From Waiheke Island to Curio Bay and back.

Like many people this winter’s plan to travel overseas was abandoned and instead we booked a motorhome for five weeks and headed south. We got as far as Curio Bay at the bottom of the South Island (the second most southerly point on the island) and then turned around and headed back home. I did a little bit of wine tasting along the way, mostly focusing on Pinot Noir, but not forgetting other varieties. Tastings notes are in the blog below. However, the best wine I tasted was not a Pinot Noir, but instead it was 2019 Dry River Gewurztraminer. A stunning wine and still available at Wine Bank in Martinborough.

Our furthest point from home – Curio Bay where there is a 170 million year old fossil forest visible at low tide.

The first opportunity was in Marlborough but the days we had planned for wine tasting turned out to be somewhat wet and we decided to only visit two wineries and then head off to Hanmer Springs. These stops were –

Cloudy Bay

2019 Sauvignon Blanc typical CB style nice fruit not really a wine for winter
2006 Sauvignon Blanc pail colour not a lot darker than the 2020. In great shape and shows what can happen with a SB made to age
2017 Chardonnay nice structure with good fruit and acidity. Probably be at peak over 5-8 years
2018 Marlborough Pinot Noir nice fruit and structure with the potential to age
2017 Te Wahi Pinot Noir Central Otago much darker fruits and concentration. Needs a good 5 plus years before drinking. Really good
2008 Noble Riesling beautiful fruit and good concentration with a clean finish. Still has a few years left


Framingham Tasting Room

2019 F-Series Gewurztraminer lovely spice and a full luscious mouthful. Very Alsace in style

2018 Chardonnay a lighter style and currently with acidity dominant
2019 Noble Riesling very luscious but with a nice clean finish. Good value and shows what these guys can do with dessert wines.

A comment on Framingham dessert wines – they are famous for their F Series dessert wines but it’s unlikely you will get to taste them at the vineyard. Maybe you can be more successful than I was but it doesn’t hurt to ask – especially before you get there.

After two really nice days in Hanmer we headed off to Christchurch and stopped in Waipara. Unfortunately Greystone wasn’t open but we were able to go to our other pick, Black Estate, for a tasting. It would have been nice to stay for lunch but alas it was the tasting only.

Black Estate

Black Estate – a view from outside the cellar door

2019 Damsteep Riesling dry with lovely limey fruit and an excellent structure built to age very well. Best in 3+ years
2018 Home Chenin Blanc quite a minerally style perhaps with the potential to age very well
2018 Home Chardonnay quite minerally with a some grapefruit. Needs a few years but it’s got good structure
2017 Home Pinot Noir the second lightest of the three tasted but not by much. Good tannins and berry fruits. Quite minerally
2017 Damsteep Pinot Noir lighter colour but big dark fruits. Could be enjoyed from now for another 5 years
2017 Netherwood Pinot Noir medium colour with good cherry and earthy flavours. Needs a bit of time but has plenty going on.

Beside Lake Pukaki on the way to Queenstown

The next opportunity was when we got to Queenstown a week later. We were staying in Arrowtown and decided to do the cycle trail from there to Gibbston Valley. It was officially 2 deg C when we took off but the trail went through a significant area of heavy frost so fingers in particular didn’t appreciate the cold. It warmed up a fraction later on and our visit to Gibbston Valley winery itself was very welcome.

On the way from Arrowtown to Gibbston Valley

Gibbston Valley

Pinot Tasting at Gibbston Valley

2013 Rose Methode Traditionelle Nice rose flavours with persistent bead. Good acidity and will probably age well. Very good
2018 Glenlee Pinot Noir lighter colour with reasonable fruit and length. Need a bit of time to open up
2018 China Terrace Pinot Noir more fruit and a bit bolder and will probably age well.
2018 School House Pinot Noir like the CT this is from Bendigo and this vintage isn’t a lot different.
2017 China Terrace Pinot Noir the best of the wines indicating a potentially better vintage but really there isn’t a huge amount in it

The next day we did a tasting at The Winery wine shop in Arrowtown. This is the same business as the one that is normally open in Queenstown but that particular store is currently closed due to building renovations. This Arrowtown store opened about a month before the lockdown and at this point in time seems to have only about 40 wines available for tasting under enomatic rather than the 80 that the Queenstown store had. It’s not a big deal and I was only interested in a small tasting anyway.

The Winery Arrowtown

2016 Mondillo Pinot Noir quite good wine with ripe fruits but over shadowed by the next tw0
2017 Valli Waitaki Pinot Noir quite a light and fragrant wine but still one with lots of interest. Valli so far seems to be the best of the Waitaki wines I have tried
2015 Takapoto Bannockburn Pinot Noir – a quite big but soft pinot with lots going on. Has a good acid spine and will continue to develop. Wine is processed in their Waikato winery!!
2016 Takapoto Crossing Point The Red – Waikato CS, Merlot, Malbec fruit. Only about $20 and surprisingly good at the price and considering where the fruit is from.

