Rippon Pinot Noir 2011, Lake Wanaka, Central Otago, New Zealand

Drunk March 2015 @ home

The Winery

Originally bought in 1912 by the Mills family, it was in 1975 that Rolfe and Lois Mills, the third generation of the family on the farm, started to plant a series of experimental rows of vines near Lake Wanaka in Central Otago. In 1982 they planted the first block of vines with the express interest of producing high quality wine. In 1989 their first commercial vintage was released. The land continues to be farmed by the Mills family with Rolfe's son Nick now in charge, and production is entirely biodynamic with no irrigation.

ick Mills, Rippon

See Nick's video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGMd1jQEE2s

Nick Mills returned home after several years away, working with Alain and Sophie Meunier at Domaine JJ Confuron, and Pascal Marchand (late of Domaine Comte Armand and now at Domaine de la Vougeraie) in Burgundy.

Nick Mills on Biodynamics, "Granted custodianship over this very special piece of land, the family's principle goal is to create vins de terroir, wines that are an accurate reflection of their surroundings. It is the micro-life in our soils which, in their ability to metabolise minerals into a form that vines can assimilate, are the link in between plants and the earth. This simple biology is the essential framework in producing a wine which is true to its soil and site. With this understanding comes an absolute respect for the land and life therein and it is for this reason that Rippon is run biodynamically. Decisions made in the vineyard and winery first consider the effect the outcome may have on the micro-flora of the soils, vines & wines. Rippon does not use herbicides, fungicides, pesticides or soluble nitrogenous fertilisers on the property. All the property's organic waste matter is recycled to make around 40 tonnes of fungal dominant compost every year. This is spread back over the land during the first descending moon after harvest as an inoculation of beneficial micro-flora for the whole property...and thus starts a diverse and vital web of life on which to live and produce."

The estate is around 15 hectares in size and sits on a north facing escarpment. 

The wine

This Pinot had great aromas and lovely intense, concentrated flavours of cherry and blackberry with a hint of spice, earthy notes on the palate. Fine tannins, and a long juicy finish. Very enjoyable balance of fruit, acidity and tannin from this bio wine with powerful flavours. 

Château Haut-Marbuzet 2010, Saint-Estèphe, Bordeaux

Drunk@home December 2015

The winery

Château Haut-Marbuzet is a Bordeaux wine estate in the Saint-Estèphe appellation area of the Haut-Médoc. 

It was founded in the 18th century, taking its name from Marbuzet, the area where the property resides and  established by Alexander de Segur, who owned several Bordeaux wine properties including another, much better known St. Estephe vineyard, Calon Segur. At his death, the land was divided and sold and in 1825, the land was purchased by the MacCarthy family, who officially established the modern estate as it is known today.

In 1952 after Hervé Duboscq acquired Château Haut-Marbuzet, the focus and reputation of quality increased and his son Henri is now the current owner of the estate.  The Duboscq family also owns two other Bordeaux estates in the St. Estephe, appellation, Chateau Chambert Marbuzet and Tour de Marbuzet.

Initially listed among the Cru Bourgeois in 1932, and later promoted to Grand Bourgeois Exceptionnel in 1978, the estate was classified as one of 9 Crus Bourgeois Exceptionnels in the 2003 official listing.  

Located between châteaux Cos d'Estournel and Montrose, the vineyard covers 65 hectares and is planted with 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc. Overlooking the Gironde estuary, it is mainly located on the gravel ridge of Marbuzet and the plateau of Long Treytin with gravel, clay and limestone soils. On average, the vines are close to 30 years of age. 

On average, the estate produces about 30,000 cases of Haut Marbuzet per year. There is a second wine, MacCarthy. A second wine is produced from the vines under 12 years old, under the label Château MacCarthy, which bears the name of the Irish Jacobite family who created the vineyard.

The wine

This 2010 Château Haut-Marbuzet had a powerful blackcurrant nose which continued on the palate with a fruity dark fruit style. Quite high acidity and not the smoothest of finishes meant that a 35 euro price seems excessive. Despite this being a top vintage, pleasant enough but not outstanding. 

Burn Cottage Pinot Noir 2012, Central Otago, New Zealand

Drunk@home December 2015

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The winery

Burn Cottage Vineyard Property is a twenty four hectare estate in Cromwell near the foothills of the Pisa range in Central Otago, New Zealand. The vineyard is owned by the Sauvage family which also owns the celebrated Koehler Ruprecht estate in the Pfalz region of Germany.

The vineyard was purchased in 2002 after an auction by Marquis and Dianne Sauvage. Historically the site was used for sheep grazing and there were, and are, no immediate vineyard neighbours. The site was much coveted in the region for it is sheltered from both northerly and southerly winds by large hills to form a protected bowl.

The first blocks were planted in 2003 and many different clones of Pinot Noir were planted on a variety of rootstocks. In addition to Pinot Noir there is a small amount of Gruner Veltliner and Riesling planted. The Pinot Noir is situated on north and north east facing slopes and the Riesling and Gruner are planted on an east facing slope in a gully in the property. The Gruner Veltliner planting is from the first generation of this variety released in New Zealand. 

New Zealander Peter Proctor and his partner Rachel Pomeroy have been intimately involved in the organisation, establishment and practice of biodynamics at Burn Cottage since the very beginning. Along with 10 hectares of vines there are over 20 hectares of land devoted to creating an enclosed farm system to supply manure for the compost programs. The aim is to minimise Sulfur usage and avoid all additives whenever possible including cultured yeasts, bacteria, associated nutrient products and filters. Racking is also whenever possible and wine work is done according to lunar and celestial rhythms.

