Click here for the main Waipara wine region page and the introduction to this review.
The day dawned fine and still and I lay in bed watching the sun come up over the hills in the east. There was plenty of dew on the ground. It was going to be a perfect day for the Waipara Wine Celebration. But first there was work to do.
Stop 1: Sherwood Estate
When I visited Waipara in January, I had noticed the new building across the paddocks from State Highway One, near the Glenmark Church. Now it has Sherwood Estate emblazoned across the front of the building in impossible to miss lettering. Dayne and Jill Sherwood had their beginnings in West Melton, where they run a successful vineyard restaurant. But they see Waipara as best for Pinot Noir. They will process all their fruit at their new Waipara winery this vintage. Eventually the office, tasting facility and restaurant will move north too.
Sherwood now sources grapes from their original vineyards, their new Waipara vineyards and from vineyards in Marlborough. Currently 98 percent of Sherwood wine is exported.
Sherwood Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2001
What a wine to have first thing in the morning. Full of passionfruit and tropical fruits - a real fruit salad of a wine with some lemon notes emerging.
Sherwood Estate Marlborough Chardonnay 2000
Leesy characters make this wine taste warm and mealy. There's a little bit of malo, a little bit of oak and warm pineapple lingering. It's nice and easy. ($13-$14).
Sherwood Estate Canterbury / Waipara Riesling 2000
It's 100 percent Waipara fruit, but Dayne Sherwood believes the Canterbury on the label is more informative to most people who don't know where Waipara is. The floral and lime aromas are almost spicy. There are quite juicy citrus flavours with stone fruits and rockmelon. It's a soft, riper style and with its 17-18 grams of residual sugar, a wine that will be perfect for 5 o'clock drinks.
Sherwood Estate Marlborough Reserve Pinot Noir 2000
Earthy savoury feral style of pinot with medium tannins and a very earthy deep finish. Lacks the fruit we usually see in NZ pinots, so more of a Burgundian style with some ripe fruit (almost raisin) on the finish. Quite tasty and intriguing, though.
Dayne believes that pinot should start off as a fruity wine and develop more complex earthy savoury flavours with time.
I was going to taste the Sherwood Waipara Pinot Noir at the Celebration (which in the end I neglected to do), so Dayne and I walked across the paddocks, negotiated a couple of fences and arrived at the Festival site before the public descended.
Stop 2: Waipara Springs
I taste the Waipara Springs wines each year as they are part of the Negociants portfolio and come to town each year on the winemakers' tour.
I'd tasted the wines in January when we stopped at the winery and dined in the restaurant - click here for the review. But I was keen to taste them again. All wines are made from Waipara fruit and Stephanie Henderson-Grant is the winemaker. Together we went through the wines at the back of the tent - the shadiest spot I could find. For although it was only 10am, the sun was already burning.
Waipara Springs Riesling 2000
Would this taste as good as it did the night before? Yes, it most certainly did. A hint of botrytis and the bottle age adds a lovely dimension to this gorgeous riesling with its sherbet-like zestiness, lemon and lime citrus and lingering apricot and spice. This full- flavoured riesling is lovely drinking now but being clean and well balanced, it will develop beautifully. Waipara Spring's policy is to hold the riesling back for a year before release.
Waipara Springs Sauvignon Blanc 2001
This has been a great success for Waipara Springs. It's an early release wine - picked in April and bottled in July. Ten percent went into barrels for maturation for a few weeks; this has added nice palate weight. There's excellent pungent sauvignon blanc aromas then it's full and rich in the mouth with good sauvignon blanc grassiness and gooseberry while stonefruit lingers on the finish. A most refreshing wine but basically all sold out in NZ.
Waipara Springs Lightly Oaked Chardonnay 2001
Zesty and fruity with good palate weight and a lingering citrus finish, this is a lovely lunchtime style of wine. Twenty percent was barrel fermented.
