I popped out to Henderson the other day to visit winemaker Shayne Cox and interview him for my column in the local paper. I didn't really know Shayne until he introduced himself to me at Wine Options last month but I had heard his name plenty of times as he's a contract winemaker for many of the Rodney region's boutique wine producers who don't have winemaking facilities of their own. Rodney, for my readers further afield, is in Auckland, soon to be part of the SuperCity, and is where the wine regions of Matakana and Kumeu are. It's an interesting wine region because it is home to some of New Zealand's biggest wineries as well as some of New Zealand's tiniest.
It was a glorious day for a winter top down drive and when we reached the winery in the Henderson Valley, west of Auckland, in the foothills of the Waitakere Ranges, we took advantage of sitting outside in the sun. Besides, it was freezing inside the winery.
Shayne told me a bit about his background and how his first contact with the vineyards was as a gun-wielding bird shooter leading up to harvest. "Well," he said, "one things leads to another and before you know it you're having a go at everything".
That everything included a winemaking internship at Vina Errazuriz, north of Santiago in Chile.
"Imagine a young brash guy from Auckland ending up in a winery at the foot at the Andes, where only one other person speaks English. It was either learn Spanish or go home," says Shayne. It was one of the most significant events in his life and although frustrating, was extremely rewarding.
Despite going on to work in France and Italy as a flying winemaker with UK-based Westin Wines, his Chilean experience was why he named his own brand, Corazon, which is Spanish for 'heart'.
"But it's also an all-encompassing sympathetic (sympatico) term for the environment and people," explains Shayne. He's using the design of a heart-shaped antique corkscrew to symbolise his brand.
Returning to New Zealand in 2002, he set up Corazon Wines, sourcing fruit from other vineyards. He still doesn't have any vineyards of his own but having good relationships with growers is high on his priority list and he prides himself for getting access to good fruit.
He's been in his current premises at 393 Henderson Valley Road since 2007. In early August he'll be opening to the public making another much needed stop on the flagging Henderson Valley wine trail. He'll open Wednesdays to Fridays from 11am to 6 pm, and 11 am to 5 pm on Saturdays.
Currently there is Rosť made from Syrah, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough Pinot Gris, Hawkes Bay Syrah and Kumeu Chardonnay in his portfolio. Plus this week's Wine of the Week.
Corazon North Island Merlot Malbec 2008 is made from grapes grown in several upper North Island sites, including West Auckland. Deep, dark and rich in the glass it has alluring aromas of blackberries, plums, smoky vanillin oak and leather that carries through to the juicy, medium to full-bodied palate that's characterised by smooth, fine tannins. Fruit and savoury flavours combine in harmony with Malbec adding a deep nuggetty earthiness as well as a lifted floral finish with a touch of rose petal and chocolate on the lasting aftertaste. Alcohol is 13.9% and a Diam cork closes the bottle.
This wine was a delicious accompaniment to lamb shanks with a mint-infused glaze. And at a full retail of $18 a bottle, it's value for money too.
Find out more from www.corazonwines.co.nz.
© Sue Courtney
26 Jul 2010