15 July 2010

Julicher 2008 Pinot Noir and Alana Estate 2008 Pinot Noir

Part II - Martinborough

Be vewy, vewy qwiet. I'm hunting Pinots.

We've jumped the ferry to the North Island and wound our way along the serpentine mountain road from Wellington into what is undoubtedly the most agreeable wine region I've encountered.

The town of Martinborough is all class. A plethora of fine cafes and restaurants. A wonderful Arcadian backdrop. Dinner frolicking in the distant fields. Vines otherwise surrounding the town.

Best of all though is the brilliantly compact set of cellar doors.

No need to risk the booze bus in Martinborough. There are 20 odd vineyards within but a short stroll of the town square.

So, have a chat with the energetic Alex in the Wine Centre. Get the skinny on the best of the bottled stuff. Grab a map. And then get cracking.

Julicher 2008 Pinot Noir

First up is the suggestively named Julicher (it has a soft "j" - like in yogging).

You need to make an appointment. And well you should.

Sitting out on the Te Muna Road, in the company of such illustrious companions as Escarpment and Craggy Range, it is a homely operation that managed to claim the top gong at the Air NZ Wine Awards for its '08 Pinot Noir.

Wim Julicher and Sue Darling welcome you to their kitchen table like old friends and happily share a generous glass with you as they talk enthusiastically, but humbly, through their wines. I tell you, that's good work if you can get it.

The '08 Pinot is simply superb. It is an arrestingly beautiful deep purple. Almost black. Like it has sucked up all of the surrounding light just so it can send it back at you in concentrated flashes and sparks as you twirl it in the glass.

On the nose, it is a capricious combination of earthy spice and sweet chocolately goodness. It's a truly arousing aroma that will play Mozart with your feelings and havoc with your heart.

But, of course, it's the drinking that really counts. And, happily, there is no doubt that this is Pinot Noir at its hedonistic best.

Upfront, it is thuck and rutch; big and delicious and fruity. But it's also wonderfully soft and overflows gently with silken delicacy that lingers pleasingly until you're ready to take your next mouthful.

We were also lucky enough to try the '09. It had only recently been put in the bottle, which meant it was perhaps a little subdued. Mr Julicher is clearly a modest bloke, but I could tell from his subtle grin that he expects it to be every bit as good as the award-winning '08. I suggest you seek it out and buy it up before it sells out.

I managed to drink a lot of spectacular Pinot in Martinborough. The Julicher was far, far and away the best.

Rating: 9.5/10
Drink with: Martinborough Hotel's pie of the day
Price: NZ $40
Buy it in Oz at www.nzwineonline.com.au

Alana Estate 2008 Pinot Noir

We really only visited this cellar door because we had time to kill and someone had told us they put on a free cheese platter with the tasting.

Ominously, we were welcomed at the gate with a sign that threatened: "Shotgun in use".

Sadly, it was no more hospitable in the tasting room. The woman manning the bottles wore a face so sour she may well have just finished sucking a lemon soaked in off milk. She glared furiously and could not be drawn into uttering anything more than a grunt in response to our attempted pleasantries.

Now, I'm willing to be open-minded. Maybe her cat had run away. Maybe Dick Cheney was doing a stint as consultant winemaker and had shot the cat in an unfortunate hunting accident involving the shotgun. Maybe she'd just had a big night sampling the product.


But, here's a tip. If you are going to take the trouble of opening a cellar door (and certainly nobody's holding a shotgun to
your head in that regard), how about engaging people who are at least mildly receptive when customers come to visit?

Anyway, the wine. Most of what was ungraciously splashed into our dirty little tasting glass was remarkably unremarkable. But since I came in search of Pinots, let's go with that.

It was as red as our temporary PM's hair. Which is to say that it was an insipid, rusty, russety orange. Certainly it was not at all the lovely deep purple on offer in nearby vineyards.

It smelt of dirty nappy and digested mushrooms, with perhaps a twist of chop chop chicken served fresh from the can. In the mouth there was a tannic burn reminiscent of urinal cake and lighter fluid.

The only other people in the tasting room were a couple of Yanks who we had earlier noticed walking from vineyard to vineyard. Despite the fact they were on foot, they still spat.

Oh, and there was no cheese platter on offer either. Just a frigid room full of midgie insects, ordinary wine and unpleasant surliness.

Disappointing on all fronts.

Rating: 5/10
Drink with: BYO cheese
Price: $50-$60


  1. Thanks for the post as of the last 2 months I've been on a Pinot binge! Trying to look for more left right centre. oo and the almost Black desciption makes me salivate!

  2. Quite possibly the best cellar door review I have ever read...ever...

  3. Followed your recommendation on the 08 Julicher pinot noir, which I'd never heard of, and it was great: the best pinot noir I've tried in a long time.

  4. Glad you enjoyed Sean.

    I saw that you reviewed the 99 Rows as well - also a nice drop.