New Zealand Wines from Lake Chalice

Chris Gambitsis

Lake Chalice is a medium sized, privately owned winery located in New Zealand’s Marlborough wine region. It was established in 1989 by Chris Gambitsis and Phil Binnie on the original 28 acre, notoriously stony Falcon Vineyard but has since expanded to include four vineyards totaling 120 acres in diverse parts of Marlborough.  Chris was recently in town and stopped by to show us his new releases of the Lake Chalice black label line that’s imported to the US by Pacific Prime Wines.


Lake Chalice has two principal labels—the entry level Black Label Series, reviewed here and the higher end Raptor Series, not yet imported to the US. In addition, it makes a couple of sparkling wines, one of which is imported to the US and reviewed here, and dessert wines.  Total production is 55 thousand cases, 40% of which is exported. Winemaker Matt Thomson has created a popular house style that emphasizes purity and balance in the wines.

Falcon Vineyard

Lake Chalice NV Cracklin Savie ($18) 87  Made of 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc with just 7 g/l of residual sugar, this is a lightly effervescent sparkler bottled under a crown cap. It’s fresh tasting with a creamy palate and off dry but not cloying. Aromas and flavors evoke grapefruit and passion fruit. This is a fun wine, for parties and to serve with spicy appetizers.

Lake Chalice 2011 Pinot Gris ($19) 88+  A New World Pinot Gris with a perfumed, floral nose, a soft attack, and a clean, soft palate of light citrus and orchard fruit flavors. While simple, the wine is pure and very pleasant to drink. Made mostly from fruit of the Eyrie Vineyard in the Waihopai Valley.    The wine is cold fermented dry and racked off the lees. A small portion is fermented in oak.

Lake Chalice 2011 Sauvignon Blanc ($19) 89  This is another easy drinking wine from Lake Chalice. It has good varietal character with notes of passion fruit and citrus and just a touch of herbaceousness to add interest. For a Sauvignon Blanc, the wine is rich and soft with the acidity of the variety kicking in on the finish. No one will mistake this for a top flight Sancerre, but it’s very, very pleasant drinking.

Lake Chalice 2009 Riesling ($19) 88  In some ways, this is the most innovative of the Lake Chalice wines. While it has a very high 27 g/l residual sugar, it has excellent balancing acidity, enough so that it finishes with just a hint of sweetness. With just 10% alcohol and pleasing light spice and stonefruit flavors, this is a great wine to pair with spicy food.  Grapes come from the stony Falcon Vineyard.

Lake Chalice 2009 Pinot Noir ($25) 90  The Pinot Noir is a step up from the rest of the Black Label line. Like the other Lake Chalice wines, it excels in terms of purity of fruit, palate balance, and pleasant drinking, but this medium-bodied Pinot Noir also has a more complex flavor profile and a certain elegance on the palate. Fresh and dried red cherries (no candied cherry notes here) show on the nose and palate with light bitter cherry pit and spice and savory notes that add interest to the wine.  Made from Wairau and Waihopai Valley fruit. The wine was fermented in open top vats and aged 12 months in new and one year old French barrels.

As part of its contribution to the larger community, Lake Chalice supports the Wingspans Birds of Prey Trust, which works to preserve New Zealand’s raptors. The New Zealand falcon (karearea) is the emblem of the Lake Chalice brand.

Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler

October 2012

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