New Zealand

Terroir Translates to Tūrangawaewae at Pinot Noir NZ 2017
Elaine Chukan Brown

Maynard James Keenan speaking at Pinot Noir NZ

What do Tool front man, Maynard James Keenan, Hollywood actor of Jurassic Park fame Sam Neill, and the world’s most respected wine writer, Jancis Robinson MW, all have in common? They each offered keynote addresses to an audience of over 600 people from 20 countries at the recent three-day Pinot Noir NZ 2017 event. Wellington, at the southern end of New Zealand’s North Island, played host. Considered one of the top wine events in the world, wine professionals flew in from across the planet to attend alongside devoted consumers and the best of New Zealand’s own winemakers.

Celebrated every four years, Pinot Noir NZ brings a different theme integral to quality for the variety to the fore. This year’s focus brought another dimension of discussion as it moved beyond technical questions of winemaking or chemistry to instead consider the place from which any of us gain our strength via the Māori concept, Tūrangawaewae. In brief, it means simply a place to stand, but as one of the most revered Māori terms, Tūrangawaewae refers to the place where we feel empowered – the place to which we belong, just as it belongs to us. In a wine context, Tūrangawaewae offers a new way of recognizing what it means to understand the power of a vineyard respectfully farmed and the wine it can produce for the responsive winemaker. For many of the winemakers of Pinot Noir NZ, discussion of Tūrangawaewae offered a means to translate the French notion of terroir into a New Zealand context where respect for multi-cultural life proves central.

Outside of France, terroir remains one of the most readily misunderstood and misused notions in the world of wine. Often taken in the United States to refer only to the soil itself, discussions of terroir often fail to take into account the holistic site of a vineyard that includes not only its literal earth with its particular mineral makeup and drainage, but also its slope and aspect to the sun, its dynamic microclimate, and especially too the history of its viticulture through cultivars chosen, planting styles established, and the ongoing farmers’ interactions with the vine. Terroir as a concept includes the multifaceted and dynamic interaction of the natural conditions of a vineyard with the very human choices that create the history and potential of that site. Part of the power of the word terroir in a French context comes from the comparative stability of a culture with thousands of years of viticultural history; but how do we understand our own viticultural potential in wine cultures only decades old?

To keep reading this article, click through to the free-for-all NZ Dirt email. The rest of the article explores how the Maori concept of Tūrangawaewae offers a way to bring notions of terroir into a new world context and how New Zealand in particular has advanced these ideas through their intensive sustainability efforts. 

Here’s the link: http://www.nzwine.com/assets/Terroir%20Translates%20to%20Turangawaewae%20at%20Pinot%20Noir%20NZ%202017%20(Elaine%20Chukan%20Brown).pdf

The rest of the NZ Dirt newsletter is worth a look as well. Check it out (free-for-all) here: http://pro.sumo.co.nz/t/ViewEmail/r/09EC442CB0E32AE42540EF23F30FEDED/8B1A56CC56573E889E794568BD214575

 

Pinot Noir NZ 2017

Every four years winemakers from across New Zealand put together a three day event celebrating Pinot Noir. This year, Pinot Noir NZ 2017 took place in its host city of Wellington bringing together around 1000 guests total from 20 countries, including top wine professionals from each of those 20 countries, the best winemakers from around New Zealand and eager wine lovers from all over the world as well. Morning sessions focused on a series of talks and seminars, and after lunch (each designed by one of the top chefs of New Zealand or Australia), afternoons brought well-focused regional walk around tastings. By the end of the three days we’d heard from speakers that included some of the brightest in the New Zealand wine industry and a number of the world’s top wine professionals as well. In the evenings top chefs from New Zealand and Australia would serve dinner.

Pinot Noir NZ was truly one of the best wine events I have ever attended. It was impressively designed around a central theme that allowed for both focused and dynamic discussion considering the value of wine from multiple angles. There were technical seminars as well as more philosophical ones; tasting panels meant to make us reconsider how we experience wine and others that asked us to explore our own views of wine quality. The three days were designed around the Maori notion of Tūrangawaewae, a concept that captures the importance of place in how we gain, recognize, and gather our strength. Each of the three days then took a different theme for better understanding the value of Tūrangawaewae. I’ll be writing more about Tūrangawaewae later this week.

Day 1 revolved around the theme of Explore and opened with a Maori welcoming ceremony. International speakers for Pinot Noir NZ were asked to be part of the group being received by the local Maori tribes, and so to also participate in the ceremony on stage with the Maori elders and other tribes people. I was a speaker in this year’s Pinot Noir NZ, and so was asked to be part of the opening ceremony, to be a delegate received and greeted by the local Maori. It was an overwhelming and special experience. It was hard to believe the honor, that I was being asked to be part of such a sacred ceremony. The rest of the first day focused on speeches about the meaning, import and relevance to our thinking of wine in Tūrangawaewae, and then turned to understanding the value of each of the country’s growing regions before we then went to the regional tastings.

Day 2 considered the notion of Embrace and focused on tasting panels that gave us the chance to continue the conversation with wines there to help deepen the conversation. An international panel of wine experts selected wines and shared their views of greatness. The diversity of perspectives thanks to the international nature of the panel was inspiring. We were then put to a sound tasting by Jo Burzynska where Pinot noir was matched to different types of music as we explored how the varying sound types had very real impact on our tasting ability.

On Day 3 the focus was on how to Evolve and included a series of talks that asked where we are headed as not only as members of the wine community but also more broadly (wine lovers are always also part of the world at large after all), and so with that in mind, how to move forward. I was asked to give the closing speech for day 3 speaking to the question of future communication while also tying together threads from across the three days.

A number of people asked that once it was available I share my speech and its transcript here. So, now that I have both I am posting them as requested. Thank you to all of you that asked for this. I very much appreciate it.

