Sunday, July 15, 2012

Review: Wither Hills Pinot Noir 2010 Marlborough, Wairau Valley

Embracing a sense of place.

Continuing on my quest to “understand” New Zealand Pinot Noir, I purchased this bottle in Seattle at Esquin Wine Merchants in the SODO district. Esquin has a much better selection of New Zealand wine, than I have in SE Washington. Unfamiliar with the label, I trusted the description on the back of the bottle. “...a richly flavoured, finely structured wine, enhanced by maturing for 16 months in French oak barriques.”

After I had the bottle home, I did some research on the winery and learned more about the Wairau Valley and the winery. Most of the region's soils were laid down in the last 14,000 years providing fertile ground for grape-growing. Vines are nourished by the waters of the Wairau River. One of the sunniest and driest places in New Zealand, the ‘cooler' climate is ideal for nurturing premium grapes to full ripeness. Vines were first planted in the Wairau Valley in 1973, and it is here that Wither Hills' estate vineyards have flourished. Vines are grown in stony river gravels, so they have to struggle to survive and develop deep root systems. This struggle is realized in fruit with character and complexity, a “terroir” unique to the Wairau Valley. Wither Hills was established in 1994.

Day one tasting notes:
Color: Clear ruby.
Nose: Earthy at opening, smoky edges, cranberry, hard taffy.
Flavors: Berry, cherry, almost cranberry, chalk.
Finish: Gently dry, pleasant amount of acidity, semi tart finish.

Day two notes and thoughts: 
On the second day, this Pinot Noir was still very tasty, perhaps a bit more restrained and elegant. The fruit stood out, it was full of berry flavor, also a bit fuller in the mouth and broader in the palate. It was nice and bright mid-palate. For me, this wine was saying "Kia ora" (which means, Hello!). It had a tart, cherry candy finish, with noticeable acidity on my teeth. On the second day, I consider this wine a good companion to pork chops, cold cuts, hard salami and sharp cheese. A sunset wouldn't hurt either. You can enjoy this wine today and over the next few years. I found the Wither Hills Pinot Noir a gratifying component to my understanding of New Zealand wine. I like their back story. These are committed, passionate winemakers who have expressed a sense of place in their wine. Recommended.

ABV: 13.5%
Closure: Screw cap.
Paid: $18.99
Ben Glover chief winemaker
Imported by Lion Nathan USA Overland Park, KS

Note: Wither Hills embraces environmental sustainability by practicing the values of Reduce (energy, non-renewable resource use and waste to landfill), Re-use where possible and Re-cycle as appropriate. They take a holistic approach to sustainable winemaking. In some vineyards they are planting flowering plants (mainly buckwheat) to enhance beneficial insects (good bugs) to eat the bad bugs. This method will hopefully reduce the need for applications of some insecticides.

Ben Glover, Chief Winemaker.
I visited the Wither Hills website and found this quote by Mr. Glover.
“For me, making Pinot is the holy grail! It's the prince of all the classic varieties. It is notoriously fickle, yet worth all the blood, sweat and tears when you get it right. New Zealand Pinot Noir is the next global star and Marlborough will be at the forefront of this assault.”
- Ben Glover, Wither Hills Chief Winemaker

Wither Hills Vineyards
Marlborough Limited
211 New Renwick Rd, RD2, Blenheim
Marlborough, New Zealand

Tasting Room
OPEN: Every Day. 10:00am - 4:30pm
Lunches served daily: 11.00am - 4.00pm at Wither Hills Restaurant.
Groups of up to 100 can be catered for by special arrangement. Contact Wither Hills.

Phone: +64 (03) 520 8284

Mauriora! (Good Health/Cheers!)

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