The most photographed vineyard in the world, for a reason.
Set upon a scenic hill overlooking Lake Wanaka, lies one of the founding wineries of the Central Otago wine industry.
Rippon Vineyard, managed by the Mills family was one of the early pioneers to defy the naysayers and try and start a commercial winery in the extreme heat and cold of New Zealand's far south.
In 1975, Rolfe Mills, the third generation of his family to farm this land, trialled experiments with grape growing , and in 1982 started the first quality plantings.
In 1989 Rippon Vineyard released it's first commercial vintage, and for over 25 years has committed it's production to quality and honest wine.
The relatively new Cellar Door, hosts numbers of visitors looking for excellent views and quality wines, but still retains a relaxed atmosphere.
Onto the tastings, we were provided with a line up of both the classic varieties for Central Otago: Riesling and Pinot Noir as well as a few more unusual styles.
A curious wine to start off with, Osteiner is a 1928 crossing of Riesling and Sylvaner that has created a thick-skinned, robust style of wine that is textual, yet refreshing at the same time.
For those of you out there who look for rare varieties, this one is for you.
Sticking with the theme of unusual varieties, here we have a Rosé which is predominantly (70%) of the Gamay Noir variety which is most well known for it's wine's created in Beaujolais, France. The remaining 30% is Pinot Noir, which ,as the varieties historically are grown relatively close by, works well to create a fresh, albeit fuller style of Summer Rosé.
This one sells out quickly, so enjoy it while overlooking Lake Wanaka when you can.
Sauvignon Blanc 2013:
Another oddity, not for the variety but for the place; Sauvignon Blanc is incredibly rare within the Central Otago region as generally the nights are far too cold, however here at Lake Wanaka things are slightly warmer.
40% of this Sauv was fermented in old French oak barrels, which at that age would not give oak characters but rather a soft textual style.
Slow, wild fermentations, again allowed for mouthfeel and texture to build.
Now we come to Central Otago's main business: Pinot Noir.
Pinot Noir 2011:
The Pinot Noir style from Rippon's older vines is once, both soft and unhurried, and racy and lively.
Aromas range from complex herbal tones, with notes of dried fruits, including red currants and raspberries.
This style sits away from Central Otago norms and instead is something closer to a mid ground between Marlborough and Martinborough.
Savoury, over all but still retaining fruit freshness and acidity with medium tannins that don't explode, but also are not pushovers either.
Emma's Block Pinot Noir 2011:
Emma's Block is named for the great-great-great grandmother of the current generation of the Mills family, through whom the name entered into the family, and represents a very particular parcel within the vineyard.
Ancient clay reefs, meet with schist gravels and give birth to a softer, smoother style of Pinot Noir than the main fare, with less aggressive tannins and fine acidity.
Hemmed by a bouquet of cherries and over-ripe cranberries, Emma's Block is definitely a more feminine expression of the variety and is suitable for medium maturation of up to 8 years.
Tinker's Field 2011:
Tinker's Field is the home to the oldest plantings of Rippon Vineyard and so has the pride of being named after the founder, Rolfe Mills (Tink to his friends).
This wine spends 17 months in barrel, with no filtering or fining.
A light ruby hue, with splashes of lavender for good measure, followed by intense aromas of dried cherries and raisins.
Soft and dormant on the palate right now, this wine is well suited to ageing and will see it's best years in about another 5 years or so.