I love this time of year. Autumn. Harvest time. There's a nip in the air in the early morning, the night having chased any lingering humidity away by about 3 am. Daylight savings time is still in force, so it's dark in the mornings until quite late.
As I sit at the computer looking out the back window just after sunrise, there's a misty haze that marks where the unseen motorway cuts through the valley.
The sheep wander into the orchard – the gate is left open for them at this time of year. They search for the pears that have dropped since their last foray at dusk the night before. They find them and are contented and settle down for a rest, chewing the pear-flavoured cud. If the sheep don't get them, the birds will.
The pears are big and sweet this year. The biggest pears yet from our trees. Perhaps getting them professionally pruned last year was a good thing. I hope this is not a foreboding omen. Last year one of the peaches gave it best crop ever. This year half the tree died and the peaches on the other half never really formed. I didn't like the peaches from that tree anyway. It wasn't as nice as my favourite Golden Queen.
The other day Neil gathered a handful of pears and put them through the juicer. It was the first time I had tasted freshly juiced pear. It was sweet with a little acidity in there to keep it in balance, and amazingly, it reminded me of some of the pear flavours I find in the best pinot gris.
Last week I had a book launch. It's a book of short stories and poems from my writing group, the International Writers' Workshop NZ Inc (IWW), and is named Beyond the Persimmon Tree after one of the short stories in the book. I was co-editor of the book and naturally I chose the wine for the book launch function.
I chose Pinot Gris because it's in favour with most drinkers right now. And not just any Pinot Gris but the No. 1 Cuisine-rated Pinot Gris from the latest aromatics tasting (March 2011). It's not only delicious wine, but a delicious price too.
Shingle Peak Marlborough Pinot Gris 2010 is a beauty. It's got a fresh fruity bouquet and is full of freshly picked orchard fruit juices with grapey acidity, a touch of honey and a little hint of flower nectar. A nice touch of apple strudel-like, almost gewurz-like spice comes through and it finishes medium dry. It takes chilling well, which is a very important consideration. It has a 14% alcohol and a screwcap closure and although RRP is set at $17.99, it's available around the traps for under $12 a bottle.
This is an ideal wine for a function: not too sweet, not too dry, not too overpowering and certainly not bland. The wine was free to guests at the function and not one person complained about the lack of choice or asked if we had a red or a chardonnay or a sauv. Neil, who was playing barman for the evening, said that someone even came back and wrote down the name.
I could have got cheaper wine at a supermarket, but then I would have had to hire glasses (at about .60c each, which is $36 for 60 glasses) and I couldn't have taken back any bottles of wine left over, so I would have had to buy more wine than we actually needed.. So while the supermarket may have had temptingly-priced bargains, I knew I was serving top wine, I had free glass hire and I was able to return unopened bottles, paying only for the bottles I used. It's a no-brainer, really.
Find about more about Shingle Peak from the Matua Valley website - www.matua.co.nz.
© Sue Courtney
14 Mar 2011