Shotover River Wine
2006 Pinot Noir
New Zealand: Central Otago
What We Say
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Mission Codename: Contemporary Heritage
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Find the famed winemaker Gary Andrus in New Zealand
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Shotover River Wine
Wine Subject: 2006 Central Otago Pinot Noir
Winemaker: Gary Andrus
In Pinot Noir circles, the name Gary Andrus is famous. As a winemaker, California born Andrus is considered among the most influential people in making Oregon’s Pinots so great. First giving Archery Summit a name and later, after his very public divorce making great wines for his Gypsy Dancer label. Gypsy Dancer grew and Andrus headed down to New Zealand’s Central Otago. After some difficult financial times, Andrus is back at it as the winemaker for Shotover River Wines.
New Zealand’s Central Otago at the south-eastern side of the South Island, despite its white grape climate, is considered among the best regions for Pinot Noir. Its unique soil paired with a climate of cooler nights, longer days, and lower rainfall produces fruit that is clean, intense and with great acidity.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Dark ruby in color with a dark clear core with luminescent highlights and pinkish ruby edges. Two distinct groups of legs cling to the glass when swirled, the first are fast and thin followed by slower fatter clusters.
Smell – This wine has a beautiful nose with classic old world Pinot earthiness followed by aromas of ripe wild berries. A distinct mocha coffee component layered over complex notes of herbs, toasted oak and a touch of floral violets.
Feel – An initially tangy attack shows of the region’s trademark bright acidity. The mid palate of this medium-bodied wine is dry and smooth with fine and medium firm tannins and a hint of spice of the edge of your tongue.
Taste – Focused flavors of ripe and tart cherries that are immediately followed by toasted oak with a touch of vanilla, earthy and herbaceous and subtle notes of horseradish complete this wine.
Finish -Long, clean and lingering with bright cherry fruit and oak. Hints of earth, herbs and spices invite further exploration.
Conclusion – If you are a fan of bright new world Pinot Noir then be sure to pick up a couple bottles of this wine. Currently bright and focused, this wine is already showing its tremendous potential with its complexity in aromas and flavors. Give this wine some time to open up and be sure to lay a bottle or two aside in your cellar to explore its development over the next couple years. You won’t be disappointed!
Agent Free Run was being quite deceptive. His PIN message said only:
Pack you bags, bring cash and your passport, LAX Terminal 2… NOW!
I arrived at the airport and walked into Terminal Two. As I entered the nun collecting for the St. Vincent de Paul charity asked for a donation in a rather forceful manner. I dropped a $5 bill in be bucket and she handed me an envelop. I walked towards the security line and carefully opened the envelope and found inside a ticket on Air New Zealand to Auckland as well as some strange financial reports, court documents and a page with further instructions. My flight was departing in 40 minutes. Hardly enough time to even get my bearings, but at least Free Run had purchased a business class ticket so I could stretch out and so some research on the flight down.
The flight was easy and upon arrival I was to immediately jump onto another flight to the South Island town of Frankton. I walked to the general aviation terminal where I was to meet my flight. The lady at the desk gestured for me to go through the doors and out to the tarmac. Now things were getting interesting. A King Air F90 was tied down right in front of me with the door open. Just then Free Run emerged from the door and waved me in.
He had planned to debrief me on the flight, but as soon as the pilot, a tall dark haired woman arrived I immediately asked to sit right seat (wouldn’t you?; and why are all women King Air pilots so attractive?, don’t tell Agent Blush I said that, but its true). For those who know that I’m a pilot, the F90 is a fantastic aircraft and I have some time in the bird. What a great way to orient myself.
