Winemaker's Comment Autumn 2007

A cloudy and damp day in Bannockburn today, just about the only one we have seen in months, after one of the most even and consistent summers for many years. With everything safely gathered into the winery, a bit of rain would be gratefully received right now. The vines have produced a small crop due to the cold spring, but the near perfect ripening season has produced wines which are proving thrilling to taste as the ferments finish (along with quite a few scares with the ones that have been reluctant to finish). 

I’m always a bit distracted amid the winemaking, knowing that I have this newsletter to write; but it has a really positive aspect as it forces me to focus on what changes we are seeing, what is worthy of jotting down on paper for you all to read. This year I am struck by the tiny global enclave of which we seem to be a part. 

In some ways this is a story that starts with Eric, the eponymous ploughman from Burgundy, who we featured in the last newsletter. Shortly after we printed it, Claudia Weersing, from Pyramid Valley Vineyards picked up a copy: Oh, there’s Eric! she immediately proclaimed. Some four weeks later we had a couple of Burgundian winemakers drop by to look around. They saw the picture and one told me he would be having dinner with Eric in just a few days time. We were able to send him off with some wine for Eric as a thanks for the use of his picture, but it reinforced awareness of this tiny global village of which we are so lucky to have become members. 

Our viticultural team here have always been very international. This year we have had three Chinese viticulture graduates on the team, joining those from France, Germany, Japan, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, not to mention the Kiwis! For vintage it has been great to have Yoshiaki Sato, from Tokyo, working in the winery as a very enthusiastic and solid cellar hand. 

Then a continuous stream of international visitors; it was both very interesting and a great honour to welcome the eminent soil scientist Claude Bourguignon to our vineyard. He is a legend in Pinot Noir terms, having done more to revitalise Burgundy than almost any other single figure of the past 50 years. Claude is one of the founders of the modern organic movement in viticulture and it was wonderful to have him and his wife burrowing three metres down beneath Block 3, rejoicing in the Calcium deposits they were finding there. 

Right after that we went off to Wellington for Pinot Noir 2007 and a chance to meet friends from across the whole world of Pinot Noir. A quick dive over to the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria the next week saw a weekend of more intensive tastings including a look across the 2004 vintage of the Domaine de la Romane-Conti. It was there that Aubert de Villaine, proprietor of this legendary Domaine told us that he is converting all the estate to a full biodynamic regime, a further reinforcement of our choice to follow this route. 

A fun project has come out of a meal Nigel had at Sydney’s famous Tetsuya’s restaurant. In chatting with Tetsuya Wakuda, the idea came of creating a special cuvee of Pinot Noir that would be especially suited to his modern Japanese cooking. As I write this we have a small stack of barrels with Tetsuya’s name chalked on them awaiting bottling. If you are in Sydney and are lucky enough to get a reservation, be sure to try this wine. 

Which brings me to the 2006 wines which we are releasing. We bottled the Pinot Noir just before vintage and I am delighted with how it is looking: riper and a more elegant than the cooler 2004 and 2005 vintages, it has lovely silky tannins and is drinking very well even this close to bottling. We know from our experience of these warmer vintages that the wines age very well indeed, so this is likely to be a wine one can enjoy and watch evolve over many years to come. The Chardonnay is sitting patiently awaiting bottling and again a little riper than the 2005, but with good tension and minerality, I feel this is one of our finer Chardonnays to date. 

We showed the 2006 Pinot Noir for the first time at our birthday party at Easter where some 300 of you were kind enough to come along and taste wines from the past ten vintages. It was great to meet so many people who have been loyal customers, but have never managed to make it to the winery before and also to have the feedback on a decade of our past efforts. Thanks to all of you, both for your making the journey, and for your many cards, letters and emails of appreciation for the event. I have suggested to Nigel that we may have a party every Easter, though the cooking for 300 guests was a fair challenge for his team in our tiny winery kitchen. 

Lastly, a new full time member of the team. Jancis, the winery cat joined us just before Christmas and has been both delighting visitors and terrorising vineyard mice and rabbits ever since. She can be found on her namesakes website: www.jancisrobinson.com, though after receiving so many hits, you now have to be a subscriber to access her picture and text. 

Cheers

Blair Walter

Winemaker

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