“I had never felt so certain about anything in my life,” says Clive Paton, of his decision to buy land in Martinborough, plant grapes on it, make wine and turn his back on a career in share milking.
Pinot Noir devotees know that the rest is history, still in the making at Ata Rangi Wines, one of the great producers we visited on our staff trip last month.
It might come as something of a surprise to know that the staff at Regional Wines & Spirits very rarely all crack open a bottle of something good to drink together but last month we made an exception or five. A staff trip to Martinborough saw us all enjoy some outstanding wines, beers and locally distilled gin at a bunch of the best operators in this small but incredibly well formed wine region.
The wineries we visited and wines we tasted are below, suffice to say the extensive notes I took could keep me up for several late nights writing, so here's one of the highlights of our trip.
The Ata Rangi story
Ata Rangi Pinot Noir is one of New Zealand’s great wines. Its founder is Clive Paton, who says he was destined to a career in wine, despite the early segue into farming, because he had always been drawn to red wine rather than New Zealand beer when he left school. A significant part of the reason is because his father had acquired a taste for wine as a soldier in Italy during World War Two. There’s an undercurrent of perfectionism in Clive’s quiet approach and it’s something his current winemaker, Helen Masters, carries through in her work at this iconic winery, one of the first four in Martinborough.
Ata Rangi Pinot Noir is made from 40 year old vines grown on site at the winery's home vineyard block, approximately 40% of which are made up of the Abel clone of Pinot Noir. This provides Pinot Noirs with impressive structure, something that the windy weather in Martinborough tends to accentuate by creating bunches of grapes that tend to be thicker skinned and smaller than some of their southern counterparts.
Helen Masters and fellow winemaker Ben Trinnick are also experimenting with a growing range of Chardonnays and producing another single vineyard wine called McCrone Pinot Noir, named after the vineyard the grapes in the wine come from.
Amazing lunch and great tasting with owner and winemaker Phil McArthur - thank you, Phil.
2020 Moy Hall Riesling
2020 Moy Hall Sauvignon Blanc
2020 Moy Hall Pinot Gris
2020 Moy Hall Riversdale Pinot Noir
2017 Moy Hall Terrace Pinot Noir
Buy marvellous Moy Hall wines here.
2020 Luna Sauvignon Blanc
2020 Luna Pinot Gris
2019 Luna Chardonnay
2020 Luna Estate Pinot Noir
2019 Luna Blue Rock Pinot Noir
2019 Luna Eclipse Pinot Noir
2016 Luna Silver River Pinot Noir
A cellar door only wine which has been made only in 2018, 2019 and 2020. It has 80% whole bunch fermentation, is tight, structured and rich in flavour with great weight and length.
2019 Luna Blue Rock Syrah
We are thrilled to have secured a small allocation of this sensational cool climate Syrah from Luna's Blue Rock Vineyard, an elevated hillside site, south of Martinborough township.
Buy lush 2016 Luna Blue Rock Pinot Noir here.
Reid & Reid
Amazing range of gins and a brand new distillery since the last time our team visited
Buy decadent Reid & Reid gins here.
Buy great 2018 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir here.
Buy creamy 2018 Ata Rangi Craighall Chardonnay here.
Incredible pruning lesson and great wines from Big Sky, the aptly named winery and vineyard at the far end of Te Muna Road. The Pinot Noirs made here are wines that consistently over deliver massively. Owners and founders Jeremy Corban and Katherine Jacobs are among the warmest, most thoughtful and generous winemaking hosts anywhere in the country (and are among this author's personal favourites, both for the quality of their wine and for their humility and the honest depth of information they so willingly share).
Buy beautiful 2018 Big Sky Pinot Noir here.
Thanks Nick Hewitt, the marketing man in charge of getting the new message of this old estate winery out to consumers.
Butterworth Estate is the new incarnation of Julicher Estate, which was initially going to be an olive growth rather than a winery when founded by Wym Julicher. The only trouble is that frost soon put paid to that idea but failing to deliver any olives. Since then, some of the most impressively well structured and ageworthy Pinot Noirs have been made from this vineyard, which is on Te Muna Road. It is now expanding with the acquisition of land from a next door site.
Definitely one to watch - and to buy. We have great Butterworth wines in store.
Buy spicy 2018 Butterworth Pinot Noir here.
John Douglas is a great winemaker and also one of Martinborough's most self deprecating ones at his cellar door and vineyard on Te Muna Road. He is a one man band and his small five hectare site is devoted mostly to Pinot Noir with a smidgeon of Riesling, which often doesn't see commercial release due to small volumes.
Te Hera Pinot Noir is one of the best value reds in this country. The reserve is an excellent wine for the long haul.
Buy tasty and great value 2018 Te Hera Pinot Noir here.