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NZ 2017 – cyclone-hit but no write-off

Vintage 2017 New Zealand

tasting with Michael Brajkovich of Kumeu River

With the 2017 vintage, New Zealand suffered some of the most challenging weather in recent memory. Cool temperatures early in the season created variable fruit set, and delayed ripening. Then, just as vineyards caught up in ripening, two cyclones moved across the country – the first a week into March, and the second just a week later – bringing record rainfalls and extensive flooding during harvest. Each of the maritime-influenced growing regions was impacted by the weather with many vineyards suffering split fruit and high disease pressure as a result. Thanks to its surrounding mountains, Central Otago was spared from both cyclones, instead merely maintaining cool temperatures which prolonged the growing season.

Many wines from across the country reflect the difficult weather. Some varieties were simply not harvested as the rains essentially destroyed them on the vine. Larger producers with the capabilities for extensive manipulation in the cellar will probably bring those varieties to market anyway. The weather brought with it increased variability in quality on a site by site basis, also depending largely on the farming practices implemented long before the rains came. Well-managed farming proved essential to ripening fruit before the rains hit, or restoring vine balance between storms. As a result, there are good wines to be expected from New Zealand’s 2017 vintage. The key to finding them rests in knowing the producer and their farming practices. Short of that, looking to smaller, more hands-on wineries is a safe first bet.

In late 2017 I met with winemakers across the country tasting 2017 wines from barrel to see how such a challenging harvest would show in the wines. The best producers from the country are well aware of meeting and even exceeding quality expectations. Many managed yields in the vineyards to encourage earlier ripening, thus increasing the likelihood of harvesting before any autumn storms. In the case of varieties devastated by the rains, the best producers simply did not make wine from that fruit. In other cases, producers have chosen to declassify less successful wines. Many smaller-production producers have multiple quality tiers in their portfolio. Among them I consistently saw wineries choosing to bottle wines at the quality level appropriate to the final outcome of the wines, rather than by the previous history for the cuvee. I asked producers to share their insights on the weather and resulting wines from the vintage. Those I have included here are among those whose 2017s I would recommend on the basis of what I tasted in their cellar.

The following looks at growing conditions from the major growing regions of New Zealand moving north to south, and west to east (see your online map of the wine regions).

Kumeu

Vintage in the Kumeu region west of Auckland started with unusually cool temperatures, which would normally delay vine growth. However, persistent winds throughout the season seemed to re-balance …

To keep reading this article, including tasting notes, head on over to JancisRobinson.com

Here’s the direct link: https://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/nz-2017-cyclonehit-but-no-writeoff

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Two Weeks in New Zealand

Central Otago

I spent a week in Central Otago primarily focused around attending the Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration. Prior to the start of the event I was able to do a full day of vineyard visit and tasting with Grasshopper Rock in the Earnscleugh subzone of Central Otago along with Masters of Wine Jane Skilton and Julia Harding, and then also attend the Air New Zealand Fine Wine List from 2017.

The Air New Zealand Fine Wine List program is an exciting selection of the best wines of New Zealand selected by Masters of Wine and the Master Sommelier of the country. It focuses on wines of pedigree that have both proven themselves over time, and shine in the particular current release vintage. Air New Zealand features a selection of them on their long haul flights as well.

The Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration

Every other year, the region of Central Otago hosts the Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration. The event features pinot noir of the region while also looking at that made from other celebrated regions of the world. International media and wine professionals, as well as consumers from all over the world attend.

This year, the theme for the event was Connections. As a result, winemakers from other parts of the world who have also made wine in Central Otago attended and were part of the educational seminars as well.

The first day included the Discovery Tasting, led by Matt Dicey of Mt Difficulty, with winemakers Ted Lemon of Littorai in Sonoma and Burn Cottage in Central Otago, François of Comte Georges de Vogüé in Burgundy who also makes the Cuvée Aux Antipodes with Paul Pujol of Prophet’s Rock, and PJ Charteris who works as a wine consultant in the Hunter Valley and makes Charteris Wines from Central Otago. Each winemaker presented a wine from each of their two regions and discussed their experiences learning from both locales.

The second day centered around the Grand Tasting including around 40 wineries from the region in a walk around style, followed by more intimate lunches hosted at featured wineries, and then more intimate dinners held in restaurants around Queenstown.

On the third day, the Formal Tasting, a three-hour seminar designed to go in depth into the featured wine region of the year is held. This year I was asked to lead the seminar on Willamette Valley Pinot Noir with winemakers Adam Campbell of Elk Cove, and Sam Tannahill of Francis-Tannahill, Rex Hill, and A to Z Wineworks. It was an enormous honor to represent the wines we selected, to present with two such knowledgable and recognized winemakers in such a respected event for a region I love as much as Central Otago.

Following the seminar, attendees were escorted to a beautiful and relaxing picnic lunch just outside Queenstown. Then, in the evening we were brought to the top of one of the region’s mountains for the Gala Dinner overlooking Lake Wakatipu.

Marlborough

Following my week in Central Otago for the Celebration, I traveled to Marlborough to do a series of visits centered mainly on smaller producers in the Southern Valleys of the region. The Southern Valleys fall in the cooler side of Marlborough with a mix of soils. There are a wealth of fascinating vineyards, including several that are considered among the best in New Zealand. The area features Sauvignon Blanc more distinctly full of kefir lime leaf and other citrus notes than the examples from the warmer sections of the region, as well as some fantastic aromatic whites, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. Later this month, I’ll be giving a seminar of several wines from this sub-zone to a group in Oregon.

Following are some of the photos taken during the two weeks in New Zealand as shared along the way on Instagram.

Cheers!

Two Weeks in New Zealand

 

 

 

In considering what makes winegrowing in Central Otago unique compared to where he has worked elsewhere in Burgundy, Napa, Sonoma, Willamette Valley, Ted Lemon points out that Central Otago being so far south (the southern most growing region in the world) means that as the growing season progresses the length of daylight hours begins to reduce very swiftly. The result is that the vines’ fruit ripening moves with the light change and halts grape development as days get short regardless of sugar development or vigneron intent. As a result, farming must be in tune to the swift arc of the growing season and its light levels from the very beginning of the season. #centralotagowine #newzealand @pinotcentral @burncottagevineyard @littoraiwine

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In discussing why he makes wine in Central Otago, the Cuvee Aux Antipodes with Paul Pujol at Prophet’s Rock, when he comes from such a rich history in Chambolle Musigny, François Millet says, “There is a lot of nuance and this is very interesting to try to show, to put in the front [of the wines]. And also the vines are getting older [in Central]. At 20 to 25 years old this is when the vines begin to get deeper, into the terroir. And also the vintage variation. There are very interesting vintage differences that prove there is vintage diversity. So [with all these things channeled through winemaking in Central Otago] here there is a lot of room to find the connections between the sky, the land, and the expression of the wines.” #Repost @somm_arthurhon ・・・ #FrançoisMillet speaks about #chambollemusigny and his connection with #centralotago & @paulpujol @prophetsrock @pinotcentral @nzwinegrowers #nzwine

