Wooing Tree
Revisiting Central Otago, New Zealand, part 3


Stephen Farquharson in front of the wooing tree

Website: www.wooingtree.co.nz

Wooing Tree is a single vineyard (26 hectares, with 18 hectares of Pinot Noir) just on the outskirts of Cromwell, surrounded by residential properties. Just opposite is a Cromwell landmark: the rather bizarre big fruit sculpture.

It is owned by Plumpton (UK)-trained Stephen and Thea Farquharson and Stephen’s sister and brother-in-law, Jane and Geoff Bews. They bought the land in 2001 and planted it in 2002 with assistance from consultant viticulturist Robin Dicey. The first vintage was 2005, and the wines are made by Pete Bartle at VinPro.

Wooing Tree is named after a big tree that sits in the middle of the vineyard. This is a bit of a local landmark and when the land was being developed as a vineyard, pressure from Cromwell residents meant that it was saved from being chopped down, so it stayed, and the vineyard was named after it.

I visited with Stephen Farquharson, who picked me up from Queenstown. We stopped off for some cherries on the way (Central Otago is famous for them) and had a quick look at the new motor racing circuit (Highlands –  www.highlands.co.nz), before a brilliant tasting looking at all the Pinot Noirs that Wooing Tree have produced to date. 

The first vintage with fruit from this vineyard was 2005, which won the trophy for Pinot Noir at the Air New Zealand awards in 2006. The soils are light, free-draining wind-blown loess, fairly typical for the region, with lots of schist mixed in. 'When we dug down we got to gravel,' says Stephen. Most of the Cromwell basin is similar. This is a flat site and it can be frosty, so irrigation is used for frost fighting in the form of overhead sprinklers.

I was impressed by these wines, particularly the more recent vintages. 'People don't realise it, but we do get quite big vintage variation in Central Otago,' says Stephen. This is seen in the wines.

Two successes here are the Blondie and the Rosé. They come from the same single vineyard, so it's tricky to decide what goes into them because everything is good.  The grapes for these are picked before the Pinot used for the red wines, and the only difference is an hour or so of skin contact. Blondie started as a small production white Pinot Noir for the tasting room, but now 800 cases are made.

A part of the vineyard is used for the Sandstorm Reserve, and for this, yields are reduced a bit, and it stays in barrel a bit longer, too.

THE WINES

Wooing Tree Blondie 2013 Central Otago, New Zealand
Fresh and lively with rounded fruit. Primary and textured with freshness and some grapiness. Very stylish. 89/100

Wooing Tree Rosé 2013 Central Otago, New Zealand
Bright pink in colour. Aromatic and vivid with nice cherry and cranberry notes. Sweet cherry fruit dominates. 88/100

Wooing Tree Pinot Gris 2011 Central Otago, New Zealand
Barrel fermented from rogue vines in the vineyard; these have now been pulled out. Textured, fresh and supple with some tangerine, a hint of green and some grapiness. Focused and attractive. 89/100

Wooing Tree Chardonnay 2011 Central Otago, New Zealand
Stylish, restrained, with a creamy edge to the fresh, textured, slightly nutty fruit. Some warmth and depth here, but restrained at the same time. 90/100

Wooing Tree Pinot Noir Beetle Juice 2012 Central Otago, New Zealand
This is named after the Cromwell chafer beetle, and it won Air New Zealand gold in 2013. It's a second label of 1500 cases. Juicy, bright and lovely with vivid black cherry and red cherry fruit. Joyful, direct, floral and fun. 93/100

Wooing Tree Pinot Noir 2005 Central Otago, New Zealand
14.5% alcohol. First vintage. Sweet, ripe, warm with subtle herb and garrigue notes as well as fine cherries on the nose. The fresh, supple palate is warm with some iodine and herb complexity. Finely balanced with vibrant fruit, still. 94/100

Wooing Tree Pinot Noir 2006 Central Otago, New Zealand
14% alcohol. Warm and sweetly herbal with nice cherry fruit with some plums. Nicely aromatic with some savoury notes. The palate is fresh and supple with fine-grained tannins and a hint of pepper. Showing nice evolution and drinking well now. 93/100