As we got close to Frankton, I asked the pilot if I could take the controls for a little bit as I wanted to get an aerial view of the region. She agreed and a took over, pushed the nose down and came close to pushing the pole. While my aggressive maneuver may have startled Free Run, the she knew what I was doing. I vectored us towards the river and came in low and fast, following the contours of the terrain and then directly over the Shotover River. In the distance, I could see the lake at which our destination lied. Before we could get to the town, the valley opened up and you could see the vineyards that stretched along the edge of the mountains to the lake. I slowed a bit and then did a right chandelle so I could get a better look…
The smile on my face must have said it all, Free Run had stopped his whining and the pilot also grinned from ear to ear. After a couple turns, I restabilized the plane and passed control back to the pilot who brought us in for a landing just a few minutes later.
Once on the ground, Free Run gave me the look, and I knew I was in for a railing. I immediately interrupted him and said, “I knew why we were here… The envelope held all the clues. Lets go meet Gary and taste some Pinot!”
“After that flying, I’m in no condition”, he said.
My response: “Paybacks are, well you know…”
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Lower Shotover River and its surrounding vineyards can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
Today’s International Selection is an Exclusive. The Wine Spies has the only allocation for retail in the United States. If you are a fan of Pinot Noir, then you have probably heard the name Gary Andrus, one of Pinot Noirs’ most influential winemakers. This is his latest project.
About This Wine:
The 2006 Pinot Noir grapes were harvested in May, 2006 at an average brix of 23.4, and allowed to ferment in French oak casks, where 60% of the grapes were hand placed while still in clusters. The remaining crop was de-stemmed and then carefully placed inside the fermenting tank. During the fermentation process, the grapes were regularly punched down by hand, representative of the handcrafted nature of Shotover River Wines. The small French neutral oak cuves are one of the unique designs of Gary’s winemaking style that have proven for years to add complexity to his wines. While the temperatures on stainless steel tanks can be manipulated through their jackets, these wooden cuves hold the heat longer because the two-inch-thick wooden sides naturally act as an insulator. Additionally, the conical shape allows less surface area through which carbon dioxide (a bi-product of fermentation) can be released, resulting in a thicker cap of stems, seeds and skins. These two elements combined allow the color, mouthfeel, tannins, and texture to better integrate into the juice, creating a more complex and concentrated wine.
After fermenting for 18 days, the juice was allowed to flow into all new Cadus French oak barrels (medium toasted) where it rested for just under 11 months. The wine was bottled in May, 2007, without fining or filtering, at 13.4% alcohol.
As a result, Shotover River Wine’s 2006 Pinot Noir deliciously shows its heritage. While having the characteristics of New Zealand fruit with berry-like and mountain herb flavors, the wine has a clear link to Oregon winemaking styles, showing a softer, more elegant presence than is often found in New Zealand wines. The wine is ready to drink and should be delicious over the next four years.
About The Winery:
Shotover River Wine is a small winery located just outside of Queenstown, on the south island of New Zealand. The property is a small vineyard on the bank of the beautiful Shotover River, one of the many rivers in the Queenstown area. While bungee jumpers and jet boats abound in the area, the vineyard sits peacefully along the river, below the aptly named Remarkable Mountains. The Shotover label presents a modern image of this setting, showing the mountain peaks, and the river braiding its way into the valley.
The vineyard was planted in 2001, and the 2006 vintage is the first production of Pinot, taking advantage of one of the best growing seasons in Central Otaga over the last two or three decades.
Shotover River Wine was going to make its wine at a wine collective, but co-owner Robert Good was introduced to famed winemaker, Gary Andrus, who had recently begun making handmade wines in the area. After inspecting the vineyard’s development, spacing, and clone types, Gary agreed to make the Shotover Pinot at his Gypsy Dancer facility just north of Queenstown. Gary had previously been an owner and the winemaker at Pine Ridge in California, and Archery Summit in Oregon. After selling his interests in those wineries, Gary founded Gypsy Dancer in Oregon, and had also decided to make Gypsy Dancer wines in New Zealand.
About The Winemaker:
Gary Andrus, who has been called a “pivotal influence in the development of Oregon’s reputation for great Pinots,” is the winemaker responsible for the 2006 vintage of Shotover River Pinot Noir.
