John arrived with vinous tipples to a reunion of old family friends over the weekend. We had lived across the road from each other as children but John now lived in Hamilton, not far from where his parents had moved to, while his sister, Cathy, lived in Sydney. Cathy had come back to NZ for a few days to see her family and John came with her from Hamilton to Auckland for a night of convivial reminiscing before Cathy's flight home.
"Bring lots of wine," he yelled from the background when one of my sisters and I were on the telephone discussing my contribution to the reunion meal. That I should bring wine was taken for granted but it would turn out a surprise to everyone, and especially to John, that the wine he bought would be the night's great find.
"I've bought some wine too," said John, pointing to two bottles on the sideboard not long after I arrived. "I hope it's alright as I donít know anything about wine other than I know what I like when I drink it," he said.
The wine was labelled Ohui Reserve Coromandel Peninsula 2004 Syrah. I had never heard of it before.
"Where's it from?" I quizzed him.
"Ohui. On the Coromandel Peninsula".
"Oh, so Ohui's a place. Is it one of the labels from Cooks Beach?" I asked, trying to be knowledgable.
"Nope," he said. "It's from a vineyard further south, nearer Whangamata."
In fact the wine was from the Ohui Vineyard in Ohui Road at Opoutere Beach, which is on the eastern coast of the Coromandel Peninsula, between Pauanui and Whangamata, and is only accessible by boat, helicopter or a dusty gravel road.
Turns out that John was instrumental in the construction of the vineyard while he was still doing fencing, which was before he put his back out one time too many. He was the "postmaster".
They grow chardonnay, merlot and other varieties on the 3-acre Ohui Vineyard, which looks out over a small island, called Motuhaua Rock, which is pictured on the label.
But the Syrah was the wine that took John's fancy when he finally go to taste the finished products. So he bought a case.
Wow. I loved it. My comments were so favourable that John, I think, breathed a sign of relief. Just goes to show that you have to trust your own palate, which was what John did when he chose this wine. But I was gushing over it so enthusiastically that everyone else emptied their glasses of whatever they were drinking - which was probably chardonnay at the time - and joined me in this delicious red wine treat.
Ohui Reserve Coromandel Peninsula Syrah 2004 is deep red in colour with a fragrant, floral perfume infused with vanillin oak and 'rose spice'.
The aroma told me that the taste was going to be good - and the warm, rich red was exactly that.
It's a harmonious wine with beautifully integrated cedary oak, peppery spices, juicy black cherry and plum fruit, cedary oak, velvety tannins and a dry savoury aftertaste with peppery spices flushing through it.
It's medium to full-bodied in style and while delicious already, it has the potential to garner more complexity with age.
We were on the deck sipping our wine with nibbles so it was lucky John had bought two bottles as the first bottle didn't last long between six of us.
It was tempting to open the second bottle there and then but I suggested we save it to accompany the main course as I wanted to try the wine with the whole piece of juicy fillet steak that was the centrepiece. And with a topping of raspberry balsamic, it couldn't have been a better match.
Ohui Reserve Coromandel Peninsula Syrah 2004 is made from first crop grapes. After harvest the grapes were transported to Rongopai Winery in Te Kauwhata where winemaker Emanuel Bolliger crafted the wine. It carries 14% alcohol by volume, is sealed with a screwcap and costs in the vicinity of $26.
Heaven knows where you can buy this wine but if Coromandel Peninsula restaurants and wine shops are smart, they'll be stocking it. But if you want to know more, Ohui Vineyard is listed by New Zealand Winegrowers and you can find the contact details there.
Thanks, John, for giving me the opportunity to try the wine because Ohui Reserve Coromandel Peninsula Syrah 2004 further endorses the positive future of Syrah in New Zealand, especially in the top quarter of the country from Hawkes Bay north.
Footnote: I've since found out that the wine is available in Golddiggers and other liquour outlets on the Coromandel and the Ohui crew are in the process of setting up online sales.
© Sue Courtney
2 October 2006