- Tasting Notes & Technical Details
Ata Rangi, meaning ‘dawn sky, new beginning’ is owned and managed by a family trio – Clive Paton, his wife Phyll and his sister Alison. In 1980 Clive planted the bare, stony, home paddock at the edge of Martinborough, becoming one of a handful of people who pioneered grape growing in the area. Ata Rangi’s first vineyard covered less than five hectares on deep, free-draining alluvial gravels – the original course of a local river which flows from the hills that flank the eastern side of the valley. Today they are joined by a strong team including winemaker Helen Masters, who in 2019 was awarded New Zealand Winemaker of the Year by Gourmet Traveller WINE magazine, as recognition of her 16 years’ work at Ata Rangi.
Ata Rangi is renowned for its Pinot Noir and is widely regarded as New Zealand’s top Pinot Noir producer. They were awarded Five Stars in the ‘2019 Great New Zealand Pinot Noir Classification’ by Matthew Jukes and Tyson Stelzer for the consistent gold medal standard of their wines. At the 2010 International Pinot Noir Conference, Ata Rangi Pinot Noir was one of two producers granted the title of ‘Tipuranga Teitei o Aotearoa’ (which translates from Māori as ‘Great Growth of New Zealand’ or ‘Grand Cru’), in recognition of their unique site and of the family’s commitment to evolving and developing New Zealand Pinot Noir. The oldest Pinot Noir vines, which include a clone allegedly smuggled from Burgundy, were planted in 1980.
The ‘McCrone Vineyard’ Pinot Noir, from vines planted in 2001 using a mix of clones, is situated just around the corner from Ata Rangi’s home block. Its remarkably different soil composition, with a compact seam of clay, produces a silkier wine than the textural style of the Martinborough Pinot Noir. The winemaking is exactly the same as for the fabled Ata Rangi Pinot Noir, offering a fascinating comparison of two distinct, site-specific expressions of this wonderful grape.
Crimson Pinot Noir, produced from vines aged between 5 and 25 years, is inspired by a love of New Zealand’s native ‘Christmas trees,’ the red blooming Rata and Pohutukawa. Sales of this wine support Project Crimson, a charitable conservation trust which plants and protects these trees across the country. Clive is an avid conservationist, planting more than 70,000 native trees at Ata Rangi’s ‘bush block,’ 20 minutes south of Martinborough. In 2012 Clive was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his contribution to both viticulture and conservation in New Zealand.
Visionary grape-growers Don and Carole McCrone own a four hectare Pinot Noir vineyard in Yamhill, Oregon. Ata Rangi owners Clive and Phyll Paton first met them at the International Pinot Celebration in Oregon in 1996. Don and Carole confided that they'd dreamt of replicating the single vineyard concept in the southern hemisphere. With the McCrones quickly becoming firm friends of the Ata Rangi family - and the whole team's enthusiasm for the project - Don and Carole found and eventually purchased an ideal four hectare block on the stony, free-draining Martinborough Terrace, just across the road from Ata Rangi to the east of the home block. In 2001, Clive chose what he believed to be the most suitable clones for premium Pinot Noir to plant on this site; Ata Rangi Abel clone, naturally, plus Dijon selections (115 and 777) and Clone 5, with optimal trellising and recommended vine spacings for low yields and top quality. A compact seam of clay, 800mm deep, gives this vineyard's soils a unique water-holding ability and has a cooling effect on the roots.
2017 was a cool vintage, particularly through the summer months. The overall growing degree days were well below the normal range and as a result, picking started two weeks later than average. The fruit was harvested with ripe tannins but low sugars.
Hand-picked fruit underwent four to six days' pre-fermentation maceration, 40% of which was whole bunch. Fermentation with indigenous yeasts peaked at 32°C and continued for up to 21 days until pressing. The wine underwent malolactic fermentation in barrel and spent 11 months in low-toast French oak barriques, of which 25% were new.
The 2017 'McCrone Vineyard' Pinot Noir is alluring on the nose and energetic on the palate, with classic characteristics from a cooler vintage that the season delivered over the summer months. On the nose, delicate and precise aromas of wild berries are married with dried flowers, spice and herbal nuances. On the palate, fine chalky tannins bring a supple quality to the wine, and a vibrant acidity carries the intense flavours onto the long finish.