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Notes from New Zealand, 2011

text and photgraphs © 2011 Tom Cannavan

These notes accompany our in-depth feature on New Zealand 2011.


blair walter Blair Walter and Felton Road's owner Nigel Greening (Blair is right of photograph) absolutely live the biodynamic and sustainable dream in their farm in Bannockburn. Lunch there was not only organic, but was sourced entirely from the farm including goat and chicken raised on the farm and a variety of herbs, fruits and vegetables.

Blair Walter has been winemaker at Felton Rd "forever," in his own words. In fact that means since the estate was founded in 1996. Though in his early days his ambition was to become a pilot, he was also a fifth generation Kiwi from a farming family background and the viticultural course at Lincoln university in New Zealand led on to further studies in Oregon, where his project experience was based on Pinot Noir. He worked for Newton Estate in Napa, then had winemaking stints in Australia's Hunter Valley and Burgundy.

But it was whilst he was working for Sokol Blosser winery in Oregon making Pinot Noir that Blair says he interest in what Central Otago might be capable of was piqued: "Rudi Bauer stopped by on a trip through Oregon and left me with a bottle of Otago Pinot which really opened my eyes: it was so fresh and floral." Within a year he had returned to Central Otago to work with Rudi at Giesen estate, staying there until he was asked to help set up Felton Rd in 1996.

the wines

UK importer for Felton Road is Cornish Point Wines. See all wines on wine-searcher.

Felton Road Block 3 Pinot Noir 2000
Stony and mineral, with a gravel and slightly green, ashy notes to the fore. The palate has lovely , well-tempered fruit: this has a very sweet core of fruit, but it is balanced and has finesse, and has a light and shade about it. Juicy too, and a beautifully focused and long finish. 92/100.

Felton Road Block 3 Pinot Noir 2003
Very similar character, perhaps just a hint of more chocolaty depth and richness, but broadly in the same style as the 2000. Softer on the palate, the fruit a little silkier - very much black fruit - but that same elegance and effortless structure. 92/100.

Felton Road Block 3 Pinot Noir 2004
Slightly more closed, still that mineral sand stone quality, but not so giving as the 2003. Delicious fruit - tight, grippy, the tannins in this vintage more powerful, and even adding some spicy notes, but again that beautiful acidity and clarity of the fruit and this vineyard comes through. 93/100.

Felton Road Block 3 Pinot Noir 2007
Ripeness and richness are apparent. The vineyard expression is consistent, with that smoky edge of minerality, a touch of richness to the black fruit. On the palate a biggish wine, with abundant fruit, a little hint of damp undergrowth in a very true Pinot way, but the balance is excellent and has terrific length and focus again. 94/100.

See all wines on wine-searcher.

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