Empson USA Escarpment

Fact Sheet

Location: Martinborough, New Zealand

Escarpment was founded in 1998 in Martinborough. Today, the winery is owned by Larry McKenna who is also the winemaker. Escarpment?s aim is simple: to continually produce the very best of tomorrow?s definitive New World wines. Under Larry?s leadership, the team aims to reward wine lovers with progressive and suggestive wines that encourage them to venture to the edge of wine appreciation.

Points of Differentiation

  • Escarpment is accredited with Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand?
  • Crafted by world-renown Pinot Noir producer, Larry McKenna.
  • Escarpment?s Insight Series presents four sites Kupe, Kiwa, Pahi and Te Rehua each of which reflects their soil type, topography, and vineyard profile.
  • The mild climate allows grapes to develop powerful fruit characters with finely textured tannins.

The History

Escarpment Vineyard was established in 1998 as a joint business venture between Robert Kirby and Larry McKenna after the two met by chance. Larry and Robert quickly hit it off and realized they had more than a love for Pinot Noir in common. Serious talks about establishing a definitive New World vineyard began in earnest, resulting in one of the most significant vineyard developments in the New Zealand district of Martinborough.

Deciding to establish a vineyard was one thing, but finding that particular piece of land that offered the essential ingredients required for optimal grape growing and winemaking was another. Although they considered other wine growing areas in New Zealand, Larry and his wife, Sue, kept coming back to the Martinborough area.

The winery sits on terraced land along the banks of the Huangarua River. Overlooking the vineyard are the Aorangi Ranges. According to Maori legend, the great Polynesian explorer who discovered New Zealand, Kupe, left his three canoes, Nga Waka, on top of the range, giving rise to the now familiar landmark of the district, the three flat-topped hills on top of the range, which resemble upturned canoes.

This warrior and his story inspired the vineyard?s distinctive brand and logo. The term ESCARPMENT comes from the kilometer-long cliff just behind the winery, which drops sharply down to the river.

A name well-recognized for Pinot Noir, Larry McKenna made the Pinots at Martinborough Vineyards famous in the 90s and, in turn, received the moniker ?Godfather of Pinot Noir? and ?Maestro.? Known for his relaxed and unassuming nature, Larry applies this same approach to his winemaking. Rather than force a wine into doing something out of character, he works with the grapes to develop distinctively superior wines that are true to nature, quality, and vintage.

The Terroir

The Escarpment soils are alluvial gravels laid down over 20,000 years ago by the Huangarua River. With alluvial loams layered over the gravels, this composition ensures excellent drainage - one of the critical prerequisites for nurturing and producing premium quality grapes and healthy grape vines.

The climate is cool with summer days rarely exceeding 86?F, allowing grapes to ripen very slowly and to develop pure, powerful fruit characters with finely textured tannins. The rainfall is the lowest in the North Island and provides very stable weather patterns during autumn, the all-important harvest period.