With members of the family all together, a visit to the Martinborough vignoble was in order. Accompanying SWMBO and myself were Jubes, Mags, Wilco Johnny, Lithe Lisa, Flautist Aaaron and Dave-Man, making a lively party keen to taste wine. The aim was to visit producers run by families, to make the day a family affair.
After a heady drive over the Rimutakas and a settling coffee with muffins, we converged on The Cabbage Tree Vineyard where owner and winemaker David Bull showed us his hands-on artisanal operation. It’s just him and his wife Winifred here. The group liked the riper, subtle, stonefruity and weighty 2008 Cabbage Tree Semillon. I was more taken by the 2008 Cabbage Tree Chardonnay with its bold palate and prominent oaking. Fitting right in the Martinborough mould of ripe, savoury fruit and substance with structure, the 2008 Cabbage Tree Pinot Noir was also well-received. Cool, herb-like flavours marked the bouquet of the 2008 Cabbage Tree Merlot, this redeemed by the milk-chocolate flavours and richness on the palate. This first visit was an excellent and very personal introduction to the delights of wine growing.
The next call was to the BioGro certified Vynfields and a session with the elegant owner Kaye McAulay. The classy setting of the two storey villa was the perfect backdrop. We were the first public to taste their NV Vynfields ‘Bliss’ Sparkling Riesling. Though with 20 g/L rs, this seemed drier, but the same lovely lime and honeysuckle flavours were on show. A 2010 Vynfields Dry Riesling was just that. Dry, minerals and limes and a firm line. The 2009 Vynfields ‘Mad Rooster’ polarised the group, some enjoying the savoury spicy confected flavours, the others finding it too rustic. There was no doubt about the stylishness of the 2010 Vynfields Pinot Noir, with its excellent fruit depth and fine, proportioned lines. Talk of organics and biodynamics made us all feel a little more moral and righteous, and we enjoyed our time on the higher ground.
Wine-fuelled hunger drove us to see Marvellous Marvin at the meal-time diner. That refreshed us adequately to continue our vinous journey to meet up with that petit-powerhouse Helen Masters, winemaker at Ata Rangi. This is truly a family concern, with hubby Ben in the background and Clive and Ali, sibling owners all on hand. The new season releases were tasted. A 2011 Ata Rangi Summer Rosé was a benchmark for the style with its bright red fruits and thirst-quenchability. The 2009 Ata Rangi ‘Craighall Chardonnay was as rich and textured, and as complex as the last time I saw it. The new 2010 Ata Rangi ‘Crimson’ Pinot Noir shows its cooler fruit-ripening build up, and was racy and zesty in a fresh and lively way. Much more complete was the 2010 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir. While it shows the vintage too, it is on another plane, or should I say planet? Rounding off the tasting was the 2011 Ata Rangi ‘Kahu’ sticky. Minerals and marmalade, tight and ageworthy, yet already deliciously luscious and decadent.
Our final port of call was the giant of the region, Te Kairanga. Also family-owned, in this case by the Foleys, GM Andrew Shackleton gave us a tour of the impressively functional engine room. Then off to a tasting. The 2010 Te Kairanga Sauvignon Blanc showed very good gooseberryness with some weight and body. A range of Chardonnays was my pick. The 2009 Te Kairanga Chardonnay citrussy and oaky, quite up-front and clear-cut was surpassed by the 2009 Te Kairanga ‘Runholder’ Chardonnay showing more barrel-ferment creaminess and nutty oxidative complexities, which in turn was surpassed by the 2008 Te Kairanga ‘Casarina’ Chardonnay, more complete still. The same progression was seen in the Pinot Noirs, the 2009 Te Kairanga Pinot Noir fruity and linear, quite correct, then a more rich and sweeter 2007 Te Kairanga ‘Runholder’ Pinot Noir, showing some mushroom interest. Even more savoury and gamey was the 2007 Te Kairanga ‘John Martin’ Pinot Noir.
By then it was time to head back home, over the hill, to proceed with the evening activities. They say a family that plays together, stays together. Very true indeed.