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Wine of the Week for week ending 3 February 2002
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Inverness Estate Ness Valley Chardonnay 2000
South Auckland, New Zealand

Inverness Estate Chardonnay There is no doubt that what you are doing, where you are doing it and who you are doing it with have a great deal of influence on the pleasure a wine can bring. And music can make it all the more pleasurable.

And so it was on a warm but not hot January afternoon at Inverness Estate Vineyard in South Auckland's Ness Valley on the occasion of Jazz @ Inverness. The estate's owners, John and Yo Robinson host this annual event for their friends and neighbours in the natural amphitheatre on their 90-acre property.

The high cloud layer filtered the burning summer sun for those on the grass but we were on the bank, lying on a rug under the canopy of not yet fallen pine needles, right opposite the stage with its backdrop of regenerating native bush behind the hidden trickling stream.

The sound of cicadas added to the orchestration as we sipped wine out of a plastic glass and listened to the jazz vocals of Barbie Davidson, a modern-jazz vocalist whose repertoire is influenced by Cleo Laine, Peggy Lee, Mama Cass and Dianna Krall.

Having never tasted the Inverness Estate wines before we had chosen the Inverness Estate Ness Valley Chardonnay 2000 ($20) from the bottles of wine on sale for the audience's added pleasure. The other choices were the Inverness Semillon 2000 ($18), Inverness Reserve Cabernet Franc 1999 ($27) and another red for $20, a cabernet merlot from 2000.

There's plenty of new French oak influence in this smoky-nosed, medium to full-bodied chardonnay with warm, nutty leesy flavours, toasty melon and a medley of stonefruit that lingers on the long finish with the creaminess of caramel and the spice of oak. And with every mouthful it tasted better as the upfront oak integrated to my palate and let the wine sing to the accompanying music. With 14% alcohol we watched our intake, otherwise we may soon have been singing too.

It's a pretty good wine on its own and was perfect on the day, although I'd like to see the oak integrate a little more which it will do in the next 6-months or so. It's a great cellaring proposition for the next couple of years, too.

As the afternoon continued and various acts came and went, the highlight had to be when John Robinson joined his jazzmen friends on stage playing his trombone and delighting the fans with his Satchmo-like voice, singing 'Melancholy Blues'.

Jazz at Inverness
The natural amphitheatre setting at Inverness Estate (left)
Barbie Davidson sings (centre)
John Robinson plays trombone with his jazz friends (right).

It was a great day and if you join the Inverness Estate mailing list and buy some of their wine (I definitely recommend the chardonnay), you are likely to be invited to next year's event. But be sure to take your favourite wineglass if you don't want to use plastic - although I feel it didn't make any difference today.

To find out more, check out the Inverness Estate website at where you can find directions to the winery if you want to visit. Wine tastings and sales are available on weekends only.

All grapes for the Inverness wines are estate-grown and then transported to the Kumeu where skilful winemaker, Anthony Ivicevich makes the wine.

Photos and text © Sue Courtney

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