New cellar door for Escarpment in Martinborough

One of Martinborough’s most respected wineries has teamed up with one of its least known boutique accommodations to offer wine tastings with food.

The winery is Escarpment, based in the Te Muna Valley; nine kilometres east of Martinborough township, which is slightly off the beaten track for visitors to the village, who generally cycle or walk to the wineries. The new collaboration with Peppers Parehua offers an easy walk or cycle from Martinborough village to enjoy both the great wines of Escarpment Vineyard, made by founder Larry McKenna, alongside food in the pretty landscape of Peppers.

The new collaboration kicks off with tasting flights of four wines open on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 5pm.

Wine of the week – New Zealand’s first en primeur Chardonnay

David Nash is not the first filmmaker to turn his hand to winemaking but he may be the first New Zealand one to produce a Chardonnay, which sold out as an en primeur offer before it was in the bottle. This breaks the mould of how Kiwi white wines are sold. It was never offered at retail and was such an instant hit that it didn’t even get the chance to make it into traditional wine retail stores.

The wine is called Helio and it’s Nash’s first foray into winemaking. Helio  is a Chardonnay from the 2019 vintage in Hawke’s Bay. It was sold en primeur because this is a helpful way of getting cashflow for a wine business and is best known in Bordeaux in south west France where it’s not only de rigueur but  also controversial, but that’s another story. Nash is best known in wine circles for co-producing the film,  A Seat at the Table, launched at last year’s New Zealand International Film Festival. He has since delved into making wine, of which Helio is the first. It’s a collaboration with Mat and Sarah Kirby, a couple of winemakers (Clearview and Felton Road) who met Nash during his film making and coordinated to get New Zealand wine to France. Nash says they were aligned on the styles of wines they liked, so the collaboration to make their own together made total sense to both parties. And so to the wine. Even though it is sold out, it blew my socks off with its deliciously drinkable style; successfully crossing the current trend to make flinty, reductive styled Chardonnay with the popular creamy aspects that have made Chardonnay the world’s most popular dry white wine.

Nash says the 2020 Helio is shaping up to be similar to the 2019. Contact him (details below) to go onto the list for the next vintage’s en primeur offer.

2019 Helio Chardonnay Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay $35

Unfined and unfiltered so it ticks the vegan friendly box, but more importantly, it’s rich, dry and full bodied Chardonnay, which tastes delicious to drink now and can age further, thanks to its underlying citrusy acidity, which adds length and cut through to the bold creamy notes. This wine is made from a vineyard on the Heretaunga Plains in Hawke’s Bay where the hot days and cool nights make their mark of ripeness with freshness felt strongly. It’s sealed with a good quality cork topped with wax.

Sign up for the 2020 Helio via the website www.helio.wine or email David.nash@ateliernash.co.nz

Good time to head south for Kiwi wine lovers

Challenging is a mild word for the emotions evoked in winemakers in the lead up to vintage 2020 in New Zealand but fortunately wine was deemed essential and vintage went ahead, despite the challenges of social distancing during lockdown. But what now for wineries reliant on export markets as well as incoming tourists for sales?

The owner of Central Otago wine brand, Misha’s Vineyard, says the vintage was challenging and she hopes for a trans Tasman bubble to increase visitor numbers to the tasting room in Cromwell that she and her partner, Andy, opened three years ago. Numbers are significantly down due to the country’s closed borders, which makes it an ideal time for New Zealanders to hot foot it to the deep south to enjoy southern hospitality and Central Otago’s majestic beauty, without battling the tourists for a seat at the bar, so to speak.

With that thought in mind, here are my wines of the week, both from Misha’s Vineyard and made by winemaker Olly Masters, who has made the wines since the first vintage in 2008.

18.5/20

2014 Misha’s Vineyard Verismo Pinot Noir $75

All Misha’s Vineyard wines are made 100% from grapes grown on their own land, which is a steep sloping vineyard that rises from 210 metres to 350 metres above sea level, above Lake Dunstan in Bendigo. It’s one of the first areas to ripen grapes each year in Central Otago with its dry, hot summer climate. This Pinot Noir is a blend of clones UCD 5 (36%), 777 (32%), Abel (16%), 6 (10%) and 667 (6%), which were cold soaked for five to seven days after harvest then fermented with wild yeasts with an average of 27 days on skins in tank. The finished wine was matured in 300 litre French oak barrels, 16% new oak.

This wine, Verismo, is the top Pinot Noir of the four made for Misha’s Vineyard each year and is a blend of the best components aged in barrel. It’s light in colour with intense red fruit flavours and a brightness, even now at six years old. It is held back prior to release for further aging so that it drinks at its best when released.

17.5/20

2019 Misha’s Vineyard The Gallery Gewurztraminer $32, 14% ABV

Gewurztraminer can be a polarising grape at the best of times with its powerful aromatic flavours of rose, lychees, ginger and orange zest. The aim in this wine was to keep the wine tasting fresh and dry with balance, so the fruit was whole bunch pressed and fermented completely in older French oak barrels to help extend the palate length. Wild yeasts were used for 50% of the fermentation with the remainder inoculated with commercial yeast. The ferments were stopped to retain a hint of residual sugar with 11 grams per litre, making it an off dry wine with a firm and fresh finish. It tastes off dry and lightly aromatic; unmistakably Gewurz’ in style with its orange zest notes, balanced by freshness.