Douglas Cameron Review

  • Pyramid Valley Vineyard Lions Tooth Chardonnay 2015 Canterbury

Complex, floral, subtle and mineral led aromas; fruits of apple, green plum, white stone fruit and apricot blossom. On the palate – complex, layered, fruity, floral, mineral, chalk and dry. A delightful and tasty wine with a heart and soul, layers of flavours and textures taking chardonnay to a new and exciting place – delicious! Drink now and through 2025.  95 Points

Raymond Chan Reviews

logo-Raymond Chan

Pyramid Valley ‘Lion’s Tooth’ Canterbury Chardonnay 2015  *****

Brilliant pale golden-yellow colour with some depth, lighter on the edge.  The nose is elegantly proportioned with a positively concentrated and deep aromas of white and yellow stonefruits harmoniously melded with a subtle layer of nuts and chalky mineral complexities, revealing lees elements at the core.  The aromatics are fresh, vibrant and lively, and grow to show a degree of robustness.  Medium-full bodied, the palate has lively and lusciously rich white and yellow stonefruit flavours forming a deep and well-concentrated core, unfolding nutty and minerally lees notes and complexing detail.  The palate has weight and mouthfilling presence, and the mouthfeel is fresh and vibrant providing balance to the robustness.  The wine flows along a soft, fine-textured phenolic line, leading to a lingering, weighty finish with thirst-quenching minerals.  This is a rich, weighty Chardonnay with plenty of presence and a deep core of stonefruits and minerally lees balanced by fresh, vibrant acidity.  Match with poultry and pork dishes over the next 5-6 years.  From an east-facing block, 30% clay, 15-20% active lime.  Fruit WBP and indigenous yeast fermented, half in clay giare and half in seasoned French demi-muids to 13.5% alc., the wine spending 10 months on lees in giare and barrel with MLF.  1,820 bottles made.  18.5+/20  Jun 2017

Pyramid Valley ‘Field of Fire’ Canterbury Chardonnay 2015  *****

Light yellow colour with pale green-gold hues, lighter on the rim.  The nose is very elegant and very refined with delicately concentrated aromas of white stonefruits and citrus fruits in a harmonious amalgam of nutty lees notes and suggestions of oak toast, unfolding to reveal a core of minerals and saline nuances.  This has finesse and elegance.  Medium-bodied, the palate has a rich, elegantly refined and rounded core with concentrated flavours of white stonefruits and citrus fruit, along with subtle notes of minerals and toasty oak.  The palate has a fine proportion with positive drive, power and energy.  The wine flows along a very finely concentrated line with delicate phenolic textures with bright, lacy acidity, leading to a very long and sustained citrussy and minerally finish.  This is a refined and delicately concentrated Chardonnay with stonefruit and citrus fruits, along with mineral elements on a refreshing, lively and lacy palate.  Serve with seafood and poultry dishes over the next 5+ years.  From a south-east facing block, 20-25% clay and 5-10% active lime.  Fruit WBP, and indigenous yeast fermented, half in clay giare and half in seasoned French demi-muids to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 10 months on lees in giare and barrel with MLF.  1,200 bottles made.

Pyramid Valley ‘Earth Smoke’ Canterbury Pinot Noir 2015  *****

Moderately deep ruby-red colour with slight purple hues, lighter on the rim with a garnet tint.  This has a very finely proportioned nose with good depth and concentration of dark-red berry and cherry fruit harmoniously entwined with a layering of dark and dried herbs and subtly lifted red florals, unfolding savoury mineral and earthy detail from the core.  This grows in density and depth, becoming quite solid with aeration.  Medium-bodied, the palate has a concentrated core of rich and lively strawberry and red berry fruit interwoven with dark herbs, unfolding savoury earth and mineral notes.  The tannins are fine-grained, forming a firm core and the mouthfeel shows lively, refreshing acidity, providing energy and drive.  The concentrated core carries to a long, solidly packed finish which retains a degree of elegance.  This is a rich, concentrated Pinot Noir with dark-red cherry and strawberry fruit melded with savoury herb and earth notes on an energetic, fine-textured palate.  Match with pork, lamb and beef dishes over the next 6+ years.  A site with 25% clay and 15% active lime.  Hand destemmed and partially foot-crushed, and indigenous yeast fermented to 12.5% alc., the wine aged 12 months in 10% new French oak.  3,396 bottles made.  18.5+/20  Jun 2017

