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Wine of the Week for week ending 25 March 2007
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Dry River Pinot Gris 2006
Martinborough, New Zealand

It's getting harder and harder to find parking around the University on Auckland on a Sunday afternoon. Must be all the kids studying - but studying for what? The semester has only just started. We wanted a park reasonably close to Old Government House, the venue for Dry River's Autumn 2007 Release Tasting and an old stamping ground of mine when I was at Uni. They've cleaned the place up inside and it doesnít have the years of food, booze and cigarette smoke stink about it any more - which is a good thing when one is 'tasting' wine.

Neil McCallum, founder of Dry River Wines, greeted us like long lost friends and handed each of us a glass of the Dry River Pinot Noir 2005. As we stood and chatted, I drew in the glorious aromas of the wine, the florals, the sweet earth and the cherry scents that were so inviting. We were talking about one of the items in the 'Dry River Record'. It was the article about the deaf musician in the UK who got into university on his 12th attempt and after three successful years there became choirmaster and college organist. He is now the founder of 'Music for the Deaf'. I was also pretty smitten that my article on my discovery of the word phenomenology, after last season's release, was in there too. Click here for that article.

The room where the wines were being poured was fairly crowded and in the lounge next door, most of the seats were taken up too. People had settled in quite comfortably it seemed. After Neil left us to attend to other tasters we found a couple of spare seats and settled in the lounge as well and for once I abstained from using the spittoon.

Now I could concentrate on the Dry River Pinot Noir 2005 (12.5% alc. $77). The aromatics had totally seduced me but I also liked the colour, a bright ruby crimson, not totally opaque and not nearly as extracted and as deep as some of the Dry River pinots have been in the past, more on a par with the 2004. In the palate it's smooth and velvety with crisp cherry fruit being joined by blackberries and purple berries, an earthy, savoury, undercurrent, hints of leather, subtle spice and citrus emerging on the long, creamy, cosy finish - that lift of acidity boding well for long term cellaring. I sense a stylistic change, and I like it!

Dry River Pinot Gris 2006 (14% alc, 10g/l rs, $49) was next and wow, this totally socked it to me. In fact, I canít ever remember a Dry River Pinot Gris being so expressive at a release tasting. It's a light, gemmy, citrine colour with a slightly oily lustre, tantalising aromas of pears, peach, tropical fruit and orange blossom with subtle hints of spice, and rich, intense, lush, spicy flavours that hint towards gewurz but without gewurz's overpowering nature. But it's the ripe pear and quince on both the nose and the lingering finish, that define the varietal ownership of the wine. It's like a complex Alsace style and finishes seemingly dry. Totally delish.

Dry River Gewurztraminer 2006 (14% alc, about 15-18g/l rs, $40) is light gold in colour, spicy and delicately aromatic with lemon, rose oil and white pepper scents. It seems quite dry, with noticeable warmth from the alcohol and a smooth, oily, slightly creme brulee texture. The flavours ripple slowly through the mouth until it floods it with its richness. Everything I expect in gewurz is there, spice stonefruit steeped in a rose water syrup and fresh lavender-infused spices in a beautifully rounded package.

Dry River Late Harvest Riesling 2006 (10% alc, 60 g/l rs, 9.5g./l total acidity, $49) is made in that lovely, lowish alcohol Germanic style that some NZ producers can do so well. Just a little closed on the nose but everything is there in the palate - apples, limes, orange peel and juicy mandarin, pure and clean with a greywacke river stone undercurrent and lovely fruit sweetness and florals to the finish. I love this Germanic style with its piercing acidity and impeccable balance.

Dry River Late Harvest Viognier 2006 (13.5% alc., approx. 45g/l rs, $45) is the first release from this varietal. Light gold in colour but very bright with an unusual aroma that hints of smoke (but the wine has had no oak), with a hint of liquorice and honeysuckle too. It's fat and oily in the palate, ripe and lush, totally endowed with citrus and apricot, there's a touch of pineapple and a gorgeous spicy lift to the finish. The texture is warm and rounded, like light runny honey and there's something to the palate weight that reminds me of chardonnay. It's late harvest in style, but not overly sweet, more of a 'medium', if you know what I mean. Love the way the aromatics take over the finish.

So where does this leave me with a Wine of the Week with so many delicious wines to choose from? Easy. It has to be the Dry River Pinot Gris 2006. So yesterday, a week after the release tasting took place, we opened a bottle to enjoy. Still those tantalising expressive aromas - this time late summer fruits, like the pears and peaches straight of the tree. Quite crisp and seemingly dry in the palate with a rich texture and a bready undercurrent, citrus fills out the finish then the pear and stonefruit take over the aftertaste with a slightly floral musky note. A rich, lush, mouthfilling style, surely the benchmark Pinot Gris in New Zealand.

It went well with the leftover corn beef from our St Pat's Day tasting the night before (no cabbage tonight, thank you very much) and made the pinot gris that went very well with that meal taste rather dilute, such was the intensity of the Dry River.

We also matched the wine to a fruit and cheese stack made with fresh pear, fresh peach, Waimata Feta (which has a kind of haloumi character to it) and shreds of pineapple sage. Interestingly, when I shredded the sage and smelt the oils it emitted, then smelt the wine, there was a striking similarity.

Not surprisingly, this wine has very limited quantities, so if you are on the Dry River mail order list, I hoped you purchased some. If you are not, then good luck in sourcing this taste sensation.

All the Dry River Wines are estate wines from Martinborough. They are all sealed with corks and the prices quoted here are mail order prices. For further information and for Dry River's own exotic and mouthwatering descriptions, check out the website,

© Sue Courtney
19 Mar 2007

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