You talk about them in revered tones but you rarely get to meet them. And when you do you realise they look much younger in real life than they do when on the big or little screen.
Most A-list actors and celebs that go into the wine business do so because it looks like a good business scheme. They rarely get involved in the running of their vineyards and have little say in the making of their wine. But not Otago born and bred actor Sam Neill who has many film and television credits to his name.
At one stage in his life he developed a love for fine wine and it wasn't too long before he realised wine and Central Otago, where he spent almost all his childhood holidays, became one and the same.
In 1993 he planted a vineyard next door to film director Roger Donaldson's vineyard in the Gibbston Valley. They referred to their plots as the 'Two Paddocks'. It was a name that Sam kept when he finally produced wine, the first vintage being 1997. In 1998 he secured his own second paddock near Alexandra and called it, appropriately, Alex Paddock.
Redbank Paddock in Earnscleugh was acquired in 2000 and is now Two Paddocks HQ. Not only are grapes grown at Redbank but also cherries, nectarines, saffron, lavender, truffles, vegetables, cumquats, walnuts and olives while sheep and chicken roam this bounteous little 'farm'.
Sam came to Auckland last week to show off his wines, starting with the inspiringly named Picnic by Two Paddocks Riesling 2009. Despite it being the middle of winter it was a glorious day, a day to dress in discardable layers. So it wasn't hard to imagine how well this crisp, fresh and just off dry Riesling with quenching flavours of tropical fruit and limes would go down in the summer - quickly I would imagine.
But it was the Pinot Noirs that were the real stars.
Picnic by Two Paddocks Pinot Noir 2008 showed a transparent ruby hue in the sunlight. A wine with savoury earthy aromas, concentrated black cherry fruit and a ripe vinous complexity, it has rich cherry fruit, smoke, herbs and raspberry sweetness to the savoury finish. . A medium-bodied style with stylish French oak in harmony and an elegant touch.
Two Paddocks Central Otago Pinot Noir 2008 is deeper and darker in colour with a black cherry richness to the hue. The beguiling aroma of dark cherry fruit and smoky savoury oak leads into a concentrated beautifully structured wine with a silky seamless impression across the palate. Earthy and savoury with firm yet seductive tannins; black cherry and redcurrant fruit well up from within and a hint of chocolate emerges on the lingering finish. While lighter in concentration than the small volume big wines that Central Otago produced in 2007 and 2009, this has lovely fruit balance and exactly the right amount of acidity to give the wine brightness without losing any of its quintessential savoury charm. This is gorgeous to drink already and tastes simply delicious when accompanied with Spiced Duck Leg Samosa.
Two Paddocks Central Otago Pinot Noir 2008 is made by Dean Shaw at Sam's winery, the Central Otago Wine Company. It has 13.5% alcohol and sports a screwcap closure. Price to be confirmed. It's this week's Wine of the Week and I rate it 5 stars.
Negociants New Zealand have just taken over the distribution in New Zealand so expect to find the Two Paddocks wines more widely available in restaurants and fine wine stores. And if you are Australia, USA, Canada, United Kingdom or Hong Kong, then check out the website for distributors.
Check out the website anyway for Sam's blog amongst the reading and lots of other information right there. www.twopaddocks.co.nz.
There's also more about Two Paddocks on my own blog - check it out here, at this link.
© Sue Courtney
2 Aug 2010