PYRAMID VALLEY: CABERNET FRANC FROM A FAR OFF LOCALE
“You may think you know New Zealand wines but I can assure you that until you have tasted Pyramid Valley, you have no idea. When I first sampled the earliest releases from this left-of-center producer, I was so drawn to the signature, ground-breaking if, at that time, not altogether flawless wines that I vowed to pay them a visit as soon as possible (which, given their location, is easier said than done). There was a spark of “otherness” about the wines that was so unlike anything else in New Zealand, it was difficult to say if proprietors Mike and Claudia Weersing were geniuses or mad or mad geniuses.” - Lisa Perotti-Brown, Wine Advocate
What you have here is one of the most delightful curiosities of my early career coming back to be re-discovered a decade later. Ten years ago in Saint Louis we were flying through the 2007 and 2009 vintages of this Cabernet Franc from the quirky and boundary-pushing Pyramid Valley Vintners. By all rights, this estate makes among the very best Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs in New Zealand, and they deserve your attention if you love Littorai, Hirsch, or any of the other elite Sonoma Coast producers. However, in the early aughts, PVV were also churning out small quantities of mind-boggling releases like single vineyard Kerner, Savagnin Rose, and Pinot Blanc. Steve Smith, one of New Zealand’s only Masters of Wine (MW) and the guy who founded and developed Craggy Range, always held a deep respect for the estate. When the owners passed away a few years ago, he left the Craggy Range project and was a partner in purchasing PVV.
Last month he visited AOC, and I asked about the old Cabernet Franc releases, which I thought were one of the best value releases of this variety on the planet. For those who don’t know, Hawkes Bay makes exceptional Bordeaux varieties and even has a section called the Gimblett Gravels whose deep stony soils resemble and nearly replicate top examples of Bordeaux. Nonetheless, Steve’s response was a lucky surprise; they had four or five cases remaining in a stateside distributor’s inventory. Well we just got them in. The style here is a bullseye between Napa and the Loire Valley. It is definitively more elegant and drinkable than almost all Napa releases, but without the pronounced bell pepper/garden salsa notes you find in the Loire. It combines the best of both worlds in a 13.8% ABV style that is both intellectually complex and gluggably silky.