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edited by Sue Courtney
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Wine of the Week for week ending 18 February 2007
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Lonely Cow Viognier 2006
Gisborne, New Zealand

Every so often you find a wine that amuses and surprises. The Lonely Cow Viognier 2006, which I rediscovered at the Waiheke Island Wine Festival last Saturday (10th Feb) is one of those wines.

It amused me because of its label, a critter label, a label with a cow, just one cow, a lonely cow.
It amused me because at the festival there were a good number of people sporting Lonely Cow Girl or Lonely Cow Boy t-shirts (were these people looking for new friends?)
It amused me because of how it got its name, a case of bad diction on the part of the story teller, or just mishearing on the part of the person the story was being told to.

Julie Christensen, photo by Sue Courtney

Julie (pictured) and Basil Christensen of Christenen Estate are the producers of this wine and at the top of their vineyard stands a single nikau palm tree. The story goes that many moons ago someone was describing the area in which the tree stands and when the 'lone nikau' was being pointed out, the words were heard as 'lonely cow'. I can just imagine someone standing there, shading their eyes from the sun with their hand, scanning the valley for the cow. The conversation that followed would have gone something like this…

"Where's the cow? I can't see any cow."
"Cow?"
"Yes, you did say cow, lonely cow."
"Not cow. Nikau. The palm tree. See it standing there, all on its own."
"Oh, Nikau! The tree. Of course. I was looking for an animal."

And with much regalement, a future brand was born.

I was surprised, though, because I thought at the Waiheke Island Wine Festival I would be tasting only wines grown and made on the island. I was wrong.

Lonely Cow label Lonely Cow Viognier 2006, with 'Waiheke Island' quite prominent on the front label, had the designation Gisborne in smaller lettering. I found out I wasn't drinking Waiheke wine at all. I was drinking a Gissie wine instead.

Well, I'm not going to hold that against them, after all other Waiheke producers bring in grapes from other regions. Goldwater sources grapes from Marlborough, as do Cable Bay. Passage Rock has a Marlborough savvy as well as a Canterbury chardonnay. Stonyridge has the Fallen Angel label and the wines in that livery are sourced from Australia as well as other parts of NZ. All of those wines were at the tents for tasting. After all, some of the Waiheke growers need to supplement their pricey Waiheke portfolio with grapes from other regions, especially if they are running a cafe. So they contract grapes and ship them to Waiheke, or they contract the wines to be made for them.

That latter was the case with the Lonely Cow Viognier 2006, because the wine was made at the Rongopai Winery in Te Kauwhata by Emmanuel Bolliger. Things were clicking into place. I had tasted both the Lonely Cow Viognier 2006 and the Rongopai Reserve Viognier 2006 at the Wine NZ trade tasting last October, and both wines were hauntingly impressive from those fleeting tastes.

So I was prepared for something delicious and Lonely Cow Viognier 2006 fulfilled the expectations. Light lemon gold in colour, the lifted, floral, apricot and slightly nutty scent was the essence of Viognier. Lightly oily, slippery in its soft, mouth-coating texture, it's a soft acid wine with peach and apricot kernel flavours, a hint of flower musk and plenty of spice. It's a dry wine but the fruit is mouthwatering and ripe, there's the merest hint of honey (honeysuckle) and lemon grass brings a crispness to the long lifted finish. The wine has 13% alcohol, according to the label and the bottle is sealed with a screwcap.

When I tasted the wine last October, I imagined it would be ideal with seafood. Now I had the opportunity to put that theory to the test. A big tick with crayfish and a big tick with whitebait fritters at the festival. It cost $20 to buy a bottle and I took that bottle to a BBQ last night. The hosts had seafood galore, so I was also able to give it a big tick with prawns and a creamy aioli-like dipping sauce as well as a creamy salmon mousse served on pumpernickel bread.

So where can you buy this wine? From Christenen Estate, obviously, although it doesn’t feature on their website - yet. However you can contact them for stockists or Google "Lonely Cow Gisborne Viognier 2006".

© Sue Courtney
12 Feb 2007


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