Last year on our way home from the South Island, by car I shall add, we stopped at the wee North Island village of Ohau, 70 kilometres north of Wellington and 5 kilometres south of Levin, to seek out the Kapiti Coast vineyard called Ohau Gravels. We weren't sure where it was, but luckily we spotted a sign saying vineyard sections for sale, so we turned the car in that direction of the arrow, which was east of State Highway One.
We drove along expecting to see a sign announcing the Ohau Gravels vineyard, until we crossed the Ohau River and realised we had probably gone too far.
Driving back, we saw a road named Ohau Terraces, which sounded a promising name for a vineyard location, but this was a new housing subdivision and no grapevines were there. We should have known, as the wine brand has 'gravels' in its name, not 'terraces'.
But on our left, we saw a rock wall-surrounded roadway entrance and real estate signs, so we drove down there. A ha! A little way down that road and there were the vineyards. But this was a people-less place and with no one to be seen, the tiki tour had to suffice.
With names like Pinot Cres, and Woven Stone Way (the Ohau Gravels logo is a woven stone), we knew we were in the right place. But we didn't find a winery or a cellar door. Currently the grapes are harvested and transported to nearby Wairarapa, when Jane Cooper crafts the wines.
Ohau Gravels had the kind of debut that every winery wants to have, with the first release Ohau Gravels Pinot Gris 2009 winning gold as well as the Trophy for Champion Pinot Gris at the Bragato Wine Awards that year.
Well, now the 2010 has been released, and tasted after a couple of hours chilling in the fridge, it's just delicious.
Ohau Gravels Pinot Gris 2010 has floral and spice aromas with apple, pear and pineapple fruit and it's spicy and zesty to the taste with richness and weight to the backbone, bright fruit and a tickle of spritz – or perhaps that's just the exhilarating ginger-like zest. The flavours are mouthwatering, even a suggestion of passionfruit comes through, and while the fruit suggests a little sweetness, the wine seems to finish much drier with its balanced acidity and typical winey savouriness from a small portion of barrel ferment and an extended time on yeast lees. It has 13% alcohol and RRP is $23.95. My rating: 5 stars.
Served chilled, this is the kind of Pinot Gris that makes a superb beverage wine, I'm saying that because it was too fruity as a match for my chicken and mushroom pie. However the winemaker says, "Enjoy with lightly spiced Asian dishes or fresh summer salads with pan-fried scallops, white fish and aioli."
The Ohau Gravels website lists where you can buy this wine – not only in New Zealand but in Australia, Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Hungary too.
Evidently the Maori word Ohau sounds like "everything is excellent" when heard by Mandarin speakers.
© Sue Courtney
9 Feb 2011