Moving from Singapore, Andy and Misha Wilkinson spend eighteen months searching for the perfect spot to pursue a new passion – a patch of land that would produce heart-stoppingly good Pinot Noir. They walked many miles before finding themselves standing on dramatic lakefront terraces that formed part of the extensive Bendigo Station. It’s a picturesque but harsh landscape. One that once been explored and toiled over by miners in the gold rush of the 1800s. Remnants of that pioneer history – mine tailings and ruins of stone cottages dotted the hillside. Silent reminders of others who had looked to find fortune in new lands, and tell a story that resonated with the couple who, armed with detailed reports focussed on soil and climate, wondered if this could be the place.
Their viticulture consultant – Robin Dicey had planted more vineyards in Central Otago than anyone. When he stood on the land he declared “it’s steep, faces towards the afternoon summer sun and the soil is rocky and very poor – it’s perfect for Pinot”
On the 54ha property, 17 hectares of the slopes and lakefront terrace are planted with 8 clones of Pinot Noir, including Pommard and Dijon clones, plus a bit of Abel. An additional 9 hectares are planted with aromatic white varietals. At the ground-breaking ceremony they placed gold chinese coins beneath the first 8 vines to symbolise returning some old gold to the ground and form luck for the new endeavour. In 2007, after a couple of attempts, they lure Olly Masters down from Martinborough to head the winemaking, and a company motto “No Compromises” is born from a desire to produce the most authentic wines that tell of their origins on this singular piece of Bendigo soil.
In February this year, Cameron Douglas MS spent a day at Misha’s Vineyard Tasting Room, tasting through the entire catalogue of Pinot Noir and Riesling – down to the first commercial releases. A month later, was the turn of a select few to go through a series of vintages from 2008 to 2018, at the very cool environs of the Ever Room on K Road in Auckland, hosted by owner Misha and winemaker Olly, plus helpers from their distributors at Negociants. Many, many thanks to all – seeing the shows (from front and backstage), I know the work involved in putting this together and it was perfectly pitched.
To the wines…
Pinot Noir – Misha’s Vineyard ‘The High Note’
2018. A dense ruby colour – floral, voluminous with cranberry, musk rose and violets. Abundant, ripe red berries, bramble and pomegranate, enriched with a deep toasty barrel character. Tight-knitted tannin, and a fine acidity but still needs time to blossom. 92pts.
2016. Medium to dark cherry red. A salvo of fleshy elderberry, plum and lilac on the nose. Dancing with a nervous tension on the palate, slightly unresolved at the moment. Taut, but with a nice acid drive and structure with softer, supple tannins. Spicy with cardamom, vanilla and anise. 91pts.
2014. Medium deep red. Firm, restrained fragrance but with a light buddleia lift. Crunchy ripe fruit, red cherry, damson and liquorice on the broadening palate. Developing well and still showing an intensity and great line of acidity. Oak and tannin is well integrated and polished with an elegant, generous finish. 94pts.
2012. Bright, ruby red. Warm, ripe and enticing with thyme, forest floor, jasmine and plush red fruits. Concentrated and robust. Interesting juxtaposition of sweet and sour/savoury in the mid-palate. Umami, star anise, blackberry, chocolate, olives and red liquorice. Very fine tannins, subtle warming oak and a lovely balance and harmony to this wine, with great personality – this feels complete and ready. 96pts.
2010. Medium to darker red. Rich and brooding – dark fruited with menthol, musk rose and dried provencal herbs on the nose. Warm, rich, with a dense core of black doris, Campari and balsam. Spicy and savoury – chorizo, mushroom, mocha, 5-spice and vanilla pod. A wisp of smoky oak over a core of plump, fine tannins. A mineral, chalk and quartz freshens the lingering finish. A keeper, perhaps still a few years to its best. 93pts.
2008. Medium burgundy red. Compelling bouquet of rosewater, kirsch, toasted almond, tobacco leaf and juicy plum. Red berry sets the tone, and paves a way for a complex but relaxed palate of redcurrant, warm leather, tapenade and bramble. A backbone of tannins still shows grip but are now fine and subtle. Nice purity to the flow of the wine, and settles into a lengthy, languid finale. 94pts.
Pinot Noir – Misha’s Vineyard ‘Verismo’
2015. Deep ruby red. Youthful and vivid, well-lit by plush red fruit, floral and herbal aromas. A flush of cranberry, raspberry meets a streak of spices – sumac, clove, and cinnamon. The broad depth is balanced with tight chewy tannins and a coltish acidity. A complex, jazzy wine with great character. A hint of green hiding in a layer at the back – raspberry leaf, bay and nettle, but then a chalky mineral note flows through. Plenty to discover and will probably retain its complex nuances for years to come. 95pts.
2013. Lighter, medium-ruby colour, but with darker fruit aromas – raspberry, plum and liquorice – but still very floral and herbal. Both elegance and richness, savoury and sweetness combined. A swathe of acidity gives drive through the layers. Smooth, well integrated tannin and a framing of honeyed, toasty oak lends a lovely gloss towards the finish, which is lingering and plush. 94pts.
Misha’s Vineyard ‘Limelight’ Riesling
2018. Clear, intense florals on the nose – lemon blossom, lime and white fleshed nectarine. A wealth of sweetness cossets the palate before the acidity breaks through and steals the show with a zesty, mineral salinity. Red apple and mandarin. Riper phenolics, sappy and waxy and a wide textural bloom. Pure mouthwatering finish. 94pts.
2016. Focussed and tense on the nose of peach, green papaya and hint of baked pear Danish. Linear acidity, driven and very direct. More toasty, warming spice notes. Ripe, honeyed sweetness that is on the edge of the acidity, entwined and inseparable. A wine with great flow and energy. 94pts.
2014. Starts spicy and bright, with spring blossom, gingerbread and lemongrass. Apricot and crisp nashi pear on the palate that is sweet and vivid with a flush of oyster shell minerality. A racy, grapefruit acidity gives brightness and aids the delicate balance between the fruit and structure. The long, slightly drying finish is concentrated and elegant. 93pts.
2012. Lively and complex, perfumed with elderflower and jasmine. The palate is sparked with lime, red apple and peach, but also a crisp, sliced fennel herbal note. Delicate and fresh, with a brilliant acidity that balances the ripe fruit sweetness. Some age creeping in – a little blanched almond and honeyed spice towards the waxy, mile-long finish. 96pts.
2010. Honeysuckle, lime sherbert and a lick of kerosene on the intriguing nose. Some tropical fruits on the palate, showing a sweet depth of green melon and grilled pineapple. Great acidity still living here though – linear and punchy, balancing and bringing the layers together. An interesting edge to the back of the palate, with a peppery, jalapeno-like green to the spiced, refreshing finish. 93pts.
2008. Intense and jittery aromas of cardamom, orange blossom, freesia and lime zest with a wet-stone quartzy minerality. Tight acidity at first, but quickly fattens out into a peach, honeycomb and beeswax textural beauty. Complex, assured and with real integration to the components. Again, there is white pepper, a pop of mustard seed and apple skin at the finish. A real personality to this one. 95pts.