Pyramid Valley ‘Angel Flower’ Canterbury Pinot Noir 2015  *****

Even ruby-red colour with slight purple hues, lighter on the rim.  This is very elegant and tightly bound with refined and ethereal aromas of red cherry fruit entwined with red florals and subtle notes of fresh herbs.  This is seamlessly integrated on the nose, and an expression of beauty and florality.  Medium-bodied, the palate rich and lively, vibrant aromatic red cherry and berry fruits entwined with an array of red florals, with subtle herb notes.  The fruit forms a refined core and line with supple, fine-grained extraction and textures.  The mouthfeel features plenty of energy from the acidity, and the wine has drive and linearity, flowing along to a ling and sustained, elegant and fragrant finish.  This is an elegant, refined, rich and lively red cherry and floral fruited Pinot Noir with supple and fine-grained tannins and a fresh mouthfeel.  Serve with tuna and salmon, poultry and pork over the next 5-6+ years.  From a very steep north-facing slope, 15% clay and 5-10% active lime.  Hand-destemmed and partially foot-crushed, indigenous yeast fermented to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 12 months in 10% French oak.  3,198 bottles made.  19.0-/20  Jun 2017

Pyramid Valley ‘Growers Collection’ ‘Kerner Estate Vineyard’ Marlborough Pinot Blanc 2015  *****

Bright, light golden-yellow colour with some depth, paler on the edge.  The nose is full, deep and firm with aromas of ripe yellow stonefruits along with tropical fruit and honey, lifted by subtle yellow floral notes, unveiling nutty and mineral lees with suggestions of earth.  This has considerable depth and density.  Dry to taste and full-bodied, the palate is fulsome and robust with lusciously ripe flavours of yellow stonefruits and tropical fruit, along with honey and yellow florals.  The richness and sheer power of the mouthfeel is relieved by steely nutty and mineral elements.  The wine flows along a light-textured phenolic line, with alcohol power and drive carrying therichness and fruit extract.  The wine leads to a strong finish with plenty of presence of stonefruit and honied flavours.  This is a fulsome, ripe, dry Pinot Blanc with presence and weight, showing stonefruits, tropical fruits and honey, driven by alcohol power.  Match with Middle Eastern fare over the next 3-4+ years.  From 1.2 ha of the ‘Kerner’ vineyard, on Fareham Lane, Waihopi, hand-picked, WBP, indigenous yeast fermented to 15.0% alc. and 3.6 g/L RS, the wine aged 17 months in 5% new French demi-muids of 450-500 L, the wine undergoing MLF.  18.5/20  Jun 2017

Pyramid Valley ‘Growers Collection’ ‘Rose Family Vineyard’ Marlborough Riesling 2015  ****

Bright, even, pale golden-yellow colour, a little lighter on the rim.  The nose is deep and elegantly concentrated with aromas of ripe citrus fruits including limes and lemons along with yellow florals and spice notes.  This is essence of Riesling with power, intensity and purity.  Medium-dryish to taste, the palate has great depth, densely packed and penetrating flavours of limes and lemon, citrus zest with ripe yellow florals, honey and spices, and suggestions of minerals.  The palate is driven by alcoholic power, with crisp, lacy acidity providing some tension.  The palate line is fine-textured, but shows the alcohol warmth and generosity.  The flavours of citrus fruit and honey are bold and are carried to a strong, long, finish.  This is a very full and powerful off-dry Riesling with great fruit intensity of citrus, floral and honied flavours, immense concentration and line.  Match with Chinese cuisine over the next 4+ years.  Fruit from 35 y.o. vines from the ‘Rose Family’ vineyard, hand-picked, WBP and indigenous yeast fermented in tank without temperature control to 15.7% alc. and 12.7 g/L RS, TA 6.1 g/L.  450 cases made.  18.0+/20  Jun 2017

