It's impossible to talk about Rippon without mentioning the view, so I'll get that out of the way. Its located on the western slope of Lake Wanaka and is known for being the “most photographed vineyard in the world.” Alright, on to the important stuff; the wine. One of the first to plant vines in New Zealand with the intention of making wine, Rolfe Mills started experimenting with grapes on his family's farm in 1975, planting over 25 varieties. He then moved his fledgling family to France and learned hands on how to go about making great wine, returning to the farm in 1982 to begin Rippon in earnest.
From the beginning, they have seen themselves as custodians of the land and soil. This path eventually led them to become advocates for using biodynamic methods. They were also able to take advantage of the skills of Rudi Bauer who joined as winemaker in 1990. The Austrian helped establish the terroir driven winemaking style that fits so well with a family of farmers who have been in control of the land for over a century. Rudi has since moved on to his own very successful efforts at Quartz Reef specializing in sparkling wines. After a few interim winemakers and the death of the family's patriarch, Rolfe's son Nick returned to the farm to take over. A world class skier hampered by injury, he sought a Pinot focused education and experience in Burgundy, including the benefits of biodynamics.
While today Rippon is an international destination for events and weddings as well as home to one of New Zealand's foremost music festivals, it has not forgotten its history and is still fanatically committed to the integrity behind their products, including the importance of vine age to quality. My tasting was hampered to some extent to being outside with wind picking up, but many of the wines still showed quite well. All of the wines are from 100% estate grown fruit.
2011 Osteiner, Wanaka, Central Otago
A clone created from Riesling and Sylvaner, the wine is not hugely pronounced, with a dusty quality to the nose. The palate is resilient with a fatty, almost greasy texture with flavors of tart lemon. The screaming acid easily integrates the 9g/L of residual sugar making it a great choice for a versatile summer quaffer.
2012 Gewurztraminer, Wanaka, Central Otago
Slate and honeysuckle along with a very savoury character on the nose. Reduced tomato paste. Fermented horizontally, its palate has mild, integrated tropical fruit flavors with well structured acid and viscous texture.
2012 Riesling, Wanaka, Central Otago
Mild and austere, the nose has lime peel and leaves with light floral notes. Fermented in horizontal fermenters and spending a few weeks on lees, the palate reflects the winemaking with a creamy, custardy middle to finish. Balanced acid and sugar (8g/L) with a touch of lycee. Older vintages tasted feature more prominent mineral characteristics and show the transition from more fruit driven to rich petrol flavors.
2013 Gamay Noir, Wanaka, Central Otago
A rare grape for New Zealand, the Beaujolais variety seems to enjoy its view and was the star of the Rippon lineup for me. Closed carbonic fermentation, the nose has the obligatory bubblegum with cedar and candied red berries. A bit sulfurous but with juicy ripe cherry juice flavors, it shows the lovely prickle of the trapped gas its a versatile food wine. Delicious.
2011 Pinot Noir, Wanaka, Central Otago
Tight with unripe red berries, the nose leaves a little to be desired. Palate is more lush but young, tannic and grippy. Red berry fruit along with fine clay minerality.
2011 Emma's Block, Pinot Noir, Wanaka, Central Otago
A much more integrated Pinot, the fruit is softer and more ripe. Palate features riper, jucier fruits with a bit of green tightness due to the 25-28% whole bunch fermentation. Clay minerality remains. Recommended for cellaring.
2011 Tinker's Field, Pinot Noir, Wanaka, Central Otago
Much darker and more extracted, this is a Pinot more reminiscent of the more southern valley floors of other sub-regions in Central Otago. Wood is present, speaking to ageability.