When was the last time you visited Bannockburn? If the name resonates more with mountain bikers more than wine lovers, it might be time to pay this majestic corner of the country a visit. Both biking and wine were on my radar late last year when a visit to Felton Road Winery's 25th anniversary lured me to the deep south. More on Felton Road later this week because the wines are definitely worth writing home about, so to speak.
The trip also included an opportunity to cycle down the road, literally, to visit Te Kano properly for the first time.
Te Kano means the seed and the wine brand's emblem is the kowhai tree, which is gently emblazoned as a backdrop on the labels of the wines made here. But the most striking thing about Te Kano is the jaw dropping architecture. New Zealand hasn't traditionally had a lot of head turning building design but since the Central Otago landscape practically begs for dramatic design, the Lloyd family (owners of Te Kano) decided to put their money where their mouths are and have since had an outstanding collection of rusty shipping containers constructed and cantilevered over the Kawarau River. This is the cellar door for the winery and it's not visible from the road, so it requires a drive, cycle or walk down the dusty driveway to see the beauty.
The owners also purchased a disused but almost brand new winemaking facility in 2020 when they acquired the former Pasquale winery, situated in the Waitaki Valley. It was built by Italian farmer-turned-wine producer, Antonio Pasquale, who experimented with growing grapes in Waitaki Valley and the even cooler climate of the Hakataramea Valley, a remote frost prone site inland from Waitaki. The Hakataramea vineyards have long since been deserted but the Waitaki winery is a cool two hour drive up the road from Bannockburn which means that a refrigerated drive to this relatively close winery makes use of a building that might otherwise have been demolished. This nod towards the environmental concept of reuse rather than waste seems like a fitting part of a brand whose owners pays homage to New Zealand's native flora.
The visit to Te Kano in November last year was a chance to taste through new barrel samples and existing wines with winemaker Dave Sutton - as well as see the spectacular cellar door.
The wines we tasted included the dry and refreshing 2022 Te Kano Blanc de Noir, the 2022 Te Kano Northburn Pinot Noir (made 100% from clone 943), 2022 Te Kano Bannockburn Pinot Noir (only three puncheons of which were produced) and a sample of the first Gamay to be made under the Te Kano banner; the 2022 Te Kano Gamay. This Gamay has yet to be released. It's made with grapes grown on the company's Northburn vineyard, a schist slope and and the wine contains 15% whole bunch fermentation to add softness and fruity perfumed aromas. We also tasted the 2019 Te Kano Pinot Noir, which was my pick of the bunch for drinking right now.
Wine of the week
2019 Te Kano Pinot Noir RRP $47.99
Bright fruit aromas leap out of the glass of this gorgeously fresh, fruit forward Pinot Noir with its complex depth of flavour coming from earthy notes and a touch of smoked mushroom-dried leaves. The wine is full bodied with silky elegance and flavours that just keep coming with every refreshing sip.