Pyramid Valley ‘Growers Collection’ Pinot Blanc/Pinot Gris/Gewurztraminer Marlborough On Skins 2016  ****

A little cloudy with orange and peach colour, with some depth, lighter edged.  The nose is full, broad and well-packed with aromas of ripe peaches, tropical fruits, quince and guavas, unfolding a little spice and citrus notes in a complex amalgam.  Dry to taste and medium-bodied, the palate has full and rounded flavours of citrus fruits, tropical fruits, peach, quince and guava, entwined with spice, earth and mineral notes and bitter-herb and stonefruit nuances.  The mouthfeel features a grainy, textural, phenolic grip providing a firm, underlying line, with soft and integrated acidity.  The wine carries with good drive to a long, lingering finish of savoury stonefruits, tropical fruits and exotic elements on a grainy palate with slight bitter and refreshing notes.  This is a flavoursome skin contact wine with ripe, savoury tropical and exotic fruits on a grainy textured palate with hints of bitterness.  Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris from the ‘Kerner’ vineyard, the Gewurztraminer from Waihopi, hand-picked and indigenous yeast fermented to 13.0% alc., and dryness, the wine spending 35 days on skins and aged on lees in predominantly seasoned oak, with 100% MLF.  267 cases made.  18.0/20  Jun 2017

Pyramid Valley ‘Growers Collection’ Howell Family Vineyard’ Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Franc 2015  *****

Very dark, deep, black-hued purple-red colour, a little lighter on the rim, youthful in appearance.  The nose is firm and intense with well-concentrated and tightly bound aromas of blackberries, blackcurrants and dark redcurrants entwined with cassis liqueur and fragrant dark herbs.  Full-bodied, the palate ha rich, luscious and sweetly ripe fruit flavours of blackberries, blackcurrants with cassis and dark herbs, and subtle earthy notes.  The fruit richness is underlined by fine tannin extraction and driven by a little alcohol power.  The acidity is ripe and refined, and the wine flows with good energy, sweetness and richness to a long, elegantly concentrated finish of blackberries, cassis and herbs.  This is a well-concentrated, rich and sweetly ripe fruited Cabernet Franc with blackberry, blackcurrant and cassis flavours of a fine-textured, fresh palate.  Match with lamb, beef and venison over the next 7-9+ years.  Fruit from the ‘Howell’ vineyard, bridge Pa, Hawke’s Bay, hand-picked and destemmed, and fermented with 35% whole bunches to 14.5% alc., the wine aged 9 months in seasoned French oak.  450 cases made.  18.5+/20  Jun 2017

Soil mapping helps winemakers create top tipples

Pyramid Valley vineyard, North Canterbury, showing the four discrete grape-growing plots set among the arid landscape.

In fact about 15 years ago now retired soil scientist Dr Philip Tonkin helped dig thousands of holes over land near Waikari for Pyramid Valley owners Mike and Claudia Elze Weersing in a bid to find the magic mix of limestone and clay. Pyramid’s managing director Caine Thompson said Mike Weersing had spent years searching for the perfect site to grow burgundy-style (pinot noir) and chardonnay grapes. Once he decided on an 80-hectare block at Waikari, Weersing still had to refine the process, because only a small percentage of the land had precisely the correct elements. After exhaustive digging, Tonkin and Weersing established that just 2.2 ha, in four individual blocks across the property, offered what was required. Thompson said the soils were unique. Cattle are run on the remaining land.

Tonkin first began mapping the soils 20 years ago, culminating in a report on the region that has just been presented to winegrowers and makers at a seminar at Black Estate winery. Today the Waipara region is home to at least 70 vineyards growing on distinctive landforms and in an impressive variety of soils, with the Omihi Valley having some of the most fertile in New Zealand.Associate Professor Roland Harrison, director of Lincoln’s centre for viticulture and oenology, said  winemakers could use the information not only to learn about the best areas to plant, but also to use in marketing their wines. “Looking at the whole geology of an area is useful for understanding and telling the ‘story’ of a vineyard. Celebrating differences and variety and diversity is crucial for marketing and the landscape here reflects these,” Harrison said.

