Our Number One customer wine reviewer Linda Sorensen tells us about the recent Top Ten Reviewers weekend at the fabulous Parehua Estate in Martinborough…
First, a note to all you wine lovers on the Mainland. Where were you??? I know there are more wine consumers here on the South Island because Peter and Andrea would be starving if they relied on my wine purchasing habits to stay in business. There were wine reviewers from up north who didn’t even start writing reviews until February and they were on this trip. It’s not hard. Really. You don’t have to write technical mumbo-jumbo like I do. All you need to do is describe your experience with the wine – the occasion, the meal, what you liked about it. That’s it. And the Winesale staff indicated that there would be additional trips and prizes for wine reviewers in the future. They’re also gearing up to monitor participation in the community, so give those reviews the “thumbs up” if they’ve helped you with your purchasing decisions – your feedback might help boost you into the top 10 next time around. So, what are you waiting for? Start writing!! You could be involved in the next trip featuring great food, fabulous wines, good company, and luxurious accommodation. What more could you ask for?
After our arrival at the airport, we were transported to the main Winesale offices and warehouse for a champagne reception (No. 1 Family Estate), brief tour, and Q&A session with Michael Mebus and Grant Archibald. Then it was off to Martinborough. Once checked into our rather sumptuous lodgings at the Parehua Estate (complete with spa tub and kitchen facilities), we headed into town for a multi-course meal with a large selection of wines including Lammastide sparkling, Mebus Pinot Gris, Kea Point Riesling, Dusty Road and Alana Pinot Noir. There were rumours of a Sauvignon Blanc at the other end of the table, but we had our glasses full enough with the selections listed above.
Clive Paton (right) gives the crew the down low on his fabulous wines at the beautiful Ata Rangi Vineyard.
Saturday started with a lovely continental breakfast including fresh-baked croissants. We had been warned to eat lightly as both lunch and dinner were going to be huge. Breakfast was followed by a trip out to Ata Rangi for a private tasting with winery founder Clive Paton, where we sampled the majority of their Spring 2010 Release wines. I would personally recommend the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, which had some nutty overtones with a touch of vanilla, and opened up to express some lovely apricot on the nose. This is a full-bodied wine with a great long finish that should pair nicely with cheese, light cream sauces, and heavier fish. If you feel like a splurge, you can’t go wrong with the 2009 Pinot Noir, which has “5-15 years of cellaring potential”. It’s a lovely wine, but I’d store it for a while to allow all of the components to blend. It’ll be worth it.
After Ata Rangi, it was off to Gladstone Winery for a lovely outdoor lunch and (you guessed it) more wine. We sampled their Riesling (honey tones, lemon/lime, a bit of minerality – good acid on the palate), Sauvignon Blanc (not too grassy, crisp with good acid that stood up well to our lunch of Balsamic Lemon Chicken), and Pinot Noir (2009) (still a bit young, firm tannic structure – will balance out with a bit of aging).
Lunch at Gladstone Vineyard.
Our next stop was Urlar Winery (where they were in the thick of harvest), where we chatted with founder/owner Angus Thomson. He explained their dedication to organic farming practices, as well as the different harvesting methods for the Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc that were both currently coming off the vines. The Pinot Noir was being hand-picked, and the big harvester was in action in the Sauvignon rows – my partner Bill was thrilled that he had the opportunity to climb up on the big machinery and see how the harvester worked. We also tried some of the grapes to get an idea of what flavours they start out with. We sampled a Sauvignon Blanc (amazing depth, character, and body) as well as a Pinot Noir (incredibly complex but should get even better with a bit of age to allow better integration). Grab some if you can, releases are limited.
Angus Thomson (left) from Urlar takes us over his Pinot Noir harvest.
There was a brief detour to Mebus Estate for some corks (ask Westie Wino about his cork project if you get a chance) and then back to our lodgings for a bit of a break before the much-anticipated winemaker’s dinner, prepared and hosted by the wonderful folks at Parehua Lodge. Winemaker Larry McKenna (Escarpment Vineyard) was on hand to discuss the wines. Chef Kent Baddeley prepared an adventurous multi-course meal which was paired with Palliser sparkling, Te Hera Riesling, Johner Chardonnay, Cabbage Tree Pinot Noir, and Johner Noble Syrah. I like to try each wine with as many of the meal items as possible, and was really impressed with the versatility of the Riesling. It was paired with and complimented the initial course (escargot) wonderfully, but also worked really well with the prawn/fish dish, and even the hare with plum sauce! A special treat was the Botrytis Syrah, a unique and unusual dessert wine. I’ve stocked some of these in my personal cellar.
Sunday morning was the hugely anticipated Winesale tasting – 17 of the current wines available on the web site were poured for us. We were encouraged to offer feedback on
No better way to start a Sunday morning!
these wines and make our own tasting notes. It was great to sample some of the wines and/or labels that I had not managed to get around to trying yet. The Lammastide Pinot Noir is just starting to develop into something truly interesting with chocolate and pepper tones. The Westbrook 2008 Waimauku Estate Chardonnay really stood out for me – this is a big buttery Chard with good spiciness and great balance. I also really enjoyed the Beach House Gimblet Gravels 2009 Reserve Merlot, which surprised me – this is a BIG wine for a merlot with good tannic structure and a great long finish. I’ll be getting some of these wines again soon.
It was really fun getting to know the other Winesale reviewers – it’s a diverse group of really interesting folks – as well as some of the Winesale staff. Overall, it was a spectacular trip. The folks at Winesale are just getting started, so if you’d like to be in on the next great wine adventure, start writing those reviews. Just don’t bump me out of the running – I certainly don’t want to miss the next great adventure!
Click here to read Linda’s fabulous wine reviews. If you want to come on our next Wine Reviewer weekend get reviewing and cement your place in the Top Ten! Click here for more details.