Drinking one amazing wine brought me out of my way and right to this vineyard's doorstep.
Before travelling through Marlborough I had only heard of Framingham. I knew they had a good reputation but I knew very little about them and the wines they produced.
So when I saw the Framingham name on my wine list whilst having dinner during my stay in Marlborough, of course I ordered it quite promptly.
The wine in question was the Framingham Marlborough Montepulciano 2009. I am always ecstatic when I see a New Zealand Montepulciano, as all I have sampled have been impeccable delights. This one was also from Marlborough, a region not usually known for Italian red varieties.
When my bottle arrived and my glass was poured I could definitely say I was not disappointed.
This luxurious full-bodied cracker of a vino was exactly what I want to see in Montepulciano at 5 years of age: exploding with spice, dark chocolate, and heavy aged dark fruit characters, as if the younger, juicy plum flavours had been roasted with the aforementioned spices.
I had only one day in Marlborough and this wine made me change my cellar door visiting schedule without any hesitation.
This winery jumped right to the top of my must-see list and so I was delighted to find that Framingham Wines was just 5 minutes from my accommodation. Not long after it opened the following day I rushed over, eager to taste more impressive wines.
I arrived at the estate to find a large Manor house, surrounded first by vineyards in stunning Autumn colours, then second by a thick-walled courtyard.
Parking within the wall of vines I entered the courtyard via an impressive set of broad, wooden, double doors.
Passing through the entrance way I came to a pleasant, bubbling fountain with manicured trees, grass and flowers, and casting my eyes downwards I spotted several excerpts of text on the manor's paths.
These texts held brief quotes from an array of groups and individuals. For example, music legends like The Killers, Dandy Warhols and Johnny Cash were quoted , as well as words from Framingham winemaker (and Cancer survivor) Andrew Hedley that really encapsulate Framingham Estate's mindset when it comes to producing wine: "Absolutely don't chase mass appeal and volume with Riesling, as that is often a path to rubbish." .
This stance has steered Framingham Estate well as I soon found out that this winery is actually known as one of New Zealand's finest Riesling producers (THE best according to Master of Wine Jancis Robinson).
Stepping inside the Cellar Door I was greeted by my host Maureen and proceeded to have a look around the small room. It was constructed of a marvellous, varnished dark wood and with a cozy fireplace plus leather chairs it would certainly still be comfortable come Winter.
Onto the tasting, Maureen gave me an option to sample several of their wide selection and although I loved the Montepulciano I had consumed the night before, I wished to see what else the had to impress me with.
I started first with their Sauvignon Blanc 2013:
Sauv Blanc is easily Marlborough's signature wine, and is the one that put New Zealand wine on the map, however it has still managed to evolve over the years and change style as the previous wine 'fashion' if you will, becomes stale.
Framingham is definitely on the forefront of this sort of innovation, with warmer, stony soils imparting rich, tropical flavours and a portion of the wine going through barrel fermentation which adds an impressive texture and richness, especially to the finish.
Dry Riesling 2005:
This was a treat, sampling 9 year old Riesling without even having to beg for it to be pulled out of the cellar!
Under Stelvin cap this wine has all the maturity of an aged Riesling combined with the fresh crispness of a younger wine. Soft, floral aromas combine curiously well with that familiar smell of kerosene that often accompanies a Riesling of this age. The palate has an oily texture at first that suddenly bursts to life with a zesty citrus blast that brings in a lengthy, acidic finish.
The winemaker suggests easily another 5 years of ageing on this one at least!
F-Series Old Vine Riesling 2012
This Riesling was made with fruit from vines that were planted 34 years ago.
These were some of Marlborough's first quality vines and were the first in the area to be planted on Phylloxera resistant American rootstock.
Only 91 cases of this wine produced and this is absolutely a wine that you should pop into the cellar.
It's full of freshly squeezed lime flavour but still retains an excellent rich mouth feel that certainly sticks around for a while after it has been swallowed. With 4-6+ years of ageing I can see this easily being one of the best Rieslings you could have here in New Zealand.
F-Series Montepulciano Rosato 2013
Rosato, the Italian Rosé, is not a style I thought I would find here in Marlborough.
This wine spends 3 full days on it's skins which gives it an startling hue that is much deeper and richer than other Rosé wines I have seen.
A style that is full of raspberries with a wonderful balance between fruit, acidity and texture, retaining a certain structure that works to complete this dry Montepulciano Rosato.
F-Series Viognier 2012
This Viognier is actually only the second vintage that Framingham Wines has released, with a tiny 35 cases produced.
Straight away I can say that this is a Viognier of substantial depth.
Hand picked, bunch pressed, fermented with a combination of un-inoculated and cultured yeasts, then 75% spent 11 months aging in french oak while on it's yeast lees the entire time.
This wine has a lot of love and care poured into it, and it shows, with a rich, soft mouthfeel, stonefruit flavours bursting across a bed of buttery oak opulence, leaving the proposition of ageing for several years firmly on the table.
You may not find a finer Viognier in Marlborough.
Pinot Noir 2012
Marlborough Pinot Noir are the style in New Zealand that I have the most experience in dealing with and I can clearly see a big future for this particular wine.
Marlborough Pinot Noir with several years of age are often in a class of their own and so I cannot wait for this young stunner of a Pinot to reach that point.
A focused wine with a larger production than many of their others at 3,200 cases, it's full of raspberry and spiced cherries with many more layers sitting just out of sight, waiting until about 5-7 years of age to rear their complex heads.
Spending 10 months in oak with 22% of that being new, this oak bringing a soft finish with a reasonable body that will again shine in time.
F-series Pinot Noir 2011
Now this is a hip style of Pinot Noir.
126 cases only, gruntier and smoother than the previous Pinot Noir, with ripe aged cherry flavours and the taste and aroma of bramble berries with an alluring sprinkle of spice.
Grown in a vineyard with more clay based soils, this little number spends 16 months in barrel and has some serious skin contact, bringing a concentration of flavour and colour to the wine.
This is a Pinot Noir that deserves to be talked about, the sort of wine you want to relax by the fire and just muse over, thinking about exactly how complex and structured it really is and how great it will become.
Last up I had a Noble Riesling from 2011:
This soft, brass hued dessert wine has been affected by the Noble Rot Botrytis and is a classic showing of this style.
Super sweet but with the smooth, yet thick body that only the noble rot can produce.
Alluring marmalade and apricot notes mix with a decadent honeycomb-like flavour that fills the mouth and almost relaxes the mind, a perfect wine to finish any meal or evening.
After my tasting, Maureen kindly told me of their underground cellar that lay beneath the manor.
Following the stairs in the corner I descended into the atmospheric cellar below where previous vintages of Framingham Estate wines are stored and a small area displayed artifacts of wine production from both NZ and around the world, which was a interesting way to finish off my visit.