edited by Sue Courtney
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Nelson, New Zealand
When I first met Pam Robert and Dave Birt almost two years ago we shared a bottle of Nelson Pinot Noir on the deck of the old Redwood Valley area schoolhouse that they had trucked on to their property at Kina Beach and converted into luxury accommodation.
I was relieved to be there because I had never heard of Kina Beach before reaching this idyllic hideaway in Tasman Bay at the top of the South Island, about two thirds of the way from Nelson to Motueka. In fact I drove right past the turn off the first time and almost reached Motueka when I realised I had gone too far.
The schoolhouse sited amongst the vines was a welcome sight and the view from the deck carried the eye across a sun-sparkling Tasman Bay to the dark mass that was D'Urville Island in the distance faraway. Looking to the left (the west) the waters of the Moutere Inlet captured the eye and I could only imagine the colours it would reflect at sunset. But now the sea was calm, the sky was blue, there was no wind. It was totally relaxing.
These former Aucklanders had found this piece of land, at that time an orchard, when they decided they needed a change from big city life. They loved wine, so it seemed obvious to them that the time had come to plant the vineyard that Dave had dreamed of owning for at least twenty years. But where? They looked close to home, around Matakana and Waiheke Island but realised to pursue their dream of growing great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay they would have to more further south. Nelson was an easy choice because their favourite wines from Neudorf Vineyard came from here.
But why Kina Beach? It had no record of viticulture.
Well, when you see the place, one reason was the perfect northerly aspect for viticulture and of course the view. Add to that the famous Moutere clays interlayered with gravels, and the pieces fell into place.
Ten thousand vines were planted after the orchard was removed, half of Pinot Noir and the remainder Chardonnay, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. That was in 1998.
"We hope to release our first Kina Beach Vineyard wine in 2004", they said. And right on cue, in 2004, the first Kina Beach Vineyard wines are released.
I was excited to see the wine in bottle as I had I slept amidst the very vines – in the cottage - during the late spring of the growing season for the 2003 vintage wine.
Kina Beach Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay 2003 is one of those wines could easily be described as 'simply delicious'. Creamy textured with good acidity, nutty spicy oak, melon and citrus and a bready finish, the taste is full and fruity and the warming alcohol send tingles up to the ears. The wine leaves a warm feel and a well-rounded toasty flavour long after the wine has been swallowed.
It is the perfect match to crayfish, or scallops cooked in a creamy sauce as the wine has the lemon flavours and the acidity to cut through the cream, and from personal experience it is not bad with salmon either. I admit I haven’t tried it with kina, the seafood delicacy that gave its name to the beach and subsequently the wine, but the savouriness and acidity in the chardonnay will probably match to the iodine flavours of this seafood delicacy.
These wines will no doubt be the house wines at the Schoolhouse cottage and there are limited stocks available to the discerning drinker for $30 a bottle. Aged in 1-2 year old French barriques for 11 months and bottled in March 2004, it carries a heady 14.5% alcohol by volume and is sealed with a screwcap.
Dial up the Kina Beach Vineyard website at www.kinabeach.com and from there you can send an email to Pam and Dave to find out more.
© Sue Courtney
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