Judge Rock, Alexandra Basin
Nestled amongst the rolling hillside of Alexandra Basin's Bridge Hill, lies the Judge Rock vineyard owned by Paul & Angela Jacobson.
Planted in 1998 by Paul's Father John, the site is now comprised of Pinot Noir & the Austrian grape St Laurent, one of the only such plantings in New Zealand.
Winemaking today is taken care of by Vinpro's Pete Bartlett who Angela & Paul say help bring out the true character of their vineyard.
Shaughn Jenkins joins Angela Jacobson at their home estate to talk about what makes Judge Rock special & how the Alexandra Basin distinguishes itself from the other regions of Central Otago.
Shaughn Jenkins: What inspired you two to get into winegrowing down here in the Alexandra Basin?
Angela Jacobson: Paul's job mostly. He's an engineer, and his company wanted to transfer him to a new location & gave us a few choices. Alexandra was one of them, and since we had three young boys at the time, we left it up to them to decide where they would like to grow up. It worked out too, since Paul's family is from nearby Millers Flat originally & I, myself am from Invercargill, so it was almost a homecoming.
Paul as it happens also had an interest in winemaking having been able to dabble in the production while we were based in Blenheim, Marlborough so it was a very natural choice to select a piece of land that had grape growing potential when we moved here.
Shaughn: What made you choose this particular hillside? What makes your site special?
Angela: The aspect & slope I believe. It gets a lot of hot late afternoon sun, due to the sloping nature of the whole vineyard we get a diversity of soil type, with less fertile, rocky soils at the top, and more alluvial, fertile loamy soil at the bottom, allowing for us to make a couple of different styles across the site, from the same grape variety.
Shaughn: How about the Alexandra Basin, what in your opinion makes it distinct from the other sub-regions?
Angela: The climate here provide us with very cold nights, around 2-3°C cooler than the other winegrowing regions of Central Otago, resulting in wines that have higher natural acidity. Bright red fruit characters in the Pinot Noir & more lime & green apple notes in the Rieslings.
I'm a member of the Alexandra Basin Winegrowers group & we have a really supportive community here in Alex.
Shaughn: Finally, where can the folks out there find your wine?
Angela: We always encourage people to come out and see us just a few minutes outside Alexandra township, as we run tastings here & offer accommodation. The wines are well found around Otago Province, especially in Dunedin where we are the sole wine producer at the Dunedin Farmers Market for example.
We sell the wines in Auckland & also in both Australia & the UK in limited amounts.
Angela was kind enough to take me through the range of wines they produce at Judge Rock including Rosé 2017 (only 130 cases), Riesling 2016 (sourced from the excellent Archangel vineyard), Pinot Noir 2014, Pinot Noir 2013 & St Laurent 2012.
My favourite wines were the Pinot Noir 2014 & St Laurent 2012, the Pinot Noir having cranberry & sweet spice aromas, silky tannins and a light body with fine finish of acidity & the St Laurent being a uniquely different variety amongst New Zealand wines had an almost ruby-gem red hue, sweet doris plum aromas, and a full flavoured body, with a generous mid-palate & lengthy finish, well worth ageing both wines.