Our first day was an eye opener for me and I was enjoying learning about this small New Zealand wine region.
What a bright start to our second day in Nelson. When the Impressionist artist Claude Monet and his family settled in Giverny in 1883 the piece of land sloping gently down from the house to the road was planted with an orchard and enclosed by high stone walls.
When Darryl and Tranja Fry settled on their property, Fossil Ridge, in Nelson in 1997 the piece of land was nothing but scrub, but they had a similar vision of creating not only a vineyard but a garden which would embody the tranquillity and beauty of Monet’s garden in Giverny.
The vineyard lies at the foot of the Barnicoat Range, Richmond about 15 kilometres south of Nelson and the winery is so-called because of the Triassic-Jurassic fossils found throughout the vineyard. The site provides a north facing, sloping soil profile, predominantly clay loam and has been extensively landscaped to enhance grape growing capability.
Eight acres are planted with Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer and Riesling with Pinot Noir as the single red variety. On the estate there are also macadamia and olive trees which thrive well in the benign Nelson climate.
Using only their own grapes seven wines are produced. Yields are low, for example 2 tons per acre Pinot Noir and 3 tons per acre Chardonnay. The Chardonnay, Riesling and Gewurztraminer are whole bunch pressed, and a mix of new and older barriques are used for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with their classic Chardonnay being barrel fermented.
Click on the photos for more detail.
We tasted five of the Fossil Ridge the thoughtful owner, Tranja. I was impressed by their quality and good value, particularly enjoying the Chardonnay 2012, which I found dry, elegant and with buttery stone fruit, and the Pinot Noir 2012, bright full of red fruits backed up by good maturing tannins.
The winery has a tasting room and a cafe which serves platters, country-style lunches and desserts. Homegrown olives, homemade pesto, hummus and delicious macadamia nuts can be bought as well and a new feature this year is the wood fired pizza oven, which will be a great addition to the menu.
One of the delights I discovered during this visit to Nelson was the camaraderie and mutual support of the wine makers, with several of our winery visits including two or three producers at one venue, each presenting not only their wines but the wines of Nelson as well.
So the added bonus at Fossil Ridge was to meet the owner of Rimu Grove, the ebullient Patrick Stowe, an American from the Napa Valley. A biotechnology scientist for fifteen years in California, he also made wine there before moving to New Zealand and founding Rimu Grove in 1995, where he was able to apply his knowledge of microbiology and biochemistry to his winemaking. Indeed he also makes wine for several other small wineries in Nelson.
The Rimu Grove Home Vineyard was planted in 1995 and comprises 17 acres of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris vines laid out on the gentle north facing slope of the Bronte Peninsula overlooking the Waimea Inlet.
He presented four of his Rimu Grove wines. His classy Chardonnay 2013, which after bottling was only released after 12 months allowing it settle and come to terms with itself, was a sturdy dry white with bright acidity, concentrated and packed with mangos and peach, all with great depth.
The Rimu Grove Pinot Noir 2013, aged in particular oak barriques made by a small cooper in northern France, was a deep purple, deep dark blackberry fruits with sweet oaky notes, enlivened by good acidity with notes of coffee and chocolate on the finish.
As well as making his Rimu Grove wines Patrick makes wine for several other people so is a busy man.
Staying on the Plains in the lee of the Richmond Hills to the east we drove the short distance to Greenhough where we were welcomed by the thoughtful owner, Andrew Greenhough and his winemaking assistant (and former chef) Cameron Trott.
In late 1990, Andrew and his partner Jenny Wheeler moved to Nelson from Auckland to buy a four hectare property, which had been established in 1976 as a small vineyard and winery.
Since then the home property has been expanded to 11 hectares, the original plantings largely redeveloped and the winery modernised. A small block of good quality Riesling, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc vines, now almost 40 years old, remains. Since 2008 this vineyard has been managed organically and gained full BioGro certification in 2011.
In addition to the Hope vineyard on the property, two separate sites have been established since 2000 adding a further eight hectares of vineyards.
There was an attractive line up of wines and we were often asked by our hosts what we thought of them, especially their new Chardonnay Espérance. We tasted the 2012, Andrew’s first attempt at a Chablis style, using tank and older barrel and early picked fruit. Well rounded with an attractive mineral edge it was a delight. As well as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir they produce classy Riesling and Gruner Veltliner.
Our next visit was a contrast to the other wineries we’d been to. The Bolitho family established Waimea Estates in 1993 when Trevor and Robyn Bolitho planted their first grapes. Now, with over 140 hectares of vineyards, it is one of the largest producers in Nelson. With an emphasis in making good quality and good value wines. Still family owned son Ben, who is general manager and viticulturalist, introduced us to export manager Martin Carrington and wine maker Trudy Sheild.
Trudy started at Waimea in 2004 and became head winemaker in 2010. Initially shy, she opened up when she presented a selection of 18 wines from their two ranges, Spinyback and Waimea. The Spinyback wines ranged from NZ$14 to NZ$17 and the Waimea from NZ$17 to NZ$30.
I was very taken with Trev’s Red 2012, an unusual mix of Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Viognier, all co-fermented producing a lovely juicy, chunky wine.
We enjoyed a quick, working lunch before completing our Nelson trip in the afternoon – more soon!