In New Zealand, day 1, Queenstown, Gibbston Valley and Chard Farm

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I arrived in Queenstown late Tuesday morning, and I wasn’t feeling too bad. The flight down from Auckland was a beautiful one: you need to get a window seat on the left of the plane (which I did), and then you enjoy superb views of the alps and the fabulous descent into Queenstown airport.

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I checked into my hotel and showered, leaving an hour spare before my pick-up. So I wandered into town, bought a couple of bottles of craft ale and went and sat by the lake. It was stunning. Then it was off to Gibbston Valley for a quick lunch and a tasting of some of the single vineyard Pinots with winemakers Christopher Keys and Sascha Herbert.

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Christopher is a keen photographer, and I must admit a bit of camera envy: his new toy is the gorgeously retro Nikon DF, which has to be the most beautiful DSLR ever made.

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The wines were really superb, with the 2012s excelling. I love the house style at Gibbston Valley: these are proper wines, demonstrating precision and elegance. The older vintages are also lovely (I really like 2007 Le Maitre), but the 2012 China Terrace, Le Maitre and Glenlee were all fabulous young wines, the latter two coming from Gibbston, a subregion that is capable of greatness, although it doesn’t necessarily get there every year.

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Alan Brady, the founder and previous owner, happened to be around and he joined us to taste some of the wines, which was a nice touch. He made the first commercial wine of the modern era in the region, in 1987. He is the Maitre,and the vines for this wine are now 30 years old.

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Second visit was with Rob Hay  (right) at Chard Farm, and his winemaker John Wallace. Rob came here in 1985 and was Alan Brady’s first winemaker. He started Chard Farm in 1987, planting the first of his vineyards, a couple of hectares, in the home block at Gibbston.

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Three single vineyard Pinots are made here, and they’re all really good. The house style seems to be one of freshness, which is a good thing, with the 2012s all looking very good. We did a mini vertical of two of the single vineyard wines: the Viper and the Tiger. I liked both the 2012s a great deal, and it was great to taste the 2005 Tiger, which is beginning to develop in a really attractive way, with warm spicy complexity.

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I had a free evening, so I decided I had to stay up until normal bedtime so I could then sleep through. It was beautifully sunny and the colours were all vivid, so I visited a bottle shop, chose a Pinot (the Peregrine 2011 for $44 caught my eye), and found a secluded spot on the lake front, sat and had a couple of contemplative glasses. How I saw myself: aesthete drinking sophisticated Pinot in a beautiful setting. How bypassers saw me: sad drunk drinking in public.

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3 comments to In New Zealand, day 1, Queenstown, Gibbston Valley and Chard Farm

  • Martin Churchill

    Where’s the picture of you bungy jumping Jamie?

  • Lars Daniels

    Fantastic Jamie, I’m kind of jealous I have to admit, I love Central Otago. Also loved your final sentences: “How I saw myself: aesthete drinking sophisticated Pinot in a beautiful setting. How bypassers saw me: sad drunk drinking in public.” Enjoy.

  • Patrick

    Stunning photographs – is it hot out there? Miserable, cold and damp here in London..

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