Pyramid Valley Vineyards Earth Smoke Pinot Noir 2009
Pyramid Valley is one of the more remarkable estates in the new world. Located in the Waikari Valley in southern New Zealand, near Christchurch, Mike and Claudia Weersing spent 15 years looking for this site to found the Pyramid Valley estate vineyards. The land was clay and limestone on scarp slopes and had never been treated with chemicals before the vines were planted in 2000. The Weersings have practiced biodynamic farming from the outset and have taken a ‘naturalist’ approach to the wines, fermenting neutrally in clay and neutral oak, using indigenous yeasts, and adding little to no sulphur, only at bottling.
The estate’s first released vintage was 2006, making this 2009 bottling only the fourth vintage from the “home vineyard”. Pyramid Valley sold to Aotearoa New Zealand Fine Wine Estates (a company started by the founder of Craggy Range) in 2017 and acquired a new vineyard in Central Otago which has yet to see wine released from it. It will remain to be seen how the wines fair under the new ownership given that the winery was a passion project of the Weersings and rely entirely on their farming and wine-making expertise. Mike Weersing worked in Burgundy at Hubert de Montille, Domaine de la Pousse d’Or, and Nicolas Potel and Alsace at Jean-Michel Deiss and Marc Kreydenweis, and brings the knowledge learned from those top estates to his wine-making.
I first had these wines back in 2011, when I wrote an extensive article on the wines. I was so impressed back then I wrote:
“The Home Vineyard wines from Pyramid Valley are unequivocally the best examples of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from New Zealand, and they compete with the absolute best examples from all over the New World. These are wines with unparalleled purity and finesse and with exceptional expression, balance and length.”
Fortunately for me, I cellared bottles of each of the “home vineyard” wines I acquired back in 2011, giving me a unique opportunity to taste an aged Pyramid Valley “home vineyard” wine – these are not readily available anywhere in North America. It was fascinating to taste the Earth Smoke Pinot Noir just under 8 years after my first sip and discover that it has developed into a masterpiece of Pinot Noir, still incredibly fruity and pure and one of the most expressive Pinot Noirs I have ever tasted. I cannot imagine a wine accessing a purer sense of fruit than what the Weersing’s accomplished with this Earth Smoke and it rests among the best wines I have tasted. It is idiosyncratic to Pyramid Valley, with its own cherry, bramble and underbrush aromas and an irreplicable texture that I have only found at this vineyard site.
It is particularly interesting to observe that this wine, which was under screw cap, did not lose its fruit over 8 years but instead the age seemed to focus the fruit and lift the expression while softening the texture (again this is the best mouthfeel I’ve experienced from any Pinot Noir) into a harmonious, fruit-driven, sensuous perfection.
This wine is also highlights that stacking your cellar with the well-known greats from Burgundy, Barolo, Rhone, etc. is certain to provide great experiences, but will miss many special experiences that teach much about wine and offer unicorn experiences that are perhaps more rewarding for their lack of pomp and expectation.
Originally $70 at Marquis (in 2011). Now these wines sell for $130 NZD from the winery. I have not seen them in this market recently.