Ata Rangi -- "dawn sky, new beginning" -- is one of Cream's most eagerly sought after producers as is befitting for this gem from New Zealand. It is owned and managed by Clive Paton, his wife Phyll, and Clive's sister Alison. Clive planted the original, barren, stony 12-acre home paddock at the edge of the Martinborough village in 1980 and, in doing so, was one of a handful of people who pioneered grape growing in the area.
Clustered around the northern edge of Martinborough Terrace, the 30 hectares (75 acres) of neighboring blocks owned or managed by Ata Rangi lie within a 1 km radius of the winery. Ata Rangi manages close to 40 different small plots of Pinot, each differentiated by site, clone/rootstock, trellising, training system and shelter. Yields are very low, typically 1.5 to 2 T/acre (4 T/hectare). This is due to the usually cool, very windy spring weather which affects fruit set and also to the lean, stony soils which are low in vigor and fertility. All grapes are hand-picked. Vines are now 25 years old, a factor in the wines ascending quality, as is this hands-on emphasis in the vineyard.
For Pinot Noir, the main clones favored and planted are Abel (aka the Ata Rangi clone) which, legend has it, was brought in illegally from France in the late 70's; the Dijon selections, mainly 667, 777, 114 and 115; Pomard, also known as Clone 5 and a smaller amount of 10/5. Most plants are on rootstock - typically 3309 or 101/14.
About Martinborough: While distinctly 'cool climate' with real frost risk in spring and dramatic day/night temperature swings during the long ripening period, Martinborough is nevertheless at the warmer end of the spectrum for Pinot Noir in New Zealand. This allows fully ripe but not 'cooked' fruit. The area gets low rainfall as mountains to the east, west and south catch most of the rain. Gale force winds, particularly during flowering in early summer, inhibit fruit set and contribute to very low yields. Wind also means low humidity, low disease pressure, dried out soils and naturally lean canopies. The renowned Martinborough Terrace is formed from ancient riverbed gravels uplifted over centuries by earthquakes. It drains like a sieve.
Ata Rangi is a member of Family of Twelve and Complexity USA NZ Fine Wine Initiative.
2013 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir Named #5 in the Top 100 Wines for 2015 by James Suckling (out of 9,000 wines tasted and rated).
Ata Rangi named one of the Top 10 Pinot Noir Producers in the World by the French Magazine En Magnum.
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