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The 2002 Waipara Valley Wine and Food Celebration
Day One - Saturday March 23rd, 2002

© Sue Courtney, April 2002

Click here for the main Waipara wine region page and the introduction to this review.

Stop 1: Fiddler's Green
Ex-lawyer and wine lover Barry Johns planted the 15-hectare vineyard in 1994 and the first wine, a riesling, was produced in 1997. Looking north over the Fiddler's Green vines Riesling, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and pinot noir make up the company's portfolio, with pinot ultimately being the flagship wine as the vineyard expands.

There is a delightful Mediterranean style tasting room at Fiddler's Green where you can stand at the door and look out over the vines and the olive trees lining the drive to the hills in the distance to the north. The wines are made at the Waipara West winery.

Fiddler's Green Sauvignon Blanc 2001
Grapefruit zest aroma, lively full palate, spicy and zesty, nice citrus and some varietal gooseberry emerging on the finish with a touch of sweet ripe melon. Dry finish but very refreshing.

Fiddler's Green Riesling 2000
Nice limey richness and good palate weight. Very smooth as it glides across the palate. Talc powder texture, some floral nuances. It's just on medium with 7.5 grams of residual sugar but the acid is high, making it seem a little drier. There's a nice twist of lemon and the fullness of stonefruits on the finish with the intense flavours of lime and grapefruit zest lingering on the long finish.

We had a bit of a cork problem with the riesling. The first had insidious corkiness, the second was more obvious. The third, however, was perfect. Fiddler's Green will switch to "twintops" for 2002 and they are not yet convinced that screwcaps are the solution.

Barry gave me a bottle of the Fiddler's Green 1997 Riesling, which he said was similar to the 2001 in its youth. This bottle was opened the following weekend. What a beaut little riesling. Still quite pale in colour but excellent pure varietal flavours with concentrated lime, a little toastiness and a touch of honey. There's still years of life ahead of this wine. This bodes well for the future of the 2001.

Stop 2: Pegasus Bay
Pegasus Bay winemaker Matthew Donaldson just happened to be visiting Fiddler's Green when I visited so I hitched a ride to the Pegasus Bay winery with him. "Let's go look at the vineyard", he said. At Pegasus Bay looking east

Pegasus Bay is the third largest vineyard in the area, with 40 hectares of vines on river gravels. The photo shows the northern perimeter of the vineyard with the vines protected with nets. The hills are to the east and on the other side of the Waipara River to the Pegasus Bay vineyard. This was an armchair tour as the vine spacing is wide enough for a car to drive between the rows. We grape grazed. The sauvignon blanc was stunning. Matthew is very excited about their vineyard trials of several grape varieties, including new clones of pinot noir, merlot and malbec, on various rootstock's.

Pegasus Bay chardonnay grapes

Back at the winery tasting room, plates of labelled grapes were set on a table for the public to try. Excellent idea.

We went out the back for a quick tasting. This was a tasting by torchlight as the power was out in the new barrel hall. We tasted samples of pinot noir, merlot and malbec. The differences between the blocks were marked. I loved the pinots from West Block and the Young Vines best. The merlot was ripe and juicy and the malbec was looking very good.

Back in the light I tasted the 2001 Main Divide Chardonnay from tank. Bottling of this wine had commenced the day before. For $16.95, this is a stunning chardonnay with evidence of barrel fermentation. Grapefruit aromas, warm leesy lemon flavours and lingering stonefruit.

Think this is good, wait 'til you taste the 2001 Pegasus Bay Chardonnay. The blended tank sample, waiting to be bottled, showed excellent flavours and texture.

Over lunch with a platter of delicacies from the menu, the Pegasus Bay Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2001 came up trumps with goats cheese on crostini. This is a smoky, 'fumé' wine with good grassiness, soft acids, lemon juice, grapefruit, wild yeast, leesy mealy characters, a creamy texture and butterscotch nuances on the finish. Hints of passionfruit emerge and linger. There's been some classy barrel work in this wine.

The ever-reliable Pegasus Bay Riesling 2001, was delightful with the Spring Rolls with vermicelli noodles and cajun coated sliced prawns. (More details on the riesling when I tasted a vertical on Day 2).

Appropriately, the Pegasus Bay 'Finale' Noble Chardonnay Barrique Matured 1999 was the finale. This had spent two and a half years in oak, though you wouldn't know it. It's deep gold in colour and really luscious thick and sticky with flavours of raisins and apricots. Elegance plus.

Stop 3: Torlesse Wines
I remember Torlesse from its early days in West Melton. The Pharis Vineyard looking south They take their name from one of Canterbury's pioneering families, the name which is also attributed to one of the mountain ranges and to the local greywacke rock. Torlesse started their Waipara operation in 1991 and move there shortly afterwards. Grapes are sourced from their own 26 hectares of vineyards and from local growers, as well as from other vineyards in Canterbury.

