Talk about going to bat for another country, Mike Weersing of Pyramid Valley is an American trained in Oregon and Burgundy, and is one of the torchbearers for the future of New Zealand Rieslings. As a champion of biodynamic practices, he is proud of his earthworm worked compost heap and asserts that the level of excitement exuded when in the presence of a compost heap is a sure-fire way to test one’s claims of embracing biodynamicism. I cannot agree more with his poignant description of wine as ‘liquid geography’, in that it is able to reveal tiny nuances of the land. It is difficult to find anyone to argue against his assertion that ‘it is the soil that needs to be farmed, not the vines’.
As this tasting session revealed, wine not only captures the essence of the land, but can also be viewed as a time capsule by precisely encasing the climactic conditions of the vintage. The first flights showcased the Rieslings from the ~30 year old Lebecca / Rose Vineyard Rieslings. Mike first identified the vineyard in 2005 and worked with the fruit as they existed. Conventional viticulture was gradually modified towards the biodynamic spectrum and shifting to the use of endogenous yeasts for fermentation. As luck would not have it, vintage conditions in 2008 when the vineyard went fully biodynamic meant a late harvest, so the first ‘proper’ biodynamic dry table wine was from the 2009. The uncertainty of working with endogenous fermentation was demonstrated in the 2010 vintage when re-fermentation occurred in bottle – an outcome which sees the 2011 pipping the 2010 to be released first.
Pyramid Valley Lebecca Vineyard Riesling 2005
12 month fermentation period, settling at 75grams residual sugar. Already showing signs of development, the nose is primarily lifted lemon chalk scents with a hint of grass. A ripe load of acidity in this one, lemon citrus flavours with an almost sourish steely edge to it. 8% alc. A simple, straight-forward wine but with a muted finish. Almost past it. 86/100.
Pyramid Valley Lebecca Vineyard Riesling 2006
12 month fermentation period, 75grams residual sugar, 8.5% alc. The 2006 has more expressive aromatics than the 2005. Edgy lemon florals which are also showing a hint of development. Dry, the acids appear fresher compared to the 2005, and one might perceive a higher sugar level due to the peachy flavours. A more robust finish but overall, this wine is rather unexciting. Drink now. 88/100.
Pyramid Valley Lebecca Vineyard Riesling 2007
Mike Weersing indicated that this vintage marked the positive tipping point for the vineyard as the population of healthy yeasts was showing signs of picking up and ‘performing better’. 10 months fermentation time, 40grs, 11.5% alc. Youthful nose of warmed honey with mandarin florals. Clean, young flavours of white peach balanced by a good level of acidity. Good finish to this one. Drink now – 2015. 89-90/100.
Pyramid Valley Rose Vineyard Riesling 2008
A change in ownership led to the renaming of this vineyard but control over viticulture practices were maintained. There was lots of rain after the early varietals, but there were hot still days inbetween which meant that botrytis infection shot from 10 to 30 then up to 50%. Fortunately, sunny and cool conditions emerged which allowed noble rot to prevail up to 80%. the fruit came in at 45Brix and took 2 years to ferment. Tasted this after the 2009. Darker yellow color as expected with the late harvest. the nose holds a touch of phenolic, but with attractive nectarine and chopped up grass. Unquestionably a rich wine with lovely flavours of peach, nectarine and honey clinging on the finish. Thoroughly enjoyable. Drink now – 2020. 92+/100.
Pyramid Valley Rose Vineyard Riesling 2009
Tasted this before the 2008. Clean, youthful nose suggestive of a feminine characteristic. Delicate spritzy lemon, baby grass aromatics, closer to the Germanic Donnhoff style. Dry, medium-bodied wine, excellent structure and weight, 13% alc, the acidity balances the ripe melon and white peach flavours. Only 7grs. Long finish. Drink now – 2016. 93+/100.
Pyramid Valley Rose Vineyard Riesling 2010
This caused such a headache for Mike as it re-fermented in bottle despite only ending up at 6-7grs. Clean and youthful on the nose, tightly coiled aromas of red apple and white florals. Zippy on the palate as one would expect from a wine still under-going fermentation. Perhaps a potential to be a fine kabinett-style Riesling. -NR- Mike asked the group for our opinions on whether he should sell this wine or bust all the bottles and allow the wine to complete fermentation. I don’t think there was a consensus answer with support for this wine to be sold as a sparkling or a sec.
This tasting was organised by Sommeliers Australia and held at Gill’s Diner on 21 June 2012.
Pyramid Valley Rieslings are available through Prince Wine Store (~$42-50 per bottle)
See Jane Faulkner’s 7th Aug Epicure article of the same tasting here.