Wooing Tree Pinot Noir 2007 Central Otago, New Zealand
14.5% alcohol, from half bottle. Some earthy, leathery notes on the noe, which is meaty, ripe and savoury. Sweet cherries and plums. The palate is bright and lively with a spicy undercurrent and some structure. A warm, meaty style. 91/100

Wooing Tree Pinot Noir 2008 Central Otago, New Zealand
14.5% alcohol. Fresh and slightly herby with warm, spicy underpinning to the cherry and plum fruit. Quite structured with nice grip, fresh cherries and herbs. There's some elegance here alongside the structure. 93/100

Wooing Tree Pinot Noir 2009 Central Otago, New Zealand
14.5% alcohol. Lovely aromatics. Pure and fresh with red cherry fruit and some fine spiciness on the nose. The palate is textured and pure, showing precision. Fine, open, supple. Lovely wine. 94/100

Wooing Tree Pinot Noir 2010 Central Otago, New Zealand
Air New Zealand gold in 2012. 3000 cases annually. Lovely focused, floral cherry fruit nose with some herbs and spice. There are attractive provencale herb notes here as well as fresh cherries and plums, and I like the spicy complexity. Fabulous wine. 94/100

Wooing Tree Pinot Noir 2011 Central Otago, New Zealand
14% alcohol. Nicely floral, perfumed cherry fruit nose. Fresh, supple, peppery palate with nice freshness and silky red cherry fruit, as well as subtle green notes. A beautiful wine. 95/100

Wooing Tree Pinot Noir 2012 Central Otago, New Zealand
14% alcohol. Fine, fresh with subtle dried herb notes. The palate is precise and bright with superb balance and lovely silky red cherry and plum fruit. 95/100

Wooing Tree Sandstorm Reserve Pinot Noir 2007 Central Otago, New Zealand
14% alcohol. Warm, spicy and herby with rich, ripe fruit on the nose. The palate is supple and sweetly spiced with some richness and warmth. Bold and nicely complex. 92/100

Wooing Tree Sandstorm Reserve Pinot Noir 2008 Central Otago, New Zealand
14.5% alcohol. Warm, sweet nose has some spiciness as well as caramel notes. The palate is supple and open with nicely focused cherry and plum fruit supported by spicy tannins. 93/100

Wooing Tree Sandstorm Reserve Pinot Noir 2009 Central Otago, New Zealand
Rich and quite ripe with nice spice and herb notes in the nose as well as sweet cherries and plums. There's a bit of oak influence on the nose. Lovely, open, smooth, fine palate with supple cherry and plum fruit. 94/100

Wooing Tree Sandstorm Reserve Pinot Noir 2010 Central Otago, New Zealand
Fresh and a bit minty with structured cherry and plum fruit. Nice density, and shows a savoury, spicy edge, some elegance, and tight-wound tannins. Needs time to open out. 93/100

Wooing Tree Sandstorm Reserve Pinot Noir 2011 Central Otago, New Zealand
Sleek, pure red cherry and plum fruit. Fresh, elegant and floral with some pepper notes. The palate is fresh and pure with elegant bright cherry and plum fruit. Real finesse, focus and purity. A lighter, more elegant vintage. 95/100

Wooing Tree Sandtsorm Reserve Pinot Noir 2012 Central Otago, New Zealand
Fresh red cherry and raspberry fruit nose is ripe, lush, pure and aromatic, with a liqueur-like quality. The palateis fresh and focused with a hint of pepperiness and some meaty undertones to the pure raspberry fruit. Lovely wine. 95/100

Wooing Tree Tickled Pink 2012 Central Otago, New Zealand
Late-harvested Pinot Noir first made in 2009, with 110 g/litre residual sugar. Sweet, rounded, pretty with nice cherry and plum fruit. 88/100

See also:

VISITING CENTRAL OTAGO
Gibbston Valley
Chard Farm
Wooing Tree
Folding Hill
Mount Difficulty
Lowburn Ferry
Grasshopper Rock

Wines tasted 02/14  
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