Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Pyramid Valley: In Search of Something More...

A local retailer, showcasing 12 different New Zealand
Sauvignon Blanc, with only one Pinot Noir.
Only a few years ago, when I thought of New Zealand, I thought only of Sauvignon Blanc. This is not rare, as the wines speak for themselves, and the variety outnumbers all others in the region on retailers’ shelves. My interest in these wines spurred me to dig a little deeper, to start learning more about this country’s wines and what made them so special. I quickly realized that there are many varietals that I love being made, and made well, in New Zealand. I was delving into crisp Riesling that rivaled my favorites from Germany, Gewürztraminer of stunning depth and mineral core and, of course, Pinot Noir like I had never seen.

These weren’t the bone-dry pinots of Burgundy that would take a decade to understand, nor were they the overripe fruit bombs of California. These Pinots fell into a category all their own, with perfectly ripe fruit and a juicy, thriving structure that was complemented by mineral, stone, soil—earth. I was at once in love with the style that seemed to walk a middle ground between austerity and hedonism. That was when I found Pyramid Valley Vineyards.

Just when I thought my infatuation could go no further, a force of nature reinvigorated me. Two Pinots that were made under strict natural, biodynamic principals came under my microscope. Two wines made with the least possible amount of human intervention and then bottled with only trace amounts of sulfur. They inspired me to write, “Pyramid Valley: A Genie in a bottle”.

Story over, right? Wrong!

While researching the vineyards of Pyramid Valley and history of its owners/winemakers Mike and Claudia Weersing, I came across a line of wines that truly excited me, The Grower’s Collection.

The Grower's Collection is a series of wines that represents individual growers, varieties and vineyards from New Zealand, all in the fashion of Pyramid Valley Vineyards. It showcases the terroir and varietal expressions of each location with small blocks of fruit and in some cases very rare varieties. As I started to taste through these, the first thing that struck me was how incredibly natural these tasted. The wines are certainly in the style of Pyramid Valley with naturally occurring / stopping fermentations, no filtering and little to no sulfur. But these wines aren't just good; they don't just have wonderful aromatic bouquets and amazing juiciness on the palate. These wines actually taste--healthy. They seem to somehow nurture you, like juice from some unknown fruit that has just been discovered.

I know this may sound a little over the top, but I can think of no better way to explain them. The best recommendation I can make is to taste them for yourself.

The Cab Franc, my tasting note could
have just read, "God, I love this wine"
2009 Pyramid Valley Cabernet Franc Growers Collection Howell Family Vineyard - The nose was deep, rich and vibrant with sweet cherry, cinnamon spice, wild herbs and stony minerals providing an earthy canvas to it all. On the palate, it was medium-bodied, juicy and fresh with sweet, bright cherry, citrus peel, exotic spice and a core of brisk acidity. Hints of tannin lingered on the palate, reminding me that this is wine and more than just a delicious beverage. It was a highly enjoyable Cab Franc that I will look for going forward. (92 points) Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

2009 Pyramid Valley Pinot Noir Growers Collection Cowley Family Vineyard - The color in the glass was a bit cloudy with a light ruby red hue. The nose was seductive yet earthy and sweet, showing intense cherry preserve, a whiff of crushed stone, hints of bell pepper, and dry dusty soil. On the palate, ripe cherry was met by minty herbal tones, with silky textures perfectly contrasted by a hint of bitter tannin. The finish remained fresh and lively, showing ground pepper, spice and red berries.

Upon first opening, I was worried that this wine had been exposed to excessive heat. It was almost impenetrable, and so I put it aside. I'm glad I did so, because within two hours it came to life, softened and evolved, turning into what can only be described as a gorgeous pinot rooted in the earth. What's more; its cherry component was beautiful, seeming almost impossibly natural. It's a lovely wine. (91 pointsFind it on: Wine-Searcher!

Another spectacular wine, truly
unique and inspired winemaking.
2007 Pyramid Valley Sémillon Growers Collection Hille Vineyard - The nose was truly fascinating and kept me coming back to the glass again and again with an intense floral bouquet, showing honey, peach, almond paste, salty minerals and bell pepper. Yet somehow, all of this made me think of spring, sitting in a flower garden with soil stained hands. On the palate, it was fresh and electric upon entry with notes of peach, inner florals, and spice. A lull followed on the mid-palate, but was quickly replaced by a pop of tart lime-kiwi acidity, which kept this interesting throughout. It was impeccably balanced and wonderfully unique, a wine that I will look for again. (91 pointsFind it on: Wine-Searcher!

2010 Pyramid Valley Savagnin Rose Growers Collection Twin Valleys Vineyard - The extroverted nose showed a bouquet of pineapple, melon, honeycomb, and spice with hints of floral funk and undergrowth. On the palate it was silky smooth with sweet, spicy peach. It showed great presence and perfect balance followed by a hint of citrus, which lasted through the long, saturating finish that seemed to cling to the palate like fruit nectar. (89 pointsFind it on: Wine-Searcher!


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