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Big Points and Press for the “Godfather of Pinot” - 01/26/2018 - New Zealand

While Larry McKenna may not be a household name here in the States, in New Zealand he is universally hailed at one of the most respected winemakers in the business. His prowess with Pinot Noir is legendary, earning such titles as, the ‘Prince of Pinot Noir’, the ‘Godfather of Pinot Noir’, and ‘maestro.’ Hence, when the opportunity came along to pick up five of his highly rated Pinots at super-sharp prices we jumped. All have press well into the 90s and count among the best we’ve had from Martinborough. Across the board, they beautifully capture the heights of the stellar 2014 vintage offering great intensity, verve, and restrained power. Sourced from sustainably farmed vineyards, the purity of the fruit is central to the success of the sublime bottlings. For fans of Pinot, they are must have expressions that are a delight to drink in their youth, but also have the body and structure to develop for decades. This set shows why New Zealand is quickly becoming the go-to source for those who enjoy world-class Pinot. Unlike Burgundy or the cult Pinot producers out of Sonoma, the wines from Escarpment can be had for well under the $100 mark, but even those rarely see this acclaim. As you might expect, quantities are very limited on the single vineyard expressions, so don’t delay in securing your bottles.

Vintage Item Name Score Qty Retail Link
2014 Escarpment "Estate" Pinot Noir Martinborough 94 10 $34.99 View
2014 Escarpment "Kiwa" Pinot Noir Martinborough (Elsewhere $70) 99 34 $49.99 View
2014 Escarpment "Pahi" Pinot Noir Martinborough (Elsewhere $60) 97 33 $49.99 View
2014 Escarpment "Te Rehua" Pinot Noir Martinborough (Elsewhere $55+) 99 31 $49.99 View
2014 Escarpment "Kupe" Pinot Noir Martinborough 99 29 $59.99 View


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2014 Escarpment "Estate" Pinot Noir Martinborough - 10 available ($34.99)

94 points Wine Enthusiast: "Winemaker Larry McKenna now has 30 years of experience with Martinborough Pinot Noir, and its on full display in this blend assembled from various plots around the village. Aromas of flowers, tea and cola lead into flavors of blackberries, vanilla and spice, framed by ample tannins. Drink 2020-2030."

93 points Wine Spectator: "Pure and expressive, with juicy raspberry puree and fleshy cherry flavors that are crisp and vibrant, showing accents of clove, nutmeg and black pepper. Earl Grey tea details linger on the finish. The tannins provide a firm backbone. Drink now through 2026."

93 points Raymond Chan: "Very dark, deep, ruby-red colour with slight black hues at the heart and lighter purple on the rim. The nose is fresh and firmly concentrated with ripe and vibrant fruit aromas of dark red berry and black cherry fruit harmoniously entwined with dark herbs and background whole bunch stalk complexities. The aromatics build in depth and intensity with aeration, unfolding classical violet florals and spice elements. Medium-full bodied, the fruit is rich and plush, and vibrantly succulent, showing flavours of dark red berryfruit and black cherries with complexing dark herb and whole bunch stalk detail. The palate is firmly concentrated with fine-grained tannin extraction in support, balancing the lusciousness."

92 points Bob Campbell: "Impressively dense and concentrated pinot noir, with a mix of dark plum, dark cherry, savoury and earthy characters plus a seasoning of spice. Quite a structured red with obvious potential, although delivers pleasure now if enjoyed with food."

Staff ImageBrian Fogarty | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: December 04, 2017

Escarpment pours every ounce of passion they have into making wines at every level: hand plunging in open topped ferment followed by a gentle pressing ensures striking wines that compel you to dive deeper into the glass. A final kiss of French oak (25% new) for only 11 months finishes the wine to a masters perfection. Dark rich fruit from the long hang time in 2014 is augmented by an earthy collage of mineral tones driven by the alluvial soils that speak clearly in this bottling. Ripe tannins define the structure in the long finish as you anticipate your next sip.