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#Repost @paulpujol ・・・ Catching breath and catching up on photos after chairing an epic Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration… The formal tasting this year celebrated the ties between Oregon and Central Otago with an absolutely amazing seminar led by Elaine Chukan Brown @hawk_wakawaka and featuring Oregon Adam Campbell and Sam Tannahill on the panel. This was the best Oregon seminar I've ever seen including the ones I was involved with when I worked in Oregon. The range of wines beautifully covered history, geography, style, and included wonderful stories that helped greatly to inform the wines. A massive thanks to Elaine for the unbelievable amount of preparation and expertly leading us through this great flight of 8 wines. Thanks to Adam and Sam for sharing their stories and knowledge with us. @eyrievineyards @elkcove @joshbergstromwine @bergstromwines @francistannahill @brookswinery @antica_terra @walterscottwines @brianneday @pinotcentral @wvwinelady

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Gourmet Traveller Wine: Interview

Gourmet Traveller Wine, February/March Edition

Australia’s Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine interviewed me for their just-released current edition. It’s the February/March 2018 issue. The appears in both their print and digital editions. I have to admit seeing myself in a wine app – the magazine’s digital edition – on my own phone is a little bit of a trip. It’s a total honor and life is also just full of surprises.

If you download their digital edition, you can read the interview there for free. You can find the link to their app here.

Here’s the interview in full. Thank you to Kylie Imeson for taking the time to include me.

Have you been to Australia and which wines do you like? 

In 2013, I was able to attend the first Rootstock Festival in Sydney, visit a number of wine bars there, and then tour Victoria. The wines there, especially the Syrah, are among my favorourite. I am also a long-time lover of Pinot Meunier so to be able to spend a day at Best’s Great Western and drink older vintages of their Old Vine Meunier was a treat.

What interests you about the Australian wine scene? 

Australia has such a great combination of iconic world wines, such as Hunter Valley Semillon, long-standing premium classic, such as Penfolds Grange, and then this incredible energy from newer producers. There is a camaraderie that can be seen in the Australian wine community that is inspiring – it seems to give a lot of room for experimenting, supporting each other, and sharing insight and information on grape growing and winemaking. That isn’t true everywhere. It’s refreshing.

What is your most memorable wine moment? 

Before I had ever started working in wine my dream had been to someday enjoy one bottle of Salon Champagne. It seemed an unlikely goal as I was living on a graduate student stipend while raising a child on my own at the time. Years later I took a huge risk and left my academic career, even though I’d put so much work into it, and ended up working in wine. A couple years in I was invited to take part in a Salon Champagne vertical across four decades. I’d tasted Salon in passing a few times by then, but the transition from academia into wine wasn’t easy. I worked pretty hard to make it happen and the change in career meant my daughter and I had no spending money for a long time. Then, there I was, not only drinking Salon, but tasting every vintage back to the 1960s. It was overwhelming. What a total surprise it was to change my life completely and inadvertently fulfil a dream I’d had in my previous life.

Can you explain the part your drawings play in your writing and tasting notes? 

My entree into wine was actually via the illustrations I do of wine. When I was leaving philosophy I needed something utterly different to focus on. My life had been entirely verbal and intellectual for a long time and I wanted to reactivate other aspects of my thinking so I started drawing. Drawing turned out to be far better for me than I ever expected. It made my entire brain go quiet, which was incredibly relaxing. When I realised how much I liked it I came up with the idea of drawing my tasting notes instead of writing them. When I published my first illustrated tasting notes it was something that had never been done before. That was what originally brought attention to my work and started my career in wine, but writing and speaking is what gave my career legs. I still do illustration work, but treat it more as genuine art compared to the more casual line drawings I originally did. Today I mostly draw wall-size art pieces that are interpretations of wine I love. At the same time, some wines are so moving or overwhelming for me when I taste them that words fail me so when I’m trying to record a description of them I’ll draw them in my note-book to bring words to later.

What does it mean to you to be writing for Jancis Robinson MW? 

Jancis has served as a mentor for me. I have a lot of respect for the career she has built and the work she does. Now having access to her global network of wine experts is really incredible. On a wine trip when I first started working with her, I ended up stopping in at a vineyard on a mountain top in the Central Coast of California and emailing Jancis, Julia Harding, and a couple other MWs in Europe in order to problem solve a question I had about how vineyard treatments can impact flavour in wine in a particular way. No one of us had the answer on our own but together we were able to sort out what it was I was seeing within a matter of minutes. Being part of a global network of wine experts all helping each other to build greater understanding and insight in that kind of way is incredible.

You can find out more about Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine here:  http://gourmettravellerwine.com/homepage/

At Home and At Work in Wine Country

At Home & At Work in Wine Country
Seasonal workers settle into the wine community as year-round vineyard staff.

by Elaine Chukan Brown  Instagram: hawk_wakawaka  Twitter: hawk_wakawaka
posted on January 23, 2018

“People with the specific skills needed to do what we do in vineyards in Napa Valley outpace temporary labor that isn’t regularly focused on those tasks.”—Oscar Renteria

The recent fires on California’s North Coast have shone a light on a growing problem for the wine industry: a shortage of affordable housing. The massive increase in wine tourism, as well as an accompanying increase in vacation rentals and second homes in one of the country’s most prestigious destinations has meant a significant increase in the local population. Wine tourism and an influx of wealthy residents have built demand for more service and hospitality workers. As those workers have moved in, it’s become harder for agricultural workers to find homes.

In 2015, Karissa Kruse, who serves as president of the Sonoma County Wine Growers, set out to revamp the group’s mission, focusing on sustainable conditions for the county’s agricultural workers. To better understand the challenges, the group initiated a community study.  They found that key issues included workforce development, education, healthcare, childcare and affordable housing.

“We realized that addressing these issues wasn’t something vintners could tackle on their own,” Kruse says. So SCWG invited political leaders and community groups throughout Sonoma County to help design …

To keep reading this article head on over the the Wine & Spirits Magazine website where it is shared free-for-all. It is also available in the just-released print edition of their February issue. Here’s the direct link to the article:  https://www.wineandspiritsmagazine.com/news/entry/at-home-at-work-in-wine-country

Nine Days in Chile

I returned Sunday from nine days traveling wine country in Chile. The trip was packed as my visits were spread from Concepcion up to two hours north of Santiago. Wines tasted included an even broader spread including essentially the entire length of wine country in Chile.

Perception of South American wine has suffered a sort of stasis in the United States. The US wine media and trade often treat the subject as if the Southern wine industry has undergone little change in fifteen or twenty years. In reality, Chilean wine is in the midst of a vibrant resurgence. Malleco Valley, Itata, Bio Bio, and Maule are all benefiting from a slew of smaller scale projects focused on a mix of finding distinctive new terroir, and re-envisioning Chile’s own old vine heritage. Well-established producers from the north are working to help preserve the sustainability of farmers in the south by funding projects with the vines of those areas as well. The boom of small production wines has had a huge impact on the larger production wineries as well. Excellent wine is coming out of the Atacama desert, Limari, and the San Antonio Valley, where little was happening previously. The longer known regions of Casablanca, Maipo, Colchagua and Lyeda have producers re-envisioning their sites and fine-tuning farming in ways that are transforming their wines. Many of the larger production wineries have given their winemakers the room to develop smaller label passion projects within the winery. Some of the most delicious wines of the country are being made in this way – under the umbrella of a winery with the resources to support experimentation and exploration, with the artisanal quality of a small scale hand’s on project. To put it succinctly, it’s time to pay attention to Chilean wine.

Raj Parr and I were asked to travel to Chile in order to present a seminar on North American Pinot Noir to a group of Chilean producers. It can be challenging to find international wines in Chile so the tasting was meant to offer a glimpse of Pinot from primarily California with a bit of Oregon, while also discussing market perception in the United States. A number of producers in Chile are taking Pinot quite seriously doing more intensive study of their site conditions than I have seen at such concentration elsewhere. They also asked us to be part of a producer tasting of Chilean pinot. Raj and I each selected what else we’d like to add to our time in Chile. Raj asked if Pedro Parra would show us his work with old vines in Itata, so we opened our trip in Concepcion with Parra. I asked to see as many vineyards across a range of producers types and regions as possible, so extended my time in Chile by a week in order to do so. The days were intensive as the driving required to get between visits often outpaced the length of the visits themselves. In the end it was totally worth it. I am excited to keep following what is happening in Chile.

As usual, I shared posts looking at parts of my trip – some of the visits, and some of the stand out wines, as well as other things found along the way – via Instagram while traveling. It’s silly but a few of my very favorite wines, and a couple of my very favorite stories I couldn’t bring myself to share. I feel the need to treasure them a bit before doing so. Even so, there’s a ton of information here, and if you’re interested in getting a hold of some Chilean wine, a number of good suggestions are in what follows. I’ll be writing more on Chile in time. Cheers!

Welcome to Chile. Give me some meat? Concepcion. #chiledog @drinkchile

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It ‘s hat Sunday! #chile @rajatparr @drinkchile

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Cactus blossom. Aconcagua Valley. #chile @errazurizwines @drinkchile

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Impressively rocky, and quite chilly, Pinot Noir blocks a mere 3 kilometers from the ocean in the Arboleda vineyards of Aconcagua Costa. Huge deposits of schist move in and out of the hillsides here though no one has yet been able to explain why they disappear in some sections. The schist shown here is far more green due to magnesium than that found in Central Otago where the schist appears far more gray and silver. Higher magnesium levels in soil lower the potassium level uptake into the fruit. Lower potassium levels mean higher acid levels in the wines (essentially). Notice the (still shallow) top soil here does have some clay, which helps the vines more readily capture needed nutrients. The roots reach here far into the fractured rock. The drainage architecture of the rock correlate with palate tingling sapidity. Thanks to a combination of the soil architecture, micro climate, and winemaking, the wines tasted from here have a ton of freshness and drive. #chile @arboledawines @drinkchile

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It was muddy. I slipped. #chile @drinkchile

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Tarantula tracks. Colchagua. #chile @drinkchile

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Incredible. Rodrigo Soto walking almost 130-year old Cabernet vines planted from cuttings taken from Bordeaux before phylloxera, then established on their own roots in the 1890s here in this very spot snugged into a rare intersection of the Coastal Mountains with an outcrop of the Andes on the eastern side of the Colchagua Valley. Thanks to Soto the site is farmed organically, currently being converted to biodynamics, and is full of life. We stopped the truck to watch a tarantula so large we could see it walking along a trail we were passing. There are so many different types of birds Rodrigo does not recognize some of their songs. Wildlife corridors, native vegetation, and indigenous forest are maintained or given space all throughout the property. And everywhere the canopy of the vines look happy. Having seen old vines all over the world it is rare to see Cabernet especially of this age, but also it is unusual to see any vines of this age so clearly healthy in their environment. There is something about a site like this that makes me so excited I start to feel as if I will buzz out of my skin. Neyen. Colchagua Valley. #chile @drinkchile

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Here we see how to propagate almost 130-year old vines, an old school method still used in some older own root vineyards as a way of respecting the vines and increasing the likelihood of new vine success. The vine on the far right of this photo was planted in the 1890s. When it ‘s sister plant beside it died an arm from the vine on the right was pulled down (the cross arm seen here in the middle) and buried then bent upright. Over time the cross arm turned upright grows into a new vine, a sort of spider plant-like offspring of the mother vine with not only identical genetic material but for its first several years also interconnected nutrient supply. Now that the younger vine here on the left is well-established the crossarm connection will be cut to allow both vines to use their own roots. This method is an advantage of own root vineyards as it cannot be done of course with those established on rootstock. Neyen. Colchagua Valley. #chile @drinkchile

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Incredible complexity of granite parent material in the Maipo subsoils. Here the top soil through the slopes of the region is quite shallow with just enough clay to help establish the vines but the roots then push through granite breaks where in some places it is already highly fractured and full of iron and along others where it is rock hard (is it still a pun if the cliche reference really is about rock?! Trying to sort that out) and charcoal black. Mixed through are flashes of quartz. Granite is so hard usually because it is formed slowly as underground magma cools without exposure to oxygen. A complex of minerals serve as part of the granite from the magmas movement and contact with other elements, and differing rates of cooling. The various colors of granite from white to pink to red to gray reflect the differing mineral types included. The incredible range of colors of granite in some growing regions in Chile, like here shown in Maipo, come from the Coastal Mountain range intersecting with the Andes. The two ranges were formed at vastly different times and so also having differing ages, and differing mineral compositions of rock, even when both granite. Once pushed to the surface, the elements, and flora and fauna, including human activity, help change the architecture of the rock creating surface soil. The soil then gives home to plants, as well as micro flora and microfauna that help the plants grow. As plants take hold, the roots reach down and change the composition of the rock even more. The earth is cool. #chile @drinkchile

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One of the challenges the Chilean wine industry faces is the ability to get quality vine material. In an ongoing effort to preserve the health and native diversity of Chile’s unique landscape the government has strictly controlled what plants can enter the country, and also how quickly. This has limited the clonal selections available to producers. Additionally some of the material to come in early on was full of problematic viruses. It is not that virus must be completely eradicated as much as that those that do create genuine damage to quality be curbed. Here workers establish replants where vines planted in September this year did not take. The site is being established to newer selections of Pinot Noir that have done well in the original blocks of this area and farmed biodynamically by the Matetic family near the coast in mica rich granite. The mica content correlates with an incredible buzzing-in-the-palate minerality in the wines from this area. The vineyard is known as Valle Hermoso and is home to the top Matetic Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. It is part of a beautiful and unique property very close to the Pacific that is focused on multi focus farming and extensive preservation of native plants and forests as well. The far southwestern side of Casablanca. #chile @mateticvineyards @drinkchile

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Hanging out at Matetic. San Antonio Valley. #chile @mateticvineyards @drinkchile

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Exploring the biodynamic preps at Matetic and investigating how they have made the system work for them. Biodynamic preps are largely added to compost to enrich the nutrient profile, then the compost is added to the soil between vine rows, thus increasing the microbial health and activity. The idea behind compost in general is that rather than adding elements like nitrogen, which the vines need, to the soil, the compost helps increase the microbial life of the soil. Microbes, micro flora, and microfauna act as a sort of intermediary between the plant and the soil, breaking down mineral compounds into nutrients accessible to the plant. Mineral compounds of the soil cannot be absorbed by the plant. Instead mineral ions made as the soil breaks down through soil activity is what is used. Compost encourages the soil biology that helps generate this process, thus making nutrients in the soil already available to the vine. in this way compost is part of the alternative to chemical farming. #chile @mateticvineyards @drinkchile

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A total honor to meet and spend part of the day with the Marin family of Casa Marin. Of all the vineyards in Chile, those of Casa Marin are closest to the ocean, a mere 4 km. Here from left in the first photo: Felipe, Maria Luz, Nicolas, Jamie. Maria Luz is the first woman winery founder and winemaker in all of Chile. She remains the only one. She now also works with her family. Nicolas works on viticulture. Felipe leads the cellar. Jamie sales. In starting the vineyards and winery Maria Luz returned to the village where she was raised. Casa Marin now employs people from the village year round in their vineyards, cellar, restaurant, and business. Lo Abarca Village, San Antonio Valley. #chile @casamarinwinery @drinkchile

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Baby tanks sticking close to their mommas… San Antonio Valley. #chile @drinkchile

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As their vines in the Leyda Valley have gotten at least ten years of age, the Viña Leyda team has shifted its focus to in depth research on the soils throughout their sites in an effort to deepen the transparency of their wines to site. As the vines were being established they focused on getting to know climate conditions and the peculiar farming needs in the area. Now that the roots have deepened they have done extensive soil mapping beginning with measuring soil conductivity variation, then using those charts to identify key sites for soil pits. What they have found is significant soil variation through their vineyards. The parent material is granite, in some places rich in mica and silt, in others quartz, in others iron. But in sections there is material carried in from hundreds of miles away and layered into the soils. In focusing on soil conditions they have identified soil-based blocks that are then vinified separately so that their vinous character can be understood. This work is intricate and at times tedious but it is part of the key to understanding their unique terroir and honing work in the cellar to amplify quality and site expression where possible. Here viticulturist Tomas Riviera describes the character of one of the soil pits we explored. This one is unusual as it includes pockets of limestone not native to the Leyda Valley. #chile @leydawines @drinkchile

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The last time I was in Chile four years ago I stood in this same spot shivering cold and could not see the Maipo River below, let alone more than a few meters in front of me thanks to intense fog. In the *V* of these hills (here on the right) is the ocean and the cold Patagonia current coming up from Antarctica. It brings a lot of cold maritime influence into the Leyda Valley but today it is warm and clear and the ocean breeze feels glorious. View from the Viña Leyda vineyard. Viña Leyda was the first to plant in Leyda Valley. They also established the infrastructure needed for planting, and successfully petitioned the DO Leyda. The soils through here are granite mixed with alluvial stones. This particular vineyard (newer for Leyda) sits around 4 km from the ocean. #chile @leydawines @drinkchile

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Cono Sur is the largest producer of Pinot Noir in Chile with the first Pinot Noir vineyard in the country, established in 1969, and the first to bring attention to the variety for the country internationally. They work with the grape across five tiers plus sparkling wine with the goal of over-delivering on quality and showcasing freshness at each price level. To maintain that in the cellar, they put work into designing a Pinot Noir focused winery that could deliver quality even at a larger scale. It was fascinating to see how they designed the space. As shown here they rely on open top fermenters, just at a larger size, and designed a pneumatic punchdown device that gently lowers the cap to reduce extraction while also retaining freshness. For aging the wine is delivered to mainly older barrels with the goal of reducing the overall oak signature. They have also been experimenting with other methods like concrete, and foudre in an ongoing effort to fine tune the wines. In our wine world today larger producers are often overlooked under the assumption that only small production wines have higher quality. In reality producers with greater volume are the drivers of the market that make it possible for others to exist. The question comes down to how do they direct their energies and resources in the larger context. Cono Sur opened the door for others to now focus on making site expressive Pinot Noir from Chile. They’ve also been holding that door open and continuing to carefully evolve. Producers with larger volumes also usually have the resources to put into the site, the farming, and the infrastructure needed to grow a market, or conversely to also develop smaller focused projects in the midst of their larger brands. Some of the most intriguing and distinctive small volume projects coming out of Chile are being made by larger wineries giving winemakers the freedom to develop passion projects. Cono Sur focuses on integrative farming introducing plants and animals that help balance the vineyard without pesticides. Chimbarongo. #chile @drinkchile

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It ‘s late in their season so only a few of these bright colored flowers still remain in between rows in the vineyards at Cono Sur but earlier in Spring the vineyards are full of them. Cono Sur encourages their growth as the bright flowers attract bugs that would otherwise become pests to the vines during flowering. By providing another food source for the bugs they can be just another aspect of the vineyard ecology instead of a pest to be eradicated. In Chile there is a saying, a bug is not a pest till it gets in your pocket. The goal in integrative farming, like that done at Cono Sur, is to support a complex environment within the vineyard so that the flora and fauna can be in balance with each other, thereby eliminating or reducing the need for spray interventions. These flowers are one such example. Chimbarongo. #chile @drinkchile