As I mentioned, my speech refers to the conversations from across all three days of the event. Much of what is referenced will make sense in context. But to clarify a few things – the speech names a number of speakers from earlier in day 3 and references points they raised – Maynard James Keenan, Sam Neill, and Jancis Robinson are all mentioned. A few of them had also been joking about the relevance of their astrological signs, which is why I begin with explaining mine. I also mention Marcel Giesen, who spoke as part of the panel on greatness on day 2, and Nick Mills who spoke as part of the opening consideration of Tūrangawaewae on day 1. Also, on day 1, Rachel Tualelei, Ropata Taylor, and Dame Anne Salmond spoke on the history of the Maori, which is referenced near the beginning of my speech without naming them. In the beginning I refer to First Nations peoples. I am using that phrase to address the idea of first people to any particular region more generally. Such people are often referred to as indigenous (which I do also say here) but in some cases, such as the Maori of New Zealand, the people are not indigenous to that land but nevertheless were the first people of that land. I am using the phrase in that sense. In Canada, for example, the term First Nations has a more specific reference to a particular group there in Canada so I mention that here to clarify I am using the phrase more broadly. It is apparent in the context of the speech.

The other speeches shared online are also worth watching. The people named above whose speeches are available online I have linked to  – click on their name and it will take you to the video of their talk. The link to all available speeches (including regional overview videos from the event) are available here: https://vimeo.com/pinotnoirnz 

Thank you most especially to the board of Pinot Noir NZ for inviting me to speak, and to Rachael Fletcher for so seamlessly guiding everything, to Mike Bennie for suggesting me, and to David Strada for inviting me to New Zealand. Thank you to James Tidwell and David Keck for so patiently letting me talk through aspects of my talk before hand. Your friendship makes all the difference.

Here is the video of the speech. It’s transcript immediately follows it.

Day 3 Elaine Chukan Brown from Pinot Noir NZ on Vimeo.

Future Communication: Pinot Noir NZ
Elaine Chukan Brown

So I want to get out of the way right away that I am a Tiger in the Chinese zodiac. That’s the terrestrial parallel to Maynard’s Dragon – totally tenacious, claws the shit out of everything to get where it’s going, full commitment, looks good in stripes. Right?

I’m also a double Virgo. Virgos are known for devotion. They’re defined by love, and most especially service. So, whatever they do, they do out of love, and total commitment to excellence. But then I have a Sagittarius moon, which means that whatever I do, I do with my hair on my fire, and I thank my daughter for making sure that it looks like it is.

It is an incredible honor to be part of an event that so completely honors and speaks from the position of the First Nations people of the country that’s hosting it. As some of you know, I am Inuit from Alaska, and the terrible truth is that First Nations in the United States are barely even recognized for still existing. And so I live my daily life interacting with people unable to see who I am. And so to be here, and to have been asked to be part of the opening ceremony, finding connection, communion, companionship between the First Nations people of New Zealand and all of us that are here to speak about Pinot noir, and all of the other wonderful things we’ve been speaking about, was completely overwhelming.

But in acknowledgement of that, I wish to introduce myself to you as I would if I was speaking with my Native community in Alaska. I actually called my mother yesterday to ask for permission to speak today, and for permission to say my Native name, which in Alaskan communities is private, as a way of sort of preserving what’s most valued for us. Obviously, I’m not going to worry about it if I’m crying, so you’ll just all have to deal with it.

My maternal great-grandparents are Paul and Anna Chukan of Bristol Bay, Alaska. My grandparents are Gordon and Anisha McCormick. My paternal great-grandparents are Stephen and Amelia Ivanoff, of Norton Sound, Alaska. My grandmother is Emily Ivanoff Ticasuk Brown. My parents are Mel and Katherine Brown. I am Unangan and Iñupiaq. That is Aleut and Inuit from Alaska. My name is Elaine Chukan Arnaqiaq Brown. My daughter is Rachel Marie Williams.

For indigenous peoples across the planet, our ancestors, our people, define who we are. I am my ancestors. But also for indigenous peoples across the planet, what are ancestors are is our land, the place from which we come. So to speak with you today is overwhelming because I bring them with me.

My great-grandfather, I was lucky enough to know growing up, and he was born at a time, in a place so remote, that he saw the first waves of outside people enter his region. And he would tell me stories about the first time he saw someone from China, the first time he saw a black person, the first time he heard a radio, the first time electricity appeared in the region. When the wars came. His region was part of the front lines of World War II, which of course brought more outsiders.

As an indigenous person in Alaska, he was denied the rights of citizenship until the second half of the last century, when Alaska finally became a state. And especially in light of Jancis’s insight about recent global politics, what I would like to offer – I hadn’t expected to – but what I would like to offer is the recognition of the strength, the resilience, and the incredible transforming power that he took to every aspect of his life. And if you could imagine a life lived, to survive such radical transformation as I just mentioned …

As a quick side note, to get across how bad-ass this man I grew up with was – he actually killed a bear with a spruce tree that he cut down, cut the bows off, and made a sharp tip on because he lived in Alaska at a time before guns. Totally hardcore.

But anyway, my point being – imagine a person that could remain utterly true to himself, utterly clear in his values, utterly persistent and determined that in all of that change of which he had no control of, he would be the best version of himself, and he would do it for the sake of his people and his family, and generations of people he would never meet.

I want to speak briefly about a kind of indigenous ethics that’s implied in what I’m saying, because I think it really ties in to a lot of the values that have been expressed here: notions of sustainability; the wonderful talk we heard here on the first day from Nick at Rippon and that experience of trying to honor the land and instill value across generations. For indigenous peoples, for myself being here today, my most central project, regardless of anything else I am doing, my most central project is to act in a way that loves people I will never meet so that I may honor those that made my life possible.

Some of you have heard this in terms of thinking in seven generations. We thank seven generations back whose lives brought us here, by acting for the sake of seven generations forward, many of whom we’ll never know.

