Pyramid Valley Lion’s Tooth Chardonnay 2009

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Pyramid Valley’s home vineyard wines are some of the most intriguing in New Zealand. Owner and winemaker Mike Weersing is known to be an soft spoken, intellectual obsessive totally dedicated to his craft. Starting his career at Calera, Mike went on to work at some of the top producers in France and Germany: de Montille, Potel, Pousse d’Or, Kreydenweiss, Deiss and Loosen.

In the Valley of Angels

The ‘home vineyards’ are unique in that they are located in a vast expanse of unplanted land in the Canterbury Hills. Mike and his wife spent years searching for this site as they were looking for a ‘perfect terroir’ for Pinot Noir: clay and limestone and a marginal continental climate. These features apparently are important for managing the vegetative maturation of vines in order to ensure too much sugar does not go into the berries for harvest.

When you look at a photo of the vineyards in situ you feel transported to some strange, desolate fantasy land that happens to have a vineyard plonked in the middle of it. It’s quite estranging in appearance.

The vineyard was founded 10 years ago and based on biodynamic principles. Pyramid Valley’s home vineyards just received demeter certification in January of this year. As stated on Pyramid Valley’s blog:

“Most producers establish their vineyards conventionally and then convert to organics and biodynamics over time due to the difficulty in vine establishment and the cost to do this biodynamically,” says Caine Thompson, Pyramid Valley Vineyards managing director.

“Consequently, Pyramid Valley is one of the world’s unique vineyards, where no systemic chemicals have ever been used.”

Brilliance in Youth and Middle Age

I’ve reviewed this wine before, but that was several years ago when the wine was still primary. Now, this outstanding Chardonnay is moving into its adulthood, with impressive secondary development and a huskier, more voluptuous body.

Pouring a rich, caramel yellow, this wine is richly honeyed and starting to take on some serious secondary notes of nuts, caramel and sugared egg. What’s fascinating here is how the wine is equally delicious as it was in its youth, but of a totally different character. Very few new world Chardonnays come anywhere close to achieving this quality persistence throughout development. And not only is the wine delicious as a middle-aged Chard, it is also impeccably balanced and lush while also remaining poised. My only surprise was how far along its development curve this wine was for being only 5 years old, but it is undoubtedly exceptional.

I wonder if this wine’s excellent aging has anything to do with Mike Weersing’s philosophy of bottling everything under screw cap because he feels that with the vagaries of modern travel corks are a completely inadequate closure due to the gas exchange that happens when wines increase temperature by only 3-4 degrees celsius.

Conclusion? This is one of the best new world Chardonnays out there, even if it seems to develop at a fast pace. Drink up now or wait 3 years to see what happens.

$98 at Marquis for current vintage ($65 on purchase 3 years ago).


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