The last day of my New Zealand trip turned out to be a very good one. It began at Te Whare Ra, a small 11 hectare vineyard planted in 1979, and run since 2003 by Anna and Jason Flowerday.
It was a lovely visit: they are doing great work in the vineyard, and it is paying off in the winery. Pretty much everything they make is worth seeking out, and particular favourites for me were the Pinot Gris, the amazingly aromatic Gewurztraminer, the complex, multidimensional Chardonnay, and the elegant, precise Pinot Noir. This is a side to Marlborough that people forget about: it’s actually a great place to grow wine grapes.
Next visit was at Dog Point, one of my favourite Marlborough producers. I was hosted by Matt Sutherland, and we tasted through the 2013 Sauvignon, and then the full set of 2011s, 2008s and 2006s. These really are remarkable wines, with a capacity to age. Top for me is the wonderful Section 94 Sauvignon, and the remarkably complex Chardonnay.
Then it was time to visit Villa Maria, with George Gheris. It turns out that George’s wife writes romantic fiction. George and his wife also share something in common with the Flowerdays: both couples have two sets of twins. This is quite unusual. Is there something about the region?
Villa is a big producer that behaves like a boutique producer. I was really taken with the Single Vineyard Graham Sauvignon Blanc 2013, the Single Vineyard Seddon Pinot Gris 2013, and the Single Vineyard Taylors Pass Pinot Noir 2013. The real reason, however, for visiting was that I wanted to have a look at a vineyard that Villa source their Esk Pinot Noir from, right at the end of the Awatere (pictured above). It’s called Ballochdale, and it’s owned by Garry Neil. It was worth the 50 minute drive to get there, because this is a spectacular spot, and it really is a privileged site that makes superb Pinot. I’ll be writing more about it in due course.
Back to Blenheim airport 20 minutes before my flight left. The girl checking me in ticked me off – ‘You need to be here an hour before for checking in for international flights’. But she still let me on. Where else in the world can you check in for an international flight with so little time to spare?