Welcome to the first blog from Escarpment Vineyard and Larry McPinot
2011 Vintage Report
The Martinborough district couldn’t be happier with 2011. Large crops in general, very clean and healthy with excellent ripe fruit flavours.
It all started with the best spring since 2001. NO FROSTS, warm mild conditions and little wind. This meant good early growth with little damage to young shoots and leaves. This weather continued into a warm dry December where all varieties flowered very successfully. Large bunches were set (around 120gms where under 100 is more the norm in Martinborough). The warm weather meant a fast start to berry development and we were already thinking of an early harvest.
The summer progressed along the same lines with warm dry weather making growing conditions ideal right up until veraison (early February).
The critical period from veraison till harvest was just as good. During this time we want warm dry weather to alleviate any risks of disease (Botrytis) and to build up those all important fruit flavours. Due to the great spring and large bunch weights fruit thinning (green harvest) was required in most blocks. Up to 30% was dropped at veraison which is a very hard thing to witness. I had to leave Dave and his team to it and try and take a break before it all starts about 6 weeks later. This year 2 weeks in the UK, marketing, kept me out of the way so there was no interference from the top!
We started harvest about 10 days early on the 20th March. Our 2 American vintage hands, 2 metre Peter and Marissa (I know nothing about chickens) were keen and ready to go!
Huw and Dave were fully ready as well which was a great effort given how fast the season progressed. Huw has to have all of the previous vintage bottled before we start harvesting or it won’t fit in our under capacity winery in a big year.
The fruit was perfect especially Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. The unique thing about 2011 was the fact that sugar levels didn’t go through the roof. For some reason, I think for the first time in 30 years of winemaking in NZ, we were picking grapes with low acids and low pH levels. Winemakers are obsessed with low pH’s and NZ usually doesn’t oblige in this area. Perhaps we are finally seeing one of the benefits of vine age.
Escarpment picked some of the best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir I have ever seen in this district. The lack of disease, great flavours and ideal sugar/acid/pH balances were a joy to work with.
In the end, we now have lovely ripe flavoured, dark coloured Pinot noir quietly maturing in oak in our underground barrel room. The Chardonnays and Pinot gris natural ferments have behaved and finished off clean and dry. A great relief to Huwey who is off to Domaine Dujac in Morey St Denis to do it all again in August.
For the rest of us its heads down and on with the pruning setting the vines up for another shuffle of the deck.
I’m lucky enough to be invited to the International Pinot Noir Celebration in McMinnville Oregon in July so will be able to report on that during August.