North Canterbury

Pyramid Valley – Tasting at Pyramid Valley

2009 Pyramid Valley Field of Fire Chardonnay

This opens with a distinct note of boiled peanuts on the nose, joined by layers of flowers, honeycomb and heirloom apple fruit aromas. In the mouth, this shows super fine balance with light honey and toasted almond accents framing the core of clear orchard fruit. Very transparent feeling with fine depth to the zesty mineral and fruit flavors. Bright acid on the back end drives the lovely vibrant finish, showing spice and lingering lemon verbena aromas. 92pts

Waipara – Regional Tasting

2010 Ataahua Chardonnay

This shows a lot of raw wood on the nose with toasted nut, toasted oak and butter aromas over rather hidden fruit. There’s a lot of wood on the palate as well sweetening things up quite a bit. Nice acids keep things bright, but the oak remains dominant and tops everything with a touch of honey. 83pts

2010 Black Estate Chardonnay

This is fairly nutty on the nose with rich aromas of oily wood and notes of barrel fermentation, wrapped around bright ripe peach and pear fruit. On entry this is quite lively, with bright acids adding a bit of cut to the clear and crisp orchard fruit palate. All in all, this is well balanced with nice inner mouth tension and a fine apricot-tinged finish. 88pts

2010 Black Estate Omihi Series Chardonnay

Gently oaky on the nose, allowing some nice mineral, green fruit and pollen aromas to emerge from the glass. On the palate, this is round and easy and seems a bit lazy, perhaps just a bit too ripe. The back end and finish are very aromatic and attractive, though the aromas are a bit yeast- and barrel-driven. 86pts

2009 Floating Mountain Chardonnay

This is very focused on the nose with fine mineral, steal and apple notes. On entry, this seems just a touch soft, though there is a core of clear fruit framed with an earthy, savory, leesy element. Very Burgundian but not entirely clean, so if you appreciate a bit of dirty complexity this might be more appealing to you. I enjoyed the fairly long mineral and savory toned finish. 88pts

2009 Main Divide Chardonnay

Fresh and clean on the nose though you have to wait for some sulfur to blow. Once it does, there are lovely notes of pithy citrus and white orchard fruits that are well defined and framed with nuanced hickory and oak notes. Fresh on the palate if a touch viscous, this remains nicely balanced with a fine expression of white peach and lemon fruit. Gains some nuttiness on the back end before finishing a bit short with a somewhat oily texture. 89pts

2008 Mountford Chardonnay

This is all gentle. Gentle mineral and barrel fermentation aromas accent the soft core of apricot fruit with flashes of dried lime zest and marzipan on the nose. On the palate this is very clear and precise. This is fresh and juicy while obviously quite ripe. The fruit sticks in the citrus end of the spectrum, with a nicely precise feel and cleansing zesty acidity. The finish returns to the gentle phase, nuanced with notes of barrel ferment and wood lingering just under the soft fruit. 91pts

2009 Muddy Water Chardonnay

With a big nose of smoke, almonds, spicy floral tones and dried fruit, this is a bit of an attention grabber. Very bright and rather vibrant and rich on the palate with nice depth. This is quite Burgundian with a nice balance of nutty oak and fruit on the finish. The fruit transitions from orchard fruits to citrus on the palate, with the finish showing zesty, bright lemon notes over a bed of smoky toast. 90pts

2008 Pegasus Bay Chardonnay

This is marked by smoky, tarry, toasty oak on the nose, though it does show nice heirloom apple tones with a touch of orange marmalade. In the mouth, this has nice cut and shows a really compelling blend of creamy marzipan notes and grilled fruit flavors. There’s an attractive sweet/tart thing going on here that is attractive, but the rather aggressive oak returns on the finish with more almond, marzipan notes. 89pts

2008 Pegasus Bay Virtuoso Chardonnay

This is very complex on the nose but smells a bit odd at the same time, with layers of green fruit, raw hazelnuts and barrel fermentation notes topped with an odd chemical note. On the palate, the fruit is caramelly and creamy and decidedly heavy, with a viscous mouth feel and some astringency on the long finish. N/R

2010 Pyramid Valley Lion’s Tooth Chardonnay

Very clean on the nose with a touch of reduction covering the fruit and leaving clean wood tones, mineral earth, some apple fruit and an intriguing hint of mint. On the palate this is round and well balanced, with a lovely integration of wood. The wine feels very fresh and supremely tense with bright acids. There is lovely interplay of mineral and fruit on the palate and superb persistence to the lemon and pear fruit, though the palate is also marred by light reductive tones at this time. This needs more air than I was able to give it but has the markings of something pretty terrific. 92pts

2010 Pyramid Valley Field of Fire Chardonnay

Just slightly reductive on the nose, this offers up a big mineral note framed by lovely, earthy fennel pollen notes and soft peach and apricot aromas. In the mouth this is big, rich and structured. It’s a very firm expression of Chardonnay, even if it is quite ripe, with a fine background note of oak and lovely lemon curd fruit oozing out from the edges. The finish shows more earthy tones and fine, nutty oak elements that all lead to a succulent mineral finale. 93pts

2008 Sherwood Estate Chardonnay

This is very expressive on the nose with rather pure aromas of apple and oak, topped with a touch of flowers. Nothing is out of place on the palate, but it feels rather round, opulent and easy in a very accessible style that has little sense of place. 84pts

2011 Waipara Hills Chardonnay

With subtle oak, herb, floral and apricot aromas, this is nice on the nose in a gentle and fun style. In the mouth it’s a bit loose and easy, and noticeably sweet. A very by-the-glass program style of wine. 83pts

2010 Waipara Springs Chardonnay

Rather neutral on the nose, smelling mostly of mineral water. On the palate there’s not much more. This feels rather sterile though there is some nice brightness, and while this may be a touch sweet, it remains light on its feet and gains some tension from a dollop of tannin on the finish. 80pts

2010 Waipara Springs Premo Chardonnay

Rather fruity and sweet smelling with notes of heirloom apple and pears. On the palate this is a bit soft and formless. This is easy but uninteresting. 80pts

2007 Waipara West Chardonnay

Rather oaky on the nose with rich notes of butterscotch and crème brûlée. On the palate this is rather chunky and flat. Though bright acidity does emerge on the moderately long finish, it somehow fails to support the palate. Lots of caramel on the palate and that sweetness translates on to the finish as well. This just seems to fall flat. 82pts