Part 6: New Zealand's Central Otago region

After visiting Rippon, Jo kindly drove me back to a rendez vous point, where I switched cars, cold-war style, to take a ride with winemaker Stephanie Lambert to Amisfield.

I’d come across Amisfield a few years back when Jeff Sinnott was winemaker. Since then, chief winemaker duties have been handed down to Claire Mulholland, who made her reputation with Martinborough Vineyards. And while Claire was still boss when I visited, she has recently left (she's now at Burn Cottage) to be replaced by Stephanie.

Stephanie and Claire

Amisfield have 78 hectares of vines in the Lowburn subdistrict, and vines first went into the ground in 1999. The cellar door/bistro (pictured top), however, is cleverly located close to Queenstown, just 10 minutes from town. Whites are quite a speciality here (accounting for 50 tons of the 200 ton production; 100 tons of contract fruit are also processed here, in what is one of the larger wineries of the region), along with the usual Central Otago calling card, Pinot Noir.


Amisfield Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Stephanie says that they try to do something a bit different with Pinot Noir, picking it in three lots and using 5% barrel fermentation. Fresh, crisp and a bit minerally on the nose. Focused palate with some herby, methoxypyrazine characters and good acidity. Fresh and pure with good balance. 89/100

Amisfield Fumé Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Intense, herbal and toasty with lovely richness. Bold and a bit figgy. Very intense. The palate is rich with some herbal notes and a big, broad texture. 90/100

Amisfield Pinot Gris 2008
Textured with some grapey notes. There’s a nice mineral character here, with some complexity. Rich but with good acidity, this is food compatible. 91/100

Amisfield Lowburn Terrace Riesling 2007
From selected rows of Riesling on more rocky terraces. 7.5% alcohol, 50 g/litre residual sugar. Amazingly pure and intense lime cordial nose. Very limey on the palate with nice purity of fruit and some lushness, with a hint of melon. Doesn’t taste overly sweet. Really interesting. 90/100

Amisfield Saignée Rosé 2009
Sweet, creamy berry fruit nose with a hint of rose hip syrup. The palate is soft textured and bold with some smooth, ripe fruit. A rich style with no rough edges. 86/100

Amisfield Pinot Noir 2006
The first vintage was 2002, so this makes this the fifth release. Each year, 10–30% whole bunches are used. Nicely textured with some spicy undertones to the sweet, cherryish fruit. Quite supple with a lovely spicy, savoury edge to the elegant berry and cherry fruit. 91/100

Amisfield Pinot Noir 2007
Really elegant ripe cherry fruit with some nice spicy structure underneath it. Lovely richness to the fruit here, but it is elegant, too. Very stylish, in a ripe style. 93/100

Amisfield Rocky Knoll Pinot Noir 2006
Selected parcels and then a barrel selection were employed to make this high-end Pinot. It stays in barrel a lot longer and may not be produced every vintage. Lovely stuff with amazing structure, spicy minerality and some subtle earthy notes, as well as ripe cherry fruit. Elegant and complex with lovely grainy spiciness under the sweet but restrained fruit. 94/100

Amisfield Noble Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Very intense with lovely spicy notes as well as viscous fruit. Nice complexity. A very rich style with real intensity to the lemon and apricot fruit. 93/100

Felton Road
Mount Difficulty
Pisa Range 
Gibbston Valley
Quartz Reef

Wines tasted 02/10  
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