When the winemaker is also a doctor , you know you're on to a winner.
If you haven't heard of Forrest Wines yet, you should listen up.
For the last two decades, Doctors John and Brigid Forrest have been wowing both the national and international communities with their high quality, innovative wines from their small property in the heart of Marlborough's Wairau Valley.
Following a long, winding driveway lined by acres of vineyard, you pass a small pond and as you round the corner you are welcomed by a picturesque cluster of buildings ringed by Oak trees and more vines.
It was still very early when I arrived, but there were already two carloads of customers lining up to taste.
My host Katrina introduced me to their Cellar Door's tasting tray system.
I chose a selection of the more outside the box varieties that Forrest has been known to dabble in.
The first wine was an example of one of the more interesting wines to hit NZ in the last few years:
Grüner Veltliner (Green Veltliner) originally from Austria.
The Doctors' Grüner Veltliner 2012:
This style was an instant classic for Marlborough, with a big grapefruit nose, tons of bright acidity and an incredibly refreshing, thirst quenching dry finish.
The whole "Doctors'" range is all about excellence through innovation. In order for the New Zealand wine industry to keep evolving, new varieties must be introduced, and new winemaking and viticulture practices must be pursued.
Chenin Blanc 2011:
Chenin Blanc, the Loire classic and the national white wine of South Africa.
This grape is popping up more and more in recent years across New Zealand, and why not? A variety full of character and style, that can be consumed young, or matured for a veritable life time as Chenin from Vouvray often age for 40-80 years with excellent results.
This is Forrest's sixth release of their Chenin in the last eleven years as it's proved a little tricky to preserve the style they are trying to achieve. When it is released however, you know you are going to receive something special.
This wine has been barrel fermented (which I always enjoy) and has aged on it's lees with minimal stirring.
It has a nose like dry straw and a lovely texture to it's body that begs to be aged and taken care of. If you purchase this one, give it some time in your cellar, you will surely be rewarded.
Library Release Gewürztraminer 2007:
Now this right here is why you come out to Cellar Doors! Exclusive wines only released at the Cellar Door!
This wine is one that lives right up to it's name. Gewürz being an old word referring to the often spicy palate of wines made from this grape. This spice roars across your palate and concludes with a big, creamy, textual finish that lasts for many minutes after the glass is empty.
Drinking very well at seven years old but could be further aged for several more years if desired.
The Doctor's Riesling 2013:
If you know me, you know I love great Rieslings.
Young or at any age, if they are done well and express themselves fully, I will be all over them.
I saw on the tasting menu that this Riesling swung in at a very low 8.5% alcohol and by this assumed it must be rather sweet (you know what they say about assuming!).
Boy was I wrong. This Riesling was an absolute stunner!
It blew me away with massive acidity that was balanced with huge Granny Smith Apple flavours and a very zesty finish that impressed me straight away.
For a low alcohol + low residual sugar combination that would suggest earlier harvest, this wine didn't skimp on the ripe texture and flavour.
Pick this one straight away. Maybe a few as I would suggest aging a few bottles.
If you are interested in what Doctor John Forrest has to say on his home region where most of these wines are produced, here is just the video for you:
After those rather interesting whites (there are more too, check out the Viognier, Arneis, Semillon and Noble Chenin Blanc to really widen your palate) we move on to a excellent selection of red wines.
With Marlborough mostly known for white wines, many overlook the wide array of red varieties that some producers are starting to dabble in.
We have a variety straight away that you would not expect to see in Marlborough; Malbec!
(Note: this one was given to me directly by Katrina so I cannot speak to it's general availability at this time, could be another Cellar Door exclusive)
Marlborough Malbec 2013:
The French noble turned Argentine Alpine King is also starting to become a more common sight in New Zealand, though this is usually found in the warmer Auckland and Hawke's Bay regions.
2013 however was a very warm vintage and this wine definitely shows it just by being released.
It hasn't spent as much time in oak as I personally would prefer, however with time I believe this wine will be very expressive. Incredibly soft, full of plum and raspberry with hints of nutmeg and pepper suggesting that these characters will become the main focus when this wine reaches it's maturity in the next 4-8 years.
John Forrest Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2010:
Forrest Wines aren't limited just to Marlborough oh no, they also have vineyards in Central Otago and Hawke's Bay.
This Pinot Noir is from the well regarded Bannockburn sub-region right in the heart of the Central Otago winegrowing region.
2010 was a scorching hot year up and down the nation of New Zealand with many red wines from this vintage being the biggest, most powerful expressions of their varieties seen within the country.
As Central Otago is often one of the largest expressions of Pinot Noir you can find, you would expect the 2010 Pinot Noirs from this dry, alpine region to be incredible. In this respect you would not be wrong, this wine has a deep, dark, purple hue, with huge black cherry and spice characters, wonderful strong tannins and this undercurrent of wild thyme that delights the senses.
Drinking well now, but will age for up to another decade or so.
Newton Forrest Stony Corner Gimblett Gravels 2010
The "Newton Forrest Estate" is a partnership between the Forrest's and Australian Viticulturist Bob Newton established in 1988 to make wine from Bordeaux varieties grown in the very unique Gimblett Gravels sub-region in the Hawke's Bay area of New Zealand.
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec varieties which were all hand-picked, fermented separately in small 3-tonne open fermenters, hand plunged and allowed varying periods of post-ferment skin contact prior to pressing of the wine for malolactic fermenting and aging which took place in a mix of French (70%) and American (30%) Oak Barriques.
Katrina wanted to show how interesting this wine was, so she took a bottle that had been open for two days and compared a tasting of that against a freshly opened bottle.
The new bottle was very tight, had little aroma and while rich in texture, it was clear this wine needed either time to breathe or serious decanting.
Heading to the two day open tasting was a very different story, a powerful spicy aroma greeted my nostrils and as I sipped, my mouth was filled with luxurious, silky tannins, mocha and red currant characters and a length that just kept on giving.
Superb wine, decant for one or two hours at least before drinking.
Age for the next 10-15 years.
The Doctor's St. Laurent 2012:
And now for something completely different..
Hands up those of you who have ever tasted a St. Laurent before...
Yeah, that is what I thought, very few of you out there would have heard of this variety.
St. Laurent's ancestry is a bit mixed, but as the parent of Zweigelt, this grape is very popular in Austria (I'm seeing a trend here), this highly aromatic red variety is also the most planted red in the Czech Republic.
I had seen a small blurb on this wine before and was excited to try it.
The very dark-skin of this grape leads to a purple-black hue to the wine, with pungent, ripe aromas of bramble fruits that continue onto the palate, mixing with cherries and all spice with a very unique Black Forest Gateau characteristic moving into soft, sticky tannins that round out the whole experience of this special little wine.
Drink now or in the next 4-5 years.
The Doctor's Petit Manseng 2013
Forrest again brings another interesting variety to the table, with Petit Manseng, native to the South-West of France, most notably the Jurançon region.
This variety is commonly made in the Late Harvest dessert wine style, as it is here with the harvest not taking place in Forrest's small planting until May-June.
2013 was the second vintage released of this wine and I was thoroughly impressed given the young age of the vines.
A alluring mix of soft dessert flavours including, spiced baked apple/apple pie, tangerine, and lemon curd are balanced very well with the grape's natural high acidity.
Perfect with baked fruit based desserts, especially pies.
While it was relatively quiet at Forrest during my early morning, Autumn visit, I would arrive early during Summer too as this lovely spot tends to attract the crowds when the Sun is shining.