The concept of “terroir” – the relationship between wine and the parent materials in which vines grow – was well-recognised by wine growers, winemakers and consumers, although it is tenuous and at times merely anecdotal. However soil attributes were relevant to heat, water storage and drainage, and in this way influence wine qualities. “We are better off thinking about what soil does, for example its influence on growth, than simply about the rocks from which the soils are derived,” Harrison said.

The report was put together over the last two years by Tonkin, associate Professor Peter Almond, current head of the Soil and Physical Sciences Department, Trevor Webb from Landcare Research, and other scientists. Tonkin hopes it will be a blueprint for what can be achieved in other winemaking areas.

Where to find some of New Zealand’s best Pinot Noir

Wine Country
. By Ray Isle. Executive Wine Editor. Food and Wine Magazine. Posted November 20, 2015

After Pedro’s, I did what many Christchurchian day-trippers do on weekends, which is drive out to the North Canterbury wine region (though most locals probably don’t stuff themselves with four pounds of roast lamb first). Getting there takes about 
45 minutes to an hour—it’s less than the distance from San Francisco to Napa Valley. And there’s a good reason to go: In its Waipara Valley subzone, North Canterbury produces some of the best Pinot Noirs and Rieslings in New Zealand.

Unlike Napa Valley, though, North Canterbury still feels bucolic. Its history as a sheep-farming center isn’t long past, as wine grapes were only planted here in the early 1980s. Nor is it crowded, though almost every winery has a tasting room (or cellar door, to use the New Zealand term). The local vibe 
is more one of people taking their time and chatting casually with the winery owner, who’s as likely to be pouring as any other employee.

Despite its proximity to the city, North Canterbury was barely affected by the Christchurch quake, though at Pegasus Bay, my first stop and one of the closest wineries to the city, winemaker Mat Donaldson did have a few disconcerting moments. “I was in our cellar when it happened,” he told me. “All the barrel stacks started swaying back and forth. But then it quieted down…except for this eerie swishing in the silence of all the wine in the barrels.”

We were standing in the cellar when he said this, those same stacks of 
wine barrels rising 15 feet above us 
on all sides. I have to admit I felt a momentary urge to just set down my glass and step safely outside. But 
we hadn’t gotten to tasting Pegasus Bay’s top Riesling yet, and given how good the others had been, the off chance of being smashed like a bug by 
a 900-pound barrel full of wine seemed a reasonable risk.

Food & Wine:
© Pyramid Valley Vineyards photos by Hetta Malone and Dean McKenzie

As the day wore on, I headed up-valley through the tiny town of Waipara itself onto Omihi Road. Many of the region’s best wineries are here, their vineyards sloping up to the east toward the Teviotdale Hills. The hills provide shelter from the ocean winds (the region is only about three miles from the Pacific coast), and their clay-limestone soils are exactly the kind that Pinot Noir loves—part of why the best Waipara Pinots can go up against any other region’s in the world.

