Who’s the best producer of Pinot Noir in New Zealand today?
Tough question, so much action down there right now with Felton Road, Rippon and Two Paddocks in Central Otago, Ata Rangi in Wairarapa, Pegasus Bay in the Waipara Valley, and the list continues to grow.
But it’s obvious to us that one of the pioneers of modern, serious Pinot Noir in New Zealand, Larry McKenna, is still the one to beat.
Prior to his founding of Escarpment, Larry put the historic Martinborough Vineyards on the map with his rich yet detailed spins on NZ Pinot Noir from the then-unknown Martinborough region. We sold a few of those vintages, when we could get them, as demand on the home front made it nearly impossible to access the wines here in the US.
Then, in 1998, Larry hooked up with the Kirby family and, together, they cherry-picked the best terraces in Martinborough and set up shop with Larry’s perfect Pinot vision in mind.
Fifteen years later that vision has become reality. Escarpment is the REAL DEAL.
Larry’s 2014 Pinot Noirs are forward, yet taut, capturing the freshness and richness of 2014, another back-to-back vintage winner following hot on the heels of Larry’s tremendous 2013’s, of which we also sold a ton.
Silky, touched by the finest French oak, packed with fruit, his wines are the definition of joy in a bottle. They’re almost too tasty. Almost too easy to read. It’s only when you really settle down with the wine that you get the layers, the ‘stuff’ behind all that lip-smacking black cherry fruit.
A couple of years ago we offered up (and sold out) a smidgen of Larry’s Escarpment Pinot Noir Martinborough 2014. For an ‘appellation’ level bottling, this wine smoked the majority of single-vineyard Pinots grown in NZ. The fruit was hand harvested, fermented using indigenous yeasts and the wine aged completely in French oak barriques, of which 30% were new, for 11 months.