Monday, January 24, 2011

Woollaston Estates

I first met Philip and Chan Woollaston when Philip was Mayor of Nelson in the early 1990’s and we soon discovered we had a mutual love of wine. For me this turned into writing about it but for Philip and Chan a small hobby vineyard on the banks of the Wai-iti River at Brightwater has grown into a huge enterprise that is now housed in a state-of-the-art facility in the Moutere Hills at Mahana.
Woollaston’s website says “Philip and Chan met Glenn and Renée Schaeffer and discovered they shared a vision of creating an estate where fine wines would be crafted. They also share a love of art, literature and the Nelson landscape, so their dream was to develop a winery that was not only highly functional, but was also sensitive to the natural aesthetic of the area and reflected their creative passion.”
They are now into their 7th vintage at the new facility and the vineyards are about ten years old so as wine producers they are starting to reach maturity and this maturity is reflected in the wines they now produce.
With vine age comes flavour depth and complexity and Andrew Sutherland and his team in the winery have learnt all about the idiosyncrasies of the four-level gravity fed winemaking facility. With three vineyards in different locations in the region under their ownership viticulturist Julian Coakley has the ability to grow varieties in soil types and climate conditions that best suit each variety. Moving to full BioGro organic certification means more options are opened up to the winemaking team.
I recently had the opportunity to explore the range of wines offered under the Woollaston Estates label (they also produce wines under the Tussock and Mahana labels) and the current releases show how this organisation has developed over the years. The Woollaston Estates 2010 Sauvignon Blanc ($18) has ripe tropical fruit aromas with underlying fresh herbal characters. The palate delivers vibrant tropical fruits (zesty pineapple and limes) with crisp acidity that seems to last forever in the finish. This is a style I love.
Their Rose ($17) has been both very good and very popular for many years and for the followers of this wine you will not be disappointed by the 2010 version. Made from Pinot Noir grapes the delicate salmon pink colour hints at the elegance of the aromas but belies the dry, spicy richness of the flavours.
Having selected a vineyard site specifically to grow pinot noir grapes it is no surprise Woollaston Estates has a couple of beauties in their stable. The 2008 vintage ($35) is packed with summer berry fruit and lush licorice flavours that are nicely complemented with delicate smoky oak characters. Fine grained tannins add an elegant texture.
While Philip has stepped back from the day-to-day operation of the company that bears his name he is still a director and from his house perched on the edge of the picturesque Mahana vineyard continues to take a keen interest in the business and is still passionate about the ‘hobby vineyard’ he and Chan started in 1993.
Watch future columns for my thoughts on other Woollaston Estates Wines.

I have been drinking
Yalumba Sangiovese Rose - $18 but $11.99 on special at Nelson City Freshchoice
From South Australia this has a dry finish but is loaded with sweet, ripe cherry fruit flavours with a twist of spice. Great value chilled summer drinking.

Seifried Estates 2009 Winemaker’s Collection Gewurztraminer – RRP $23
Seifried’s Sweet Agnes Riesling has picked up so many national and international trophies it is almost embarrassing but don’t overlook the outstanding quality of other wines in the range. This gewurztraminer is a pure delight; rich, seductive exotic fruit and fresh ginger aromas, intense lychee, apricot and spice flavours all balanced with linger fresh acidity. It deserves every one of the 4 ½ stars Michael Cooper awarded this wine.

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