Waipara Springs Barrique Chardonnay 2001
Waipara Springs Blush 2001
Nice mealy aromas and flavours of leesy lemon, then an apricot and nectarine richness with a tiny nuance of ginger. Just bottled, I thought this had great potential and look forward to trying it again on September 23rd when the Winemakers Tour comes to Auckland.
A blend of riesling, sauvignon blanc and pinot noir with 20 grams of residual sugar.
A very perfumed wine I find it a little strange, however, with clove spice characters at first then tropical fruits. Quite sweet and ripe on the finish. Sold only at the wine bar at the cellar door, this would go well with the salmon, pawpaw and avocado dish on the Waipara Springs restaurant menu.
Waipara Springs Botrytised Riesling 2000
Citrus peel and honey with a sweet apricot jam flavour. Grapes are hung on the vine until late May with some 70 percent botrytis infection
Waipara Springs Pinot Noir 2001
(the non-reserve wine - the reserve will be released in the winter). Vanillin creamy aromas. Nice warmly textured caramel flavours with ripe raspberry and plum. Very soft textured tasty approachable wine with some earthy, dense, richness on the finish. Stephanie says this will develop meaty characters with time. ~$25.
Stop 3: Canterbury House
I was meant to be visiting the winery, I think, but had no way of getting there.
So I talked with the assistant winemaker at the back of the tent while I tasted the wines.
Canterbury House is the second largest producer in the area with 60 hectares of vines. They've a magnificent tasting room and restaurant at the southern entrance to the Waipara wine region. I called there in January and had coffee and one of the biggest muffins I've ever seen.
Canterbury House Methode Traditionelle 1998
Yeasty refreshing bubbly, it's an earthy style with some caramel notes. Enjoyable. 50/50 blend of pinot noir and chardonnay, this is the 2nd disgorgement after being on lees for 2 years.
Canterbury House Dry Pinot Gris 2001.
Don't know why they call it dry as I was then told it had 9 grams of residual sugar. But I did like the ripe peach and pear flavours with good texture and richness, some nice delicate spice and a touch of bubble gum.
Canterbury House Riesling 2001 also took my fancy. With its juicy lines and spice, it's a refreshing soft riesling just perfect for sipping at Waipara Wine Celebrations in the hot sun.
Canterbury House Chardonnay 2000
Lightly oaked (25%) oily, nutty style with a touch of citrus and a tight finish.
Canterbury House Pinot Gris V.T. 2001
This has a black label indicating a 'reserve' wine. There's sweet honeyed pear flavours but I definitely recommend some soft cheese or fruit with this wine. I found it over the top in its own.
Canterbury House Pinot Noir 2000
Smoky nose, nice herbal notes in the cherry fruit with some earthy tones, a jammy/caramel richness, soft tannins, savoury spice. Ripe and easy drinking. Good value for money pinot at $21 a bottle.
Canterbury House Merlot 2000
Mint and plum aromas, an old-fashioned meaty, pongy, New Zealand style.
Michelle Rattray found me at the Canterbury House tent and whisked me away in the car to my next destination.
Stop 4: Floating Mountain
Floating Mountain was not at the Festival. Instead I caught up with Mark Rattray at the winery. He was in the middle of finishing a blend of components ready for bottling. I love the smell of this winery at work. I was familiar with Floating Mountain winery and wines, as we had called in and visited whilst in the region in January. However I'm not one to say 'No' when I'm offered a wine I particularly like. Here's what I tried today.
Floating Mountain Pinot Noir 2000
Floating Mountain Chardonnay 1998
Tamarillo and cherry fruit with a lovely savouriness, a silky texture with ripe fruit - heading towards jammy - and good length.
A lovely golden colour in the mellow, creamy, rich, full-bodied, leesy, peachy wine with honeyed oak and a custard-like finish.
Tasting notes of the other Floating Mountain wines, which I had previously tasting in January 2002, are in the reviews by grape variety.
Stop 5: Black Estate
Black Estate was not at the festival either. The reason being there was no wine to sell. I'd tasted the Black Estate Pinot Noir 2000 at the Winemaker's Dinner the previous night. This was a great new find. I was keen to find out more. Mark Rattray is the winemaker, so we tasted the wines at the Floating Mountain winery, which was fortunate as I could taste a pre-bottling sample of the 2001.
