New faces

I taste several hundred new wines every month. Most are from established wine producers but every now and again a relatively new winemaker hits top spot. That’s exciting. Both of my featured wine producers have been making wine for a few short years. They hit the ground running with impressive first releases and have since shown they are not “one shot ponies” by continuing to make great wines. Both are high on my “wineries to watch” list.

Ostler is a pioneering winery in an exciting new wine region in North Otago. Waitaki Valley is a short drive inland from Oamaru. It’s a beautiful area with the wide, braided Waitaki River flanked by rolling hills and mountains to the west. I’ve visited the area on several occasions. It feels like high quality wine country.

One of the region’s most exciting features is a high limestone content in the soil of many of the new vineyards now being planted there. Producers in Burgundy, the world’s top Pinot Noir region, believe that limestone plays an important part in the quality and character of their wine. It’s relatively rare in New Zealand although limestone is a feature in Waipara, Pyramid Valley (North Canterbury) and parts of Hawke’s Bay.

Cypress Wines was established about eight years ago by the Lawson family who founded Te Awa (tastings) and subsequently sold it. Their small site in the Gimblett Gravels area of Hawke’s Bay includes a steeply sloping hillside, an unusual feature in this normally flat wine district.

The flagship wine of Cypress is made from grapes grown on the terraced hillside. Hillside vineyards have the advantage of good drainage and, if north facing, better exposure to the sun. Some of the world’s greatest vineyards cling to perilously steep slopes although hillside vineyards are a relatively new feature in this country.

Soils in the hillside vineyard are a mix of clay and limestone, a significant factor in the power and elegance that is such an obvious feature of the wines produced from it.

Ostler Caroline Pinot Noir, Waitaki Valley 2010 – $49.50

Appealing scented wine with lifted floral and spice characters together with a core of bright cherry fruit and subtle savoury characters. Supremely elegant Pinot Noir with impressive length and power. Silken-textured wine – very impressive. – view on

Cypress Terraces Syrah, Hawke’s Bay 2009 – $42

Strong sweet plum and berry fruit flavours interwoven with spice/black pepper and with a pleasing suggestion of floral/violet character. Powerful Syrah with attractively bright, pure flavours and a very lengthy finish. Accessible now but should age well. – view on

First published in KiaOra Magazine – Aug 2012.

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