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One Brilliant Bottle

organic/biodynamic/natural wines in Vinland

Category Archives: New Zealand

Felton Road Cornish Point Pinot Noir

New Zealand (Central Otago)

pinot noir

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.


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The Millton Vineyards – Clos de Ste. Anne Chardonnay

New Zealand (Gisborne)


So, what’s with the lobsters again?

Well, they are in season. And this weekend they’re selling for as low as $4.99 / lb. That’s $11/£7/€8.25 per kilo. This crew of crustaceans will go on to be boiled in sea water taken directly from one of the coves within easy driving distance of where I live. Sea water is the best for the lobster pot, and a tradition in our family. One of my fondest memories of growing up is a roaring fire on a rocky beach and a big boil-up of lobsters freshly caught by my father.

So lobsters it is for the celebration of our older son’s birthday, and with it a special bottle of chardonnay from another island, one on the other side of the world.


James and Annie Millton started their winery in 1984, just outside Gisborne, on the North Island of New Zealand. Then as now, it is well out of the mainstream of the country’s fashionable wine-producing regions. The Milltons were thought more than a little nuts, especially when they disavowed chemicals and irrigation, and turned to something few people had heard about — biodynamics. Over the past quarter century, with their consistent production of exceptional wines, they have seen the skeptics slowly shrink away.

Biodynamic viticulture is labour intensive, but the Milltons have never been ones to shy away from hard work. Nor do their co-workers in the operation. That would include the estate’s small herd of Angus cows, who are happy do their bit for the cause, producing highly prized dung that forms an integral part of the biodynamic preparations used to help energize the soil.

In terms of cultivation, the pride of the estate is the steep hillside called Naboth’s Vineyard, now enclosed and expanded to 30 acres (12 ha) and designated Domaine Clos de Ste. Anne. In the distance is Poverty Bay and the Pacific. It has the distinction of being one of the first vineyards in the world to experience the light of the new day. Since where I live on the east coast of Newfoundland is the first place in North America to receive the light of the new day… well this chardonnay is just destined to be uncorked at our lobster dinner.

Clos de Ste. Anne Chardonnay 2005

Yellow gold in the glass. On the nose and palate not so quick to reveal itself, although from the start you sense the quality of the experience. Not fruity or floral, but a refined and subtle honeyed intensity that prefers to hint at what makes it so pleasurable rather than deliver it open-faced — at one moment a touch of caramel, another coffee, another chocolate. A shy sophisticate, a smooth romantic. The mouth feel of sweet without the sweetness. Hard to define, but great is the pleasure in trying to do so!  $$




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