The wine

Alcohol 13.2 %, Commenced Harvest: 29th March, Finished harvest 7th April. Burn Cottage composition: Block 1 – 17% Block 2 – 13% Block 4 – 16% Block 7 East – 14% Block 7 West – 21% Blocks 6&8 – 19% Bottled volume : 2050 cases 6 x 750 ml

Spring was somewhat changeable and cool but there was very good weather for grapes in December 2011 with very good soil moisture. There was a brief bit of snow in November with some frost. January brought had good spells of hot, dry weather, with excellent flowering and mid-season conditions. Rain in February was welcome for the soils, while March was slightly wetter and milder than usual, slowing ripening a little in the final weeks.

FermentedGrape.com Tasting Notes

I was looking forward to trying this 2012 Pinot Noir from Burn Cottage as the winery has the reputation of being one of the best in New Zealand.  

There were strong aromas of dark cherry with a hint of spice. The wine had noticeable acidity and earthy characteristics but this was well balanced by the dark fruit, herby notes and fine tannins. There was a long and satisfying finish. The winemaker described it as "the most firm and enigmatic Burn Cottage we have yet produced" and to me this was a classic elegant Central Otago Pinot. Very expensive but with just over 2000 cases produced Burn Cottage is a low volume producer and it is great to try such an excellent wine with their biodynamic credentials. Recommended!

Byron Pinot Noir 2013, Santa Barbara County, USA

Drunk@home November 2015

The winery

Byron, now known as Nielson was originally founded in 1984 and is located in Santa Barbara, California. In 2006 the Byron winery was acquired by the Jackson Family Wine Collection, founded in 1982 by Jess Jackson and still family owned. 

The Nielson Vineyard that surrounds the winery was Santa Barbara’s first commercial vineyard. When planted in 1964 by Uriel Nielson others said it was too cold and inhospitable for grapes, but time has proved the naysayers wrong.

Ken Brown, Byron’s founder, acquired the 432-acre Nielson Vineyard in 1989, five years after he launched the winery. It is located roughly 18 miles east of the Pacific Ocean at 500 to 750 feet above sea level. Chilling winds and thin soils ensure that Byron’s wines possess great intensity, heightened aromatics and firm structure.

Since becoming head winemaker in 2003, Jonathan Nagy has implemented many new methods including red/green fruit drop, intensive sorting, native yeast fermentations and small-lot fermentations.The winery focuses on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. 

The wine

FermentedGrape.com Tasting Notes

2013 was a very good vintage in Santa Barbara County with an even and warm summer with dry autumn. Many growers described it as a near perfect harvest with large yields with powerful, concentrated reds and bright and flavourful whites

Not a top Californian Pinot Noir at this price point and this is the winery's basic wine. Nielson now offers Byron Clone 667 Pinot Noir and Santa Rita Hills, Swan Clone and Whole Cluster as their premium range.

Good powerful black fruit as you'd expect with a hint of minerality which is a feature of the Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara county. Not a strong nose but well balanced with acidity balancing the signficant fruit forward style. Good value if you like an easy drinking Pinot Style but don't expect a French style. Would be interesting to try their premium Pinot Noir's. 

Jospeh Drouhin, Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru 2011, Burgundy

Drunk@home December 2015

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The wine

This Joseph Drouhin wine is made from Pinot Noir at the heart of the famous Chambolle-Musigny vineyard, with an East exposure. The name of the village Chambolle is probably derived from the Celtic "cambola", already reputed for its vineyards in Gallo-Roman times and cultivated by the monks in the Middle Ages.  

Drouhin owns several Premier Cru parcels in the appellation and since they are too small, these vineyards (Noirots, Hauts Doix, Borniques, Plantes, Combottes) are harvested and vinified together.  The total area is 1.3 ha. (3.25 acres) with average age of the vines of 32 years.The name given to this wine is therefore Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru (since the components of this "cuvée" are all Premier Crus). The vineyards have been organic since 1990 and more recently use biodynamic cultivation techniques so only authorised products for biological cultivation are used: infusions and macerations of plant materials, sulfur and copper, powdered rock. Natural predators are not eliminated.

Yields are kept low, around 20% less than allowed by the current law. Harvesting is by hand, in small open crates in order to preserve the integrity of the fruit. Maceration and vinification take 2 to 3 weeks using indigenous yeasts
"Pigeage" (punching down of the cap during fermentation): once a day until half of fermentation is done; one pumping over (remontage) per day until the end of the fermentation.

The wine was aged in French Oak barrels (20% in new oak) for 14 to 18 months and the finished bottle can be cellared for 8-25 years.

FermentedGrape.com tasting notes

Burgundy's 2011 vintage was pretty poor quality rot, storms, hail and changeable temperatures.  Compared with the excellent 2010 vintage, Pinot Noir quality was variable and careful selection by producer is key. 

Fortunately this Jospeh Drouhin, Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru 2011 was very good. The nose was strong with cherry and the forest floor which continued on the palate with plum, black cherry and spice with fine tannins and a nice level of acidity.  Fruit, acidity, tannin were finely balanced and with a light style. Expensive but this was top Burgundy and shows the quality of the Chambolle-Musigny area with its highly fragranced wines.