Black Estate Pinot Noir 2001
Smoky wine with fragrant lavender and herb, savoury and spice with an earthy complexity. There's a lovely juiciness to the wine, which finishes with sweet savoury, cherry and citrus. I reckon it has great potential.
Black Estate Pinot Noir 2000
Smoky meatiness on the nose. Spice, savoury, cherries, plums and a lovely lift of acid-free tamarillo. It's soft, juicy, earthy, balanced and rounded out beautifully. Silky and long with lingering herbal savouriness. Very complete and seamless.
Russell Black took me on an expedition. We went to his vineyard, clambered through calf high thistles to look at soil profiles, then to the top of a limestone hill. That is where the panoramic vista was captured with my camera (see above).
For more on Black Estate, see this Wine of the Week review.
Stop 6: - The 10th Waipara Wine and Celebration
So I'd been here earlier in the morning but I hadn't a chance to look around. What a magnificent setting in the grounds of the historic Glenmark Church this Celebration has. Wine stalls were intermingled with food stall and people were mingling as well. They had arrived in cars, on buses and on the Festival train from Christchurch. It was a happy crowd enjoying the wine, food and music in the sun. There are two natural amphitheatres. The Main Road stage had the tutors from the Christchurch Jazz School, while the gully stage had several different bands. There was kiddie's entertainment too, behind the Church.
A whitebait fritter stopped the hunger pangs, quickly followed by the most tender and succulent Santa Rosa chicken kebab AND a Santa Rosa chicken sausage, then a salmon filled brioche. These were all good tucker but later I was a little disappointed in an ostrich kebab. It's toughness proved too much for me and it was binned.
Stop 7: Waipara Downs
I was staying with sheep farmers Ruth and Keith Berry, so thought I had better taste their wines.
Their tent was very popular - possibly due to the generous sized pours - and they were all but sold out. Waipara Downs vineyard takes up just 4 of the 320 hectares where Keith has his Texel stud rams and 2000 ewes. Mind you when lambing starts in August there will be many little hooves on the property. Ruth manages the vineyard and to date Mark Rattray has made the wines. But 2002 see the start of a new era with young Scott Berry, who is study Viticulture and Oenology at Lincoln, taking over the winemaking.
Waipara Downs Chard 2001
A rich full-bodied mealy, leesy wine with stonefruit richness and a creamed nut complexity. Buttery caramel tones too and a toasty finish with hints of tropical fruit. Very enjoyable.
Waipara Downs Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 picked at 23 brix. 11.5 % alc.
Lightly coloured with cassis and mint aromas, the taste is more powerful than the colour suggests. I like the flavours with hints of licorice intensity and lingering spice in this lovely fruity wine that has an earthy berry finish. Made with French & American oak.
Waipara Downs Cabernet Port
Heady, spirituous, raisin aromas and sugary sweet cabernet fruit with hot spice and a licorice berry richness on the finish.
I also tasted the Waipara Downs Pinot Noir 2000 at the end of the day, when we finally got back to the farm. Relaxing on the patio after a hard day's tasting, there's nothing like a good wine to refresh the palate. And this was the wine. Excellent colour with a smoky nose, cherries, plums and tamarillo lift the brew. It's quite chocolatey with a hint of mint and lovely lingering warmly textured bright fruit with savoury things.
Stop 8: Pegasus Bay Riesling Vertical in the Talk Tent
The Talk Tent is a feature I haven't seen at other wine festivals. Each winemaker and a couple of the foodies had 20 minutes to extol the virtues of their products. A brilliant idea and a good place to give the shoe leather a rest.
So I'd just stopped at Pegasus Bay to say Hi and Matthew Donaldson had his doctor's bag in hand. "I'm just about to do a vertical of Riesling in the Talk Tent. Come along". He opened the bag and showed me the bottles of riesling within. An invitation I couldn't refuse.