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2014 Escarpment "Kiwa" Pinot Noir Martinborough (Elsewhere $70) ($49.99)

99 points Raymond Chan: "Dark, even ruby-red colour, a little lighter on edge with slight garnet hues. This has a very full and gently voluminous nose unfolding layers of dark red berry fruits entwined with waves of dried herbs, spices and nuances of cedar. The nose has a refined and concentrated core, and is beautifully ethereal and exotic, revealing funky Middle Eastern spice and cedary oak detail in the glass. Medium-bodied, the palate features rich and lusciously sweet red berry fruit flavours harmoniously interwoven with spices, dark herbs and cedar with nutty oak detail adding interest. The fruit is supported by very fine-grained, silky tannins that lend structural finesse, and the wine flows effortlessly revealing spice and whole cluster nuances as it carries to a very long, lingering, elegant finish with flowery tannins. This is an elegant, silky smooth, exotic Pinot Noir with red fruits complexed by spices, herbs and cedar."

95 points James Suckling: "A gently smoky and highly nuanced nose offers discreet yet complex sappy notes as well as a lighter stony and almost chalky edge. Beautifully ripe red and dark cherries grow and grow in the glass. The palate has a curvy, fleshy shape to it; it's really smooth and supple thanks to nut-ripe tannins. Hints of graphite-like savory flavours and bright dark cherry fruit power through the neatly framed, crisp finish. Best from 2018."

93 points Wine Spectator: "Dense and concentrated, with herb and cola accents to the tangy berry and plum flavors. Dark and brooding, with date nut bread, tobacco and baking spice details lingering on the finish. Drink now through 2027. 300 cases made."

91 points Vinous: "(91+) Bright, dark red. Aromatic scents of anise, red licorice, black pepper and herbs on the nose; more salty than fruity. Suave and juicy in the mouth, with enough raspberry fruit to support the pepper and herb elements. This silky wine conveys a very sexy soil-driven character and complicating salinity. No easy sweetness here but the finish shows excellent length and lift. The tightest of these three single-vineyard Pinots, finishing with a firm tannic spine. This should evolve gracefully in bottle and may ultimately merit an even higher score."

Staff ImageBrian Fogarty | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: December 04, 2017

Sitting on terraced land above the banks of the Huangarua River, the Cleland Vineyard is the rocky, well drained birthplace of the Kiwa Pinot Noir. The 2014 bottling is strikingly balanced starting with ripe black cherries, streaks of raspberry and an earthy, composted leaf terroir folded into the background. A long savory finish gives you pause as you anticipate the next sip.

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2014 Escarpment "Pahi" Pinot Noir Martinborough (Elsewhere $60) ($49.99)

97 points James Suckling: "The clear and swirling whole-bunch aromatics here are really charming and bursting with attractive and complex pinot perfumes such as rose petals, sweet spices and bright red-tinged berry fruits. The palate has handy definition, light and shade, powerful yet reserved detail and long tannins that run in unison through a very focused, juicy and punchy crisp finish. I love this wine for its elegance and power; it's great pinot at its finest. Best from 2018."

96-97 points Raymond Chan: "Dark, deep, even ruby-red colour, a little lighter on the rim with some garnet hues. The nose is elegantly proportioned and tightly concentrated with deep and rich fruit aromas of dark-red berry fruit and black cherries entwined with penetrating dark herbal elements along with fine, whole cluster stalk notes and suggestions of stems, along with nutty oak. Medium-full bodied and fine in presentation, this has real mouthfeel and presence with a packed core of dark red berry fruit melded with dark herbs and floral fragrances. The fruit is underlined by fine-grained, velvety textures and extract, allowing the fruit richness to prevail. The fruit is fresh and has vitality, and flows with great energy and tension to a long, smooth, fine-textured, lingering finish. This is an elegant, but richly concentrated Pinot Noir with concentrated dark fruits and aromatic herbal and floral layers, and a lively, velvety palate."

95 points Bob Campbell: "Lively, dense, high energy pinot noir, with a complex array of flavours including plum, cherry, tobacco, spice, anise and nutty oak. A firmly-structured wine that's best with food now but should age well."

