Dry River helped kickstart the wine scene in Wairarapa, New Zealand. Neil and Dawn McCallum founded this winery in 1979 in Martinborough (at the southern tip of the North Island), then an unestablished wine region. Also in 1979, Dr. Derek Milne published a study through the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research in which he identified Martinborough as a region with similar soil and climactic conditions to Burgundy. Milne's study helped to attract serious attention and pinot noir investment in the Martinborough region.
By 1980, Dr. Neil McCallum (Dry River), Clive Paton (Ata Rangi), Stan Chifney, and Derek Milne (Martinborough Vineyard) had all set up commercial vineyards in the region, and became known as "The Gang of Four." As a lose-knit team, they planted some of the first vineyards on what is controversially known as "Martinborough Terrace." Dry River winery has several blocks of aromatic Alsacian varieties such as pinot gris, riesling, and gewurztraminer, and they also grow some red varieties.
After Milne's study, Martinborough saw an influx of wineries, most focusing on pinot noir. Though they produce some small quantities of pinot noir, Dry River continues to work mostly with Alsacian-style whites. McCallum is inspired by Alsacian and German wines, and came to winemaking by way of an impressive Hochheimer riesling. Dry River's continued focus on the aromatic whites is what makes this particular winery so special and unique in the region. McCallum farms for extremely low yields and has strict specifications for enhancing sun exposure through canopy management. The vines are getting older and producing increasingly complex fruit-- it really shows in the wines. Dry River has a small but focused output of about 2,500 cases/year.
In 2002 Dry River was sold to new owners; the quality is still quite high.
This is a great riesling-- it's rich and dense, off dry but just the right amount. The great acidity balances out the sweetness, and this is one of those sweet rieslings that you could have as a dessert wine, with fatty foods, or just on its own. Even at about 9 years old it is still young, and could definitely lay in the cellar for the long term.
This gewurztraminer is slightly off dry. It has classic lychee and winter spice aromas; on the palate it is rich and extracted, age-worthy, dense, and spicy. It's delicious!
I'm hesitant to use drastic extremes, but this wine might be my favorite pinot gris that I have ever tasted. This is the wine that I dream about and think about way more than I should. If I were a cartoon character, little hearts would pop out of my head every time I see this bottle. When someone orders this off the wine list, I get the most elated feeling because I literally get excited for them because I know they are about to have one of the best wines of their lives. If I had to pick a single white wine from New Zealand to show a wine critic, and that would be the only wine they'd ever get to try from New Zealand, I would be torn between this and Millton's chenin blanc.
That being said, this wine is fantastic. It's rich and mostly dry, the texture is full and soft, the aroma is complex, floral, slightly earthy, and it is very classy, elegant, and rich.
There is nothing quite like a well-made cool climate syrah. New Zealand doesn't work as extensively with syrah as other countries, but when you find a good one in new Zealand it is just great. This one has dense black fruits and that classic meatiness. It is rich and chewy, while still being very balanced.
All of the bottles have this elegant, distinctive bottle neck.
I can't express enough how impressive, classy, and delicious these wines are-- what great examples of the amazing heights that New Zealand wines can reach.