"We're getting some Dry River Gewurztraminer in next week," said Kingsley Wood at last week's First Glass Wines and Spirits' Fine Wine
Wednesday tasting (27th April). The theme was 'Aromatic Wines'. We had just finished the first Gewurztraminer of the evening and the next wine was about to be poured.
Suddenly there was a buzz in the room. Dry River! In retail! Get out of here! It just doesn't happen (well not to any great extent). But it seems that since the change of ownership, a tiny amount is filtering through to the trade though most is destined for fine wine dining.
"And we're getting some Dry River Syrah and Late Harvest Riesling," he added. "But we haven't got any yet and we won't be tasting them," he declared. Mutterings of dismay emanated around the room from people hoping to have a Dry River Gewurztraminer poured into their glass, next up.
He looked at me, sitting in my usual corner. "I suppose you've tasted them" he said. Actually I hadn't, although I did have the wines at home. They had arrived at the beginning of March, about the time the wines were released to mail order customers. Usually I go to the mail order customer tasting and open my samples up a few weeks, or months, later. But I wasn't able to go to the mail order customer tasting this time.
So in departure from my normal mode of operation, I took my samples down to First Glass for Kingsley and his partner in wine, Sam Kim, to try. The wines weren't tasted blind, but they were later - that evening at home, when the Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer were lined up with others of those varieties waiting to be tasted.
I could see at the end of the tasting that Sam, an experienced wine show and magazine judge, was impressed. I don't think he had ever tasted the Dry River wines on release before. He had before him four wines of impeccable quality, wines of power and stature. He finally realised why Dry River wines are held in such revere.
Here are my notes.
Dry River Martinborough Pinot Gris 2004 (13.5% alc. $40 on release)
Light gold in colour. Lightly floral with pear, musk and apple blossom scents. Quite rich and viscous in the palate, almost oily and a little honeyed. Beautiful weight, length, texture and balance and a rich, long finish with a spicy sweetness and a musky, orange zestiness as it lingers. Very appealing and luscious, though the palate is actually quite dry.
At home that evening, after tasting this with five other pinot gris wines - where it completely obliterated the others with its quality and class - we found it to be a terrific match to Pacific-island style marinated fish. It is not a match I would have specifically matched to pinot gris before this tasting, but it is a match that works.
Dry River Estate Gewurztraminer 2004 (14% alc. $40 on release)
Pale straw gold. Lovely aromas, quite understated at this stage but very pure of Gewurztraminer with lychee and rose petal scents. Give it time and it will develop into a big, opulently scented number. The floral notes on the nose continue into the palate with rose petals, cloves, fruit sweetness and beautifully balanced phenolics with orange and musk lingering on the long juicy, perfumed finish. A rich, oily looking, 'leggy' wine with a rich, viscous texture, after its delicate start it builds in power. Coriander, ginger spices and lemon Turkish Delight linger on the aftertaste. A wine with a most incredible, almost nectar-like, texture. Deservedly one of NZ's top gewurztraminer's year in, year out.
Dry River Lovat Syrah 2003 (12.5% alc. $58 on release)
Deep inky, vivid purple red with a violet-purple edge. Aromas of creamy oak and nutmeg integrate with freshly cracked black pepper, with a sweet-scented, floral (carnation) overtone. Ultra-spicy in the palate with nutmeg and rose pepper jazzing up the juicy blackberry and black plum fruit. Dry, with firm, lightly grippy, silky tannins and a meaty, cracked pepper finish with hints of marmite, vanilla and liquorice and brighter fruit, like raspberries, lingering . A wine of super concentration that will reward cellaring, but aerate it (in a big glass or decanter) and it is delicious to drink now.
Dry River Craighall Late Harvest Riesling (10% alc. $45 on release)
Exquisite! Honeysuckle and ginger flowers with a lacing of freshly squeezed tangelo juice tantalise the nose. Then the nectar-like flavours of the spicy citrus and apricot fruit seduce the palate. Gingery spices and lime-ginger marmalade add zest and brightness. This is wine with purity and focus and a beautiful aura of balance surrounding it. Great potential for aging but already spectacular.
Included in the line-up later in the evening was a wine from the Spring Release 2004.
Dry River Lovat Gewurztraminer 2004 (14% alc. $36 on release)
Glints of 24-carat gold flash through the rich straw-coloured hue. Sweet smelling with a delicate lemon honey, apricot and Asian-spice fragrance and a rich and concentrated palate. Totally luscious with fantastic viscosity, delicious flavours of sweet musk, lemon Turkish delight and exotic spice. Seemingly delicate, but with hidden power, the flavours build on the palate and the finish is lifted and long. Compared to the six other gewurztraminers tasted, this seemed in comparison a much sweeter, much richer style, though it finishes dry - and once again the balance is perfection. If sweetness seduces you, so will this wine. When I tasted it last September I thought it already delicious. It is even more so now.
If you are lucky enough to have any of these wines, you have some real quality in your cellar.
Dry River Wines now have a website. Check it out at www.dryriver.co.nz. A fascinating site that reproduces Neil McCallum's deep and meaningful essays (or 'jottings' as he calls them) that he publishes in his newsletters. Definitely worth clicking on the link and reading. You can also register to become a mail order customer.
© Sue Courtney
1 May 2005