He clearly respects the history around him: Martinborough is the original hotbed of New Zealand pinot noir steeped in over 4o years of winemaking history. As one of the older regions in New Zealand, the quiet streets of Martinborough swirl in a mist of history, tales, and legends. The infamous Abel clone laid down roots here. The original properties of Ata Rangi and Dry River are close by. Over decades, vines have adapted to the local microclimates and viticulturalists have better data on rootstocks and clones than they once did. Lance's place includes some of the most historic blocks in New Zealand dating back to 1986. In fact, Martinborough as a region has just begun to settle out in global terms-- it's no longer a flurry of exciting vineyards going in with uncertainty. Though there is still plenty off room for exploration, today we can identify regional style and winemaking techniques, and clearly talk about what Martinborough wine is all about. But Lance didn't come to fit into this cookie-cutter vision of Martinborough. He's here to show us what else can be done on these terraces.
Lance also makes a still white wine from the same must, finished with nothing but sterile filtration. So often when you have interesting variety combinations such as this, the wine doesn't come together. But here it does, and possibly because the varieties have all been co-fermented on wild yeasts. This is a great example of what can happen to the integrity of a wine when you relinquish a little control and co-ferment.
He puts the focus on farming, "Vineyard managing is where I feel most comfortable," he says, and you can tell how his vineyard work brings more out of these grapes each year.
The pinot noirs have a unique personality to them, and after tasting across a few vintages I got some pretty incredible tasting notes, "fresh bark, nutmeg, raw beef hide, wildflowers, cacao nibs, fresh-cut cane;" there's a lot going on here that exceeds a standard pinot noir. The syrahs are equally complex, elegant, and expressive, with intense flavors of meat, BBQ, soy, licorice, and black pepper.
In fact, here in Martinborough, there is a unique dialogue between pinot noir and syrah. It seems almost counterintuitive to plant these varieties together-- they are often separated by distance and climate elsewhere in the world, and yet, this climate will fully ripen pinot noir and just ripen syrah. It's a place-- like Victoria, like Sonoma-- that can elegantly bring both of these grapes to bottle. Dovetail is a wine that embodies this unique and tenuous balance that exists in the space between these two varieties.
The more "classic" wines from Cambridge Road (the pinot noir bottlings and the syrahs) are what you will mostly find in the US market, but I'm glad to know that there is a whole other layer of Martinborough to tap into.
<-- When these nets come off this year.... anything can happen.