Monday, 8 April 2013

New Zealand: day two

Waiheke Island Day Two

The view from the bedroom effortlessly pulls you out of bed and I was soon in the car heading towards Cable Bay Vineyards. Neill Culley the owner/head winemaker had to nip off to Queenstown in the South Island to check his Pinot Noir vineyard so I missed him this time round. They are also trucking up Sauvignon Blanc grape juice from Marlborough up just like us at Le Chai!

His winemaker Chloe gave me a good look round the winery and vineyards and I tasted the range in the beautiful tasting room. I loved the direct press delicate but flavoursome 2012 Malbec/Merlot rose and the 2010 spicy Syrah. I had come to the Island at the right time and my friend, flying winemaker and master of wine Sam Harrop, a Kiwi himself, was here too, making his and others’ wines. We hooked up together at midday and went about building an appetite by tasting some seriously good wines! 

Our first stop was the beautiful little Chardonnay vineyard owned by his Aunt and Uncle in Oeneroa. Sam has made this harvest an experimental one in order to understand the vineyard, picking small pockets of the vineyard at different stages and fermenting them apart in one barrel batches. This was heaven for me and I was the first person outside of the island to taste them!

The wines are still fermenting but they are already showing stunning fruit character and the different styles will be tough to choose between when they are all finished.  I liked the first pick in one-year-old barrel, a unique rose petal aroma that I have never ever smelt from a Chardonnay. But after only a couple of days on the Island, it’s not the first time I have noticed this rose petal; it seems to be the trademark Chardonnay aroma? 

We moved on to taste the wines at Kennedy Point. American owner Susan McCarthy, who has lived on the island for many years, talked us through her wines. They are making some lovely stuff: I really liked the 2011 Syrah; apparently lots of rain that harvest but they have certainly done good here. I love this spicy pure fruit style.  

From Kennedy Point we headed back inland and east to one of the oldest wineries on the island; Te Motu. The winery and vineyards had been owned by winemaker John Dunleavy for 20-odd years before selling the property to the Chinese only to buy it back 3 years later! What a story but what place, what wines!! Onetangi Valley is side shoot valley and it is warm and Bordeaux varietals of Cabernet and Merlot thrive. John was on the sorting table quietly getting on with job in hand. A quiet, humble man but a truly great winemaker. 

I was very fortunate to taste firstly the 2005 and 2006 Dunleavy Cabernet/Merlot, great finesse and very Bordeaux with an interesting 12.5% vol only. Next was a 2004 and 2005 estate wine Te Motu; again low alcohol but made to age, and John’s training at Chateau Margaux soon becomes evident in the wines.

For a very late lunch we ate at the Stonybridge winery restaurant just next door. Superb food; I had some grilled snapper, salad and a glass of their Chardonnay.

After a long and brilliant day I headed back to Little Oneroa Beach for a sunset swim and the little organic pizza van right on the beach made for a perfect supper! 

I am sad to leave this place and if you get the chance to buy wines from here you must do!

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