93 points Wine Enthusiast: "Plummy yet cool, with a greenish, floral note that adds lift and interest to the dark-fruit aromas and flavors. This is a bit austere and dusty, but long on the finish, so drink 2018-2030."

92 points Wine Spectator: "Juicy and vibrant, with cherry, raspberry and pomegranate flavors and an earthy, firm edge. Features aromatic accents of dried lavender, nutmeg and fresh tomato leaf. Drink now through 2026. 250 cases made."

90 points Vinous: "(90+) Deep red with ruby tones. More anise and herbs on the nose than the basic bottling, along with raspberry and a hint of fresh dill. Broad, sweet and fine-grained, with the enticing raspberry fruit component complicated by herbs, spices, earth and minerals. Really spreads out to dust the palate without leaving any impression of weight. Finishes with a youthful edge and noteworthy energy. This essentially generous wine is kept firm in the early going by its stem component."

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2014 Escarpment "Te Rehua" Pinot Noir Martinborough (Elsewhere $55+) ($49.99)

99 points Raymond Chan: "Very dark, deep, black-hued ruby-red colour, a little lighter on the rim, and youthful in appearance. The nose is full with robust and vigorous aromas of rich, ripe, dark-red and blackberry fruit with black cherries and layers of savoury dark herbs, whole cluster stalk detail, in an amalgam with violet florals. Complexing earth and balsamic nuances add to the aromatic array. Medium-full bodied, lusciously rich and succulent flavours of ripe, dark red berry and blackberry fruit are intermixed with complex layers of spices, dark red florals, oak cedar, whole bunch stalk and herbal detail, along with balsamic, earth and nutty oak elements. The flavours are mouthfilling and near robust, the sweetness and vibrancy balanced by fine-grained, but significant structure and grip, and bright acidity. The flavours continue to blossom as the wine leads to a powerful, textured, lingering finish. This is a very rich and succulent, multi-faceted black-fruited Pinot Noir with layers of complexing flavours, and plenty of structure and dimension."

96 points Bob Campbell: "Perhaps the most accessible of all the 2014 single vineyard Escarpment pinot noirs with plum and berry flavours, plus a strong influence of chocolate and vanilla oak character. The wine exhibits real power, showing considerable length. A moderately firm structure with the potential to cellar well."

93 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "Medium ruby colored, the 2014 Te Rehua Pinot Noir displays a gorgeous core of cherries, pomegranate and forest floor with wild thyme and lavender hints. Crisp, firm and chewy in the mouth, it offers elegant fruit with great intensity, going savory/earthy in the long finish."

92 points Wine Spectator: "Robust and intense, with plenty of fresh earth notes, muscular tannins and smoky tea, rosemary and roasted plum flavors. Complex and generous on the finish, ending harmoniously. Drink now through 2026. 350 cases made."

91 points Vinous: "Bright, dark red-ruby. Distinctly dark aromas of black raspberry, black cherry, anise, licorice, black pepper and black tea. Silky and enveloping; a very spicy, darker style of Pinot but with a wonderfully fine-grained, seamless texture. Plenty of fruit here, complicated by underlying salinity. Finishes with very suave, building tannins and sneaky length."

Staff ImageBrian Fogarty | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: December 04, 2017

Pinot Noir from the McCreanor vineyard famous for its deep, gravely subsoil; Te Rehua is a fruit forward wine that experienced 12 days of punch down and then matured gracefully in only 30% new French oak. Black cherries and an undercurrent of rocky mineral are braced with firm, mature tannins that helps the wine find its balanced expression in a long unctuous finish.

Staff ImageKirk Walker | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: November 30, 2017

The nose has intense but cool red fruits that are barely framed by a fine but faint cocoa dust and subtle oak spice note. With a little time a diffused savory herbal note appears behind the fruit. It is a fairly big Pinot with richness and great mid-palate texture. The fruit commands your attention, it puts the oak and tannin in their place, on the periphery. It is not a "fruity" wine but the fruit has intensity. A dry lingering finish where the oak spice and savory elements build on the finish. This is a very impressive Pinot.

