One thing about actually travelling to a wine region and visiting the people that grow the grapes or make the wine, is that you feel the passion they instil into their product. It doesnít seem to matter whether it's a winemaker at a large company, or a small grower producer who sends the grapes away to be made into wine by someone else, the sense of pride in their role in producing that bottle of wine, is the same. And when it's the first vintage, it's like the birth of a first born child.
I experienced that 'first child' pride last Monday, on the last day of my Gisborne visit, when I called into the brand new cellar door of Bushmere Estate and met the vineyard manager, David Hart, and his wife Mairead. Bushmere Estate is owned by Shona and David Egan, grape growers in the district for the last 30 years but they were overseas when I called in. David and Mairead Hart have also been grape growers for the last 15 years and their vineyards are just five minutes down the road. On the Hart property there's an old railway bridge, made of stone, so they've christened their wine with the name 'Stone Bridge'. With David Hart managing the both vineyards, the cellar door has become a co-operative affair, with Mairead one of the duty managers, and both Bushmere Estate and Stone Bridge wines available for tasting and for sale.
It's all very well tasting wine at the vineyard and being seduced by the wine, the surroundings and the stories. But how would the wines stand up to the test when they were taken away and tried again a few days later in more realistic drinking surroundings, that being in one's own home? Of the range of Rosť's, Chardonnays, Gewurztraminers and Merlots, I chose two wines to take home. They were the Stone Bridge Gisborne Gewurztraminer 2005 and the Bushmere Estate Gisborne Chardonnay 2005. And they were pretty darn good when snatched from the cradle and tasted away from their comfort zone.
Stone Bridge Gisborne Gewurztraminer 2005 is classically varietal with delicate rose petal aromas and rich oily flavours full of lychee with musky rose water and orange blossom infusions.
With an underlying crispness, a peppery warmth and lots of Asian spices, it finishes dry with an underlying lemony tinge to the aftertaste.
It finishes dry because it is dry, with just 3.6 grams per litre of residual sugar that sits well with the natural sweetness of the 14% alcohol by volume.
A subtle wine rather than one of the big, blousey, over-the-top styles, it is sealed with a screwcap and costs $18.50 per bottle. The Celtic heart is a nice little touch to the label. It recognises Mairead's Irish heritage as well as being a play on their surname.
I enjoyed this wine to drink on its own but it also worked beautifully with my Hawaiian Pork, made with kumara rather than with red capsicum. Check out the recipe here.
Bushmere Estate Gisborne Chardonnay 2005 is a mouthfilling, satisfying sweet rich chardonnay, with creamy butterscotch-like oak, nuts, stonefruit, a touch of spice and a long toasty finish with Gisborne's classical tropical fruit flavours emerging on the lingering aftertaste.
It's beautifully balanced and ready to drink now. And easy to drink, it is.
The food recommendation on the label is white meats and shell fish, however it was also substantial enough to match to a slightly overcooked roast of beef with gravy and veg.
The wine carries 13% alcohol by volume and is sealed with a screwcap. It costs $21 at the cellar door.
This was one of my favourite chardonnays tasted on the trip, which is an incredible feat for a wine produced in the Chardonnay capital of New Zealand. I guess I tasted far too many unoaked, unwooded, 'virgin' chardonnays over the four days and although one or two prominent wine writers are trying to set a trend by championing the oak-free style, is oak-free really what the majority of chardonnay drinkers want? I donít think so. Not the chardonnay drinkers I know, anyway.
Bushmere Estate is on State Highway 2 at 166 Main Road, Makaraka, and is the first cellar door you'll pass when driving into Gisborne from the north west. So it is also the last cellar door you'll pass when leaving Gisborne to travel north the quickest way by road, towards Rotorua. Currently they open Friday, Saturday and Sunday and as well as tasting and buying wine, you can also partake in a tasty vineyard platter or cake and coffee.
Check out their websites - very minimal ones at this stage - at www.stonebridgewine.com and www.bushmere.com.
© Sue Courtney
23 July 2006