Stonyridge Vineyard, Larose, Waiheke Island Mixed Case

Stonyridge Vineyard, Larose, Waiheke Island Mixed Case
When sourcing 14 vintages of Stonyridge for an upcoming tasting, we were presented with the chance to acquire a limited quantity of mature stock. You might recall that we have offered the 2008 and 2009 Stonyridge previously, but the chance to purchase perfectly stored, more mature stock at a stunning price could not be passed up. How stunning? Let’s just say that our price on these mature vintages (£50 per bottle in bond) compares very favourably to the 2010 vintage release price of £80 per bottle in bond.
As a consequence, we have created mixed cases each containing four bottles of vintages 2000, 2002 and 2003, available at £600 per 12 bottle case in bond.  Each of these vintages is a stand-out for Stonyridge and each vintage is drinking well today.  I include my tasting notes below to illustrate the subtle differences between the wines and will add that most of these vintages simply are not available in the market today - and certainly not in a mixed case format.
The Story
As I have previously commented, I first encountered the wines of Stonyridge when I was working in New Zealand at the Fromm Winery back in 2000. Fromm’s winemaker had an enviable cellar of great wines from around the world and was keen to put this budding MW through his paces with a blind tasting after a day’s work in the cellars. My first encounter with Stonyridge is memorable for two reasons; firstly, I was so impressed by the wine and secondly, I was so far adrift with my guess at origin – nothing more than a hemisphere away!
This small, six-hectare Waiheke Island estate is something of a well-kept secret. Although well-known to many critics and buyers, it often does not appear in the limelight as production is small and new vintages tend to sell out via subscription direct from the domaine. Stonyridge has been run organically since 1988. The vineyards are located in a north-facing valley, which is sheltered from the south-westerly winds by a long ridge which runs from one coastline to the other. Of the small range of wines produced, the Larose (a Bordeaux-style blend incorporating Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot) lead the way. There are just 1,500 cases of Larose produced on average each year.
Owner and winemaker, Stephen White, crafts what many believe to be the finest Cabernet-led wine from New Zealand and moreover one of the finest from the Antipodes – it was always his aim to track down where Bordeaux varieties could ripen to perfection in NZ. This proved to be easier said than done as the Ministry of Agriculture was initially uninterested in wine production on Waiheke Island. White comments that the Island was, at the time, the home to hippies and marijuana production and not much else! After enlisting the support of renowned viticulturist Dr. Richard Smart, White finally received approval and the first vines were planted in 1982.  After just five years, it was the very young vine 1987 Larose that catapulted this estate to fame, making Stonyridge New Zealand’s first cult wine.
Renowned wine critic James Halliday of the Australian Wine Companion sums up White’s success: ‘I have seen many New World attempts to emulate the Bordeaux method of growing grapes, none more convincing than that of Stephen White at Stonyridge…..A vertical tasting did no more than confirm my view that Stephen White is making New Zealand’s finest Cabernet-based red wines.’
The Vintages
2000 – A great vintage for Stonyridge with favourable weather delivering a good even crop. At the point of release, proprietor Stephen White considered this his finest vintage to date.
Revealing scented, fragrant nuances to its sweet dark berry fruit and cassis on the nose, the 2000 reveals a superb complexity with savoury and gently spicy notes on the palate. This is drinking superbly, very much a claret style with cedary elements to its ripe black and red fruits. An intense vintage for the estate that retains a fine freshness. Long, pure with a flowing finish. (SL)
2002 – Another fine vintage which owed much to warm summer with only light rainfall.
Perhaps a bolder vintage for the estate in some ways, with classic black fruits, cedar and tobacco leaf on the nose. The deep palate is well-knit, with generous fruit, fine-grained tannins and a sense of a gravelly, stony quality. This is starting to develop greater complexity, but is seemingly less evolved than the 2000. Drinking now and yet capable of ageing over the next five years. This is a great vintage – persistent, pure with a marked lift to the finish.  (SL)
2003 – A fascinating vintage with half the usual production, partly on account of low fruit set. The summer was cool and led to a late harvest.
The 2003 vintage reveals notes of mocha allied to sweet blackberry and cassis. There is a hint of liquorice on the palate, with savoury elements starting to develop and add complexity to the gentle peppery black fruit. There is a juicy, succulent aspect to this vintage and, while hugely enjoyable at its current maturity, this would also have the potential to develop over the next four or five years as desired. (SL)
I will also add that at a blind tasting we held last year, Stonyridge 2008 showed incredibly well, coming fifth out of a star-studded field of 14 Bordeaux blends from around the world. In fact, across our panel, Stonyridge scored higher than Château Margaux from the same vintage. Overall, it was the lowest value of all the wines shown. The result was deemed surprising by some, but Stonyridge invariably impresses whenever we show the wine, almost irrespective of vintage.
We have a very limited number of these cases available so if you are interested, please let us know as soon as possible. We are anticipating a very strong uptake for this rare opportunity.
Stonyridge Mixed Cases (Four bottles of vintages 2000, 2002 and 2003)
£600 per 12 bottle case in bond.
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