Consistently NZ's best pinot noir ... ?

2012 Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 3
Colour deep red. Brooding nose of blackberries, black currants, damp earth, game meats and spice. Classic Central Otago bouquet but not the pretty florals and feminine profile I often see on Block 3. Also, brooding and big structured in the mouth. Silky smooth on entry to the palate with flavours in the black fruit spectrum with earth, game meat and some minerality on the finish. Very dense on the mid palate. Strong backbone of racy acids. On the back palate, real intensity with grippy tannins, that need to integrate. Quite long. Really needs 5-10 years cellar time. 93.

Perhaps a slightly atypical example at this stage of its development but, to answer the question in the subject title, looking across recent vintages, I’d say yes …

Cheers, Howard


Yes, very highly rated and relatively old vines (in NZ terms). However, and this may be an idiosyncratic view, I would not put them in my very top tier.

A good argument could be made for Felton’s Block 3! A 2010 Felton Road Block 5 was the best, most compelling wine I’ve had this year. Over three days with a variety of foods it was gorgeous - in so many ways.

Peter Rosback


I agree that the Block 5 is on the same level as the Block 3, I just prefer the latter in more vintages.

BTW my favourite 2010 NZ PN, in a very good year overall including your Block 5, is actually the Mt Difficulty Target Gully.

Cheers, Howard


Yes, Mt. Difficulty makes some beautiful PN, also. Have loved some Pipeclay Terrace PN’s. It’s not bad being stuck between Mt. D and Felton Road (I make my Central PN at Terra Sancta…)!

Peter Rosback


Interesting Peter, I had a look at your website.

Terra Sancta makes some very smart wines too.

It’s very hard to generalise but I think preference between Block 3/Target Gully v Block 5/Pipeclay will often come down to a palate preference for more elegant and floral wines v earthier, more structured wines.

But I think that the whole of Felton Rd (the road I mean) is a very special terroir, the best yet developed in Central, that will only improve as average vine age increases.

What do you get from there, as compared with your US pinots?

Cheers, Howard

Howard, I was served the Felton Rd Block 3 1999 blind last week.

It took a while to work out that it was Pinot; bretty notes on the advanced nose, very intense Syrah-like flavours.

Not sure if I learned any thing about the ageing potential of 2012 Block 3 from that - young vines (3rd vintage), cork.

The top flight NZ Pinots are getting up in price. If we were looking at a wine list and, for the same money, could have the 2010 Felton Block 3 or the 2010 Faiveley Cazetiers, which would we choose?

Silly question. We’d get them both and compare.


Yes, Jen and Jody are doing good things at Terra! And, yes, Felton Road is arguably the best, most developed vineyard area in Otago. Bendigo gets a lot of talk. Pisa, across from Bendigo (sort of) is coming. The 2013 PN fruit I got off Pisa Terrace’s organically farmed vineyard is outstanding. We’ll also bottle a Pinot from 2013 that is from the meter-by-meter vineyard on Felton Road that Gary Andrus planted long ago…

What amazes me a bit is that we talk about these regions - and they are so small! The puny Red Mountain AVA of Washington is big compared to these!


Pricing? Yes, the name PN’s are expensive here in the US. Generally, NZ Pinots are hard to sell at any price in the US, a situation that many winemakers complain of in NZ. I feel my NZ Pinots are very underpriced for their quality, but have had to do so in order to find a market for them. The Oregon Pinots fly off the shelf! (Almost complete opposite from the UK…)

Peter Rosback


Peter is an A+ pinot maker!

Peter. I had another bottle of Resonance from that year you corked both with traditional cork and the tempered glass. That tempered glass closure was SO nice!!! The wine had aged so gracefully. I hope you will continue that. I am drawing a bead on your last Resonance vintage as we speak. I have an Oregon source. Should be a home run!

Speak to me about your NZ pinot source. I have never had it.

Re: OP. I wished I could taste some Mt Difficulty from a good year.
That stuff is rare as hens teeth! (The Felton Block 3/5 isn’t much easier to source)

I’ve probably only tasted a couple dozen different NZ Pinots, but my favorites so far have been from Dog Point -especially after a few years in bottle. I’ll have to track down Felton Road.


Andrew, I agree with your last sentence, we would try both the Block 3 and the Cazetiers.

As you indicate, FR has come a long way since 1999. The cork (non-)quality was why all of their wines are now screwcapped. I think Blair said that his maximum new oak percentage for PN is about 30%, they are definitely not a Shiraz-style NZ PN producer these days.

But your key pricing comparison is right IMO. These wines are relatively rare and they are priced at higher village, lower 1er Burgundy levels. They don’t quite have the corresponding vine age, but are getting there, and so they lack some of the complexity of flavour profiles of say the Drouhin Mouches Rouge we tasted alongside. And of course they will only be value if they can age 10+ years. I believe that they can based on tastings of 2001s etc and, more importantly, the acids and structure in recent vintages.

Peter, yes, these areas are tiny micro-climates (another factor in pricing). Interesting stuff, I’d love to try one of your wines, but I assume you don’t sell in NZ?

Don, you’ve visited NZ before and know Mike D? Happy to open a couple of examples if you come out again.