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J Bouchon winemaker Christian Sepúlveda nestled between 120 year old, own root Pais vines dry farmed in granitic soils in Maule. Through his work at Bouchon Christian wants to explore what it means to make distinctly Chilean wines, but also what it means to make wine distinctly from their site in Maule. For him turning to the heritage, the deep history of winemaking in the region reveals the answer. The first varieties to enter Chile were Pais and Muscat in the 16th century. J Bouchon makes three different red Pais wines, a white Pais, and also a sparkling. As he points out, the only way to preserve these historic vineyards, and their part of the heritage of Chile, is for people to drink the wines made from them. The vines are dry farmed, which helps deepen the site expression within the wines, and they are treated gently in the cellar relying on soil character of the vineyard to reveal smart choices in the cellar. These J Bouchon wines are among the most exciting wines being made in Chile. As Christian points out, they start here in the vineyard. Maule. #chile @drinkchile

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Part of the focus of Christian Sepúlveda in his winemaking at J Bouchon is reducing the impact of vessels used in the cellar on the final wine to allow great site transparency. He has also (as have several other producers in Chile) been working on better understanding the very specific soil character within the vineyard in order to better recognize how that shows up in the structure and fruit character of the wines, and then better respect that in the cellar. As part of this Christian has returned to using the wineries historic concrete fermentation vessels as were readily used well into the early part of the last century. The concrete tanks shown here more readily maintain an even fermentation temperature arc without temperature control than, for example, stainless steel, while also allowing some oxygen exchange, as well as a different chemical interaction (essentially) with the concrete than the steel. The result is found in profound textural difference to the wines, and in many cases a differing sense of completeness and consistency across the palate. Historically producers turned away from concrete to steel in favor of temperature control and easiness of cleaning. Steel can Also more readily harness the linearity of some varieties. Stainless steel tanks though also mean an essentially oxygen free environment. All of these aspects change the dynamics of fermentation as well as how aging happens and producers choose the vessel partially based on desired effect. In this case, after experimenting in the cellar, Christian feels that in the case of heritage vines, especially those grown in granitic soils, a greater sense of purity is delivered through these old tanks. As he describes it the work J Bouchon is doing in both vineyard and cellar is about innovation through a return to their roots. Maule. #chile @drinkchile

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Thing 1, Thing 2. J Bouchon winery. Maule. #chile @drinkchile

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Awesome. If you haven’t had Pais you are seriously missing out. Here tasting three different styles of Pais with Christian Sepúlveda, winemaker of J Bouchon. Christian works with 120-year old, dry farmed and head trained Pais vines to make concrete fermented wines with a focus on purity. The Pais Viejo is a fresh and friendly quaffable wine perfect for picnics or poolside with carbonic lift and pure fruits. The Pais Salvage delivers the wildness of the variety with a touch more edgy structure, depth and palate stimulation. The Les Mercedes brings an elegant side to the variety with a bit more age-ability while also offering the balance perfect for a meal. Really awesome discussion on Chilean heritage, vineyard expression, and freshness. Fantastic tasting. Maule. #chile @drinkchile

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Chilean bbq. Maule. #chile @drinkchile

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Listening for love on the road … #chile

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Nine Days in Willamette Valley

winter skies over Seven Springs Vineyard

At the last of November I began nine days in Willamette Valley meeting with a range of producers of all sorts – in various subzones, with different stylistic interests, varying winery sizes, and working with a range of varieties – to spend time talking about age-ability of wines in the region, the 2017 harvest, and what people are excited about. While there I shared some of my travels on Instagram. Here’s a look at that collection as shared at the time.

Tons of fun new stuff happening at Carlton Winemakers’ Studio. #willamettevalley @crltnwinestudio

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Taking a soil walk with Jason Lett of Eyrie through the Dundee Hills to gather samples from different sites and distill petrichor samples. The parent material through the area is basalt (as shown in the 2nd photo) but the architecture of the soil itself changes depending on the aspects, and erosion of the site thanks to how the microclimate interacts with the topography. The biological health of the soil too changes the soil architecture over time and so also how the vine health persists through a growing season. Petrichor aromatics reveal details of soil health that are difficult to quantify but at the same time insightful of the relationship between wine, vine, and environment. #willamettevalley @eyrievineyards

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I’m not crying. Shut up. You’re crying. #willamettevalley @eyrievineyards 1974 and 1975 Pinot Meunier

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Visiting the girls at Big Table Farm. #willamettevalley @clarecarver

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Talking through vintage variation, age-ability, and winemaking choices on Brooks Janus Pinot Noir 2007-2015 with winemaker Chris Williams and Managing Director Janie Brooks Hueck. Brooks makes biodynamically certified wines in the state of Oregon, which means no additives in the cellar. Their estate vineyard is also biodynamically certified. Janus is my ongoing favorite of their Pinots. It also ages like a champ maintaining freshness for years. While I have always liked the energy and lift of Brooks wines upon release their real magic is found after time in bottle when the weave of the wine opens and reveals a complex constellation of subtlety and flavor. My favorite in this like up is the 2007 – beautiful and earthy with lithe and supple depth. #willamettevalley @brookswinery @janiebrooksheuck

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Awesome exploratory tasting with Adelsheim winemakers David Paige and Gina Hennen discussing stylistic evolution, soils, vintage variation, and age-ability of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The opportunity to taste a range of stylistic expressions built by the evolution of the winemakers’ perspective as well as vintage character with a focus on openness, honesty, and most especially listening is one of the most thrilling parts of how I spend my time. This trip to Willamette has been very much about having those open, trusting conversations with people across a real range of approaches and sub-zones. The way these conversations build deeper connections and understanding of wine, community, and even each other means everything to me. It ‘s what has kept me at this these several years turning a rather unusual way of life into my career. Deeply grateful to the members of the wine community that entrust me in these ways with their triumphs, foibles, uncertainties, curiosities, and explorations regardless of style or technique. Thank you. Spinoza said that the more different sorts of people, things, experiences we are able to connect with the stronger we will be. This idea has been one of my guiding principles in life. I am grateful for the ways it has been shown to me again and again in wine. The more broadly I taste, the more openly I listen, the deeper my understanding and the more I can be of service. I am most grateful to be of service. #willamettevalley @adelsheim

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Portrait of the writer in a bottle of wine she loves. This is what it feels like to love a bottle of wine, to find yourself inside of it, surrounded by the life and rush and energy of it, to discover the world inside your senses far larger and more consuming than the size and space your psyche has until that moment projected and maintained as the outline of your physical body, to discover in the experience of the wine you both disappear and are energized. To experience pleasure as more than hedonistic, as emboldening, as well as enlightening. I am in love with the energy, subtlety, and complexity of this wine. Hope Well 2016 (as yet unreleased, and so also as shown here, unlabeled) Pinot Noir from Mimi Casteel’s Hope Well Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills. The fruit comes from blocks she farms herself by hand with a focus on continuously improving the innate soil biology and thus also vine health. With this in mind she also foregoes tilling. Her efforts have been so successful a previously believed extinct North American beetle has recently been rediscovered on her property. #willamettevalley @mimicasteel

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Petaluma Gap AVA – Trump’s First New AVA

The Petaluma Gap AVA in Sonoma and Marin counties has finally been approved today after a long delay, making Petaluma Gap the newest AVA in the United States. The last previous AVA to be approved by the TTB was the Appalachian High Country of North Carolina in October 2016 under the Obama administration.

