Steve and Barbara Green are helping put Central Otago on the map. They’re making some of the most flavorful Pinot Noir to come out of the South Island, and their white wines are delicious, too. Why are they so good? Perhaps it’s the glacial deposits, or self-rooted vines, or the extreme south growing location, or the organic viticulture, or the skills of their young winemaker. Whatever it is, it works. For more on New Zealand Pinot Noir, see our in-depth report on New Zealand’s Exciting Pinot Noirs.
The terrain of Central Otago was carved by glaciers , leaving deposits of sand, gravel and broken schist. These infertile, well-drained soils provide the growing medium for the self-rooted vines of the Carrick vineyards, owned by Steve and Barbara Green who planted their vineyards in Central Otago near Cromwell 20 years ago. We recently met with Steve and Barbara and tasted their wines.
The Carrick vineyard and winery are certified organic by BiogroNZ, which means only organic and biodynamic practices are followed, including organize fertilizers and pesticides and non-herbicide weed management. Natural practices continue in the winery with the use of wild yeasts and minimal fining and filtration.
Central Otago offers a nearly ideal grape growing climate. Since it sits in the rain shadow of the mountains near Queenstown to the west, it is semi-arid with low humidity and minimal risk of harvest rains. Temperatures are moderate with none of the autumn heat spikes common to many of the world’s wine growing regions, allowing for extended hang time and ripe grapes without high alcohol.
Steve and Barbara are assisted in the vineyard by viticulturist Blair Deaker and in the winery by the young winemaker Francis Hutt. All pruning, thinning, and harvesting are done by hand. In addition to the wines reviewed here, Carrick makes other bottlings of Riesling, Chardonnay and small amounts of a Pinot Noir based rosé.
Pacific Prime Wines of Oakland CA imports Carrick wines in the US.
Carrick 2010 Pinot Gris ($27) 90 Made Alsatian style with tropical fruit notes of lychee and ripe passion fruit, the Pinot Gris pairs rich fruit with good acidity on a lush, medium weight palate. Delicious and a great partner for moderately spicy Asian cuisine. Whole bunch pressed and fermented with ambient yeasts. About 30 percent aged in neutral French oak with extended lees contact. A superb New World Pinot Gris.
Carrick 2011 Riesling ($27) 88 Showing ripe citrus and stone fruit and a touch of petrol on the nose, this Riesling is richly flavored and has very good sugar-acid balance. While drinking nicely now, this wine will only improve with more time in bottle. 20 g/l RS
Carrick 2010 Unravelled Pinot Noir ($33) 91 Spicy black cherry, rose petals and light herbal-stem notes show on the nose of this very good New Zealand Pinot Noir. Rich cherry and berry fruit show again on the palate along with loam earth. A serious, multi-faceted Pinot Noir that’s very reasonably priced. Made with about 15 percent whole clusters and aged 11 months in 20 percent new oak. Made in small, open-top fermenters with a 5-7 day presoak. Excellent value!
Carrick 2010 Bannockburn Pinot Noir ($53) 92 This is a wine of considerable depth and purity, showing dark red cherry and black raspberry fruit complemented by notes of earth, underbrush and even a hint of dark chocolate. It reveals a concentrated, complex and silky palate, a grownup version of the Unravelled Pinot. Made from self-rooted, twenty year old vines and aged 14 months in 29% new French oak barriques.
Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler