Jul 13 , 2022
This past weekend I was hanging with my brother, and he was saying how he just doesn't really like Pinot Noir. I totally agreed with him. When I go to buy a red wine, Pinot Noir is definitely not in my top 5 choices. It is not necessarily that I do not like Pinot Noir, but more that to find one that I really enjoy, I need to spend an arm and a leg.
By far the most prestigious region for Pinot Noir is Burgundy France. They make the best Pinot Noir in all the world, but with that prestige comes a big price. The next most well-known area for Pinot Noir is Willamette (rhymes with damnit) Valley Oregon. This is usually my go to area for Pinot Noir, but these are still not the most amazing value wines. Then there is the Russian River Valley in California. This area does have some good values for Pinot Noir, but stylistically different than the first two.
So which region am I going to choose a Pinot Noir to talk about today? New Zealand of course. What?!? Yeah, the area most famous for Sauvignon Blanc also makes some outstanding Pinot Noir that goes well under the radar. It obviously isn't in the top three choices for people, and I would guess it isn't even in the top five. With the overwhelming popularity of Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, I would bet most people don't even know that New Zealand grows Pinot Noir.
Escarpment Winery was started back in 1999 growing just Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. They have made amazing wines for nearly 25 years getting huge scores from wine critics for all their wines. In 2019 they were acquired by Torbreck Vintners which has helped them grow and continue to produce their amazing wines. Their Pinot Noirs are inspired by the classic wines of Burgundy. Everyone knows the region of Marlborough, where the famous Sauvignon Blanc are grown, however, Martinborough is where these wonderful Pinot Noir come from. Careful, if you read that too fast, you might think they are the same place, but Martinborough is on the North Island and Marlborough is on the South Island.
The 2017 Escarpment Vineyard Pinot Noir from Martinborough got a 94-point rating by James Suckling and he describes it well. "This has a very rich, ripe and attractive feel with innate depth that arrives by means of the region, experience and methods in play here. The dark and red cherries and plums are beautifully fresh and vibrant and framed in earthy, sappy notes that add complexity. The palate is intense yet plush. The rich dark cherries are cleverly captured and wrapped in reassuringly long, smooth tannins. Lots to like here!" Winemaker Larry McKenna is known as the King of Pinot Noir in the Wairarapa-Martinborough region and this wine, as well as his single vineyards, clearly demonstrates why.
So hopefully you will give a chance for this hidden gem of a region for Pinot Noir. They might not be super cheap, but for the quality they are just as good as all of the well-known Pinot Noir regions.