Stylistically, Waipara Pinots are less fruity and straightforward than those of Central Otago, New Zealand’s most famous Pinot Noir region (or those of, say, the Russian River Valley in Sonoma). “They’re far more Old World in style, though I hate using that term,” Nicholas Brown, the winemaker at Black Estate told me. “More restrained and savory.” That was certainly true of his wines, which I tasted in the winery’s flower-filled café along with some locally sourced Akaroa salmon. And, while I’ve begun to feel lately that soon the only restaurant left in the world that’s not “locally sourced” is going to be Jack in the Box, taking a sip of good Pinot Noir while gazing across 
at New Zealand’s snowcapped Southern Alps reduced my cynicism level very quickly.
I drank a series of impressive 
wines as I continued along the line 
of the hills (a quick top three: Mountford, Greystone, Bellbird Spring), but for a combination of sheer 
beauty and great wine, I’d point anyone toward Pyramid Valley Vineyards. Tucked away in the more inland Waikari subregion, Pyramid Valley was founded by Mike and Claudia Weersing in 2000 and is the kind of step-over-the-dogs-to-get-
to-the-tasting-room place that always seems to me the platonic ideal of what a truly artisanal winery ought 
to be. More important than the inviting feel, though, are the amazing wines, the result of Mike Weersing’s Burgundian training combined with the exceptional fruit from Pyramid Valley’s tiny hillside vineyard. I was sipping the floral, gorgeously detailed 2013 Angel Flower Pinot Noir when Claudia Weersing said, “Oh, you have to see this!”

She pulled open the doors to the winery’s barrel room. There, covering the back wall, was an 8-by-26-foot mural: blue skies, strange cabalistic signs, geometric designs in brilliant purples, golds and oranges. It was a surreal moment, like walking 
through a magic door right back into Christchurch. The moment 
wasn’t made any less surreal by Claudia saying, as if it made perfect sense, “More pork. And yikes.”

I must have looked baffled, because she added, “Those are the artists 
who painted it—Morpork and Yikes. They’re a pair of street artists in 
the city. We commissioned the mural when we were building the 
winery.” It was as if I’d come full circle, from city to country and 
back again. The only thing left to do was finish my wine.

Where to Taste 
A few of the best wineries in the North Canterbury region, about an hour from Christchurch:

Black Estate:  Restrained Pinots, Chardonnays and Rieslings plus a superb café focusing on local ingredients.

Mountford:  Some of the region’s best Pinot Noirs and lovely flower gardens are the draw here.

Pegasus Bay:  The winery’s château-style building is also home 
to its award-winning restaurant.

Pyramid Valley:  Book ahead to taste the amazing Pinots and

Where to Stay

 The 53-room hotel overlooks Hagley Park and is walking distance from the Central Business District. From $242 per night;

WINE COUNTRY: Limestone Hills Guests at this vineyard estate’s quaint cottage in Amberley can go truffle-hunting with owner Gareth Renowden’s hound, Rosie. $200 per night ;

VIVA – New Zealand Herald – Pyramid Valley Angel Flower Pinot Noir 2012 – Top 10 Best wines of 2015 & Top Pinot Noir

top 10

The 10 Best Wines

The pick of the crop were chosen purely for their quality and individuality

By Jo Burzynska

What an exciting time the past 12 months have been for wine. I’ve certainly been spoiled for choice when putting together this annual list of the wines I’ve found the most thrilling.

I’ve been wowed at the new heights scaled by local favourites such as pinot noir and chardonnay, elevated further by a series of strong vintages.

I’ve been intrigued by the emergence of more left-field styles as winemakers start to push boundaries. And I’ve been impressed by the increasingly diverse array of wines we’re now seeing from overseas.

These are all represented here in a selection of currently available wines that cover different regions, varieties, styles, producers and prices.

They reflect the best of what New Zealand wine drinkers are enjoying today, while showcasing the most successful examples of new styles emerging.

Some are new launches; others established classics; all are outstanding examples of their kind, which I hope you’ll enjoy.

My top 10 wines of the year — a selection of different styles — were chosen purely for their quality and individuality.


Pyramid Valley Vineyards ‘Angel Flower’ Canterbury Pinot Noir 2012 $120
Mike and Claudia Weersing have been making some of the country’s most compelling wines from their very special North Canterbury site. The 2012 vintage is another step up, with the Angel Flower pinot noir from its north-facing clay-limestone slope the top pinot I’ve tried in the past year. It’s a delicate, beautifully perfumed wine, redolent of rosehips, rose and herbs, with a gossamer-textured palate of red cherries, plums and a subtle, savoury, gamey undercurrent, supported by a silky acidity and fine-grained tannins. From Great Little Vineyards, Fine Wine Delivery Company.