After lunching with Sam Weaver of Churton Wines on the Winter Solstice (see this blog entry), and being so impressed with the wines, it was obvious to me that the wines were to be shared with people whose surname is mentioned on the label. This I have been doing since the Churton Wines label came into being – or at least since the vintage 2000.
I was their first mail order customer at a time all of the Churton Wines' output was being exported to the UK. We thought what was inside the bottle did justice to the name and have been following the label ever since. A good thing really, as the wines seem to be getting better and better. Wines with soul. Wines that speak – not so much of where they come from, but of the passion that goes into the crafting of the wines. It could help also that now all of the grapes come off Sam's own biodynamically farmed vineyard, high in the Waihopai Valley, and contract growers don't figure any more.
I first met Sam in Auckland when he was the fine wine manager at Hancocks, now Glengarry Hancocks, at the Victoria Park store. He left there in 1990 to pursue a winemaking career, having 'done a vintage' the year before. First he worked for Hunters, then became chief winemaker for Corban's Stoneleigh, but when Corbans was sold to Montana, it was time for him to go out on his own, to pursue the dream of Churton that he and wife Mandy set up in 1997. And contract winemaking, as a sideline, kept the money coming in.
They have what I call a beef and lamb vineyard, the small blocks named after cuts of meat – click here to download the vineyard plan – it shows it's not all seriousness at Churton Wines, there is a sense of humour there.
I've had great success in matching Churton Wines to food before, Pinot Noir with Venison with Roasted Beetroot in a Balsamic Glaze, Mushroom pot pie and herb and spice crusted tuna for example. The Sauvignon Blanc is food friendly – nice at Christmas time with snapper, shellfish, ham and salads. And just last month Toto Restaurant showcased the wines with food quite splendidly.
The wine I couldn't wait to try again was Churton Marlborough Viognier 2010. A heady aromatic wine, with a gem-like citrine hue, there are smoky nuances joining the delicately spicy and tantalising blossomy scent. The aromatics flourish in the palate – apricots, five spice, orange blossom, and then a creaminess from the oak. A rich and scented wine, moderately high-toned – from the 14.8% alcohol, I suspect – and on the lingering finish the orange zest flavours are well defined. What I like best about this wine is the pretty, floral aftertaste with a biscuity sweetness – like the orange drop biscuits I made this weekend – just nice. But the wine is more than nice - it's outstanding. It's the type of wine I like to drink and it's perfect to match to a decadently creamy pate - like Toto's rabbit farce. However on the night we matched to five spice-crusted pan-fried fillet of fresh salmon. This was a terrific match too.
This is a 'first vintage' wine and the juice was fermented in oak – a new French Demi Muid (600-litre) barrel and two 228-litre used French oak barrels. Interestingly, for a Churton wine, the finished wine has 10 grams of residual sugar – but the sweetness is balanced to the savouriness and it doesn't given the impression of being 'sweet', it's more heady than anything else. As normal, for a Churton wines, it has a natural cork closure. RRP is $36.
All of the Churton wines are available in New Zealand. They are sought after on top restaurant lists and available in specialist wine stores also. Former sales and marketing manager for Churton, James Barber, is now distributing through his own company, Mineral Wine Distributors.
For more on Churton Wines, visit www.churtonwines.co.nz.
© Sue Courtney
10 Jul 2011