The Petaluma Gap AVA application had fulfilled all stages of approval during the Obama administration except for the final approval signature. The official signature was not granted under the Trump administration due to a failure of the new administration to appoint the necessary official to sign the document, and a moratorium on rulemaking created by Trump. Now that the official position has been filled and the moratorium on rulemaking lifted, it appears the approval process can begin for other proposed AVAs in the pipeline such as the Van Duzer Corridor AVA within Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

Making the Petaluma Gap official clears the way for wineries to label with the new AVA wines made from grapes from within the area. The approval also marks the first official AVA in Marin County. Until now the produce of Marin’s vineyards could be labelled only with the …

To continue reading this article (free-for-all) head on over to JancisRobinson.com. Here’s the link: https://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/petaluma-gap-trumps-first-new-ava

Vignerons as the Mediators of Modernity

I see vignerons as the mediators of modernity. – Professor Marion Demossier

Marion is an anthropologist who works on wine culture of Burgundy, here standing in the partially restored 11th century Abbaye St-Vivant de Vergy, speaking to top producers of both Burgundy and Central Otago during the Central Otago Burgundy Exchange ten-year anniversary celebration last month.

It is difficult to translate the profundity of a moment like this to the page. The Abbaye of St-Vivant de Vergy is the site at which our contemporary understanding of wine began.  Its notions of site expression, classifications, Pinot Noir’s ability to carry where it is grown into the wine, and, yes, terroir, all originated when, in the 10th century, monks of France fled the kings who were persecuting them and were given land in the 11th century by the Dukes of Burgundy in, what we now know as, Vosne-Romanee. The region already included vineyards but they were planted to a melange of varieties. Settling into the area, the monks began focusing specifically on Pinot Noir. With it, they also began to build the carefully wrought system of interpreting and studying not only how vines interact with their environment, but also of how we interact with the vines. In this way, they started modern viticulture, as well as reverence for wine.

Today, even as viticulture has evolved and adapted to environments around the world, what the monks started is the basis through which Pinot Noir certainly, though other varieties too, is grown and understood throughout the world. Wine growing is one illustration of modernity, with its ordered understanding of the world, its interpretations and questioning of our surroundings, and its dependency on technology. That insight is implicit in the moment of drinking wine itself, though different people do also have differing levels of recognition of it. In this way, when sharing what we take to be a simple glass of wine, people also share an encounter, a moment of recognition that includes often unsaid information, and levels of understanding of each other. It is partially because of this that Marion can make the claim that vignerons are mediators of modernity. Their work is an expression and enactment of modern culture, and it becomes a means through which our encounters with each other can be mediated too.

Modernity, as a concept, refers to a way of interacting with and interpreting the world around us that arose out of Medieval Europe and continues today. As a notion it includes ideas of critically engaging with our environment, with each other, and with our own experience, in order to probe for meaning, and in that way create a sense of order to otherwise overwhelming experiences. The vigneron works with a plant that on its own grows wild, literally reaching in all directions on a hunt to cover ground, and climb its surroundings, to instead shape it and farm its fruit. By studying how the vine grows, the vigneron interprets nature. In sharing that knowledge, a sharing of information is born. But that sharing of information is also a moment through which, much like the vine, culture is both formed, and spread. In this way, wine encircling the globe as it has, has acted as a vehicle for a meeting of the minds. It has created the opportunity for not only the sharing of cultures but also the transforming of them. Wine has simply been the vehicle. Vigneron, in their way, have mediated – that is, acted as both the means, and the mechanism through which such transformation has occurred. When we enjoy together a glass of wine we are participating in these moments of sharing, and of changing each other’s understanding of the world around us, even when it otherwise seems as if we are not talking about much.

So, imagine now the cacophony of elements all chiming together in this moment. One Sunday morning in October, some of the best vigneron of Burgundy, along with many of the best winemakers of Central Otago – a region exactly on the opposite side of the world from where we stand there in Burgundy that is now celebrated too for its quality Pinot Noir – and a handful of wine writers from France, the UK, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, together there in an 11th century abbey where the origins of contemporary wine culture can be found, listening to an anthropologist (anthropology itself a symptom of modernity too) speak to us about the import of sharing across cultures via the vehicle of wine, and reflect on that idea of mediation – that, through a glass of wine shared, we are ourselves translating our own cultures to each other simply by drinking that wine together and sharing the moment. For even when little speaking is involved, the simple act of being present together brings with it deeper understanding and recognition across cultural differences, and in that way also generates change, even if that understanding, recognition, and change are otherwise ineffable.

By reflecting on this idea, Marion spoke of how programs like the Central Otago Burgundy Exchange offer a solution on how to face and change the political and social struggles of our world today. It is through that ineffable recognition and understanding the empathy and care needed to choose and legislate for humanity, rather than political gain can be founded.

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Travels through New Zealand and France

sky diving over the Klutha River, Wanaka, Central Otago

My daughter Rachel and I just returned from New Zealand. I arrived there in mid-October to serve as an international judge for the Air New Zealand Wine Awards, and then did a road trip around the country until the award ceremony in November. In the midst of the trip I also traveled to France for a Central Otago event occurring in Burgundy. Then, Rachel arrived in New Zealand for a few weeks of travel with me. After the reality of the California wild fires, in truth, I felt a lot of strain and it felt like it took a few weeks just to put myself back together. I had to be slow and steady with myself. Gratefully people on my trip were patient and supportive too. People went out of their way to be helpful and I am very grateful. Here in California, when Caleb Taft found out that due to the fires I couldn’t reach wine I was meant to bring with me to New Zealand for a Chardonnay seminar in Auckland he contacted Arlequin Wine Merchant. The two together, Caleb and the shop, donated the wine for me to bring to the seminar. In New Zealand, friends and colleagues hosted me in their homes, scheduled visits for me, and just provided space for me to quietly stay. It made all the difference. Eventually, when I’d finally relaxed enough again, they helped me have a lot of fun too. It was incredibly special to travel with Rachel. We had a great time and she loved New Zealand too. Thank you very much to everyone that hosted me in New Zealand and France. Thank you most especially to the New Zealand Winegrowers, the Central Otago Winegrowers Association, and Air New Zealand for helping me plan my travel. Here are some photos from our recent travels originally shared to Instagram during the trip itself.