When I asked my mom permission to speak with you today, she emphasized the point that she can’t help but think of my great-grandfather, who raised her, and that there’s a sense in which I’ve brought him here – a man who grew up so differently than everyone here. He’s come to New Zealand now. And speaking to Sam’s point about the unlikely, how incredibly unlikely is it for all of you to have to listen to an Inuit woman from Alaska talk about her great-grandfather in the middle of a Pinot noir conference.

But the unlikelihood runs far deeper than that. It’s unlikely that he even lived long enough to make my life possible. We heard on the first day about the struggles of the Maori people. It’s a struggle that is utterly consistent with indigenous peoples all over the planet. And the idea that any First Nations are still alive and vibrantly breathing and clearly present here with all of you is a miracle. And so for me, in thinking how do I love my future descendants and honor those who came before me, that’s what I carry in everything I do. It is a miracle that I am here, and it is no thanks to me that that is true, and it is little thanks to me that anything I have done might have significance. It is totally, absolutely, because of the miracle of people that worked so hard to be resilient.

And what I want to offer is that this is a gift that any of us can have. I am profoundly aware of it because of my particular heritage and background and the way that I was raised, but part of what we’ve been talking about and part of what this whole program has so intensely tried to instill in each of us is that we have to fucking care about what we do, right? And what’s to come. And again, it’s because of caring for people that we will never meet. And the way that we can do that is to seek in every single step excellence in what we do.

Just like Marcel said yesterday, “Quality comes slowly over time, a step at a time.” And this morning we heard – I can’t remember now who said it – but the idea that perfection is a lot of little steps done well. That’s what I’m speaking to. We all have that opportunity.

In terms of how that shows up, I want to speak briefly – some of you heard yesterday, I apologize, but I am a recovering philosopher, and again, like alcoholism you deal with it every day. So, I wanted to use that as a background that I have to just very briefly speak about the idea of expertise because part of the struggle, I think, we face now in a world that is so full of uncertainty is this grief for the loss of the expert. Any of us in this room, because we’re of drinking age, were born into a time where the expert guided how the world moved, and decisions were made very much in a top-down model. People devoted themselves to intricate, thorough-going study, and that information would trickle out to the rest of us. So it was very much a top-down, triangular model.

And what’s happened now is the proliferation of information, thanks to the Internet and Jancis is largely to blame for us wine-lovers, right, through so many brilliant reference books. With that proliferation of information, that triangle has flattened and spread. And we’ve created a kind of horizontaling of information sharing. And, with that, it becomes very difficult to see where the expert remains.

This will tie back to the bear hunting and things like that, by the way, just so you know …

So in this grief of loss of the expert, it’s unclear what the expert’s role is anymore. And so briefly, I just wanted to ask – what is an expert? Clearly the accessed information, even the creation of information as we study the world and learn more about it is paramount there. But with this proliferation of information, there’s a way in which that’s kind of the part we’ve lost. Everyone has access to a database, so a lot of the questions you hear about the loss of the expert come back to, “Well why do I need that person? I can look it up on Google.”

But what remains is an intimacy with the information, an understanding – how do I interpret this? How do I recognize what’s valuable? How do I know it’s pertinent to now, to what I need to know now? And so that sense of intimacy we still desperately need from experts; we see all sorts of political bad decisions happening and it’s because people don’t know how to interpret properly the kind of information that they are being inundated with. We still need that kind of help. But part of what goes along with this – the way people become experts that are relevant is that we trust them. They’re reliable. We believe them. What they say makes sense. We feel a connection.

Now studies of Millennial consumer groups done recently have shown interesting buying patterns. And I’m actually not interested in talking about Millennials, except that I think because of when they were born, they come onto the scene as this shift from triangle to horizontal is happening. And so they’re, in a way, the purest expression of the impact of that change in information society.

So what we’ve seen studying Millennials’ consumer habits and interests is that advertising has almost no effect. Millennial populations, again, in these surveys, have said only one percent of the respondents actually make a purchase based on advertising that they see, whether it’s on television, or in print, or online. Instead, what they’re doing is turning to companions, to actual people around. And they’re doing this very much online, through various online sources – blogs, and various types of social media.

But when you dig deeper into this, and this links back to the other points I’ve been making – when you dig deeper into this, what you find is that what they’re searching for is intimacy and connection. And it is that that makes people respond. And it is from that that leads to people changing their minds, finding what they care about, learning to recognize who they are, and making purchases as well.

This obviously is relevant to a lot of the people in the room who are vintners, and are interested in figuring out how the heck to get people to buy a bottle of their wine. Well, it’s not advertising, which respondents said feels as if they’re being sold something. It’s too pat. It’s too formulaic. And it feels like being tricked or manipulated. And so instead what they’re responding to is someone they feel a connection to, that they can trust and believe, and think, “Oh, I recognize something of myself in them; if they like it, I must too.”

And so what’s happened is that we’ve come into a very peculiar time, where our own individual particularity, our very specific commitments, the exact thing we care about, and the ways that we express those things, are the most relevant in terms of how we recognize who we want to believe, what we want to buy, how we want to communicate.

Duncan actually asked me to speak on future communication. There is no one in this room that knows what this means, and so I worked through it in this way: what I want to suggest is that the future of communication starts in what I’m describing. We desperately still need people to risk the life of the expert; to commit so thoroughly to what they do that their life and its legacy, as Maynard referenced, reverberates beyond them to people they will never meet. Some currently alive now, and others that simply come down the road, generations away. We desperately need that.

But what I’m suggesting is that we all have the opportunity to do that now. Everyone in this room can choose that life. Nick is so fortunate, as he expressed on Tuesday, to have been born into a circumstance like his at Rippon, and he’s doing an incredible job at honoring that, and carrying that forward. And that is fantastic to see. But very many of us don’t have that situation, right. So what do we do? How do we translate that model into something we can claim?

