Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Pyramid Valley: A genie in a bottle?

So goes the philosophy of Pyramid Valley Vineyards; “Wine to us is a genie, our job is to coax it from its rock bottle.” It’s certainly an interesting thought, and quite catchy too. In a world where we continue to refine, redefine and categorize natural winemaking, Pyramid Valley, in New Zealand, seems to be marching to the beat of their own drum. I honestly can’t hold it against them after what I’ve recently tasted.

The winery is content to let the wines make themselves, at least enough to create a good product that can be labeled wine. The vineyard has been cultivated using biodynamic principles since inception. The wines undergo naturally occurring, long-lasting yeast fermentations and then age in old neutral oak or clay amphorae. Bottling is done without fining or filtering, and sulfur is only added when necessary and at a strict minimum. This results in a set of unique wines that truly have a sense of place--and are pretty damn tasty as well.

Pinot Noir is the primary focus with Chardonnay, Semillon, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris rounding out the lineup. My tastings were primarily of the Pinot Noirs, and I must say that I’m impressed.

There’s simply something about this wine that really jump-starts the imagination—is this how wine might have been made 2000 years ago? No chemicals, no machines in the vineyards and giant clay vessels to age them in? The wines taste wild, savage, and with a refreshing quality that you’d expect more from a glass of iced tea. In fact, Kombucha came to mind as I tasted these wines. Both were cloudy, with a kaleidoscope of colors in the glass, but on the palate—focused and pure.

I will be back for more, and I urge any fan of Pinot Noir or natural / biodynamic wines to seek these out. The price can be a little restrictive, but when you consider that this is an artisanal creation, and not just a product, it may just be a genie in a bottle.

On to the wines:

2008 Pyramid Valley Pinot Noir Earth Smoke - The color was a light ruby and slightly cloudy at the core, turning orange and finally auburn toward the rim before tapering off to a transparent halo. The nose was ripe with vibrant red and black berry, gorgeous floral notes, herbal tea, hints of cinnamon, and earthy undergrowth. On the palate, it was weightless yet ripe with beautifully balanced acidity and a sweet and sour sensation that dazzled the senses with cranberry, light orange, sun tea, inner florals and a slight (not sweet) note of caramel. The finish left the mouth watering with a bitter twang of orange and tart berry. (92 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2008 Pyramid Valley Pinot Noir Angel Flower - The color was faded red, almost verging on pink with a cloudy appearance. The nose showed fresh strawberry, stems and all, with notes of floral undergrowth, fresh turned earth and mulling spice. On the palate, it was energetic, juicy and clean with raspberry fruit, a hint of orange peel and herbal tea. The finish lingered long, with a slight drying note that made me crave another sip. (93 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

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