met Takahiro in August this year for the first time and was transported back to the early days of Mountford in the glasses of wine we tasted together. Here’s the hit for me of the current line up. This is my wine of the week and I have bought a few bottles to ensure I put my money where my mouth is.
2016 Mountford Liaison Pinot Noir $29.99
Here is a wine that shows so much more to the New Zealand Pinot Noir story than the big names and better known regions. This is new on the market and made 100% from estate grown fruit, as are all Mountford Estate wines. All grapes are hand picked and winemaker Takahiro Koyama fermented this with wild yeast, plunged it twice daily then matured for 16 months in French oak barriques. It was bottled without fining or filtration. And therein lies some of its magic. The savoury, earthy overtones deliver a Pinot Noir that is next level, without a crazy price tag to pay for the privilege. Soils are clay over limestone.