And what I’m saying is that if we recognize that we’re all looking, now, in the midst of this chaotic world, with this mass proliferation of information that we all struggle to interpret, we recognize that we’re looking for communication, connection, and intimacy. And we seek to act in excellence, to cultivate that in very small ways, in every little moment that we do – and share that openly. We can’t expect that benefits of the old top-down model anymore; reverence doesn’t come in the way it used to, for those of us who give ourselves to lifelong projects. Many people get attention very quickly, right? But connection and intimacy is greater than that. And the satisfaction instead comes from knowing that in committing to that excellence and acting from service, our effect can reverberate out in ways we cannot even predict.

With that in mind, I really want to thank David Strada for inviting me to New Zealand. It’s been a remarkable trip. I know Mike Bennie was kind enough to kind of pester Duncan and Ben about me, and I really appreciate that, too. But most of all, I thank Duncan and Ben for inviting me to speak today.

You have allowed me to bring my family here, and to make real something that my great-grandfather was open enough to know not in any specific way could happen, but that if he did well by his family, by his people, and in every act he took, that those that came after him could surpass anything he imagined, and arrive eventually, on a country he barely knew was real.

What I’m describing might seem a little alien, perhaps. But I just want to ask each of us to consider very simple questions, and to ask them of ourselves again and again and again, and even sometimes every step: what do you want to love? How can you be of service today? How will you exemplify excellence in any small thing you do?

Thank you.

Copyright 2017 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

0

Marlborough

with Lauren Eads on a boat heading to Waterfall Bay

Marlborough turned out to be one of my favorite parts of our travels through New Zealand. The diversity of wine styles with good quality available on the ground there was both surprising and inspiring as I was able to find stand out wines of Chardonnay, Pinot, Syrah, Methode Traditionelle, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and, yes, Sauvignon Blanc. What is available from Sauvignon there in Marlborough covers a far more significant range than we have any idea of here in the US market. Our selection here is far more limited.

While there is something very old school country about the central parts of Marlborough in its feel, the region also holds unbelievable beauty. Here’s the Instagram collection from our time on the ground in Marlborough.

Surprise pleasure of the trip so far – Impressive tasting on Methode Traditionelle wines from Methode Marlborough. All made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay in blend or individually, aged at least 18 months on lees though most shown here much longer. Wines from left: Daniel Le Brun Rosé NV, Tobu Rewa Reserve Blanc de Noir 2012, Johanneshof Cellars 2008 EMMI Brut, Nautilus Cuvée Brut NV, Hunter’s MiruMiru Reserve 2011, Spy Valley 2011 Echelon, Huia Blanc de Blancs 2010, Allan Scott Cecilia Vintage, No 1 Family Estate Virginia Cuvée. A range of styles here but good quality and pleasure through each of the wines. #nzwine @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa @hunterswinesnz @huia_vineyards @nautilusestate @tohuwines @spyvalleywine @johanneshofwine @allanscottwines @no1familyestate @methodemarlborough

A post shared by Hawk Wakawaka (@hawk_wakawaka) on

Nice to see the elegance that develops in aged Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. A much broader range of styles showing through a large regional tasting of current and library releases of the variety than what appears in the United States. Here one of the stand-outs: the Catalina Sounds, Sounds of White, 2013 Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough’s Waihopai Valley, made only in large oak foudre to bring texture with minimal flavor influence, bottled after six months. Nice subtlety with notes of rose leaf, elderflower and pleasing delicate green accents. Delicate and subtle with still persistent palate stimulation through a long finish. Nicely done. Really pleasing example in the 2015 release as well. #nzwine @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa @catalinasounds

A post shared by Hawk Wakawaka (@hawk_wakawaka) on

Oh heck YES. Get your neck on one of these. #nzwine @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa @zephyrwine

A post shared by Hawk Wakawaka (@hawk_wakawaka) on

Oh thank the lord god I am on a boat. Marlborough Sounds heading to Waterfall Bay. #nzwine @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa

A post shared by Hawk Wakawaka (@hawk_wakawaka) on

To read more on beautiful stand out examples of Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2017/01/27/the-pleasing-surprise-of-marlborough-sauvignon-blanc/

Copyright 2017 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

1

North Canterbury

limestone hills in Waipara Valley and throughout North Canterbury

As any of you that know me personally or have been following my writing know, I am slow to form opinion when it comes to wine growers, winemakers, wine regions or styles, preferring to take a step-back-while-go-in-depth observational approach. This style of wine study and research works for me as I hunt around listening and observing a person, place, or wine-in-the-glass, letting the information come into view to reveal its own shape.

Listening to people I follow along what they say, listening for what beliefs, values, and other information must be true for them to say what they say, and listen in this way for a long time mapping them in my head before asking questions. I wait until enough of their personal landscape forms in my mind for me to see what questions I have – where I am missing information and need more insight to understand them, and if the implied views I hear from them are accurate to what they mean.

I do something similar with wine though the mapping happens differently there, less from what is said, of course, and more through something like the wine’s aesthetic shape and how it points to where it’s from and what it wants to be.

All of this is prelude to say, I feel as though I have a lot more study to do on North Canterbury wines before I can make more developed assertions about the region. In the meantime I have a range of observations from tastings through the place that make me curious to better understand the area’s big picture.

While there we did regional overview tastings beginning with a large tasting of wines from all over North Canterbury, then moving through a series of overview tastings focused on smaller subregions of the area. We homed in on Waipara and Waikari Valleys as well as Weka Pass and Banks Peninsula while there, on aromatics whites, then on Chardonnays, and finally on various reds.

The variation in quality through the tastings was significant. There was a broad range between top stand out wines and others that felt more timid, as if the people behind them were still discovering what it means to make wine in a more nascent way. There is also a very light, almost watery character to some of the wines from North Canterbury – though I am reluctant to use the word watery as it implies thinness in a way I don’t quite mean – that worked against its structure at times. There was also significant contrast in structural finesse among the wines that highlighted the importance not only of finding the right site but also of its necessary farming. Site quality is of course relevant to any region and some area’s are further into understanding how that shows up than others.

Overall my impression from the regional tastings of North Canterbury was that it feels relatively early in that process – as if there is potential for greatness there and people are still doing a bit of hopping about to find the sites that can bring it with the right farming.

