"You really should taste the Runner Duck wines," said David Hoskins of Heron's Flight Vineyard in Matakana when I asked him about his new restaurant partners, Clyde and Farida Cooper. I'd been pestering him for a photo of them and him and his wife, Mary Evans, for my wine column in the local paper.
A few days later Clyde and Farida dropped in, bearing wine, on their way from Auckland to Matakana. I welcomed them into my humble little abode and listened to their story.
Wine was already part of their lifestyle when they arrived in New Zealand from Bombay, India, a few years ago. There they had been introduced to the accessible Jacobs Creek brand, which in turn led to a fascination with Bordeaux wines.
When they decided to look for a small block in the country where they could perhaps farm, or grow grapes, they were immediately smitten with a property in Warkworth's Duck Creek Road, not even knowing it had a vineyard on it. "The driveway was just so beautiful," recalls Farida, with a glaze in her eyes.
The 3.2 hectare vineyard, planted in Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Pinotage, and an olive grove with 400 trees, were welcome added extras.
The Coopers purchased the property mid-2008 and although the former owners did not harvest the grapes that year, wine from the 2007 vintage, in barrel, was included.
They arranged with winemaker Shayne Cox, for the wines to be bottled and worked about developing the brand. They decided on 'Runner Duck' because their address is Duck Creek Road, the duck is the icon of Warkworth, the Indian Runner is a breed of duck that harks back to their native country and runner also correlates to the former careers in the courier / air cargo business. The upright Runner Duck logo they developed is drawn in the Henna designs that Indian women wear on their hands and feet.
Taking their new venture seriously, they enrolled in the Eastern Institute of Technology's Diploma in Viticulture correspondence course to learn the ropes as well as learning the nitty gritty from their full-time vineyard Manager, Joe Schroff.
Looking for an outlet for the sales of the wine the Coopers noticed a number of Matakana wineries were on the market, including the Herons Flight Winemaker's Centre. The restaurant / cellar door channel seemed an ideal way to promote the Runner Duck wines.
In March this year Clyde and Farida became the owners of the front block of the Heron's Flight property, which includes the restaurant building and eight rows of Sangiovese vines. But more importantly they formed a business partnership with David Hoskins and Mary Evans to manage the restaurant and wine centre. Now tastings of Heron's Flight and Runner Duck wines are held together.
While Clyde prefers to work on the Runner Duck property, one of Farida's passions in life is food and she will be at the winemakers centre four days a week where her favourite place is in the kitchen. Indo-Persian flavours are her specialty and they will be gradually introduced to the menu. She says the soft spices of this style of food are more wine-friendly than the hot Indian curries many of us know.
Runner Duck Syrah 2007 ($39) is a full, spicy red that they enjoy with Parsi (Indo/Persian) food. "Soft spices make the food more wine friendly," says Farida. "You tone down on the Biryani-type spices." She also likes to marinate steak in ginger and garlic and serve it with a mushroom sauce to accompany the wine. "It's a fusion," says Clyde, adding that they also enjoy it with lamb shanks, or even just a slice of smoked cheese.
Runner Duck Matakana Red 2007 ($39) is a warm, soft wine with an impressive marriage of fruit and oak. Farida says she would be happy serving this as an accompaniment to Tandoori Chicken. Farida says it also goes well with soft Brie cheeses.
We were not quite as adventurous when tasting the wines accompanying them to a warming winter lamb casserole.
Runner Duck Matakana Red 2007 is this week's Wine of the Week. Made from a blend of Cabernet Franc, Pinotage, Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot, it's a dense dark red colour with a rich, warm glow. Fragrantly scented with red and black berries, cedar and smoke, it has a rich, ripe savoury flavour with deep, dark fruit reminiscent of berries and plums with fruitcake piece, herbs, creamy oak and vinous richness. The impressive marriage of fruit and oak has well-balanced underlying acidity, fine textured tannins and a warm dry finish. Medium to full-bodied in style, the bottle states 13.5% alcohol/vol and it's closed with a Diam cork.
You can taste the French-inspired Runner Duck Wines alongside the Italian-inspired wines of Heron's Flight at Heron's Flight Winemaker's Centre, Sharp Road, Matakana. They open daily. Find out more from www.heronsflight.co.nz .
© Sue Courtney
29 Jun 2010