What's Cookin' on Wine with Michael Horn

06/20 MATT DICEY, MT DIFFICULTY WINES, SARAH BRANDON, RUTH'S CHRIS STEAK HOUSE

June 22, 201652 min
MATT DICEY - WINEMAKER / GENERAL MANAGER, MT DIFFICULTY WINES ABOUT MATT DICEY: Matt (aka Le Grand Fromage) has a lifelong association with the wine industry, and is a fourth generation vigneron. After achieving a Masters Degree in Oenology and Viticulture Matt spent four years gaining experience overseas. He returned to Bannockburn in 1998 to try his hand at the ultimate winemaking challenge – making the best wines possible in a region with infinite potential. Matt's winter passion is skiing with his family, while summers bring jet boating and mountain biking "adventures". OUR STORY Today Mt Difficulty Estate is comprised of six vineyards; Templars Hill, Pipeclay Terrace, Menzies Terrace, Mansons Farm, Target Gully and Long Gully – total plantings of 40 hectares protected by the rain shadow of Mount Difficulty in Bannockburn, Central Otago. The region provides New Zealand’s only “continental” style climate combined with unique soils ideally suited for growing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris. It all began in the early 1990's, when the owners of five newly-planted vineyards in Bannockburn shook hands and decided to work together to produce wine under one label, Mt Difficulty. The handshake bound the owners of Molyneux, Mansons Farm, Verboeket Estate and Full Circle until 2004 when Mt Difficulty Wines Ltd was formed, and the majority of the individual vineyards passed into the ownership of the company. As a result, Mt Difficulty Wines Ltd now owns some of the oldest vineyards in the Bannockburn sub-region of Central Otago in New Zealand's rugged South Island. The vine age gives our wines, particularly the Pinot Noirs, extra complexity and concentration. The Bannockburn area is internationally recognised as one of the few places in the world outside Burgundy where the pernickety Pinot Noir variety has found a home. Parts of New Zealand and cooler areas on the western seaboard of the United States are the only other regions where Pinot Noir seems to truly flourish. The unique microclimate of the Bannockburn area is partially created by the presence of Mount Difficulty which overlooks the southern Cromwell basin, and is the namesake of Mt Difficulty Wines. Mount Difficulty is integral in providing low rainfall and humidity for the region. Bannockburn enjoys hot summers, a large diurnal temperature variation and long cool autumns; conditions which bring the best out of the Pinot Noir grapes. These conditions, along with soils which are ideal for viticulture, provide an excellent basis not only for Pinot Noir, but also for Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Chardonnay. The soils are a mix of clay and gravels, but all feature a high pH level; grapes produce their best wines on sweet soils. The Mt Difficulty brand started in 1998 with a very small production of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, made by Grant Taylor of Gibbston Valley Wines (now of Valli Wines). Prior to this the Gang sold their grapes to either Gibbston Valley or Chard Farm. The Air New Zealand wine awards in 1999 put Mt Difficulty on the map, with our 1998 Pinot Noir winning a gold medal and the Chardonnay, silver. In 1999 Matt Dicey came on board as winemaker, and he made the 1999 and 2000 vintage wines at Longburn Winery in Cromwell's budding industrial area. In 1999 the range was increased to include Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc; while Gewürztraminer and Riesling were added in 2000. Gewürztraminer proved to be too difficult to grow economically (the variety often has a poor fruit-set) and the vines were pulled out prior to 2001. More recently the Mt Difficulty Chardonnay vineyards in Bannockburn have been replaced with other vines, including Chenin Blanc, leaving the Growers Series label (introduced in 2011 to showcase the terroir of other sub-regions) to fly the Chardonnay flag from 2010. The vintage release in October 2001 marked a progression for Mt Difficulty Wines, with several Single Vineyard wines being seen for the first time. The 2001 wh

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