Vino

Top drops under $20 (and over) and wine news from Joelle Thomson

Category: Waitaki Valley

My weekly blog… Waitaki wine goes en primeur

In news this week…

It’s fun, decadent and delicious to work with wine (Chilean Malbec – tick, Chianti Classico Extra Virgin Olive Oil – tick, Spanish Mencia – tick, Bollinger for my birthday – tick… this week has been busy).

But like most of life’s fun, decadent and delicious pursuits, it’s not always easy to make a living from, which is why so many small wineries are owned by people with day jobs to fund their winemaking. And it’s also why many wine writers do other things on the side – namely, talk, teach and sell wine; of all of which are among the many ways that we scribes sing for our suppers these days. In my case, I count myself fortunate to have the newly created role of Wine Programme Director at a place we call ‘Regional’ in Wellington city.

It’s the oldest independent wine store still in existence in this city today and it’s having a new lease of life under new owners for the first time in its 30 year history and it’s also home to some outstanding staff, who I count myself lucky to work with. But that’s another story.

The reason for this one is to mention a wine of the week from a forgotten corner of this country – the Waitaki Valley, on the border of North Otago and South Canterbury.

The wine of the week is…

2016 Ostler Caroline’s Pinot Noir $45 

And… it is now available (from this week) en primeur (this is not an ad’)

It’s the 14th year this wine has been made by the brother-in-law duo of Jim Jerram and Jeff Sinnott, who planted some of the first grapevines in the challengingly cool climate of Waitaki in New Zealand’s deep south. The wine was aged in oak for 15 months prior to bottling and it tastes sensational. Here’s what I wrote about it…

North Otago is the newest wine region in New Zealand and also one of its most promising for high quality Pinot Noir, such as Ostler Caroline’s Pinot Noir, made by Jeff Sinnott and Jim Jerram, who together established some of the first vineyards in the Waitaki Valley in the early 2000s. This wine is an elegant style of Pinot Noir with great concentration of flavour (think: cherries and ripe dark plums), a full body and velvety smooth texture. Its hallmark is its ‘Pinotesque’ high acidity, which bodes well for its long term aging, as does its pedigree of very good quality wines since the mid 2000s. Its young history shows an outstanding ability to age and its fruit flavours remain faithful to what great Pinot Noir is all about.

Find out  more or buy it here… https://www.ostlerwine.co.nz/page/caroline-s-pinot-noir-2016/

NZ’s most promising or most challenging wine region?

Waitaki Valley. Small, remote, bone chillingly cold now but super hot in summer…

Waitaki Valley is home to so much limestone and so few people that it looks more like a cross between Scotland and somewhere in the north of France than a remote region in New Zealand. But there you have it – a surprise in the making, as are its wines. It’s hard not to fall for the charms of this eye poppingly stunning region, but one step outside into the cold can easily put paid to a belief that natural beauty alone results in great wines.

If the ability to age is any indication of good wine quality, then the Waitaki Valley has plenty of high quality potential up its wine-y sleeve. And if any proof was needed of the region’s ability to provide conditions for grapes that can make age-worthy wines, it was provided last weekend when Waitaki wine pioneer Jim Jerram flew to Oamaru to pick me up for a bird’s eye view over this spectacularly beautiful valley.

The light plane he flew was close enough to give us an outstanding view of the valley’s plentiful limestone deposits and its patchwork of vines. Jerram later opened his 2011 Ostler Caroline’s Waitaki Valley Pinot Noir and 2012 Ostler Blue House Vines Riesling, both of which clearly have plenty of life up their sleeves. The Riesling was incredibly pale in colour with the high acidity you’d expect from such a cool climate part of the world, balanced by intense flavours of lime and green apple, with lemon zest flavours starting to appear.

The Pinot, on the other hand, was definitely heading down the ‘I’ve been cellared’ path of savoury, earthy flavours and its brick-orange rim revealed a wine that is clearly in its development phase of life. That said, I believe that Pinot has plenty more time up its sleeve because the wine was still driven by fresh acidity, which provided the support structure to its surprisingly full body and its unsurprisingly long finish.

The wines of the Waitaki are defiantly different in style to their Central Otago counterparts – the whites taste more austere while the reds are more savoury and perhaps have more in common with those from North Canterbury, a few hours up the road.

Taste the Waitaki Valley

Taste the wines of the Waitaki on Thursday 17 August from 6pm to 8pm at Regional Wines in Wellington. I am hosting this tasting and the winemakers have all contributed their wines to what we believe is the most comprehensive tasting yet of Waitaki Valley wines. Details to book a spot in this tasting are here:  https://regionalwines.co.nz/events?event_id=167

 

The wines we will taste include

2015 Ostler Audrey’s Pinot Noir

2015 Ostler Caroline’s Pinot Noir

2016 Pasquale Riesling

2012 Pasquale Chardonnay

2011 Pasquale Pinot Noir

2016 Valli Waitaki Pinot Noir

2015 Valli Waitaki Riesling (off dry)

2014 Valli Waitaki Late Harvest Riesling

2010 John Forrest Collection Waitaki Pinot Noir

2012 John Forrest Collection Waitaki Pinot Noir

2010 John Forrest Collection Waitaki Chardonnay

The Ostler story

Ostler Wines is headed up by Jim Jerram and the wines are made by Jeff Sinnott, who doubles as winemaker and brother in law to Jerram, whose wife Anne (sister of Jeff), is also involved actively in the business.

The Jerrams bought 37 hectares of limestone hillside in the valley  in 2001 when they were holidaying in the Coromandel. They lived in Dunedin at the time, where Jim practised medicine as a GP but (there’s always been a ‘but’, he says), he was looking for an alternative plan.

“I always had been. I’d worked on a high country South Island station as a youth and spent all my holidays in Otago, hunting and flying a plane and bringing a barge down the lake. I always wanted to be a producer and export something because New Zealand needs export, and I wanted to work in an industry with some slightly altruistic aspect too,” he says, adding later on that he worked for two years in Nepal as a young doctor, many moons ago now.

So he knows all about growing things in cool climates – he grew tomatoes in a plastic ‘greenhouse’ at 12,000 feet in Nepal.

Fast forward to today and the Jerram own eight hectares of vines on their limestone walled vineyard, Clos Ostler, which was planted in 2001 to 6 hectares of Pinot Noir and 2 of Pinot Gris. Their first experimental wine was made in 2004. They own other vineyard land in the Waitaki and have a permanent cellar door in Kurow, a town in the valley. There are plans for further expansion at Ostler, which clearly has great potential for high quality wine going forward.

Watch this space.

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