Moving to Martinborough hasn’t been all plain sailing, even if a house here has been on the wish-list for nearly two decades. The commute leaves a lot to be desired so it’s fortunate that I don’t have to do it every single day and winemakers in this region rarely need to commute over the top of the Remutaka Hill Road, which is frequently shrouded in fog in the evenings. Wim Julicher will no longer be worrying about such matters as he has moved on from the eponymous winery he set up in 1996 on the stony riverbed terraces of Te Muna Valley, nine kilometres east of Martinborough village. He began by planting olive trees but soon learnt the hard way (also known as heavy frosts) that vines might work better, so he planted 15 hectares of vines, mostly Pinot Noir with a little Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Chardonnay to add to the mix. All grapes are hand harvested and the wines have been quiet over achievers ever since. They are now the responsibility of the new owners, Brad and Warren Butterworth, who bought the winery from Wim in late 2019.
The Butterworths are better known for sailing than for wine but that may all be about to change now they own a winery, which also has a new managing director Nick Hewitt. Brad and Warren Butterworth are both passionate about wine. Their great great grandfather W. Heathcote Jackman was a pioneering grape grower in New Zealand with a vineyard at Whakapirau in the Kaipara Harbour, Northland, in the late 1800s. Romeo Bragato stayed on the property and researched its grape varietals. The property is now named Heathcote and remains in family hands, unfortunately minus the vines, which died many years ago, due to phylloxera.
Without further ado, here’s my pick of their latest wines; the humbly priced, incredibly delicious 2016 Julicher 99 Rows Pinot Noir – the introductory Pinot in the range. A wine that massively over delivers on quality, style and price.
Wines of the week
2016 Julicher 99 Rows Pinot Noir Special $27.99 to $32.99
The price varies but the wine remains an extremely good buy for this price; earthy flavours and depth are the first words that sprang to mind when it was opened. And now it’s drinking exceptionally well right now for an introductory wine with a little bit of aging up its tasty sleeve. It’s made from hand harvested grapes, all grown on Te Muna Road at Julicher Estate in Martinborough. Te Muna is cooler and windier than the vineyards growing around Martinborough township but the wines are similar in style and characterised by savoury notes, firm but smooth tannins and their ability to age.
Loving this wine right now and I’m confident it will hold for another three to four years.