Thursday, 29 July 2010

Wine trailing in Marlborough

For the second weekend in a row, we went out of town for a mini-break. However, this weekend's trip was vastly different to our snow weekend. We took the ferry over to not-so-sunny Marlborough, the home of sauvignon blanc and 101 wineries. Yay for another 101 in 1001 activity: #21 - Take a boat trip.

Being the middle of winter, it was quite different to the last Marlborough wine trail we did. I was really glad that my sweetie could join us on this trip, after missing out on the last two. We generally found that the hospitality on this trip was better than our girls' wine trail to Martinborough last year. It might have been because there were fewer people around (due to the weather), but we noticed that all the presentations and displays at all the wineries we visited were beautifully presented, oozing charm and class. Stump Creek Lodge was our home for the weekend. Naturally, I chose the purple bedroom.

We visited six wineries in total and I worked out that we would have sampled around 45 different wines, so here's a round up of the places we visited and my thoughts about the wines I liked.

Good advice
Cloudy Bay
Cloudy Bay was first up. They certainly know how to put on a show. We were so impressed with the presentation at Cloudy Bay last time that we went back again. There was a roaring fire going even when we arrived before 10 am and a selection of wines waiting for our tasting session. Getting there so early meant that we had the cellar to ourselves and even got to try a couple of 'stickies' (dessert wines) afterwards.

Our tasting session at Cloudy Bay
Cloudy Bay bottles
My Cloudy Bay wine picks are as follows:
  • Pelorus NV (non-vintage) - 70% chardonnay, 30% pinot noir. The non-vintage is actually a blend of three vintages from about 3 years ago: predominantly 2007, with smaller amounts of 2006 and 2008. It is a classic, fruity bubbly - great for special occasions.
  • 2009 Sauvignon Blanc - a very light, subtle sav with a stony fruit flavour. It is machine harvested at 2 am to ensure the grapes are kept cold. Looking back at my notes from 2008, this was my pick of all the Cloudy Bay wines.
  • 2008 Pinot Gris - somewhere between a sauvignon blanc and a chardonnay, it is a half barrel half stainless steel combination.

    Cosy fireplace at Cloudy Bay
Montana wine display
Montana are the biggest producers of wine in New Zealand and never missed an opportunity to remind us of this fact. They seemed really surprised to have kiwis on their winery tour, as most of their clientele is from overseas - this was very obvious while watching their promotional video. However, there is no doubting that the sheer scale of their production and the developments they have made in terms of research and technology are simply amazing.

The tour was interesting. We learned that most vineyard rows in Marlborough are planted north to south to maximise all day sun. However, some vineyards plant east to west, essentially producing two different varieties on the same vine. Their pinot noir hall is impressive, as was their sparkling wine press, the first one of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Montana also produce some organic wines. Companion rows are planted in between the rows of wines, attracting the bugs and keeping the nasties at bay. This reduces, or eliminates, the need for sprays; it they are needed at all, organic sprays are used.

Montana pinot noir cellar hall
I really only liked one of the Montana wines we sampled:
  • 2009 Reserve Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc – a light, dry wine with a passionfruit taste.

Wither Hills entrance
Our next tasting was at the lovely Wither Hills, followed by lunch. Their 2008 sauvignon blanc was my favourite wine from the last tour and I was thrilled that my sweetie really liked the 2009 vintage - it's something we can look out for in future. Like the other wineries we visited, Wither Hills boasts some fabulous architecture. Their charming wine cellar has a table and chairs set up among the barrels, which would be perfect for a lunch meeting if it wasn't so cold!
Wither Hills cellar
My Wither Hills wine picks:
  • 2009 Sauvignon Blanc - their flagship wine. This is a blend of grapes from twelve vineyards in the Wairau Valley. It has a subtle, fruity flavour and was my pick from the whole tour.
  • 2009 Chardonnay - mild and lightly oaked. The flavour wasn't too sharp - my favourite chardonnay of the tour.
  • 2007 Riesling - I'm surprised to see a riesling making it onto this list, but this was quite different to any other I've tasted. While there wasn't a very distinct flavour, it also wasn't overly sweet like other rieslings I've tried. However, I probably still couldn't be convinced to buy a bottle.
Wither Hills selection
Our lunch at the Wither Hills Restaurant was long and relaxing. We shared the Thai curry prawns and a steak sandwich - large, delicious portions and a great break from all the wine tasting.

Our final stop for the day was Framingham, a small winery known for their rieslings. We sampled thirteen wine varieties - certainly a record and one of the few tastings that were free. They were very busy when we arrived so we wandered down to see their displays in the cellar.

Despite their reputation for riesling, Framingham's sauvignon blanc still came out tops for me:
  • 2009 Sauvignon Blanc - this had a big, fruity aroma and went down easily.
  • 2008 Pinot Gris - a subtle apple and pear flavour which was also easy to drink.
Framingham wine tasting
Saint Clair
After a lazy and relaxed Saturday night, we set out again on Sunday morning. Saint Clair was right next door to where we were staying. They are known for producing 40 varieties of wine, four of which we got to sample.
Saint Clair tasting table
    We took a brief break from wine by popping in to the Makana Boutique Chocolate Factory. Much like the wineries, they had samples of their divine hand-made chocolates available for visitors to try. Very berry toffee crunch, cherry armagnac truffles, macadamia brittle, and macadamia butter toffee crunch ... I was in heaven.
    Makana chocolates
    Finally, we went to Hunter's to partake in some amazing wine hospitality. Our host let us sample eleven different wines at no charge, including a bubbly. I think our group bought the most bottles of wine from Hunter's, judging by the boxes they were lugging back onto the ferry. It just goes to show how much good hospitality pays off!
    Hunter's gift packs
    My picks from Hunter's:
    • 2008 Chardonnay - aged in oak for just 6 months (instead of 9 months), this had a light and creamy flavour. I've decided that I prefer unoaked chardonnay and this was the closest to unoaked that we got to sample on this trip.
    • 2009 Riesling - surprisingly not too strong or sweet, this was a dry riesling with lime and citrus flavours.
    • MiruMiru Non Vintage - Maori for 'bubbles'. 58% chardonnay, 33% pinot noir and 9% pinot meunier (the secret ingredient in bubbly wine) with peach and citrus aromas - this was absolutely delicious! We bought a bottle of this as a birthday present for my sweetie's mother.

    Hunter's wines
    What a weekend! Thankfully we're staying in town for the next few weeks, but this was an amazing break and a great way to learn about the types of wine I like (and don't like). I still find that I prefer subtle, fruity sauvignon blanc but also know that unoaked chardonnay is something to look out for.

    1 comment:

    Hampers said...

    First time commenter here. Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your blog.