The tent was packed and Matthew and his pourers managed to stretch each bottle among the sixty or so people crammed in. He spoke about the evolution of Pegasus Bay Riesling. Originally they made them bone dry but as those wines aged they became clumsy. So now they like to have at least 20% botrytised fruit. This adds a honey and marmalade complexity as the wines age. I found all these wines to have impeccable balance of the sugars and acid. All are low alcohol styles.
Pegasus Bay Riesling 2001
Lemon lime and ginger spice with apple spice and sweet floral nuances. They was less botrytis in this wine due to the dry 2001 season.
Pegasus Bay Riesling 2000
Grapefruit, lime and oily characters with some pungent spice. Very reminiscent of a German 'Spatlese' style of riesling from the Moselle.
Pegasus Bay Riesling 1999
Lovely rich citrus with lime and orange sherbet and some oily citrus leaf.
Pegasus Bay Riesling 1998
Hot year, lower acid and a really different style to the preceding three wine. Some nice sweetness, spice, honey fantastic intensity and length. Aging beautifully.
Pegasus Bay Riesling 1997
Lifted, elegant and seemingly much drier.
Pegasus Bay Riesling 1995
This vertical was very much a highlight of the weekend. (The 1996 was missing as Matthew couldn't locate a bottle).
A sweet honeyed delicate floral Moselle style with lovely orange citrus, hot ginger spice and a mellow toastiness.
Stop 9: The breathalyser
The local constabulary were in the big marquee doing breathalyser tests. What a good idea. I'd tasted so many wines. My mouth had a vinous coating. I'd started tasting at 9am. It was now 3pm. How would I fare? My friend Ross (photographed) had a youth fail. Another very happy chappy had a general fail. It was my turn and a fresh mouthpiece was put on. "Take a deep breath and blow into this", said the cop. "Keep blowing. More, more", he said. The breath was draining out of me. "That's enough" he said. We waited for the reading to come up. I got a "Pass". Just goes to show that spitting the wine out really does work.
Stop 10: Alan McCorkindale
Alan McCorkindale Blanc de Noirs 1999
Alan McCorkindale is a specialist sparkling wine maker and he had two on show today. He has a tiny vineyard on the west flanks of the Teviotdale Hills but no facilities on site at this stage. He consults for many wineries both in Canterbury and in Marlborough.
There's a lovely fine mousse in this biscuity, lemon, leesy and slightly earthy sparkler with a touch of sweet strawberry. It's a little cheesy with good fullness and creaminess and a rich elegant finish. $40.
Alan McCorkindale Brut
A blend of 80% pinot noir, 18% chardonnay and 2% meunier. Lemon gold in colour with slightly earthy, leesy aromas. Rich and caramelly with the earthy influence of pinot and a full-bodied spicy flavour with the lift of lemon biscuits on the finish. Full and long with stonefruit and lemon lingering sweetly. $28.
Alan McCorkindale Waipara Pinot Gris 2001
First vintage from his new Waipara vines. Pear drop and rose petal aromas. Pears, apple, lemon and some juicy, freshly squeezed orange in the mouth. Full and rich with a loveliness spiciness reminiscent of gerwurztraminer. I said this to Alan and he said 'good spotting'. In fact the wine has 3% gewurztraminer in it. I love the palate weight in this wine, its nicely balanced flavours and its terrific lingering finish. An absolutely superb wine. 12.5% alcohol. 10 grams of residual sugar.
Alan McCorkindale Waipara Riesling 2001
Fruity, spicy riesling, seems a little drier than some of the others tasted but not really with its 9 grams of residual sugar.. I really like the talcy, lemon, lime earthiness of the wine and the grapey spice that lingers. This is McCorkindale's second vintage of riesling from Waipara. $24.50. 11% alcohol.
It was getting late. People were starting to pack up. The Waipara Valley Wine and Food Celebration was over. After finally being able to drink a glass of wine (or two) and after a good meal of Waipara Downs home grown lamb, I certainly slept well.
Click here for the main Waipara wine region page and the introduction to this review.
The other days -