Annie Millton was honest enough to admit that she’d read the diary wrong and that her and James weren’t expecting me, when she picked me up from Gisborne airport. Despite this, I spent a lovely afternoon and evening with them, when we finally tracked down James in one of his vineyards.
We headed over to the beautiful Clos de Ste Anne vineyard, where we tasted some of the wines. I last visited here in November 2008, and in the interim the already very good wines have got even better. These wines are not just superb by Gisborne standards, they are among New Zealand’s best. It is all the more remarkable that they come from Gisborne, a region that doesn’t enjoy a high reputation.
Millton Clos de Ste Anne La Bas Chenin Blanc 2009 Gisborne, New Zealand
Fresh and aromatic with notes of nuts, toast, citrus apple and pears. Amazingly vivid on the palate with pure linear flavours of apple and pear, subtle nuts and high acidity. A taut, delightful expression of Chenin that needs more time. Dry, 95/100
Millton Clos de Ste Anne Naboth’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2010 Gisborne, New Zealand
Fine expressive nose of subtle toast, nuts, lemon and a hint of lime oil. The palate is fresh, open and elegant with complex nutty notes and a hint of vanilla spice, but the key theme is layered citrus, peach and pear fruit. Shows restraint and balance along with depth of flavour. 94/100
Millton Clos de Ste Anne Les Arbres Viognier 2009 Gisborne, New Zealand
Amazingly aromatic: fresh and pure with lovely floral, subtle lychee and pear aromas. The palate is open and textured, showing finesse. There’s apricot and spice here, but it is so delicate and fine, with melony richness and spicy notes on the finish. A beautiful wine. 95/100
Millton Clos de Ste Anne Naboth’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010 Gisborne, New Zealand
Pale cherry red colour with a hint of bricking on the rim. Lovely warm perfumed nose with fine, warm, savoury spicy notes. The palate is warm, spicy, textured and rounded with smooth multi-layered flavours and a hint of sappy green, although it is fully ripe. Real interest and complexity. 95/100
Millton Clos de Ste Anne The Crucible Syrah 2009 Gisborne, New Zealand
Delightfully aromatic nose shows black pepper, clove, black cherry, blackberries and herbs, which carry through to the almost Burgundian palate. Vivid and profound. Warm, rounded and textured with sweet black cherry fruit countered by some peppery edginess. Precision and elegance meet. 96/100
Then it was time to find some supper. James took me round to his buddy Boyd, who was just in the process of butchering a deer. This was an educational process, seeing how to get the different cuts, and what meat should be kept and what should be discarded. Boyd had also been out fishing, so James managed to score a big chunk of albacore tuna.
For dinner we were joined by Steve Voysey, a Gisborne winemaker working for a big company who also does his own label, Spade Oak. He’d brought along some wines for us to try, including a lovely 2009 Blanc de Blancs and two vintages of his Saint Laurent, the first time I’ve seen this variety grown outside Austria. The 2011 Spade Oak Heart of Gold St Laurent is fresh, vivid and joyful, with lovely cherry fruit aromatics.
Dinner was delicious. Deer fillet, lightly seared on the outside, raw inside. Tuna sushi, and then lightly seared with a salad. Memorable, especially with the sound of the sea in the background.