edited by Sue Courtney
e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nelson, New Zealand
I've just returned to Auckland after two weeks of travelling around the South Island of New Zealand and although wine featured on the agenda - mostly every night – visiting wineries was not the priority of this trip. We were heading south to the Warbirds over Wanaka airshow. But when you pass through every single wine region the South Island has to offer, ie. Marlborough, Nelson, Central Otago, Waitaki and Waipara, it is pretty hard to ignore the grapevine plantings that are taking over some of the districts. So I had arranged some vineyard visits with grape picking, rather than wine tasting, the theme.
Unfortunately the weather gods that govern the growing season had delayed the harvest and our grape picking plans were mostly foiled. Grape tasting was the highlight in most of the places.
We passed through Marlborough on Monday 5th April on our way to the West Coast and Sauvignon Blanc was still hanging on the vines so we tasted grapes that would soon be picked. The crop was huge and the grapes were ripe.
We visited Rimu Grove in Nelson that afternoon and the earliest they would be picking would be at least 4 days later so we walked around the vineyard and tasted several clones of Pinot Noir plus Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. We were treated to a barrel sample of the Rimu Grove Pinot Noir 2003 and it's going to be a good one. Earthy smelling with woodsmoke on the nose, good weight and complexity in the palate, bright cherry fruit and a long savoury finish with just a touch of anise, it will be sealed with a Stelvin when it's released in October.
After arriving late on Thursday in Central Otago and going to the airshow practice day on Good Friday I left my husband at the Wanaka airshow on the Saturday and drove a little down the road to Amisfield on the Pisa Flats. Although some Sauvignon Blanc had come off a couple of days before the Pinot was still a week or so away. I tasted Sauvignon Blanc that had been left for late harvest (yum!), Riesling and Pinot Noir.
Elsewhere in Central, where vines were not frosted beyond recovery, nets still covered the vines and vineyards were void of people eagerly anticipating the harvest.
Heading south on Easter Monday we stopped at Black Ridge near Alexandra and tasted almost ready Gewurztraminer. They would be harvesting the following Friday.
On our northward journey after reaching the end of the road at Bluff we passed through the Waitaki Valley. The burgeoning vineyards there were still shrouded in nets. Ditto on the Canterbury Plains and in the Waipara Valley.
Returning to Marlborough, almost two weeks after our journey south, most of the Sauvignon Blanc was gone and the vines that were harvested were turning their autumn yellow. Where we had tasted the grapes before the netting had been dropped like panties around the ankles. Pinot Noir was still mostly shrouded in netting, although in two vineyards we passed in Middle Renwick Road, hand picking was in process.
We visited Johanneshof Wines on the way to the interisland ferry and the Gewurztraminer that had been picked a couple of days before was being racked. So we tasted Gewurztraminer juice – I’d have this as my breakfast drink of choice every day if it was on offer, looking a little like pinky coloured guava juice, it was full of such delicious flavours.
So thank heaven for Greenhough in Nelson where we actually got to pick grapes. It was the day after our visit to Rimu Grove and a most comfortable night in Nelson at the colonial era Wakefield Quay B & B, where you are offered a glass of Greenhough Sauvignon Blanc on arrival and made to feel at home by the charming host, Woodi.
We navigated our way south of Nelson City to the Greenhough vineyard in Hope and I hoped they remembered we were coming. I was ecstatic when I saw there were pickers amongst the pinot noir vines. It didn’t take long to get hold of a pair of snippers and we joined owners Andrew and Jenny (pictured) in harvesting between us two very long rows of Clone 5 Pinot Noir. It was perfectly ripe and apart from some bird pecked bunches at the end of the rows, perfectly perfect. The grapes were at a good height for the back and had been cropped to about 1 bunch per shoot. It was total quality.
The grapes we picked would probably form a small portion of the blend for the flagship wine, the Greenhough Hope Vineyard Pinot Noir 2004.
With several hours of driving to our planned stop at Lake Brunner ahead of us, the one row – which took just over an hour for two of us to pick – was all we could manage. Andrew gave us a bottle of the Greenhough Hope Vineyard Pinot Noir 2002 to take with us. I was delighted because this was one of my absolute favourite Pinot Noirs at Pinot Noir 2004 in Wellington last January. We opened the bottle in Wanaka and had it with Venison, Mushroom and Cranberry Pizza – a good match if ever there was one.
Greenhough Hope Vineyard Pinot Noir 2002 is medium to deep red in colour and smells immediately of chocolate and cherry. It's smooth and rounded in the palate, warm and savoury with an ever so slightly feral-like intrigue, red berry fruits like guava and cranberry together with red cherries, spicy oak, just a touch of fresh field mushroom and a ripe red fruit, cherryish finish.
It’s a big wine, a thinking wine and I mused over it I found the beginning was the end. Not that the wine was short by any means, simply that it was circular, judging by the scribbles in my book. From the smoky oak to the titillation of spices and herbs, the richness of cherry, the fullness of chocolate, the spike of bitey acidity to lift the finish and the tannins to give it structure, it ends with the smoky oak again.
We were sharing the bottle with the people we were staying with and he said that although he loved the flavour he found the tannins just a little firm. But when he tasted it with food, the tannins just melted away.
It is a blend of several clones of Pinot Noir but mostly Clone 22. The 750ml bottle carries 13.5% alcohol by volume and is sealed with a cork.
© Sue Courtney
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