The structural nature of the wines and that lighter character compels me at the same time. It’s something I feel drawn to keep an eye on and hopefully return to at a slower pace, walking sites that have shown themselves well with their growers to understand what has made them leap to the fore over others.

In some subzones it is clear limestone plays a role. There is high concentration of calcareous rock through sections of North Canterbury. Too much bi-carbonate from such stone throws vines into a growing crisis where they suffer deficiencies that upset their ability not only to grow but also ripen fruit. Such stone degraded into just enough clay, for example, however, and you get an exciting tension and palate stimulation unlike that possible from any other soil. That snap-snug-zip that forms in wines from such just-right edgy sites is why some growers hunt the edge of calcareous viability. In North Canterbury, Pyramid Valley is one of the prime examples of growers that sought to plant in exactly the right mix buying land loaded with limestone with a few midslopes of just the right mineral mix.

Following are some of my stand out wines from our tastings in North Canterbury. I look forward to keeping an eye on the place, and getting back there to have more time to slow down, listen and taste.

Pyramid Valley Chardonnay

Pyramid Valley Chardonnays from their home vineyard in Waikari Valley show a lovely range of expressions between wines. The estate bottlings are made from specific vineyards planted about their property based on extensive soil studies to find just the right mineral balance in the soils to support vines. While they make Pinot as well, there was greater consistency in quality vintage to vintage from the Chardonnay that I found pleasing. We were given the chance to taste their whites back to first bottlings from the property.

Lion’s Tooth offered a graceful expression of that lighter, delicate, almost watery (in a pleasing way) presence I saw in other wines of the region with lovely floral notes and a mix of fruits from citrus through stone all carried through a long mouth cleansing finish.

The Field of Fire brought power and concentration, coming in strong to the palate, in some vintages almost feral. It is a wine that would hold up to almost anything at the table without relying on imposed power to carry such strength of presence. To put that another way, it isn’t armor from the cellar that makes Field of Fire but an innate, sinewy tenacity to the fruit.

Incredibly, the two sites are within visual distance from each other on the Pyramid Valley property. While there are no doubt some contrasts in cellar approach, they are more than that a testament to how very specific and distinct a vineyard’s own voice can be.

Bell Hill

One of the stand out Pinots of North Canterbury is no doubt Bell Hill in the Weka Pass. It’s a wine that’s generated a cult following from wine geeks and wine lovers world wide. We were able to taste multiple vintages of the wine and they share among them a sense of force and concentration that comes in strong at the front of the palate then spins into a long graceful finish. The 2013 offered poised generosity carrying lightly wild notes in a cultivated frame. It’s a combination that makes the wine memorable and intriguing.

Alan McCorkindale Sparkling Wines

Alan McCorkindale makes both still and sparkling wines from North Canterbury but it was his sparkling wines that grabbed my attention. We were able to taste them across a range of vintages, all focused on Chardonnay. The density, depth and concentration carried through a long, mouthwatering finish made the wines simultaneously rich and easily drinkable. The older vintages offered that lovely balance of aged character carrying dusty dried fruits and a long carriage of mouthwatering acidity.

Black Estate

Black Estate was my surprise stand out from the Waipara Valley of North Canterbury. I hadn’t heard of their wines prior to our visit but I’ve become an interested fan. (They also have an utterly genuine, kind winemaker, who was a pleasure to talk to.) We were able to sit down to enjoy a bottle of their Cabernet Franc over a picnic dinner (where I ate all the potatoes), which was the perfect setting for this wine. It carries friendly, while focused flavor in a refreshingly open weave that invests in freshness and length. The wine carried a snappy finish that avoids being high strung.

The wines from Black Estate were also a good reminder at the value of context. We tried them in the regional tastings and I had noticed their reds but at the same time in the midst of tasting a series of several ten wines I felt unable to properly assess them – I tend to avoid reviewing wines in walk around tastings, instead looking for stand outs I want to spend more time with later. Getting to return to the Cabernet Franc over dinner was the perfect solution. It was a delicious, nicely made wine to enjoy with friends.

For just a bit more on North Canterbury here are a few other posts on the region: 

Photos from North Canterbury: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2017/02/15/photos-from-north-canterbury/

Adventures in Christchurch: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2017/02/16/adventures-in-christchurch/

Nick Stock created an overview video on North Canterbury wine regions for the Pinot Noir NZ event. You can see it here: https://vimeo.com/203942360

Copyright 2017 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

0

Adventures in Christchurch

After departing Central Otago we headed to North Canterbury for a series of regional tastings as well as time in the city of Christchurch. Christchurch has been embattled by a series of severe earthquakes and this summer (it’s summer for them now) horrible wildfires as well. In 2011 the area was hit with a 6.3 earthquake that caused damage the region is still recovering from. This late 2016 brought a 7.8 earthquake just outside the area. The more serious damage and loss of life occurred in the 2011 quake, which caused buildings throughout the city to collapse. New buildings codes have since been instituted that require structures to be built to survive tremors rated up to 9 on the Richter scale. As a result, Christchurch today has the safest buildings in the world. Even so, the city is still recovering.

Walking downtown empty lots dot the landscape. Most today have been filled with art installations to make the lots into interactive space. One of the coolest examples was an outdoor public dance floor complete with surround sound speakers, dance lights, and a disco ball. For a $2 coin anyone can plug in their ipod or phone to play 30 minutes of music. Daniel Toral, David Keck, Jamie Goode and I spent an evening wandering the city and busted into a full session on the dance floor (shown above). (From what I can tell, we’re all horrible dancers but dang was it fun.)

Traveling the world of wine it’s fun to find new hangouts in other countries. They become a sort of comfort in the midst of so much change. Shop Eight in downtown Christchurch was one of those places – it felt great to hang out and it was easy to feel at home with the menu even in seeing unusual offerings. The food selection features a seasonal menu of small plates with a range of local produce, seafoods and meats meant to pair well with her eclectic-while-tasty menu of wines and beers. We had a great time exploring around the menu.