Preloading for my flight to Burgundy… #chardonnay @charteriswines @lacollinanz

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Traveled 39 hours to get here from Auckland. Totally worth it. Driving north through the Haut Cote de Beaune. #bourgogne

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To celebrate ten years (it is now eleven) of the Central Otago Burgundy Exchange a group of producers from Central Otago brought their wines to share with vintners of Burgundy in a tasting held in the king’s room of the Hospices de Beaune. The top producers of Burgundy, as well as former stagiaires of the program, were there with the group of Kiwis and a handful of media, from New Zealand, Australia, the UK, the US, and France. Few of us, even among those from France, had been inside the king’s room of the Hospice before as it is not open to the public. A tasting like this, showcasing wines from so many producers, all there together, from outside Burgundy has not happened here before. Around 140 attended from France. 14 producers from New Zealand poured their wine. It was inspiring and incredible to witness the excitement of the tasting. #bourgogne #centralotago

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Our final day of the Central Otago Burgundy Exchange celebration brought us to the Ancienne Abbaye de Saint-Vivant, a monastary from the 11th century that is in the process of being restored. Aubert de Villaine helped instigate and organize the restoration and so hosted us in recognition of the importance of the Exchange. The Abbaye is not yet open to the public. During part of the ceremony the Central Otago contingent gathered together at one end of the Abbaye and sang a Maori prayer in gratitude and blessing of the Exchange, the sharing of cultures, and the world history of wine the Abbaye represents. Afterwards Aubert shared with us Chardonnay made from the vineyard beside the Abbaye, which is sold to help fund the restoration. #bourgogne #centralotago

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Deeply grateful for this time with friends. It has, on paper, been a crazy side trip to fly to Beaune in the middle of work in New Zealand, but the time here has also been restorative and special. In truth, after everything that has happened recently I have a lot of sadness to deal with over time. The fires and their aftermath are so massive it is hard to face all at once. Our region has been changed and we are all grappling with that small bits at a time. This trip to Burgundy has been both the culmination of a year spent getting to know a particular story, and the ongoing development of friendships. The last two months have included a wealth of challenges for me from personal change, to loss of loved ones, health crises for others, and being part of a massive natural disaster. What a crazy time. The gift of all of it has been recognizing that life has surrounded me with grace. It has felt as though faith has given me sea legs, and with that there is foremost the grace of friendship. The rest, with plenty of care, sorts itself over time. Thank you very much to everyone that organized this time in Burgundy celebrating the Central Otago Burgundy Exchange for including me. #bourgogne #centralotago

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My day today – 80 some New Zealand Chardonnay and Riesling, and a view. #newzealand @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa

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Lovely subtlety. #centralotago Felton Road 2002 Riesling @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa

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Tasting the new Cru wines from Smith & Sheth. Classic Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay. #newzealand

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Looking east over the Pacific from near the Waimarama Domain on the eastern shores of the North Island. #newzealand

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Honestly, Hawke’s Bay, just stop it. Out west in Maraekakaho. #newzealand

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I AM SO EXCITED #newzealand INTERISLANDER FERRY OHMYGOD YES

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Standing on the edge of the world looking west. Greymouth, West Coast, South Island. #newzealand

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I gave a ride to a backpacker from one small town to another yesterday. From Austria, he was trained and worked there as an architect but got tired with the way increasing regulations in the building industry there heavily reduced, he felt, the room for creativity of design as the focus turns more strongly to cutting costs. Fed up with his work he decided to make a bold move and left his job, let go his rental flat, and sold everything he owns. He left a bicycle at his parents’ home in Austria and now besides has only what he carries with him in his backpack and wears along the way. The ongoing plan is to simply hike what interests him as he finds it along the way here in New Zealand. Arriving just over a month ago, he has walked many of the mountain trails on the North Island, and is now walking his way down the mountains of the South. Eventually he confessed that besides the peacefulness and calm of it one of his favorite aspects of this trek across New Zealand is the trees he finds in the forest. “The trees here all have, I don’t know what to call it,” he said. After a pause he continued. “Personality. They all have their own personality.” One of my favorites is the fern trees. I have never seen them anywhere else. Here looking up into the canopy of one of the South Island’s fern trees. #newzealand

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Fox Glacier view from across the valley, West Coast, South Island #newzealand

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See that plane? We’re going to jump out of it. #newzealand

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Post sky dive mince pie from the Doughbin, Wanaka. #newzealand @buteo_jamaicensis_jr

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On the site today: skydiving with Rachel over Wanaka #newzealand @buteo_jamaicensis_jr

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So, this is what Alaska looks like… #newzealand Aoraki Mount Cook, South Island

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Sunset approaching over the Tasman Bay. Nelson. #newzealand

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Nelson in frames. Looking over the Tasman Bay in daylight. #newzealand

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Rachel in the Tasman. Nelson. #newzealand @buteo_jamaicensis_jr

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Wow. Ten year old Marlborough Semillon beautifully made by Pyramid Valley from vines that no longer exist. Very little Semillon grows today in New Zealand but this wine offers a great reminder of how palate stimulating and distinctive it can be in an aged, dry style – the variety just wants time in bottle. A sea fresh, floral nose with hints of incense and beeswax, on the palate becomes savory, with a firm, delicious mid palate, a crazy long finish, and that classic, wonderful oil-cloth texture of aged Semillon. A bit overwhelmed to get to taste this and share it with Rachel. #newzealand Thank you to @winejames and @yrmom_safoodie for helping me talk through dinner pairings. Wish you were here to share the wine. Thank you to Claudia for gifting us with the bottle. @pyramidvalleyvineyards @buteo_jamaicensis_jr

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A good afternoon starts like this… the Zephyr. #newzealand @mrbglover

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Another nice example of how well Sauvignon can age. Zephyr 2011 from Marlborough. #newzealand @mrbglover

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Such a distinctive site. Fromm established the recognition of quality seen today in the Clayvin Vineyard of Marlborough. Even so, I had only had Chardonnay from the site made by other producers. Though Fromm certainly makes their Chardonnay in their own style – focus on freshness and texture, great palate tension and length, utterly dry finish – I was struck by immediately recognizing the Clayvin site itself in the Fromm wine. It carries a distinct acid signature that helps provide the palate tension at the heart of the wine, while also showcasing distinctive toasted nut and citrus notes that carries across producer style. The Chardonnay from Fromm offers lovely transparency and ample presence that hovers and floats through the palate avoiding any sense of heaviness or push. Wonderful wine. Elegant with strength. #newzealand @frommwinery

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Classic. Rachel taking the Wellington Harbor jump from the top platform. #newzealand @buteo_jamaicensis_jr

