It now seems like ages ago that I was stomping my way around a winery in Marlborough. They say the best way to fight the jet lag is to keep moving and busy. So with that in mind I hopped right back into work and presented at the West London Wine School Syrah grape debate last Tuesday evening. Hence the purple glow around my gums. Such an attractive look people, you must try it.
Like a length of silky ribbon you have provided a link, glistened in the light and with only a few tangles along the way, held me together over the last four weeks as I ventured through your beautiful country.
It all started on the 24th of March. When, after a few days off to adjust to the new time zone, I ventured into Scotch Bar in Blenheim to indulge in a glass of your deliciousness as I awaited the arrival of my sister and her hubby. After the characterful chap behind the bar checked with his boss that it was okay for me to order a glass just before 4pm (I basically wandered in just as they were opening up) I now had to decide, what to drink?
Such a challenge. Do I stick to traditional Marlborough and go for a sauv? Do I partake in a more adventurous aromatic blend? I took the plunge and my first taste of you was the Herzog Sauvignon Blanc Sur Lie. And what a delicious drop it was! Textured, creamy with green apple punch, you passed my lips and caressed my tongue. A perfect blend of Marlborough vibrancy with Loire influence to boot.
Then my sis and her hubby arrived and since we hadn’t seen each other in a couple of years, it was only right that bubbles were the next choice. So onto the Nautilus Brut we went. I must confess that the company and conversation were of high priority at this point and not the tasting note. But you made a special time even more amazing.
The next day it was time to select the bubbly for my fast approaching wedding. This is definitely one of the highlights of wedding prep. Off we went to Le Brun No. 1 Family Estate to see what treats they had in store. Again you didn’t disappoint. After thoroughly sampling your wares with the delightful staff, my Mum, Aunty and even Mrs Le Brun poking her head around the corner to say hi, multiple cases of your Number 8 were purchased and stashed away. There may have also been a sneaky purchase of the No. 1 Reserve just to keep the gals happy in the run up to the ceremony (don’t tell the groom). The strategic placement of summer scarves also caught my eye and a vibrant red number made the cut. Hey, you can never have too many different shades of scarves. This is a life fact.
The following day included lunch at Allan Scott where I sampled an impressive range and was particularly taken with your Scott Base Central Otago Chardonnay. Rich yet balanced with supple oak and lemon zest. I believe my sis was also quite partial and a case or two made their way up to Auckland.
The Hounds Pinot Noir was a big hit. My Mum – who only very occasionally sips away on a vino – loved this. I can’t even remember the last time I saw her drink red wine, so this was a true revelation! We all shared in the spiced cherry silken goodness with lunch and purchased more for future needs.
Then the holiday took a serious turn and it was off down the Marlborough Sounds we ventured to greet loved ones and arrange the set for our nuptials. An impressive amount of you was consumed over these magical days. My most memorable sip would have to be my first of the No. 1 Reserve, which we served in delightful tea cups to an echo of ‘mmm….mmMMmm…mmmmMMMMMMMMMMMMmmmmm’s’ from the gals – partnered with many a raised eye brow. You just got better and better and took twists and turns on the tongue that one can only hope for with such a special drop on a particularly special day.
The following days saw you feature as Saint Clair Chardonnay, Matua Pinot Noir, Yealands Pinot Gris and Sacred Hill Sauvignon Blanc. Along with more of your amazing No. 8 bubbly and also a collection of Hawkes Bay treats courtesy of my good pal, Jimmy Smith, who went the extra mile to sample your expressions on his way to the Marlborough Sounds. This included Elephant Hill Syrah which I can’t remember if I actually sampled but I did have a visual on the bottle. I have a suspicion that my sis may have distracted me so she could sneak on in there and secure the goods herself. I can only admire her technique and aspire to her levels of sneakiness.
Needless to say you had a big impact on the post wedding day. And this was the first tangle that you got me into. Not only was my head slightly skewed, the tight twists and turns of the Queen Charlotte drive were playing games with my inner balance and a few pauses had to be made along the way home to help make the world seem normal again.
There was only one thing for it.
So it was off to Dodson Street Brewery for a couple of slow cold ones in the sun as we all caught up on the stories of the previous days and anticipated the Cricket World Cup final being held that evening.
Many hours passed. One guest almost fell asleep in the bar. This was not caused by you of course, but by the stimulating game that cricket certainly can be at times. But not this time.
My new hubby and I found ourselves at approximately 11pm not only coming to terms with coming second in the Cricket World Cup. But having this occur as we were surrounded by Australians. How did this happen?
Guests left, heads cleared, spiced chai tea was consumed. Then it was off to Picton for us newly-weds to enjoy a leisurely paced lunch on the foreshore with the ocean twinkling brightly. And then I spotted you. Your Pyramid Valley Pinot Blanc. Beautiful. A finely crafted number with pleasing weight, a softness, a lilt. You left me wanting more and also wanting to meet your creators. Which I attempted to do on our way to Christchurch the next day.
