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The 2002 Waipara Valley Wine and Food Celebration
Day Three - Monday March 26th, 2002

© Sue Courtney, April 2002

Click here for the main Waipara wine region page and the introduction to this review.

Stop 1: Daniel Schuster
As you turn the corner in the driveway you have a picture Daniel Schuster's Omihi Hills Vineyardof one of the prettiest vineyards in the area before you. The vines are growing on the rolling meadows on either side of the driveway while at the end of the driveway, with a commanding view over the vineyards, is the winery.

Danny was one of the Waipara pioneers, thanks to his Lincoln College days. Originally at St Helena, he found the Waipara region had more consistency. His site is the most northern in the valley and is one of the few that is not on the flat. Pinot Noir is grown at the home vineyard, while sauvignon blanc is sourced from Marlborough and chardonnay along with more pinot noir is sourced from Rakaia, south of Christchurch.

We tasted the wines.

The Mount Nelson Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2001 has classical herbaceous sauvignon blanc aromas. It is a lemony leesy wine, having been on lees for 12 months before bottling. Full-bodied texture with steely acidity, stonefruit richness and bright lime citrus, then gooseberry, stonefruits, apple and lime flavours lingering on the long and mouthfilling finish. $28.

Daniel Schuster Petrie Vineyard Selection Chardonnay 2001 comes from Rakaia, about 40 minutes drive south of Christchurch. Oak dominated mealy spice aromas, then nectarine, and leesy citrus flavours. It's a lifted aromatic full-bodied style with honey poached nectarines, nuts, juicy citrus and lemon skin flavours lingering on the finish. Barrel fermented in a combination of oaks an on lees for 12 months. Expect to pay around $30.

The Daniel Schuster Twin Vineyards Pinot Noir 2001 has fruit from the home vineyard and from Rakaia. With 3000 cases made, it is one of the largest pinot noir brands in Canterbury. It's creamy textured with classical cherry and plum, a hint of tamarillo, a touch of smoky herb and a lovely brightness that lifts the palate. A very approachable and charming wine and excellent value at a price of $25.

I also tasted a selection of barrel samples from representative sites around the vineyard. The wine from the north east sandstone/limestone slope maturing in a one year old barrel had lovely cherry aromatics and creamy spicy tamarillo fruit. The sample from the heavy clay on the southeast slope was earthy, richer and coarser with fruit flavours of spicy plums. The sample from the vines on the limestone profile had the most intriguing violet-like aromatics and was rich, intense and creamy in the mouth with soft yet firm tannins.

A quickly concocted sample of 40% of the limestone component and 30% of the other two components showed the wonderful potential for the yet to be finished wine, when it is eventually blended and bottled.

Stop 2: Mountford Vineyard
Mountford has captured the attention of many wine buffs with their first two superb releases of Pinot Noir. It first captured my attention when I dined at Annie's Wine Bar in Christchurch a couple of years ago. A glass of the Mountford Estate 1998 Pinot Noir was a superb accompaniment to my meal that night.

This time it was a Mountford 1999 Chardonnay, tasted at the Waipara Wine Celebration winemaker's dinner that captured my attention. It was the most outstanding chardonnay of the night. Good for those people who have this in their cellar. Not good for me as the wine is sold out.

Nets at Mountford Vineyard

We drove through the vineyards covered with white bridal-like nets that spanned several rows of vines.

Behind the house and the winery behind that, was a steep slope where new pinot noir vines were being established. After a quick tour of the winery, which had been made from old cargo containers set into the hillside, we went into Buffy and Michael Eaton's lovely home for a tasting. They used to run a lodge, but no longer do so. Michael Eaton poured the wines.

Mountford Chardonnay 2000 This is a rich, mealy, honeyed, barrel ferment style with pears, melon and fig flavours with a nice lemon/pineapple lift on the finish, integrated spicy oak and nuts lingering well. They want to make a flinty style, said Michael. Expect to pay around $42.

Mountford Village Pinot Noir 2000
A lightly coloured burgundy red. Caramel barrel aromas, light berry fruit and an earthy strawberry flavour. Very much like a Burgundian village wine with an interesting hint of apple on the finish which intrigues rather than hinders. Some hallmark cherries linger. The Mountford team found this lighter than their normal style so declassified it in to a 'second' label. I figure it just depends if you want the big fruit style of New Zeland pinot or a European look-alike.

Michael Eaton opened a Mountford Pinot Noir 1999 to show me the style of pinot that they aspire to make. This has an intense colour with lovely pink-red bright hues. Richly spicy flavours with ripe fruit, lavender and rose florals, very full-on rich wine with cedary oak and a caramel/toffee texture. I think this wine will reward further cellaring with its huge structure, concentration and juicy lingering fruit. A blend of two clones, 2/10 & 10/5. Was retailing for about $48-$52 but again it is sold out.

The price will rise to about $60 for the 2001 release.

Another point of interest with Mountford is that their winemaker, CP Lin, is blind.

