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Wine of the Week for week ending 20 October 2002
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Escarpment Pinot Gris 2001
Martinborough, New Zealand

Since New Zealand's pinot maestro, Larry McKenna, announced he was developing The Escarpment Vineyard in Martinborough expressly to pursue his passion for pinot noir, everyone has been waiting in anticipation for his debut wines. Well now they are here but before we go too much further, I have to point out these are not from the new Escarpment Vineyard on Te Muna Road, but from growers elsewhere in Martinborough, bridging the gap until the new vineyard is ready to crop.

Along with debut pinot noir for the label was the wine that really took my fancy for drinking pleasure at this particular time - the Escarpment Station Bush Vineyard Pinot Gris 2001.

There's a myriad of flavours in this rich, creamy, leesy wine. In fact it is so creamy in texture and flavour at first it is a little like vanilla ice cream without the chill. It's a warm, leesy, richly textured wine with subtle oak and nutty flavours, rich stonefruits with hints of apricot, a hint of apple and then ripe pear that lingers well. There's a nice touch of hot ginger-like spice that excites the mouth as it flares on the finish.

The next day the wine had become really rich and leesy with a caramel creaminess while honey-like characters emerged and lingered together with pear.

Delightful in its aromatics, the empty glass smells like pear drops and musk.

The grapes for this wine were a blend of 2 clones from a first crop. 14% alcohol, it seems like more and there is 5 grams of residual sugar although the wine seems quite dry. The wine was fermented in old oak, which adds to that lovely richness and complexity.

This is a great food wine. Try a salt code paté or a rich oily fresh salmon fillet, lightly seasoned with cajun spices and pan fried so it is tender and just cooked in the middle to give a melt-in-the-mouth texture. I tried the last glass in the bottle with pork I had slowly cooked with pear, ginger and chardonnay - the meat was so tender it fell off the fork and the pear flavours were superb with the wine.

Although drinking well now, it's got good cellaring potential.

So what of the Pinot Noir?

The Escarpment Cleland Vineyard Pinot Noir 2001, from 12-year old vines near the centre of town, is tight at first but then the flavours start to explode in the mouth. The notes on the back of the bottle state 'clove' and that description is spot on. There's plenty of other woody spices but those clove flavours are certainly fairly dominating right now. As I taste the wine I'm cooking my new favourite, 'Spiced Mushrooms in Pinot Noir' with clove, anise, herb, garlic and onion. Those aromas and the wine could be one. It's a meaty wine, quite thick in texture with rich tannins, allspice predominated with clove, ripe pinot fruit that hints of guava and bramble berries and the perception of roses that lifts the finish of the flavours that linger in the mouth. This is an excellent debut wine for the label but really needs time to let the laces untie.

While the debut wines are available with a recommended retail of $28 for the pinot gris and $45 for the pinot noir the wines are sure to become sought after. Secure your future investment by contacting Escarpment and getting on their mail list. There's a website at at, currently 'under construction' at the time of writing.

© Sue Courtney

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