Gary, a graduate of Brigham Young University with a degree in organic chemistry, earned his Masters Degree from Oregon State University, an EPSC certificate from Stanford University, and a PhD in Oenology at the University of Montpelier, France. Prior to founding his former winery in Napa Valley, Gary worked in Bordeaux and returned in 1985 to work for Chateau Lynch-Bages. Andrus founded Pine Ridge in Napa Valley in 1978, and launched Archery Summit in Oregon in 1993. Andrus built a reputation for producing quality wines that were very high priced, with Oregon Pinot Noirs selling for up to $135 while at Archery Summit and Pine Ridge Cabernets priced at $180. He sold his shares in those wineries in 2001.
Gary Andrus discovered he just couldn’t stay away from winemaking. He was planning to teach at a university in New Zealand. Then, while visiting his daughter in Oregon, he saw Lion Valley Vineyards. “They had planted it 4,000 vines to the acre, just like they do in Burgundy,” Andrus says, his voice rising in excitement. “It was a diamond in the rough.” In 2002 he bought property in New Zealand and a Pinot Noir vineyard in Oregon to start his Gypsy Dancer label. The first vintage of Gypsy Dancer from Central Otago was 2003.
Today, the fruit from those Pinot Noir vines goes into Andrus’ new label, Gypsy Dancer. The winery is named after Andrus and wife Christine’s first daughter; Gypsy was born in 2002, the same year in which the winery debuted.
“The building is designed to use gravity, and it’s small enough that I don’t need a staff,” says Andrus, 57. “I can be the dirty-hands guy I was when I started with Pine Ridge. And, frankly I got bored doing so little after I retired.”
Though Andrus signed a no-compete clause when he left his original wineries, the agreement only limited the size of any future start-ups. At 27 plantable acres, the Willamette Valley project was of permissable size.
After Andrus bought the (now renamed) vineyard in 2002, he barely had time to drop some of the crop to limit yields before the harvest. Still, the debut wine is notable for its richness and stylishness. Gypsy Dancer Pinot Noir Oregon Preview Cuvée Gary & Christine’s Vineyard 2002 (91 points, $40, 690 cases) has crisp acidity to balance its plum and currant flavors.
Gypsy Dancer also made a Pinot Noir Oregon Yamhill Cuvée A & G Estate Vineyard 2002 (92, $70, 220 cases) from an established vineyard in the Red Hills of Dundee in which Andrus owns a stake. The beautifully textured wine drips with sweet plum, blackberry and currant fruit. The wines are not dissimilar from what Andrus made at Archery Summit, which he and his then-wife Nancy founded in 1993 and made into one of Oregon’s premier labels. After Gypsy Dancer’s first vintage, Andrus retrained the vines, which were planted in 1997, to put out lower yields. His 2003 wines, tasted from barrel, show vivid, pure fruit and, even in that very ripe vintage, have finesse to go along with their power.
Gypsy Dancer also added a Pinot Noir from Stoller Vineyard in 2003, bringing its total production to 2,500 cases. And more is on the way, as Andrus has planted the remaining vineyard land, mostly to Pinot Noir. The winery also makes several hundred cases of Pinot Gris, sold only in Oregon.
Andrus now divides his time between Oregon and New Zealand, where he moved in 2002 with Christine. He has planted a vineyard in Central Otago, a promising region for Pinot Noir in New Zealand. Gary has always made award winning wine, earning scores in the 90’s from The Wine Spectator. In 2005, Gary’s New Zealand wines were “Highly Commended” in the Pinot Noir category (2003 Gibbston Home Estate Pinot Noir), and received silver and bronze Bragato Wine Awards (2003 Gibbston Home Estate Pinot Noir and 2004 Central Otago Pinot Noir).
Andrus is joyful when he talks about getting back to hands-on, small-scale winemaking. “I was never the ‘front of the house’ guy,” he says. “I am the science guy.”