We swung into Cheviot with coffee in mind, and there you were. Mount Beautiful. Being all brand new with your tasting stand and super suave cellar door chap greeting us. I skipped the coffee and sampled your range. The chance to try your 2009 and 2014 Sauvignon Blanc was great but it was your 2011 Pinot Noir that got my number, along with your mineral driven Chardonnay. And then you drop the bomb that Pyramid Valley doesn’t have a cellar door so I can’t swing by. Alas. But they make their wines at Mount Beautiful winery, so I shall sleep easy and hunt out more of their delights another time.
We arrived at our hotel to a rather amazing suprise. A wooden box. Not just any box. This was labelled ‘Muddy Water’ and was a wedding gift from wonderful friends. Three Pinot Noir and three Chardonnay. My favourite grape varieties. A range of vintages. Superb.
We got stuck right in and supped away on a glass of the 2010 Chardonnay before heading out on the town. Muddy Water is the English translation for Waipara – where the wine is made. Wai is Maori for water, and para means silt – hence Muddy Water.
Our next stop was Queenstown. I hadn’t been here since I was about eight years old and couldn’t wait to see your Central Otago vineyards. We drove through Gibbston and it certainly lives up to its name of the Valley of Vines. The mountains stand proud here and the valleys hold onto the early autumn warmth. The aroma of wet stones hangs in the air, from the glacier fed lakes that dominate the landscape. There is one word that describes this region for me. Strong.
I was eager to sample your southern flavours and savoured your Peregrine Sauvignon Blanc (refreshing, mineral), Gibbston Valley Pinot Noir (soft, densely flavoured with autumnal tones), Two Paddocks Pinot Noir (crunchy red berries, vibrant), as well as your Carrick Chardonnay (elegant, mineral, apple, cream). Your quality here is impressive.
Timaru was the next stop where a wide range of you was consumed on the porch, as the late afternoon sunshine sunk, with wonderful people whom I can now call family. You have assisted in the creation of fine memories here.
A sad farewell to the South Island it was, as we took to the sky and headed for Auckland. I had inside information that there was an impressively stocked cellar of your goods in Howick which included a stash of Stonyridge Larose, so this is where we went.
Our first evening saw us sample one of your international cousins – the Clos du Bois North Coast Merlot. It went well with our burgers but I did feel like I was cheating on you, so we opened up one of your slightly more off-piste expressions – the Herzog Zweigelt. This was a complete contrast to the reds we had partaken in over the last few weeks. A massive pepper kick was punching its way through intense cherry and red currant with structured tannins. Impressive, but I could have done with another burger to match.
The next evening we headed into Auckland central and to Bellota for a tapas feast with good friends. I’m afraid you didn’t feature at all on this occasion as Spain was the order of the day – or night in this case. We sampled a range of Godello, Albarinho, Rioja, Ribera and it was only right that we sip away on sherry – a gorgeous Oloroso with a smidge of Pedro Ximenez went down a treat.
Sunday session was your next appearance and our wonderful hosts raided their cellar and revealed your Dry River Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Our first Martinborough taste which reinforced the fine reputation that you have in this region. The Pinot Gris showed elegant Alsace influence. With a pleasing weight, elderflower and sun kissed stone fruit notes. Your Pinot Noir was divine and I want to taste more of you. Hopefully soon.
Our final days on your peaceful lands were upon us. Emotions were flowing, conversations about when we were to next return, discussed. Even though I know you can be found back in our South London stores, you do taste your finest on home soils.
We wrapped up our stay with a home cooked feast shared with loved ones. Kicking off with Deutz bubbly (yum), then heading to Marlborough for your marvellous Greywacke Chardonnay (weighty, ripe apricot, a zing, long), then to Waiheke for one of my sisters favs – your Man O’War Valhalla Chardonnay (toasty, tropical, refreshing, supple). Somehow we had managed to get through all of your Muddy Water bar the 2010 Pinot Noir. So we cracked it open to reveal soft cherry intertwined with earthy tones and warm spice. It was a memorable evening and your expressions wrapped it up in a warm glow.
The next day was our last. And it was apt that your morning-after tangle was felt here, which helped me displace my sadness about leaving. A long beach stroll to take in the beauty and smell the fresh salty air cleared the head. Bags were packed. Reading material downloaded. Final moments taken in.
And now I sit in my local Tooting cafe, remembering your delicious tastes, recalling those memorable moments and wondering if I should crack open that bottle of Craggy Range Le Sol back at the flat, to aid the ease of transition to London life.
I think I shall.
Thanks again New Zealand wine!