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2014 Escarpment "Kupe" Pinot Noir Martinborough ($59.99)

99 points Raymond Chan: "The tenth release of a 'Kupe' Pinot Noir. Abel clone fruit from vines close-planted in 1999 from the 'Kupe' vineyard on Te Muna Road, indigenous yeast fermented with 70% whole bunch to 14.1% alc. in French wooden cuves, the wine spending 22 days on skins and aged 18 months in 50% new French oak barriques. Full, even, deep, black-hued ruby-red colour, a little lighter on the rim. This has a fulsome and near robust nose with deeply packed and concentrated aromas of ripe dark-red berry fruit and savoury black cherries entwined with dark herb and black mineral notes. Complexing, piquant aromas of whole cluster stalk elements along with spices and cedar, and nutty oak emerge in the glass. The aromas are enriched by violet floral and visceral elements, and the whole cluster aromas intensify with aeration. Medium-full bodied, the palate possesses fulsome and powerfully deep flavours of rich, ripe, black berried fruits with black cherries, and layers of dark herbs, savoury whole bunch stalk notes, and a complexing amalgam of cedar, spices, balsam, blood and earth. This is great richness, balanced by considerable structure, the tannins fine and grainy. The mouthfeel has great energy and vitality, the acidity and alcohol providing drive and power, carrying the wine to a robust and vigorous, long finish. This is a powerfully structured and concentrated, complex, black-fruited Pinot Noir with layers of whole bunch, spice, earth and visceral complexities."

98 points Bob Campbell: "Escarpment's highly regarded flagship pinot noir from the favourable 2014 vintage is predictably good. An intense and complex wine, with dark and dried fruits interwoven with spices and flattered by chocolate-like oak. As good as the wine is now it promises to deliver much more in time. Super-serious Martinborough pinot."

97 points James Suckling: "I saw these grapes on the vine the night before harvest in 2014 and they were remarkable for their flavorsome depth and thick but supple skin texture. The wine carries the same qualities. It's deeply complex, indulging from the outset in graphite and black cherries on the nose, in fine combination with dark spices, rosehip, toasty oak and sweet, freshly dug earth. The palate rolls through like a perfectly formed wave, delivering an arc of dark-plum and cherry fruit, as the tannins curl and twist on the finish before releasing a fresh surge of tangy plum flavors. They hold long and bold, making for a highly impressive wine. There are several phases already, but this will really peak around 2021 and hold for several years after."

94 points Wine Spectator: "Deep and complex, with vanilla bean and roasted beet notes to the licorice-scented plum and wild blackberry flavors. Smoke, frankincense and sarsaparilla details mingle with cedar and black tea elements on the long, velvety, expressive finish. Drink now through 2026. 500 cases made."

92 points Vinous: "Bright red with ruby tones. Alluring aromas of black raspberry, musky spices, dark chocolate, anise, peppery stems and resiny earth. Wonderfully silky and plush, offering insidious intensity to its flavors of raspberry, dusty herbs and saline minerality; really mounts toward the back end. The slowly building finish dusts the entire palate with very smooth tannins and leaves behind an impression of savory extract. The longest and thickest of the Pinots I tasted this year from Escarpment, but the wine's herbal, saline and spice elements keep it light on its feet."

91 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "Medium ruby-purple colored, the 2014 Kupe Pinot Noir offers subdued notes of cranberries, raspberry leaves, and Bing cherries with suggestions of underbrush and tobacco. Medium-bodied, the palate is elegantly fruited with a taut backbone of chewy tannins and great freshness, finishing long and pure."

Staff ImageBrian Fogarty | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: December 04, 2017

Complexity, texture, and structure are stated goals of famed winemaker Larry McKenna for his Escarpment wines and Kupe is where he reached perfection on all three. Immediately out of the glass the wine draws you in with bold, dark cherry fruit notes that have an added depth of toasted quince zest which leave your eyebrows raised as you go back in for more. Blackberries and limestone greet you for round two and compel you for a confirming first sip. Balanced and mouth filling, the complexity of the nose is completed on the palate as the wine adds spicy echoes into the finish.