As a non-drinker, I was still keen to go along and enjoy the experience. Bubbly Grape Wine Tours were our hosts for the afternoon. Our driver informed us that there are 101 wineries in Blenheim. Given how tiny Blenheim is, that is a huge number! We had four chosen for us to visit. Given that it's been about four years since I stopped drinking alcohol (and hardly drank much before then anyway), here is my uneducated opinion of the wines we tasted.
First stop was at Wither Hills. Their tasting room building features stunning architecture, a lovely cellar, and the most comfy bean bags you can imagine right on their front lawn! If we didn't have other wineries to go to, some of us might have finished our afternoon right there. Our host explained some of the nuisances of the wines they produced and we got to sample a selection.
- 2008 sauvignon blanc - this had a passionfruit taste and was incredibly yummy. I didn't realise it at the time, but it was my favourite wine of the day.
- 2008 Rarangi sauvignon blanc - this is the same sav, but only using the harvest from a specific vineyard (Rarangi). It had quite a lemongrass taste, and I didn't enjoy it as much as the first sav, but friends liked it and bought a bottle, their first of many.
- 2008 pinot gris - this is the only aromatic wine I usually enjoy.
- 2007 chardonnay - I found this quite oaky in taste.
- 2006 pinot noir - this had quite distinctive cherry and plum flavours.
- Pelorus NV - Pelorus is the sparkling wine label for Cloudy Bay and features the Pelorus dolphin insignia. This non-vintage bubbly was very fruity, and I think someone in our group bought a bottle or two.
- Pelorus Vintage 2004 - this had a more subtle flavour (and also made a sale or two).
- 2008 sauvignon blanc - this was also very fruity and delicious. My pick from Cloudy Bay.
- 2005 Te Koko - this was a more subtle sav, named for the region. Not quite as tasty for me.
- 2006 chardonnay - I found this really oaky. Not sure I could finish a glass of this one.
- 2007 pinot gris - this was the standout pinot gris of the day for me. Delicious!
- 2005 riesling - this was incredibly sweet.
- 2006 Gewurztraminer - I wasn't keen on the oily texture of this wine.
- 2006 pinot noir - this was light and quite pleasant to taste.
- 2004 late harvest riesling - I couldn't cope with this; it was far too sickly sweet for me, so only made one sip. My friend bought a bottle, though, and finished our samples, too, along with everyone's leftover bubblies ...
Nautilus's alternative label is Twin Islands. Apparently most wineries have an alternative label of B-grade wine (although some, like Cloudy Bay, only allow A-grade wine to be accepted) and each vintage is tasted and assessed by samplers who determine whether or not it is fit for sale under their label. Some which don't make the grade are sent to other wineries for bottling and branding under a generic label, and the really bad stuff gets discarded.
- 2008 sauvignon blanc - we got to pour ourselves some of this straight out the vat. It was unfiltered, so quite cloudy, and containing some impurities like seeds and pith. It tasted really fruity and was much-enjoyed by our group. Lovely!
- 2008 chardonnay - this was very subtle in flavour and my favourite chardonnay of the day. We got to drink it straight out of the barrels, poured from a large syringe.
- 2008 pinot noir - a very smooth flavour, and my favourite pinot noir of the day. Way to go, Nautilus! Again, sampled directly from the barrels and poured from a syringe.
- 2008 pinot noir clone - the cloning process was explained, but I don't recall most of it. This clone had a stronger taste than the original pinot noir. Neither will be ready for bottling for another year or so (I think!).
- Twin Islands pinot noir chardonnay - this is a sparkling wine. I enjoyed its light taste.
- Nautilus cuvee brut - and the sparkling just kept getting better. This was my bubbly pick of the day. Yummy!
- Twin Islands 2007 pinot noir - very light in taste and delicious.
- Torea 2008 sauvignon blanc - very fruity 'barbeque wine', ie its purose is not necessarily to be the toast of the town.
- 2008 sauvignon blanc - this was far more subtle than the Torea, and I preferred its flavour.
- 2008 pinot gris - this was partly hand-harvested, which is unusual for white wines. The taste wasn't particularly memorable for me.
- 2007 chardonnay - also not very memorable; I'm not sure why.
- 2007 pinot noir - a bit too oaky for me, but friends bought a bottle. Overall, I enjoyed Fairhall Downs wines less than those we tasted at other wineries.
An almost perfect weekend (I would have liked my sweetie to have been able to join us), and what I thought was a near-impossible goal was achieved: #83 - Have a computer-free weekend (all of Sat/Sun).