Monday, 3 June 2013

Still in Middle Earth, or had I been in a wardrobe?

It was absolutely freezing at -4°C when I stepped out the of the warm hotel. By the time we had headed to Gibbston, the closest wine region to Queenstown, a stunning blue mist had formed above the ice blue frost, turning everything blue. I was expecting the white witch of Narnia and her secret police to come racing through on a sleigh! Then we spotted our first visit poking out of the ground like giant, half-buried grand piano: the Peregrine cellar.

We were met by James the sales manager who gave the tour and tasting.  The owners Lindsay McLachlan and Greg Hay are bird fanatics and are constantly investing and working towards the protection and preservation of the local birds. I learnt the grand piano cellar roof was actually inspired by the kinetic rotation of a bird in flight! Once the mist had cleared I could see the twisting roof more clearly.

The wines were all really lovely, but the IWSC trophy winning 2009 The Pinnacle Pinot Noir from their Bendigo and Pisa vineyards was the pick. It’s very sought after; some inside information is Dan our buyer was negotiating hard for a few cases so fingers crossed he gets some. I know I’ll be keeping a careful eye on the Laithwaite’s NZ wine list.

I decided to spend the afternoon with some spontaneous and anonymous visits to wineries; I like to do that sometimes as you can often find some hidden gems.

From the main road I could see some amazing vineyards and a cellar over the other side of the deep Kawarau River canyon and was determined to get to them.  With a bit of investigation I crossed the bridge where the bungee jumping station was set and saw a sign pointing out a very sharp right.  I took the right which lead onto a perilous dirt track carved out of the mountainside. I was now heading back on my self and the winding road eventually ended with the Chard Farm winery and its vineyards.

Nets were still on the vineyards and with closer inspection I realised it was the late harvest Pinot Gris being given serious ‘hang time’!

My anonymous arrival was blown instantly as in the tasting room tasting were two vintage cellarhands from the winery where I had just been working in Marlborough. Small world!

The wines were really lovely and last year’s late harvest Pinot Gris was a beautiful wine. And the 2010 Pinot Noir double-act of Viper and Tiger were very well made.

Back towards Queenstown I dropped into Amisfield winery which hugged Lake Hayes. No-one recognised me and I tasted the range without interruption, very good indeed and very well priced.

A last look at the Remarkable Range, which is quite remarkable, as is all of the scenery before another hairy 12-seater flight up to Napier and to Hawke’s Bay wine region! Goodbye Otago, I’ll be back!

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