|Marlborough – a very attractive part
of the wine world.
The Marlborough Diaries: Day 1
It began in Africa…
Actually, it began in Sydney (or my day did at least) with a pre-dawn wake up call to get to the airport for a 9:25am flight. I was there so early purely to cater for the anticipated customs strike related delays, though thankfully said delays never happened (with the workers replaced instead by a notably friendly army of trucked in substitutes).
My day however is ending in Marlborough, arguably New Zealand’s most important wine region and the location for the Marlborough Wine Weekend (an event that I’ll be spending my weekend attending).
Before I got to Marlborough today however I was abused by a taxi driver with a penchant for easy listening music, ran 3kms in my jeans and was wolf-whistled at by a random kiwi at a caravan coffee shop. It’s a hard knock life this wine gig sometimes (yeah right).
It’s not hard right now though – I’m currently holed up in the rather stunning Belltower Boutique Lodge, a converted guest house that is part of the Dog Point Vineyards empire. Belltower will be my base for the next few days and I’m particularly looking forward to kicking the Dog Point dirt first thing tomorrow morning before a full day of Marlborough action.
Tonight however was settling-in time, with this evening’s dinner hosted by Ivan Sutherland (or his wife Margaret more correctly) who is one half of the Dog Point Vineyards operation. Ivan opened all his recent releases tonight, along with a smattering of older wines, plus the odd serious Burgundy with it all matched to a menu that include local lobster, local lamb and local whitebait (did I mention that it’s a hard knock life?..).
|Dog Point Sparkling.
Now I won’t go into too much detail here about the evening, largely as the clock has just struck 1am and I’m meant to be getting up early to prepare myself for a sparkling brunch thing.
Suffice to say however that these Dog Point wines sit up at the pointy, high quality end of the Marlborough wine tree, drawn from fruit that is all hand picked (even the basic Sauv Blanc), off their own vineyards (which are certified organic or in-conversion) and made by a team that includes Ivan (ex-cloudy Bay viticulturist) and James Healey (ex-Cloudy Bay winemaker).
Heck, these guys sell plenty of grapes to Cloudy Bay still (for top dollars) and even Kevin Judd himself is making his Greywacke wines in their winery, using their fruit. Pointy end Marlborough wine production indeed.
Unsurprising then that tonight’s wines were good. Well good even, with a vitality and surety that comes from knowing both your vineyards and your craft back to front and back again.
Some of the evenings highlight’s included:
Dog Point Vineyards Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc 2009
An oak aged Sauvignon Blanc drawn off a particular patch of vines that Ivan has managed for many years. What this wine shows is the punch of overt Marlborough Savvy character but tempered with oak richness. It smells of Sauv, but tastes more like acidic Chardonnay, with that tension working in complexities favour. Holding up very well, I’m calling another two odd years before it’s current plateau peak, with plenty of scope for even more bottle aged enjoyment to come. Nice, layered wine. 17.9/92+
Dog Point Vineyard Chardonnay 2006This isn’t actually a current release, as that honour goes to the 2009 version. This 2006 though is right in the groove now, the oak mellowing significantly and the bottle age/solid year gives the wine a much more savoury, white peach/vanilla milkshake golden richness that is oh-so classic Chardonnay. We placed this up against a 1er cru Ramonet Les Caillerts which looked much more savoury, minerally and solidsy heavy but genuinely didn’t have the balance and richnes of this wine (even though the Dog Point is one third of the price). Big win, with the 2009 also solid, if looking just a little big for serious love. (2006 – 18.4/94 2009 17.7/92)
Dog Point Vineyards Pinot Noir 2009
My wine of the night. Apparently the quantities of this were reduced by 40% due to some extra vigorous sorting table action, mainly due to the hot conditions which left some slightly baggy looking grapes. Suffice to say that this attention has resulted in a rather classic Marlborough Pinot, one that carefully balances sappy, bacon bits and red fruit, warmly extractive Pinot character with fleshy red fruit to make for a quite big wine but one that looks structured, serious and well built for the region. I like the power and weight on this, it looks very grown up and oh so Pinoty. Big fan. Yes please. 18.5/94
|Serious vino this|
Also opened tonight was a rich, Bollinger-esque magnum of the ‘inner sactum exclusive’ Dog Point Two Shady Dogs Batch One NV, an oak fermented, long lees aged not for the public Chardonnay dominant fizz of weight and creamy intensity, the Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2011 which I thought looked a little attenuated if very tropical and varietal and to round off a Dog Point Vineyards Pinot Noir 2004 which looked resolved and rather elegant if a little disjointed and light compared to the 2009.
Oh and I almost forgot the two cheeky red Burgundies that made a (very late) appearance, namely a Anne Gros Chambolle Musigny 2005 which looked meaty, bacony and Burgundian if a little raw and big at present, plus a Pascal Lachaux Bonnes Mares Grand Cru 2005 which was a deep, dark and tannic beast of a Burgundy that really should not be drunk now unless you are going to give it a solid stint in a decanter.
Now, if you will excuse me, I need to collapse in an overzised, well stuffed bed so that I can catch enough sleep to last through several more days of this hard knock life…