Do one thing and do it well.  

In this case, the thing they do is grow Pinot Noir.  This notoriously fickle grape does not tolerate sub-standard growing conditions and Burgundy has long been leader of the pack.  There has long been plenty of speculation as to where in the world will challenge Burgundy’s supremacy.  New Zealand and Oregon are putting on a very compelling show.

Lowburn Ferry

The phrase “great wine is made in the vineyard” is particularly apt for Lowburn Ferry.  

Owners Jean and Roger Gibson are totally focused on growing the best Pinot Noir they can from their tiny vineyard nestled beneath the Pisa mountain range in Central Otago.   They bought the land in 1991 and planted the vineyard in 2000 on a site selected for premium grape growing with its sheltered north facing aspect (north facing in the southern hemisphere is towards the sun), underlying mineral-rich and well-drained schist substructure and its biologically active soils from the previous 100 years of sheep farming.  They are committed to environmentally friendly sustainable winegrowing too.

Jean and Roger are both extremely knowledgeable about all matters horticultural.  Roger has a 1st class Masters degree in Applied Science from Lincoln University.  As well as managing his own vineyards he is a tutor in viticulture/horticulture at Otago Polytechnic.  Jean has a degree in Horticultural Science from Massey University.  Together, they love spending time in the vineyard and this talent and enthusiasm becomes apparent when you get this wine into the glass.

NZ’s foremost wine writer Bob Campbell MW had this to say about Lowburn Ferry in his ‘Top Secrets’ feature in Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine, Feb 2011. “Its recipe for success is location and good viticulture…”  About Jean and Roger he says: “Between them there’s not much they don’t know about growing grapes.  They could do the world a favour by growing more.”  And what Bob doesn’t know about NZ wine just isn’t worth knowing.

Lowburn Ferry is perhaps just about to take off as the 2011 Home Block has been selected by British Airways to serve on their first class cabin service on their Asia-Pacific flights, a serious endorsement for these wines. Thankfully you don’t have to fly first class to Tokyo to get your hands on some of this fabulous wine.  We have some right here…

Lowburn Ferry Home Block Pinot Noir 2011

Lowburn Ferry Home Block P Noir 2011 Pk6

£29.50 Offer Price £25.07

The Gibsons say of the 2011 vintage that the wines are ‘typically feminine and delicate in nature with fine tannins and lifted aromatics’.  ‘The wine has red and dark fruit on the nose, with spice, dried herbs and leather.  Rich, sweet dark fruit on the palate with a hint of cedar oak.  A medium bodied, complex wine with concentrated, fine grained tannins and good persistence on the finish.  Enjoy on its own or with foods such as lamb, poultry, duck and venison.  It will continue to develop depth and complexity for 5-7 years.’

“Full-coloured, it is mouthfilling and savoury, with strong, ripe cherry and spice flavours, finely balanced tannins and excellent complexity.  Best drinking 2014+” Michael Cooper – Buyer’s Guide to New Zealand Wines.


J. Christopher

On the other side of the world (coincidentally (?) also at 45° latitude) lies a second region rapidly gathering a reputation for world class Pinot Noir.  The Willamette Valley in Oregon with the Coast Mountains to the west and Cascade Mountains to the east is a sheltered, moderate and relatively cool climate perfect for Pinot Noir and aromatic white wines.

In the years prior to striking out on his own, winemaker and rock star Jay Christopher Somers had been learning his craft in Oregon and NZ learning from the best and developing his own style of making wine.  In summer 2004, he took off to Germany to help out a shorthanded team at vintage.  Over a few glasses of Riesling, he and the winemaker discovered a mutual adoration of Pinot Noir and a plan began to hatch.  His boss that summer was none other than Germany’s most celebrated winemaker – Ernst Loosen.  A partnership started to form and in 2010 they built a new winery Newburg, Oregon.  This old world / new world collaboration mirrors Somers’ winemaking philosophy and has formed the basis for their entire partnership.

“Our mission is to make old-world wines with new-world terroir” (Jay Somers).

“Jay doesn’t try to replicate Germany or Burgundy in the New World, but rather to bring an Old World sensibility to the creation of New World wine – a sensibility that favors great structure and expression of terroir.”  (E. Loosen).

Ernst Loosen is not the only fan of Jay Somers; Wine Spectator’s Matt Kramer named him ‘one of Oregon’s finest winemakers’ in his 2014 Wines of the Year review.

J. Christopher Williamette Valley Pinot Noir 2011

J Christopher Willamette Pinot Noir 11

£31.99 / €41.85 Offer Price £27.19 / €35.57

The flagship wine from this petite, top quality producer.  The wine is a blend of grapes from excellent parcels in different parts of the valley.  This is classic Oregon Pinot Noir with ripe dark fruit flavours, silky tannins and nuanced aromas.  Delicious with roast duck, mushroom risotto or some soft cheeses.