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Clive Paton, a titan of the New Zealand wine industry, standing in the mother block of Abel clone Pinot Noir, planted in 1980 with cuttings Clive got from the man himself, Mister Malcolm Abel, establishing Ata Rangi, and effectively starting the history of Pinot Noir in not only Martinborough but also New Zealand. These vines went on to become the source of Abel clone, New Zealand’s own unique signature of Pinot Noir, for the rest of the country. Clive went on to spearhead bringing Dijon clones into the country as well, and has continued to keep an eye on the future of the New Zealand wine industry researching new possible varieties for the country and focusing on expanding sustainability and preservation efforts not only in winegrowing but for the environment more broadly. It is deeply inspiring to have time with people like Clive both for the opportunity to connect with him as a person, and to deepen my understanding of the history and evolving conditions of the region, the country, and this industry, to reflect on what it means to humbly gain understanding while using that to contribute to the larger community. #newzealand @ata_rangi

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Walking a legendary vineyard, Heipipi, The Terraces, near the Esk Valley area, part of Esk Valley vineyards, at the Northern reach of Hawke’s Bay, with a total legend, winemaker Gordon Russell. The Terraces has been a favorite vineyard of mine without my having ever seen it until now thanks to its remarkable history, limestone and seashell soils, absolutely stunning dry-farmed, co-ferment, field blend wine, and the passion of winemaker Gordon Russell for the site. Honestly energizing to finally be there and spend the first half of the day discussing it and its wines with Gordon. The Terraces is yet another example of the rich diversity of Hawke’s Bay. At the north end of Hawke’s Bay, the Pacific Ocean is essentially across the street from the vineyard, cooling the vines and extending the growing season. The Terraces themselves were designed in the early part of the last century, then planted again to a field blend of Malbec, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc in the late 1980s. It ‘s a remarkable choice – planting Bordeaux varieties at a time before new world expressions of them had exploded on the international scene, and Malbec before Argentina had again made it famous. Esk Valley’s The Terraces is one of the most unique sites in New Zealand, and one of the country’s truly great wines. Plus Gordon is just damn cool. #newzealand @gordonatesk

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The soils at The Terraces, Esk Valley Vineyard, is an uplifted seabed full of limestone and seashells. Walking the Terraces bands of seashells will suddenly appear from the soil, clutched together in surprising stacks. In the soils above these stacks seashells are dotted throughout with less density but still persistent throughout the limestone-based loam. Surprising and cool. The site sits at the North end of Hawke’s Bay, short distance from the Pacific Ocean. The Terraces are planted to a field blend of Malbec, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, all dry-farmed, and picked together. The fruit is then co-fermented and bottled as Esk Valley Heipipi The Terraces, one of New Zealand’s great wines. #newzealand @gordonatesk (If you look through the three photos they zoom in on the seashell stack visible in the lower right corner of the top photo.)

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Super fascinating. Surveying the Gimblett Gravels area of Hawke’s Bay with Matt Stafford of Craggy Range. Beneath this raw field rest feet of greywacke gravel deposited over hundreds of years by the Ngaruroro River. The stones tend to correlate with a gunmetal dustiness in wines from the area. In planting a piece of land that at first glance looks flat subtle features on the surface can reveal insights on how the site will interact with future vines. Here the variation in color in the natural grasses and flowers reveals an underlying difference in natural water supply and soil density. In planting new sites the Craggy Range teams does what it can to keep the natural shape of the land, rather than smoothing, flattening, or moving soil more than needed to put in vines. These sorts of subtle dips and valleys tend to mean subtle differences in ripening that can bring interesting character to some varieties and problematic ripening to others thereby pointing to smart varietal and clonal choices. Future plans for this particular site are to plant Chardonnay. #newzealand @craggyrange @crmattstafford

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Walking the Craggy Range Syrah blocks in their Gimblett Gravels vineyard with winemaker Matt Stafford talking clonal and rootstock variation in relation to vine age and subtle site variation. Such a complex dynamic of elements that come together and express themselves in the wine. As we walk the blocks we also taste block and clone, then also rootstock specific vinifications. The older vine blocks reveal a more apparent while also more integrated gunmetal dustiness with loads of sapidity that the Gimblett Gravels are celebrated for. The older vine blocks also feel brighter and more complete with finer tannin. In the younger vines some clonal blocks are more floral, others show darker fruits or more savory notes. The contrasting blocks are all within mere feet (or meters here in New Zealand) of each other but also on differing subtle lifts or dips of Greywacke gravel. By keeping the clonal block components separate during vinification the Craggy Range team is better able to study the growing conditions leading into cellar characteristics of the different clones through their development with vine age. In the end the separate blocks are blended to create a more complete wine, capturing the fine tannin and sapidity of the older vines accented by the floral lift, savory backbone, and mix of fruits of the clonal differences. #newzealand @craggyrange @crmattstafford

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Awesome look at aging potential and vintage variation in the Gimblett Gravels via an odd-vintages vertical from 2005 to 2015 of Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah. Vineyard replants and winemaker changes factor in here too but even so there is great insight here on age-ability and the wineries evolution of style. The 2005 has aged well with time still left in bottle. It‘s a richer, riper style than more recent vintages but carries a nice balance of development with still fresh palate stimulation and several years more left to go. By 2011 the wine has become lighter on its feet beginning to reveal the focus on refinement and ultra fine tannin that is front and center in 2015. While the 2013 feels like a perfect vintage with the balance of structure and fruit, depth and freshness, it also needs more time in bottle to settle into the grace it will have more seamlessly in a few more years. Awesome, insightful tasting. Huge thanks to Matt Stafford and Craggy Range for sharing the wines and the time! #newzealand @craggyrange @crmattstafford

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NZ Winegrowers donate NZ$25,000 to California Fire Victims

This last weekend the gala celebration for the 2017 Air New Zealand Wine Awards took place in Hawke’s Bay. Trophy-winning wines were announced during the dinner with Marlborough taking top honours for 12 of the 17 trophy categories, including the top two prizes. Marlborough’s success this year was especially welcome as the awards were announced almost exactly one year after the Kaikoura earthquake which impacted wineries throughout the region. Dashwood Pinot Noir 2016 Marlborough won the O-I New Zealand Reserve Wine of Show, and Isabel Chardonnay 2016 Marlborough took the top prize, Air New Zealand Champion Wine of Show. A total of 1,300 wines entered the competition this year.

Also at the event four new fellows were announced, recognised for their long-term commitment to the New Zealand wine industry: Babich’s founder and winemaker…

To continue reading this post with free access, continue to JancisRobinson.com. Her site has had on going coverage in relation to the California fires alongside her usual excellent look at wines and wine news from around the world. Here’s the link to the rest of the article: https://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/nz-winegrowers-donate-nz25000-to-california-fire-victims