Dave Clouston’s Two Rivers is a great example of a boutique-sized Marlborough winery focusing on making interesting wines from good vineyard sites, while at the same time keeping a savvy commercial hat on. He’s a sole owner and built the business up gradually, starting with no land in 2004. He now has two vineyards of his own and sources from 15 growers. The Two Rivers label is used for the more elaborate wines (15 000 case production), while there’s also the more affordable Black Cottage range (35 000 cases).
Dave grew up in the Awatere, and moved to the Wairau aged 15 when his folks sold the family Dashwood Farm to Oyster Bay in 1993.
As well as Two Rivers, he also runs the Winos shop in Blenheim, which is one of the two places you can buy really interesting wine in the region (along with Scotch Bar).
I tasted with him in the Brookby Hill Vineyard in the Southern Valleys. It’s a beautiful hillside vineyard with clay/loess soils, planted in 2000 at a density of 5000 vines per hectare. It’s 10 hectares, with 7 hectares planted, and Dave bought it in 2014. These hillside vineyards can give great quality, but they need careful management. One of the issues is soil movement:when people establish them, they can get a bit carried away with bulldozers, and in an attempt to make pretty contours, move large volumes of soil. The vines in the bit where the soil has moved can really struggle with very low vigour.
I was impressed by these wines. They are all really interesting, and they aren’t expensive.
Two Rivers Isle of Beauty Rosé 2017 Marlborough, New Zealand
Four months on lees. A blend of several red and white varieties, this is really convincing. Very fine and textural with fresh red cherry and citrus fruit. Delicately aromatic with nice purity and finesse. 90/100
Two Rivers Juliet Riesling 2017 Marlborough, New Zealand
This is from the Brookby Hill vineyard. Two picks. The first block is picked early for freshness, while the second is picked two weeks later and is soaked on its skins for 24 hours. Very pretty, textured and floral with a hint of sweetness. Some Turkish delight and melon, and a bit of phenolic grip. Very attractive. 92/100
Two Rivers Altitude Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Single cane, shoot thinned with one bunch per shoot, and then fermented half in old hogshead half in concrete egg. Textural but also fresh with some subtle creamy hints. Broad and textural with nice fine spicy notes. Very subtle green hints, and quite elegant and mineral on the finish. 92/100
Two Rivers Clos des Pierres Chardonnay 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Chardonnay was Dave’s favourite variety, but he wasn’t keen on what he tasted from Marlborough. But in 2010 he found a block of 20+ year old Mendoza Chardonnay on the Rapaura Road on very stony soils. This forms 80% of this blend, and the balance is from Brookby Hill. The grapes are hand picked and are pressed to barrel with no sulfur dioxide. 20% new oak. This is toasty, bready, tight and focused with brisk grapefruit and lemon meshing well with the richer, toastier, more creamy flavours. 92/100
Two Rivers Tributary Pinot Noir 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
Hand picked and wild ferment, 50% whole bunch and 20% new oak. This has a bit of Brookby fruit, quite a bit from Auntsfield, an also a lot from the Awatere, including some from Ward. So textural with sweet cherry and berry fruits. Nice fine spiciness here with lovely freshness and a bit of grip, but also a silky smooth mouthfeel. Very fine grained. 94/100
Two Rivers Altitude Pinot Noir 2014 Marlborough, New Zealand
Awatere. This is mostly from Francis in Ward, but also has a bit of Delta Heights in it. 80% whole bunch, 40% new oak. Very attractive with a fine sappy, green edge to the nose we well as some floral fruit. Really spicy and a bit gamy on the palate with fresh spicy tannic structure and an appealing savouriness. There are also some darker fruit notes here. Really compelling. 95/100
Two Rivers Brookby Hill Syrah 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
First vintage from young vines, picked at 23 Brix, with a bit of Viognier too. 100% whole bunch. Very perfumed and floral with sweet cherry fruit and a bit of pepper. Fine, fresh and elegant with some smashability. 92/100