After selecting our wines we asked the server to go ahead and bring us her favorite food options. The wine menu has a focus on freshness with an array of options from the quirky side. They’re wines that bridge the gap between wine and beer lovers, which I find refreshing in the right circumstances.

The Naturalist 2016 sparkling wine from Cambridge Road was our first wine of the evening. Cambridge Road makes fantastic Pinot noir from the Martinborough region on the North island (some of my stand out wines from the trip), as well as Syrah, and then also plays with more experimental projects exploring vinification with low sulfur and lower intervention sparkling wine methods. The Naturalist was one such example – a refreshing and delicious, savory methode ancestrale sparkling wine made of equal portions Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc. It relies on wild fermentation and no added sulfur, and while the wine is certainly wild in the glass with sediment and textural density, it is also clean without worry of being pristine. It’s one of those bridge the gap wines that reaches towards the advantages of beer without going rogue into unbearable faults. It hits more at a level like spending several days camping on the beach with an outdoor shower, rather than either living in a germ free clean room of formica and steel on the one hand, or falling into a swamp with poor drainage or little water flow on the other. It also comes in at only 11.5% alcohol. Super easy to drink.

The Black Star 2016 Field Blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer from Waitaki Valley fruit made by Theo Coles goes a bit farther with the camping metaphor. It’s more like you’ve been camping on that same beach for several days with an outdoor shower and are now coming down from that handful of shrooms you ate this afternoon. The lights are still bright so that sunset is killing it but it’s also giving you way more feels than you have usually, your stomach is a little more sensitive and you’re not really ready to eat yet. Even so, you’re there to drink it in and enjoy it. The cofermented varieties certainly create some of what’s unusual about this wine but it’s also just meant to be funky without going full microbial. It’s made without sulfur and drinks well with a bit of chill on it.

After leaving Shop Eight we wandered around the city and found our way to an incredible playground that’s been built since the devastating 2011 earthquake, the Margaret Mahy. It’s an incredible installation with loads of fun for kids of all ages. The four of us had a great time running up and back down slides, racing on ziplines and not-quite peeing ourselves on a series of buried trampolines. Then we wandered down the road to the late night beer garden and drank a beer.

Christchurch is experiencing devastating wildfires right now. The 2016 earthquakes gratefully did far less damage to the city than those in 2011 but the coastline was seriously hit with many communities getting hampered by road loss from the heaving effect of the tremors. The fires now come at a difficult time when people were just recovering from structural damage. It’s a beautiful and special region full of utterly genuine and somehow gentle people. I hope the fires ease quickly and that people stay safe. I’m grateful for such a fun night in their city.

Copyright 2017 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

2

Photos from North Canterbury

After traveling Central Otago we flew to North Canterbury where we toured and tasted for two days through the Waipara and Waikari Valleys with an adventurous train ride through the Weka Valley, before then spending the evening in the Banks Peninsula. The excursion included a night in Christchurch too that was amazing as you can see below.

Following is the collection of photos I shared to Instagram from our time in North Canterbury including our travels from the area. There are multiple videos included along the way. Be sure to watch them too. Wine professionals being ridiculous. Too funny.

Mountains of limestone in Waipara. #nzwine @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa

A post shared by Hawk Wakawaka (@hawk_wakawaka) on

More idyllic New Zealand countryside here the Three Peaks in Waipara of North Canterbury. The folds, cut and lift of the fault lines are visible throughout this region where the plates are pushing against each other causing mountain uplifts surrounded by canyons. Sizesble earthquakes happen here regularly with the last serious one being Mid 2016 and before that Early 2011. Both caused significant damage through the area and multi-billion dollar demolish and rebuilding projects in Christchurch. Stone masons and builders came from all over the world to repair the city. Today it holds the safest buildings in the world, built to withstand earthquakes over 8 and even up to 9 on the Richter scale. #nzwine @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa

A post shared by Hawk Wakawaka (@hawk_wakawaka) on

Copyright 2017 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

0

Central Otago and Waitaki Pinot 

One of the opening features of the recent Pinot Noir NZ 2017 event were wonderfully done videos made by Mike Bennie and Nick Stock. The videos brilliantly dug into each of the Pinot growing regions of New Zealand individually giving a good feel for the people and place of each region in a few minutes of focused interviews with the key players of the wine community.

Check out Mike Bennie‘s (I love that guy) nicely done look at Central Otago and Waitaki Pinot Noir. Thanks to Pinot Noir NZ for posting the video!

Central Otago and Waitaki Pinot Noir NZ 2017 Mike Bennie from Pinot Noir NZ on Vimeo.

 

0

Central Otago Pinot Noir

the view from Rippon along Lake Wanaka

Our first day in New Zealand included a walk around tasting hosted by Mount Edward winery in Central Otago. Producers poured two wines each – both Pinot noir – of their choosing. While some offered multiple vintages others selected different cuvées from the same release year. The tasting was an interesting first look at wines for our trip.

While a relatively young region, Central Otago has done well at establishing itself quickly on the world stage for quality Pinot with its own distinctive varietal expression. Younger vines and younger winemakers established an initial reputation for more fruit focused and rounder wines than what one sees from the region today. As vintners have gained experience and become more familiar with their own dirt, and vineyard plantings have expanded into newer subzones that early enthusiasm has deepened into another level of confidence that shows through a greater diversification of styles. At the same time, our several days in Central Otago plus time with the producers later in the trip during the Pinot Noir NZ festivities in Wellington showed that the initial enthusiasm remains. I was impressed with the verve and curiosity that seems common through the people of Central Otago.

Central Otago is one of the most remote growing regions in New Zealand. In the southern part of the southern island it stands as one of the most distant viticultural zones in the world from both other major wine regions and wine markets. Getting off the plane the landscape immediately struck me with familiarity. It shares so much in common with my home in Alaska. The commonality showed through peoples’ personalities there too. I found myself interacting with people in Central Otago as if I’d long known them, and would have to occasionally remind myself it was my first visit and first meeting with them too. I obviously can’t help but have an affection for the area as a result. The quality of the wines shown during our visits was also reliable. That is, the base line of quality for Central Otago was relatively high. If there was issue with a wine it was more often about stylistic preference than winemaking faults.

