August 26, 2011 Felton Road
Felton Road Cornish Point Pinot Noir
New Zealand (Central Otago)
Felton Road Cornish Point Pinot Noir 2008
Invitingly deep aromas of smoky black fruit. Medium-body, yet rich and flavourful, showing concentrate of spiced raspberries blended with herbs. Classy and sophisticated. Well-balanced, and entirely pleasurable. Definitely a wine to linger over. $$$
Felton Road is found in the New Zealand wine region of Central Otago. You can’t go any farther south on the planet before running out of wineries. Felton Road consists of 32 hectares of chardonnay, riesling, and exemplary pinot noir. Founded in 1991, it has since come under the ownership of Nigel Greening, whose other life was film special effects. Obviously, the experience has translated well in the vineyards.
Actually, much is left to nature. Felton Road embraces biodynamics. “If we view a farm as a single, symbiotic organism, then the more vigorous and complex that organism is, the richer the growing medium it provides for everything within the farm.” The winery makes use of compost with added preparations to form a “potent microbial brew”, the end result being pronounced soil biodiversity. The lunar calendar determines the schedule of vineyard work. Cover crops, a herd of goats, another of sheep, and foraging chickens all play their part.
The attention to natural processes continues past the hand-picking of the grapes in April. Says chief winemaker Blair Walter, “Through winemaking that employs native yeasts, gravity and a little music, our wines grow up to express their own personality, not that of the winemaker.”
Walter (whose winemaking experience includes stints in France, Australia, and Oregon) is keen on the use of whole bunch fermentation, usually in the range of 25%. As he sees it, the stems enhance the texture, to something “more chewy, chocolatey”, as well as the general character of the wine, adding to its earthy and herbal qualities.
At the top of his game are single block wines of Cornish Point. From vines planted only a dozen years ago, the bottlings have come to be acclaimed by any wine critic who knows new world pinot noir. Its 7.6 hectares are on a scenic triangle of land projecting into Lake Dunstan. A nearby gorge maintains consistent air flow, which, together with the proximity to water limits potential frost damage. Soils are sandy loam, with a deeper base of clay and limestone. The fruit here is notably dense, demonstrating intense secondary characteristics, and the promise of something special when it emerges from the Burgundian barrels and into the glass you hold in your eager hand.