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Wine of the Week for week ending 27 April 2008
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Coal Pit 'Tiwha' Pinot Noir 2006
Central Otago, New Zealand

Talk about coincidence. We were out with a group of like-minded friends for breakfast. A big warming breakfast because the morning had been so cold. Our plates were groaning with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, potatoes, tomatoes and mushrooms. The cultivated mushrooms were nice, but mild.

Annette, sitting on the other side of the table, mentioned the season for field mushrooms seemed to have totally slipped us by. She blamed it on the weather. Far too warm with an Indian summer right up until last week when the heavens gushed open and now that the rain has stopped and the sun is shining brilliantly again, it is decidedly cold.

"Neil collected a bunch at the beginning of March," I said. It is an odd time of year for field mushrooms but the spores must have been there in the field and when the rain came then, that was all they needed to spurt from the ground.

So back home, in the afternoon, he went for a walk around the paddocks and whaddya know, mushrooms. A little group around one of the water troughs, another little group behind a shelter in the back paddock and a third group around a shelter in the middle paddock. So we had field mushrooms for dinner. We had hoped to accompany them with bush mushrooms from the manuka tree, but had no luck in finding what we were looking for. It was just on dusk, so I'll do some research and perhaps next weekend, who knows?

Ah, the flavour, the richness, who needs meat when you have flavours of the earth this strong. It was the simplest of meals - simply field mushrooms on toast. I melted copious amounts of butter in the pan and then sauteed some crushed garlic before adding the stalks of the mushrooms added and then the caps, which were broken by hand. I was going to use thyme but chives in a pot on the deck were going berserk, so chives was the herb of choice. A splash of pinot noir, then a drizzle of heavy cream and a little cornflour for thickening. It's funny how field mushrooms seems to be wetter than cultivated mushrooms - with field mushrooms, the juices just flow. When they were served, the juices soaked into the toast as well, delicious.

What wine could be better with field mushrooms than pinot noir? We opened several to see which would go best and the field was narrowed to four - Trinity Hill High Country Pinot Noir 2006 from Hawkes Bay, Gladstone Wairarapa Pinot Noir 2006 from Wairarapa, Te Mania Reserve Pinot Noir 2006 from Nelson, and Coal Pit Tiwha Pinot Noir 2006 from the Gibbston Valley subregion of Central Otago.

However it was the most southern wine that we chose as Wine of the Tasting. It's a big bold wine and strong enough to stand up to big bold flavours. It will not be subdued by strong foods.

Coal Pit Tiwha Central Otago Pinot Noir 2006 is dense and deep in colour with purple tints to the dark Burgundy colour.. The aroma is sweet-fruited and initially seems just a little jammy, though it is anything but as smoky savoury scents with nuances of dried Central Otago thyme and forest floor take over and carry through to the full generous palate. Reminiscent of damp, fern-covered forest floor with layers of spice, there is plenty of intriguing funk with a sweet / savoury pull of savoury red fruits and dried herbs on the long lasting, vibrant finish. The texture is like crushed velvet and the appealing flavour of the lingering sweet earthy aftertaste goes on and on. This wine just gets better and better throughout the tasting and when combined with the field mushrooms on toast, an extra dimension of meatiness comes out in the wine.

This strikingly packaged wine is a new label for Central Otago and takes its name from Coal Pit Road in Gibbston Valley. The bottle does not explain what 'Tiwha' means, however a Maori dictionary translates it to 'iris' or 'washer'. Other meanings are 'gleaming' and a kind of 'taonga'. It is also a person's name.

The rather elevated Coal Pit vineyard was planted in 1994 with Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc and more Pinot Noir vines were added in 2000. The current owner, Rose Dunphy, purchased the vineyard in 2001. Although Coal Pit Wines will have their own on site winery and winemaker for the 2008 vintage, this 2006 wine was made by award winning winemaker, Carol Bunn who utilised by wild and cultured yeasts and used 35% new oak for aging. The finished wine states 13.2% alcohol on the label and the closure is a Diam super critical cork. The wine costs about $36 a bottle. Check out the Coal Pit website for more information.

Later we also tasted the wines with cheese and they all were delicous with Kapiti's Aorangi Double Cream Brie and Whitestone's Totara Tasty Vintage Cheddar. However, be warned that Leicester cheddar and Blue de Montagne are 'no-go' zones.

© Sue Courtney
21 Apr 2008

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