Central Otago’s presence on the world stage is also coupled with the region’s producers having a strong investment with study abroad. Producers we met tended to speak in relation to other viticultural areas around the world they’d spent time as well as wines they’re often tasting. A surprisingly high proportion of them have spent time working in Willamette Valley, for example, as well as attending Oregon’s International Pinot Noir Celebration. Central Otago though also has an incredibly strong history with Burgundy. The two areas have had an official exchange program for over 11 years that includes support for winemakers to travel and work between the two regions, with program participants placed in major houses for harvest in which ever of the two they are visiting. The program is quite significant with Central Otago being the only growing region in the world that Burgundy does that sort of official exchange.

Following are a handful of the stand out Pinots from the walk around tasting our first night in Central Otago.

Mount Edward

Duncan Forsyth and Anna Riederer poured two vintages of their Mount Edward Pinot noir – the 2013 regional blend and the 2011 Muirkirk Vineyard. The wines speak to the regional signature of Central Otago with their midpalate density, deep toned red fruits and glittering acidity but they also show layers of flavor and a kind of jovial confidence I find pleasing. The Muirkirk carries greater complexity and depth to the Central Otago Pinot, which is refreshing and satisfying. There is plenty of savor here nose through palate with notes of tobacco and just picked herbs housed in mouth stimulating sapidity on the Muirkirk. There is plenty of fruit to the wine but it isn’t about that, rather its about the layers of flavor. Supple tannin gives a sense of something to chew on while that mouth stimulation carries through to a long finish.

Rippon

Nick Mills of Rippon poured their 2013 and 2010 Pinots made from older vines on their home vineyard. You’d be hard pressed to find someone that doesn’t like these wines as their beautifully made and from a distinctive site. If you ever have opportunity to speak with Nick about his family estate and the history of the area it’s also well worth doing. He presented on the subject at the recent Pinot Noir NZ 2017 event and shared his thoughts and practice of taking a multi-generational view to the land. It was an inspiring talk. (Alder Yarrow published a transcript of Nick’s PN NZ 17 talk on his site Vinography that is worth reading. Here’s the direct link to that article: http://www.vinography.com/archives/2017/02/turangawhaewhae_a_maori_expres.html).

The Rippon 2013 offers nuanced perfume full of aromatic woods that persist through to the palate with ample sapidity through a persistent finish. The acidity is mouthwatering and a pleasure, well integrated into a vibrant leanness that carries ample flavor through a lean frame. The 2010 was my favorite of the two, offering additional depth from a bit of bottle age.

Growing up in remote Alaska one of the things I became familiar with was this sense of concentrated aromas and flavors that come from miniaturized plants. Much of the land in Alaska is tundra, which consists, essentially, of a multitude of wild berry and wild tea plants grown in miniature because of the difficult and wet soils beneath them. Walking across tundra is this overwhelming experience of releasing mixed and highly perfumed scents. Because the plants have grown so slowly and so small their scents and flavors are more concentrated and so then also more powerful to experience. Walking over them breaks their aromas free so that every step uncovers a new overwhelming fragrance of wild cranberry mixed with labrador tea to wild blueberry rubbed by a fresh break of pine and a smudge of peat. Growing up with such smells is what led me eventually into the world of wine – outside extreme environments such as Alaskan tundra a glass of wine is the only place left to find such complex scent.

The 2010 Rippon lifts from the glass with that intensity of smell, a multitude of unexpected and concentrated flavors like the smells from a walk across fresh broken tundra. There is a wildness to it carrying a multitude of miniaturized plants. The palate starts dense and savory then lifts into mouth watering sapidity and a flash of those same tundra scents. It’s a wine with plenty of density that moves fresh and lively through the palate.

Prophet’s Rock

Paul Pujol poured both a current and older vintage of his Prophet’s Rock Pinot from their Home Vineyard. The 2009 was one of my stand out wines from the entire trip through New Zealand. As he explained, it was an unusual vintage where fruit came in with uniquely pale color while still having ample tannin. It became important, then, to avoid over extracting for color as it would lead to too much tannin in the glass. The 2009 from Prophet’s Rock offers a wonderfully delicate persistence on both the nose and palate. It’s somehow ethereal, engaging and stimulating drinking simultaneously pretty and savory with an enlivening lightness. It was a wine I wanted to sit and enjoy through the evening.

The 2014 offers notes at a deeper register compared to the lifted prettiness of the 2009. There is immediately greater density and depth to the aromatics that point in the direction of brooding without quite going that far. The palate too offers more power in comparison but still pours through a light bodied frame. I am a fan of that balance Paul pulls off in his Pinot of bringing impressive depth and nuance in still a mouthwatering subtlety. Refreshing, savory and pretty.

Aurum

the Kawarau River of Central Otago

I somehow managed to miss taking a photo of the Aurum 2014 Madeline Pinot Noir (even though I tasted it through multiple vintages no less!) so I’ve snuck in a photo of the beautiful Kawarau River, which we crossed on our way to visit Aurum instead – my apologies though if you want to see the label it is on their own site here: https://aurumwines.co.nz/notes_files/stacks_image_1000.jpg.

Winemaker Lucie Lawrence does the Madeline Pinot entirely as foot tread whole bunch from the 667 clone, which she feels does well with stem inclusion from her home vineyard. The wine is dense and needs time in cellar to fully release its pleasure but it is full, nose through palate, with lush aromatics of rose petal and bush that swaddle a savory backbone. The tannin is ample but succulent rather than aggressive and the acidity comes in with nice balancing length. Let this sit in bottle for a few more years to allow the dense weave of the wine to open but with that it has a lot to offer.

