To maintain some sense of order in this flurry of quick blog posts on this, our final day in New Zealand, I present the next in a reverse-chronological order of our NZ Wine Adventure Week tastings:
I remember the first time I learned that Waipara was a New Zealand wine region, I was just plain confused, thinking it must be some sub-region of Marlborough or something. But nope, Waipara is its own cute little region just north of Christchurch, and we popped in there for two nights before coming down south (west) to Queenstown (Central Otago).
Here is a quick Googles Image of New Zealand:
This is kind of a rough sketch, but you can see the little asterisked Waipara Valley in region #9, Canterbury.
Waipara literally translates to Muddy Water (wai -> water, para -> mud), so we were pleased to see the good ol’ Muddy Water wines (which Cody and I are both familiar with from former jobs) being poured at Greystone, the first place we visited. Greystone recently acquired Muddy Water, so we tasted the wines together and got to do some fun side-by-side comparisons.
(Incidentally, it was really hard to get a good picture of the label. But there ya go).
After Greystone, we hopped over to Pegasus Bay for a quick visit. Pegasus Bay is probably the best-known of the Waipara wineries – it’s a favorite of Robert Parker’s and often wins the Winery Restaurant of the Year award. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to check out the menu, but we did get to taste some yummy wines. My favorite thing there was the super fun music-themed names of the different wines, like Encore (Noble Riesling), Maestro (Merlot), and Finale (Noble Semillon). We tasted the Encore, and mmm. Riesling that also happens to be dessert wine = yummm.
Our last Waipara stop was a tour at Pyramid Valley. This was our longest visit, and a definite highlight of Wine Adventure Week.
First of all, the winery is as “natural” as you can get – when we tasted a barrel sample, we were literally drinking grapes. No added acid, no sulphur, nothin’. The wines were incredible, and our steep hike up the vineyard was well worth the view.
The coolest takeaway from this tour was when Nik (in the blue shirt above) started talking about “hands-free” winemaking. It’s kind of a market trend to talk about leaving grapes to just do their thing, and hands-free is sort of synonymous with no added sulfur/acid/alcohol/sugars/etc. What Nik said, though, was that their wines couldn’t be further from hands-off. When the Chardonnay is fermenting in the clay amphora (pictured above), the winemaker will check on the fermenting juice every two hours, all through the day night. Instead of punching down the Pinots with a plunger tool, he climbs into the vessel and sort of swims the skins around, bathing them in the liquid to increase color and tannin extraction. Cool, huh?
That is Waipara in a nutshell – and both nights we were in the valley, we slept in…
…a renovated train car. It was so cool! We totally got to be the boxcar children, and the room was even well-stocked with the fixins for tea and coffee, and the electric heater and lots of blankets did the trick to keep us warm.
That might be all, this side of the equator! I’ll have to catch up on Marlborough and Martinborough back in the states, unless we have some down time later today. For now, we are heading out to wander around Christchurch, probably to the famous Container Mall to look for some beach reading materials for Cody.