Let me clarify something right up front; Chard Farm is not simply an irritating abbreviation of the grape variety, but an actual farm established by a guy actually named Chard around 150 years ago. To put that in a historical perspective, New Zealand wasn't discovered by the Polynesians until 700 years ago. To put that in a wine-historical perspective; humans have been making wine for 7000 years. While it seems the "old" angle is one of the most popular when it comes to brand building, the credentials of Chard Farm are legitimate and continuous; something that is a more infrequent reality.
The old farm catered to the wealth chasing settlers of the Otago gold rush and evolved into an orchard until its conversion to a vineyard by Rob Hay and his wife Gerdi in 1987. Born in Motueka, Hay studied winemaking in Germany and returned to his home country right at the start of the wine industry in Central Otago. While Chard Farm is a pioneer in its own right, Hay's NZ start was as winemaker for Alan Brady at what would become Gibbston Valley, making the one of the first commercial wines from the region. Hay found his own perfect site at Chard Farm and in true Kiwi bootstrapped style replanted the orchard to vines and built a winery on the site in 1993. One of the most beautiful vineyard sites in New Zealand, the estate has expanded to five sites in the region that produce the now standard repository of Otago varieties: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling with a little Gewurztraminer.
While still heading the team as director and winemaker, Hay shares creative control with longtime chief winemaker John Wallace to produce a really solid lineup of balanced, truly terroir driven wines at incredibly reasonable prices. The estate vineyard sits precariously on the edge of a alluvial fan, or rather a fragile cliff, above the rushing Kawarua river, just opposite the famous AJ Hackett bungy jump site that has attracted thousands of thrill seekers for almost as long as Chard Farm has been a winery. The wines nurtured to fruition by the team are consistently impressive, especially when considering trends toward bigger and bolder embraced by many nearby wineries. On top of the quality range of wines, Chard Farm is stunningly beautiful, easily accessible, priced right, and offers mountain biking and plenty of toys for the small kids while you taste with the incredibly charming cellar door manager Mitch.
2012 Judge & Jury, Chardonnay, Lowburn, Central Otago
A nose of peach skin and red apple flesh, this is a modern chardonnay from the outset. Richer on the palate than the nose would infer, it is not overoaked though does see malolactic fermentation. Pairs well with richer dishes; think creamy pasta or duck with stone fruits.
2013 Pinot Gris, Parkburn, Cromwell, Central Otago
A fairly mild nose holds restrained lime and pear aromatics with a touch of herbs. Palate is reminiscent of Alsatian pinot gris, green melon and stone fruit with a mineral backbone. Finishes with a rising warmth.
2013 Gewurztraminer, Parkburn, Cromwell, Central Otago
Gorgeous nose as friendly as bubblegum pop music. Filled with aromas of lychee, white gummy bear, and roses, its palate shows the small amount of residual sugar (10g/L) in body. Integrated acid keeps it in balance, but overall, a simple, accessible and fun wine.
2012 Vipers Vineyard, Riesling, Parkburn, Cromwell, Central Otago
A young wine with incredible potential, the nose is filled with pear and apple tree fruits with wild white flowers. Palate masks some of the 34g/L sugar with a gravely minerality and a freshness that remains throughout. Will cellar quite well as petrol phenolics develop. Best of the bunch.
2012 River Run Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Cromwell/Gibbston, Central Otago
Nose is mostly dominated by baked strawberry and black cherry fruits with a touch of herb. Palate is tight and rich, again fruit driven though with a nice tannic structure and present minerality. Should be cellared for 3-5 years to see its potential.
2012 Mata-Au, Pinot Noir, Lowburn/Parkburn, Central Otago
Muscular from the start, this is one to age for sure. An interesting and loud nose of violet, ripe black cherries, herbs and dark soil. Plate is young with big fruit, spice and fine, chewy tannins leading with a finish that is ripe, bright and long.
2012 Mark II VIneyard, Pinot Noir, Parkburn, Central Otago
Violet and cherry dominate the nose with wild thyme. Palate is ripe but with more present wild elements of herbs and soil. Earthiest of the bunch, texturally it is less tannic and softer. Pretty mid palate leads to a slightly warm finish. Should be interesting to see its evolution over the next few years.