The Maori have an expression for Marlborough: “Kei puta te Wairau,” or “The place with the hole in the cloud.” Indeed, it is one of the most sunny and warm-climates regions in New Zealand and, by no consequence, the country’s largest wine producing region with just about 5,000 acres planted to vines.

The larger Marlborough region is divided into three major sub-regions, and it is the Awatere Valley region, south of the Wairau Valley where te Pa has extended their vineyard property. This sub-region spans inland from the ocean and includes elevated areas as it reaches toward the Kaikoura mountain-scape. Here, with its cooler, drier climate and somewhat rocky terrain, the vines incur a lot of vigor, producing Pinot Noir with a noted strength of character. te Pa 2015 Pinot Noir is a beautiful expression of this New Zealand terroir.

About the Wine: The te Pa 2015 Pinot Noir is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes harvested from New Zealand’s Marlborough wine region. 80% of the grapes were harvested from Omaka North Vineyard (Clones 667, 115, 10/5) and 20% from Benmorven Road (Clone 777, 5). All grapes were hand harvested. The grapes were fermented in separate batches in open top fermenters, with each bach containing about 20% whole cluster grapes.

After fermentation, which lasted between 4-7 days depending on the individual batch, the resulting wine was left to settle sur lie for an additional 1-2 weeks.

The final blend aged in French oak barrels for 10 months (20% new).

14% ABV

Flavor Profile: Out of the bottle the te Pa 2015 Pinot Noir releases an immediate aroma of deep, dark jamminess combined with dirty earth. Visually, the wine is a dusty rouge on the pour, settling into a faded cranberry in the glass.

Initial aromas are reminiscent of chocolate covered cranberries dropped in the dirt. There’s a slight hint of rose petal perfume and a deep inhale will reveal the wine’s center-line of acidity. Swirl and more dark fruit aromatics come forward: blackberries, boysenberries, squishy plum.

The palate is surprisingly smooth. There’s an initial funk of dried rose petals, but this Pinot Noir is quite fruit forward (speaking of those same fruits sensed on the nose). The tannins come into play half to three-quarters of the way through and reveal a bit of earthy, crunchy greenery and a dusty dirt floor. The finish is dry, but it’s a soft and friendly dryness that covers the palate completely, unintimidatingly, for a completely solid, textural finish. Yet there is that thin, center-line of acidity, that — despite my descriptors — keeps the wine light and lively, those tannins an arms-length away, and adds a lingering tickle around the perimeter of the tongue.

That dusty, textural earthiness gives the impression of age-ability. But I wouldn’t age this wine at all. The te Pa 2015 Pinot Noir is an old soul wrapped in a young body — to be enjoyed now while it’s fully alive.

Food Pairing: This is a versatile red wine that could pair well with a casual hamburger just as easily as gourmet fillet mignon. My pairing was an interesting one: I made vegetarian meatballs and tossed them in a spinach salad along with some sautéed mushrooms. The spinach calls out the texture of the wine — a pleasant affect for the palate especially when enjoying a soft side like the sautéed mushrooms. The meatballs brought forth a bit more herbaceousness in the Pinot Noir as well as highlighted the freshness and acidity of the fruit components.

Perfect pairing? I enjoyed it as a mid-week meal, but I’d gladly drink this wine again and challenge myself to pair it with something a bit more “elevated.”

More Info: I received the te Pa 2015 Pinot Noir as a sample for review. (Cheers Mikela!) Retail: $25 For more information about te Pa Wines, their part in New Zealand wine history, and (of course) to purchase their wines, please visit the te Pa Wines website.

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