A wet start to Labour Weekend saw torrential rain in Gisborne flooding outlying vineyards and torrential rain in Hawkes Bay making gumboots and oilskins the essential garb for visitors to the Hawkes Bay Show. But it is the middle of Spring and like it always does after rain, the sun came out. I worked up a sweat watching Neil attack and tame the overgrown hedge then behead the daisies on the lush green lawn with the mower. As I wiped my brow I thought it time to crack some of the new seasons Rosť's to see how they would quench the thirst.
I never know how serious a Rosť is going to be until I taste it. Is it going to be a wine that was made as an afterthought because the season was curtailed by frosts and the fruit didnít make the grade for the flagship red? Or will it be a seriously made wine, made from grapes grown for Rosť in the first place?
As soon as I get some initial tartness, a harsh mid-palate and a burst of sweetness on the finish, I get a vision of neon lights flashing 'disintegrated' and I know that the wine fits the former category. But fortunately not all of them do because in my tasting I found a wine that was rich and structured, mouthfilling and weighty, and simply downright drinkable. The wine was called Clayridge.
Clayridge is one of the country's newest labels, one of the 50-odd that was registered between June 2004 and June 2005. But there's an old hand behind this debut label and his name is Mike Just, the former winemaker for Lawson's Dry Hills who has now gone out on his own.
The Clayridge Vineyard is in the Omaka Valley on a steeply sloping hill, rather on the on the plains where most of the region's vineyards are. And the wines I've tasted from the label so far reek of potential.
A deep, gemmy-looking dark strawberry/cerise colour introduces the Clayridge Marlborough Pinot Rosť 2005 in the glass. It's a strong smelling wine with floral notes among the slightly earthy, black cherry scents that lead into the full-bodied palate. This is a nicely structured 'light red' style with plummy fruit and pinot spice, body weight and fullness, and a musky, floral note to the firm, just off-dry finish with strawberries and cherries lingering on the aftertaste. This is definitely a Rosť for pinot lovers as it tastes like a light-weight pinot but has the sweetness and fruitiness that is typical of the best Rosť's.
We tried early season strawberries with the wine - just delicious. Then later, for dinner, we accompanied the wine with a chilli and garlic seasoned boneless chicken roast that we served with a green salad simply made from iceberg lettuce, cucumber, spring onions, avocado and lashings of fresh garden herbs, and for good measure a few sauteed mushrooms. I cooked the mushrooms to see how they would go with the earthiness of the wine, but they didnít. The spicy chicken and the salad, however, worked well.
The pinot noir grapes for this wine were grown on the Clayridge hillside vineyard. After harvesting by hand, the juice from the gently crushed grapes was soaked overnight to extract colour then drained into French oak barriques for fermentation, then I guess it was bottled shortly after. The wine carries 12.5% alcohol by volume with 4.5 grams per litre of residual sugar and well balanced acidity that clocks in at 6 grams per litre. It is sealed with a screwcap.
A fine wine such as this, one of the country's most serious Rosť's, in not surprisingly a limited quantity wine. Thus it is only being sold by mail order rather than in retail, though the odd case might slip through to enthusiastic retailers. It costs $16 a bottle. Find out more from the Clayridge website.
I recommend you look at the website even if you are not buying, because there's a fascinating history behind the Clayridge name, as well as photos showing the development of the vineyard.
With the quality of the Clayridge wines tasted so far, this is a name that has a bright future ahead of it. The packaging of the wines, with its 'coat of arms', is superb too.
© Sue Courtney
24 October 2005