Graeme and Gillian Crosbie were, like many Dunedin residents, drawn to Central Otago for summer sunshine. ‘Everyone came to Central Otago for their summer,’ says Graeme, who made his money as a property developer, ‘so we’ve had a house here since 1987. All our adult lives we’ve been interested by wine, and when we saw what was happening around us the opportunity came to purchase this land and we jumped in.’
In 2002 they bought an old apricot orchard on Domain Road in the Bannockburn subdistrict and planted 6.5 hectares of vines. A decade later they purchased more land on Felton Road and popped in another 7.5 hectares, which they named the Defiance vineyard.
The area is marked by the gold rush of the 1860s, and from the home block you can see the sluicings: large areas where hillsides were washed away in the quest for gold. They are now protected as a historical feature: the act of desecration of a landscape now redeemed.
50% of their vineyard area is planted to Pinot Noir, which is a relatively low proportion for the region, which is Pinot focused. They do very attractive whites, too – including Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon and Pinot Gris.
But it has been a long and sometimes difficult journey, building a small winery in such a strong place. ‘A lot of people don’t realise that it’s a very long business to get up and running,’ says Graeme. ‘You do everything from growing the grapes, getting them into a bottle, getting the bottle away to some other part of the world, and then following it over there and selling it to someone. We are a small family business with 14 hectares of vines. I need all the skills that people would have if they had 14 000 hectares.’
Domain Road has an impressive new container-based tasting room on the Defiance Vineyard, which sits in a beautiful setting. This vineyard, on Felton Road, seems like a special site, and the inaugural Pinot from here, the 2016, is a very impressive wine. The wines are made at VinPro by Pete Bartle, and the 2017 Pinots tasted from barrel there looked really smart.
Domain Road Bannockburn Sauvignon Blanc 2017 Central Otago, New Zealand
Has a barrel portion (20-30% depending on the year, but this vintage, which was quite small, had 40% barrel ferment), as well as some tank ferment. Very pretty and lively with nice focus. There’s some tropical richness, a bit of elderflower, and good acidity. There’s a hint of fig, too. Lovely texture here. 90/100
Domain Road Chardonnay 2017 Central Otago, New Zealand
From the Defiance vineyard, 100% barrel fermented. Pressed off into tank overnight, and then to barrel after it is inoculated. This is quite delicate and bright with subtle toast, cedar and spice from the oak, as well as a solid citrus core, some floral notes, and really appealing peachy richness, too. Good acidity and a bit of structure, with lots of potential for development. Give this time. 93/100
Domain Road The Water Race Dry Riesling 2017 Central Otago, New Zealand
Taut, fresh and lemony with brightness and focus. Dry and linear with good acidity (pH 2.88, 5.5 g/l rs) and a bit of tangerine exoticism on the finish. Good concentration of flavour here. 90/100
Domain Road Duffers Creek Riesling 2017 Central Otago, New Zealand
11% alcohol, 14.7 g/l residual sugar. Lovely delicacy here with a bit of sweetness balancing out the high acidity. Very linear with a lovely tangerine and melon character as well as some limey brightness. Very stylish, finishing taut. 92/100
Domain Road Defiance Pinot Gris 2018 Central Otago, New Zealand
Rounded and textural with nice fresh melon and table grape notes, with a bit of sweetness. Has a very smooth texture. Attractive, rounded and pretty. Subtly smoky. 89/100
Domain Road Defiance Pinot Gris 2017 Central Otago, New Zealand
13% alcohol. This is quite delicate, but it also has plenty of flavour. It’s quite stony and mineral with nice brisk acidity, but also some grapey richness and hints of bacon and smoke. 90/100
Domain Road Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2016 Central Otago, New Zealand
This is fresh and supple with bright red cherry and raspberry fruit. There’s good acidity and some nice tannic structure. Bright and red fruited, this has lovely focus. There’s a bite on the finish, too. Very stylish and quite serious, with nice grip and potential for development. 94/100
Domain Road Defiance Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 Central Otago, New Zealand
First harvest from Defiance was 2015, and all the Pinot was used for making rosé. So this is the first proper Pinot from this vineyard. Not all of the Pinot is used for the Defiance. About 7 barrels are selected for the final wine, and everything else goes into the Bannockburn Pinot Noir. Textural and fine with some silkiness, but also nice sour cherry and raspberry fruit, with some structural bite. There’s generosity but also freshness. A really impressive wine. Such a joy right now but with potential for development. 95/100
Domain Road Paradise Pinot Noir 2015 Central Otago, New Zealand
This is from the home vineyard, and it’s a barrel selection: in 2015 three barrels were chosen, given 15-18 months in barrel. Not too showy, but with lovely assured tannic structure. Harmonious with fine-grained tannins. Has a savoury edge to the cherry and plum fruit, and a sense of elegance. Good structure here. 94/100
Domain Road Symposium 2018 Central Otago, New Zealand
Late-harvested Sauvignon picked at 32.5 Brix. 120 g/l residual sugar. Fermented a percentage in barrel, and used one of those for this wine – the second will progressively be used in future years. This is a third of the blend, and the rest was tank fermented. Very lively and fruity with good acidity, still, and lovely tropical and elderflower notes. Clean, fruity and sweet, but not fully sweet because of the acidity. Lovely fruit expression here. 92/100
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