Bill, Dog Point is a very good Marlborough producer. If you see it, I suggest you try Terravin, just down the road, in a similar style and another one of my favourites.

Cheers, Howard

I know at some point I will make it back to NZ.
Mike was such a great host.
I have never had farm raised venison tenderloin that had that kind of flavor. NZ knows how to cultivate great venison. Mike was the grill master.
Oh my!
I would love to taste some Mt Difficulty and some others with you and Mike.

Don, if you do come back, bring some Oregon Pinots. It would be great to taste them alongside the NZ PNs. We could try and get Helen Masters from Ata Rangi involved. She has a great palate (and sense of humour).

I am having dinner with Mike and Howard on Wednesday - I’ll lobby to get in on the invitation.


Don and Andrew, that sounds great. Love NZ venison. Konrad was out this weekend from Nevada (where he hunts deer) and was very impressed by some grilled farmed Canterbury venison with plum sauce we had.

As Andrew suggests it would be interesting, if it is possible, to try a US cult pinot as they are probably as difficult for us to get here as these NZ wines are for you. A few weeks ago Brodie T brought a 2008 Rhys Horseshoe to a lunch that prompted a major debate!

Best, Howard

For me, the FR wines aren’t really up there. Too many disappointments with a bit of age - though I think I had a great experience with a '99 a year or so back (interesting to see Andrew’s take above!). And generally too reliant on fruit. Ata Rangi is probably the most “consistent” IMHO. Best? Some of the MV Reserves (has anyone actually tried the Zelie at those prices?) and now Bell Hill. I guess I’m in the minority who thinks Otago is fine for some decent “drink nows” but hasn’t actually delivered anything terribly compelling…

PS: Dry River is, of course, a matter of taste. Perhaps given that the question is “pinot noir” it struggles to qualify :wink:

The real question is really about ageability of NZ pinots. I do love them young but unsure about cellaring potential. My experience from 1998 to 2005 vintages have not been great though. And just so happen that I will be in Hawkes Bay tomorrow to visit a few vineyards. Any wines I should look out for? Sadly won’t be heading to Central Otago in this trip.

Hi Chiu.

Cool, you should have a great time. Hopefully you have rental car or some transport as the distances are fairly big. When I go I tend to break the vineyards down into areas and visit over several days. If you have only a day, I’d recommend the following as a ‘best of’, north to south. Of course you can do it south to north if you are down Havelock way.

Start north of Napier at Esk Valley, ask about Terraces and the Reserve Bordeaux blend and Syrah. You could inquire if Gordon Russell the winemaker is available, a nice guy.

Going south from Napier it’s worth a diversion out west to Sacred Hill who make some of NZ’s best Chardonnay, Bordeaux blend and Syrah (Riflemans, Helmsman and Deerstalkers). But phone ahead to check they’re open: see If you feel lucky you could ask if Tony Bish, the winemaker, is available to show you around.

Most tourists go to Mission Estate and Church Road Winery in Taradale that have some good wines, particularly their prestige Tom Cab/Merlot and Chardonnay but, for me, they’re a bit too touristy.

Going south, out in the west, you may want to spend most of your time in The Gimblett Gravels/State 50 road. North to south highlights here are Stonecroft (who started it all, with excellent Syrah and Gerwurtz), Unison (small selection, all good), Newton Forest Cornerstone (top Bordeaux blend), Trinity Hill and Billancia (Hommage and other top Syrahs).

Now in Bridge Pa, in the Ngatarawa triangle at the bottom of the Gravels, Ngatarawa with its Chardonnays and late harvest wines is worth a look, as is Bridge Pa (good Louis Syrah) and Sileni is ok (a good place for a meal).

As you can see there’s plenty there for a day.

However, you’ll probably want to go east towards Havelock Nth to visit Te Mata (although they don’t normally taste their famous wines like Coleraine, but you could phone ahead and ask and out to the impressive Craggy Range where they do a full tasting menu and have a great restaurant). If you have time you could stop at Black Barn (good barrel fermented Chardonnay, again excellent restaurant).

… And then you could go past Clive to the east coast to Elephant Hill with a range of excellent Syrahs and Clearview (with a turbo charged Reserve Chardonnay, if you like that style and ambient restaurant by the sea). A great place to visit.

So obviously, in a day, you would do some bits of that (and there are other good vineyards I have missed). There are also good places to taste HB wines in both Napier and Hastings.

You can PM me if you are going to be in Wellington (I can get wine friends together) or if you have questions about any of this.

Please post your thoughts and enjoy!

Cheers, Howard

Chiu - yes, cellaring potential is where I have found a few of the wines coming up quite short. Of course, there’s only a handful of places that have vines over 30 or even 25 years old, so if you try something from the late 90s/early 00s chances are it will be 12-20 year old vines at best. There’s certainly been a step up since then - winemakers understanding how to use the vines and the vines getting better - but a fair amount of trial and error still to happen no doubt. The flip side is quite exciting - some pretty good results from such an immature planting and understanding means that in 20-30 years time there should be some fantastic results :slight_smile:

Hi Howard

Where do you think Bell Hill , Greystone and Pyramid Valley fit in ?