Copyright 2017 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

0

the Kawarua River in Central Otago

As any of you that have followed me for a while know, after in depth trips through a region I like to compile my Instagram photos from the excursion here so that the collection is easier to locate. It’s something various people have asked me to do and has proven fun to revisit.

The last two-plus weeks I’ve been traveling New Zealand wine countries. The New Zealand Wine Growers have put together a truly incredible itinerary. It’s been remarkable. There has also been enough to do in each area that I’ve decided it’s too much to put into just one New Zealand Instagram collection here. Instead, I’ll go ahead and compile the photo collections here by region starting where my trip started, with Central Otago. Between Instagram collections I’ll also post write ups of the associated place and the wines we tasted. Be sure to check out the three pieces already posted here on Central Otago wines. They’re linked below.

Really lovely wines made by a lovely winemaker. Beautiful intensity and intelligence housed in a delicate, pretty, finessed wine with a light palate and pleasing texture. Here Paul Pujol of Prophet’s Rock making wine from a moderate elevation glacial terrace with underlying chalk and lime in Central Otago. He destems his Pinot then avoids punch downs or pump overs keeping the cap wet with a light sprinkling from a watering can in order to allow delicate fruit expression with balanced structure. As he explains, working harvest in Musigny, he learned the lesson that “a mineral terroir supports no extraction.” Having already seen something like this from his site here in Bendigo the comment clicked and when he returned his approach shifted. Pinots all unfined, unfiltered and lovely. #nzwine @nzwinegrowers @paulpujol @nzwineusa

A photo posted by Hawk Wakawaka (@hawk_wakawaka) on

Mountains of schist through Central Otago. #nzwine @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa

A photo posted by Hawk Wakawaka (@hawk_wakawaka) on

To read more on my travels in Central Otago here are three articles I’ve posted here so far.

Stand out Rieslings in Central Otago: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2017/01/24/two-stand-out-rieslings-from-central-otago/

A subregions Pinot noir Tasting: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2017/01/25/pinot-noir-in-central-otago/

Vintage Variation and the History of Central Otago: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2017/01/25/vintage-variation-and-the-history-of-central-otago-pinot-noir/

Cheers!

Copyright 2017 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

1

Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

Looking over vineyards in the Riverlands area of Marlborough

Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has a clear reputation for quality and expression globally. Winemakers through the region are impressively skilled at creating reliable wines that are both technically sound and on point. It’s near impossible to find a faulty Marlborough Sauvignon. The precision and consistency has served them well on the world stage ensuring that people know what to expect from the category. Consumers have responded enthusiastically. Even winery names that are otherwise unrecognized can benefit from the power of the regional brand with consumers having a sense of what to expect from the wine simply because of the region and variety association.

The strength of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has its disadvantages too. Such an established type can become entrenched with those same consumer expectations limiting producer options while closing consumer expectations to the idea of being surprised. I’ve always admired how effectively vintners from the area established their wines so powerfully on the world stage. At the same time in a US context the repetitiveness of the style has been challenging for me. Those same expectations of knowing what I’m going to get from Marlborough Sauvignon has made me less likely to seek it out rather than more.

These last two days, then, here on the ground tasting in Marlborough have been a wonderful surprise. I’ve actually gotten progressively more excited by the wines as we’ve tasted more. My enthusiasm has been peaked by the range of other successful wines from varieties such as Riesling, Pinot Noir, and even a solid Bordeaux blend as well. The sparkling wines from the area too include some of the nicest I’ve had recently. I’ll be writing more about both the Methode Marlborough sparkling wines and the various other varieties that have been stand outs here separately. Most of all though I’ve been relieved to find quite a range of styles on Sauvignon Blanc. It’s been refreshing and has reinspired my interest in the region. Additionally, we’ve been able to taste quite a few older vintages of Sauvignon, even going back to 2008, that has proved insightful. It’s been good to see how elegantly the wines can age.

While the US market (and others worldwide as well) has tended towards a rather narrow expression of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, a broader range of styles from the variety has always existed here in Marlborough. Smaller, boutique level grower-winemakers doing the work from farming to cellar are to thank. Their work too helped ignite the now international category by recognizing what the region has to offer – vibrant acidity combined with aromatic intensity – and so attracting the larger producers with the marketing capital to move wines worldwide.

Cool climate viticulture combined with the elevated UV levels of the area mean vines retain their acidity while still developing intensity on both the nose and palate. The area hosts a preponderance of high draining sedimentary soils ranging from sand to clay but throughout the region lifted aromatics remain the focus. Where sandy soils encourage those aromatics even further they also tend to create more supple phenolics. Clay, on other hand, creates more muscle and concentration. The wines here, then, of course cover that range.

Here are a handful of stand out examples of Sauvignon Blanc from the last two days.

The Seresin Marama captures an elegant while friendly expression of Sauvignon Blanc aromatics, rounding the edges of the ample acidity generated by the region through the palate. The result is a surprising and pleasant Sauvignon Blanc that carries sophistication in subtlety and a more casual though not unthought feel on the palate.

Giesen wines are all about sophistication with power. The Fuder Sauvignon Blanc delivers intensity through graceful concentration and a brilliantly executed use of oak. It’s a barrel fermented style that seamlessly weds the two – oak and variety – and is a good reminder of why the cellar approach became so popular. Delicious and elegantly done.

Catalina Sounds has captured subtlety from the variety through their Sounds of White Sauvignon Blanc. It ages beautifully becoming progressively more elegant with time in bottle. The 2013 vintage showed off nuance with delicate layers of aroma and flavor while still offering mouthwatering acidity and plenty of presence. I really enjoy the subtlety here.

Approachable and friendly, the Staete Landt Annabel uses oak for texture through the palate as well as a kind of textural layering to the aromatics. It brings depth to the wine. This is charming, and crowd pleasing while retaining nuance and avoiding the bore factor.

Brancott delivers a solid example of the Fume Blanc style with good integration of variety to oak hitting that midnote of the two seamlessly. Approachable quality. Nicely done.

Copyright 2017 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.