On our final day in the Queenstown area we stopped beside Lake Hayes on route to Alexandra for two quick tastings.

Looking over Lake Hayes where Amisfield have their tasting rooms, and Akarua have a small tasting room (the main one is at Bannockburn)

Amisfield Estate

2016 Methode Traditionale – I really liked this wine which has just been released. Lot’s of structure but really clean on the palate.
2018 Pinot Noir – not from the best vintage but a wine that is quite interesting. Perhaps one that won’t age but in 2-3 years it will be lovely
2017 Pinot Noir – a lot bigger style (but not like 2014) but not ready to show a lot yet. Will probably open up into a good wine
2016 Pinot Noir – more delicate style than I expected and perhaps a bit disappointing for it
2014 Pinot Noir – a bold wine and perhaps the best of these 4 vintages. I have drunk a few bottles of this over time
2016 RKV Reserve Pinot Noir – lovely wine with good fruit and acidity. Not a bold style but very tight at this stage

Akarua Estate

2019 Rua Pinot Noir – quite and easy drinking wine. A bit lighter than normal perhaps reflecting the vintage
2018 25 Steps Pinot Noir – light style again – red cherry. Would be nice drinking but not sure how well it will age
2018 Pinot Noir – easily the biggest wine but still very young. Would be interesting to watch it develop but suspect it isn’t as good as some recent vintages which have been highly awarded.

In the last week of our trip we stopped in Martinborough for two days but only left ourselves a short time for wine tasting.

Ata Rangi

This has always been my personal favourite in this area and as they have been doing for a few years now you have to book your tasting for either 11am or 2pm. They can only take up to about 10 people at a time and the tasting is seated.

2018 Sauvignon Blanc quite a restrained style that has some malolactic and barrel ferment treatment. It is one that I quite like. My guess is that it will age well.
2018 Craighall Chardonnay a lot tighter wine than earlier vintages I have tried and again one that will develop really well. Unfortunately the last vintage of this wine as the vines have been pulled out and will eventually be replanted with Pinot Noir.
2018 Potiki Chardonnay this will replace the Craighall but the vines are very young. An earlier drinking style at this point.
2019 Rose. A mixture of Hawkes Bay and martinborough fruit and a blend of CS, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cab Franc. Really nice wine – dry with plenty of interest on the palate.
2018 Crimson Pinot Noir Quite a big fruity style of Pinot but one that will still benefit from several years in the cellar
2017 Pinot Noir this is from a cooler vintage but it reminds me a lot of a young Burgundy – lighter in colour than a lot of NZ Pinot, but with a velvety mouth feel with a kick of tannin to remind you that it will age really well
2016 Juliet Syrah this is a lovely wine but unusually it didn’t have much if any of NZ’s signature black (or white) pepper. Instead it was a bit of spice on the nose with dominant black plum and licorice on the palate. I think it needs a bit of time to really open up.

Palliser Estate

At Palliser Estate

2017 The Rose (methode) a very nice sparkling with lots of interest. A really good wine.
2019 Pinot Gris off dry with some OK fruit but probably a bit austere for me
2019 Sauvignon Blanc I tried this because I used to have fond memories of this wine but it seemed to have fallen away a bit in recent years. However this was exactly like I remembered it when it was at it’s peak – intense aromas and rich in the mouth. One to enjoy over the next summer
2018 Chardonnay an elegant style with a good fruit and a bit of nuttiness. For drinking over the next few years
2019 Single Vineyard Chardonnay wow really rich style but with good clean mineral finish. It should age well
20 18 Pinot Noir again this reminds me a bit more of some of the older vintages of this wine (a good thing). Quite rich with good pinot fruits. Likely to age and improve for 5 plus years

The Wine Bank

The Wine Bank in Martinborough

This is the same sort of set up as The Winery in Arrowtown. I decided to check out a few wines that were not available for tasting earlier that day.

2019 Dry River Gewurztraminer this is the best vintage of this wine that I have tried. Less sweet but really concentrated with lovely spicy fruit – very long and should age well.
2017 Margrain Old Vine Chenin Blanc a bit disappointing to be honest. For me there wasn’t much fruit. A shame because I normally like this wine a lot.
2017 Martinborough Vineyard Home Block Pinot Noir lovely mouth feel with good dark cherry and spice.
2017 Schubert Block B Pinot Noir lighter colour than the Martinborough wine but has really good length and tannins and should age well

One other recommendation for Martinborough but one that I couldn’t visit this trip. This is a relatively new wine producer called On Giants Shoulders, who offer seated tastings at the same times that Ata Rangi does. The wines are all excellent with most of the vines having been planted in the early days of the Martinborough wine revolution (hence the winery name).

After our quick visit to Martinborough we spent two nights in Rotorua before getting home 34 days after we left. It was lot’s of fun, the motor home started to feel a lot bigger than it really was, and we would happily do it all over again.

Our home for 5 weeks – in a frost in Arrowtown