The tasting facility at Torlesse is three years old. It was an addition to the winery, which was once an old sheep-shearing shed. Dick Pharis, a co-owner of Torlesse and one of the growers - whose terraced vineyard on the northern banks of the Waipara River is photographed looking to the south, took me through the wines.

Torlesse Sauvignon Blanc 2000
This was the first vintage from their own Waipara fruit. Stonefruit aromas but hallmark grassy sauv blanc flavours. Good palate weight enhanced by smoky oak.

Torlesse Sauvignon Blanc 2001
Vibrant grassy aromas and richly textured palate with intense passionfruit and lime. Intense on the finish too with sweet fruit lingering. Again the palate is enhanced by a tiny amount of oak used in the aging. Very good.

Torlesse Pinot Gris 2001
Soft pear drop aromas. A dryish pinot gris with a juicy citrus note, pears and apples and a touch of spice. Rich leesy characters and richly texture. Barrel fermented but oak is not at all intrusive. A nice lifted talc and spice character on the finish.

Torlesse Waipara Chardonnay 1999
Soft buttery oak, mouthfilling pear and fig flavours, full-bodied, rich, a little oil with a lemony note on the finish. Quite nice and balanced with integrated oak. (1.3 only was new). Long finish. This wine is drinking well now and will continue to cellar well.

Torlesse Waipara Riesling 2001
Fragrant citrus aromas but hard in the palate with grapefruit, lime leaf and green apple. But it opens up as it sits in the glass. There's some honeysuckle sweetness and talcy spice and the length is excellent. The wine is closed with a screwcap and Dick Pharis attributed the initial hardness on the palate to the reductive aging of the screwcap closure. 5 grams a litre of residual sugar.

Torlesse Canterbury Riesling 2001
A sweeter wine with honeysuckle aromas, apple and citrus flavours enhanced by honey and citrus peel spice. There's 20 grams a litre of residual sugar but it is well balanced to the acidity of the limey citrus. Lingers well. I imagine this wine would have been just fabulous if it had been just a little chilled.

Torlesse Pinot Noir 'Selection' 2001 made from Waipara fruit is a first bottling from the top of the casks. There's cherry and earthy aromas that are slightly smoky. The fruit is sweet with a touch of tobacco, a hint of chocolate, a flash of citrus and some herbal spice that lingers on the finish.

Torlesse Pinot Noir 2001
This is sweeter and a little more apple-like in its profile, though the richness of the pinot fruit comes through in this lighter style. It's a introductory style of pinot with a little malt toffee flavour lingering with cherries.

Torlesse Cabernet-Pinot 2001
This was a bit of an oddity, some Marlborough cabernet blended with Waipara cabernet and pinot. It smells of new fermenting grapes with raisins and tastes a little porty. They say it is a popular style at the cellar door but for me it is too sweet and lacks the acid structure.

Torlesse Cabernet Merlot 2000
Cassis and mint on the nose, there's a nice cedary note with a touch of tobacco then plum, blackcurrant and a spicy lingering smoky finish with a hint of licorice. Quite a stylistic varietal and I thought it to be a good dry red.

Stop 4: Glenmark Wines
John McCaskey is the original Waipara grape grower, converting part of his sheep farm to grapes in 1981. John has a great sense of welcoming. He emits radiance and his smile definitely makes you smile. He's got a great sense of humour too. I loved his stall with the bunches of each variety of grape he grows above the entrance. But alas, most of the wines did nothing for me. These were two I liked.

Glenmark Gewurztraminer 2001
Richly flavoured and aromatic semi-sweet wine with intense spice, musk and sweet Turkish Delight. Nice and bright with citrus enhancing the finish.

Glenmark Proprietors Reserve Riesling 2000
Spicy with lemons and limes enhanced by honeyed sweetness and nice floral notes. There's a talcy graininess, juicy orange and lime and a zest sweet finish. A little better than the 97 and heaps better than the 99.

Waipara looking east

I did not taste the Pinot Noir. I was meant to catch up with this wine at the Festival the next day, but I forgot. Sorry.

John has sold most of his land and is currently leasing it back. He has plans to move to the 'House on the Hill', the original family house. This location gives splendid views across the valley to the vineyards on the eastern side of the valley, as shown in the photograph. Mountford Vineayrd can be seen in the distance.

Day 1, Pukeko Junction
The Winemakers Dinner was held at Pukeko Junction, about halfway between Christchurch and Waipara. This new eatery combines with the retail of local artwork and local wines. It's one place to buy some of the sought after bottles from the wineries that do not have cellar door facilities.

But tonight the winemakers supplied the wines and there were some older treasures from their cellars as well as current releases. This was an opportunity to taste some of the regions best wines. I had some definite favourites from the evening namely

  • Waipara Springs Riesling 2000
  • Mountford Chardonnay 1999
  • Black Estate Pinot Noir 2000
  • Muddy Water Pinotage 2000

Click here for the main Waipara wine region page and the introduction to this review.

The other days -

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