Stop 3: Muddy Water
How many wineries do you go to where you can't taste the wine because the bottles can't be opened. The corkscrew was left at the festival, the day before.

At the festival I had tasted Muddy Water James Hardwick Riesling 2001.
Nicely chilled at the end of the day. Dry and even a little earthy with a twist of limes and lots of peppery spice. Refreshing. I'm told a low pH makes the vine seem drier than it is. About $22.

I also tasted the Muddy Water Dry Riesling 2000. This had appealing aromas with that hint of bottle age with soft citrus and limey richness on the apple spice finish.

Up at the winery with Belinda Gould, she eventually got the bottle open. It was a Muddy Water Chardonnay 2000. There's lifted acidity in this mealy, lemony wine with a hint of oily pineapple. Full-bodied fig style with a touch of earthiness. It's flinty too. I like the lingering nutty flavours. 14.6% alcohol. About $28.

Muddy Water Chardonnay 2001 - tank sample. Riper fruit gives melon along with the citrus, with more stonefruit fleshiness. Belinda says this is the best they have ever made. Lovely spiciness and richness as the wine warms up. Ginger beer zestiness lingers.

A number of samples of pinot noir from the 2001 vintage were tasted. Pinot is Belinda Gould's passion. She has previously worked with pinot at Calera Vineyards in California.

Belinda Gould andher Pinotage vines

Then finally there was a striking barrel sample of Syrah full of flavours of raspberries, dry white pepper spice, some lovely floral complexities and of touch of Herbs de Provence.

At the Winemaker's Dinner I had tasted the Muddy Water Mojo Pinot Noir 2000 (about $50), however no notes were taken. All I can say is it was impressive and most enjoyable as an accompaniment to my meal.

Of course my favourite Muddy Water wine is the powerful and flavoursome Muddy Water Pinotage 2000, also tasted at the Winemaker's Dinner, it was one of my wines of the night. The pinotage from the 2001 did not like the winemaking experiment, so it will be blended with some other odds and sods into the Muddy Water Labarore blend. We went into the vineyard to check the 2002 Pinotage crop (see photo). It was coming along nicely.

Stop 4: Chancellor Estate
So to the last stop of the day, Chancellor Estate, in Mt Cass Road. The first vines on the flat river terraces were planted in 1982. The fruit was contracted out until 1995 when Chancellor started producing under their own label. The company changed ownership 1999. Chancellor does not have their own winery. Wine is made at several of the region's wineries, including Torlesse, Canterbury House and Waipara Springs. Tastings are available at the Cider Gardens in Amberley.

First a quick reconnaissance around the vineyard, ducking under the nets here and there to graze on sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir and riesling grapes. Then into the vineyard manager's house for a quick tasting of the finished products.

Chancellor Estate Mt Cass Road Sauvignon Blanc 2000
Grapey sauvignon blanc aromas. A toasty style of sauvignon blanc with ripe stonefruit and some poached peach / pear with pineapple lingering and a touch of grassy herbaceousness emerging. A very flavoursome wine with a rich full-bodied finish. 14% alcohol. $16.75.

The Hamner Junction Pinot Gris 2001
Sweet fruit with lemon jube flavours, full-bodied and rich. This had won a trophy at the recent Easter Show. It was the same fruit as in the Canterbury House Pinot Gris that I liked so much the previous day. 13% alcohol. 8 grams residual sugar.

Chancellor Waipara Pinot Noir 1999
From their first harvest of their pinot. Rich ripe, almost jelly-like aromas. Sweet, savoury fruit with nice spice and good plum and cherry fruit carrying the high alcohol (14.5%). Like cherry jelly baby lollies with herb wood smokiness, full-bodied, ripe and lingering. This wine was made at Waipara Springs and sells for $26.

Chancellor Waipara Cabernet Sauvignon 1998
Smoky cassis, tightly structured tannin, rich leathery notes and good length. It's a big wine with aging potential. Open in 5 years. $23.

Chancellor Estate Late Harvest Waipara Valley Chardonnay 2001
Quite developed amber colour but fantastic apricot rich aromas. There's a slightly aldehydic (sherry-like) character on the palate and a sweet raisin finish. I thought that this bottle was ever so slightly musty on the palate and not showing at its best. A second bottle was not opened It has 14% alcohol, 160 grams of residual sugar and costs $23 a half bottle.

We spoke about corks. They are changing to twin top corks this vintage but not yet considering screwcaps until they are more confident in the acceptance by the export markets.

All in all I thought the Chancellor Wines offered good value for money and with a recent upgrade of the labels the bottles look smart too.

I had another taste of the sauvignon blanc to leave a pleasant flavour lingering in my mouth for the trip to the airport.

* **

It was indeed an honour to at last be recognised for the work I put into this website. Thanks must go to the Waipara Winegrowers Association and especially to Michelle Rattray for her enthusiasm, to Ruth and Keith Berry for their wonderful hospitality at Waipara Downs and to Russell Black, a charming chauffeur on the last day, making sure I reached the airport on time.

Click here for the main Waipara wine region page and the introduction to this review.

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