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Family Business – by Phil Parker

Phil Parker, wine writer and owner of Auckland Fine Food & Wine Tours

This month, I’m featuring wines from two iconic producers – Sir George Fistonich, and Pegasus Bay’s Donaldson Family.

Sir George has been in the industry since 1961 when he planted his first vineyard in Mangere at the tender age of 21 and started making wine under the Villa Maria label, which went on to become an international brand. He was one of many pioneering Croatian Auckland wine producers. Since 2021, NZ company Indevin Wines has taken over the Villa Maria brand, and Sir George has launched Fistonich Family Vineyards. His new venture, based in the former Esk Valley winery in Hawkes Bay, has been renamed the  Čuvar Winery. Čuvar (pronounced chu-var), is translates in Croatian as guardian. This year, two new brands – Obliix and Forest Flower Collection have been added to the stable.

Pegasus Bay is owned by the extensive Donaldson family, and is based in Waipara, North Canterbury. Ivan Donaldson, a professor of neurology, and his wife Christine started a hobby vineyard in the early 1970s. By the mid-1980s Ivan and Chris decided there was a future for wine making in Canterbury and went on to establish Pegasus Bay with the help of their four sons, who have all ended up working in key roles within the business. Their Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir is renowned as one of Canterbury’s greatest wines.

Pegasus Bay Aged Release Riesling Waipara Valley 2014 $45
A gorgeous aged and mellow riesling from ten years ago. Aromas of beeswax and honey. Green gold in the glass. Flavours of grapefruit marmalade, makrut lime, jasmine, and clover honey. Soft and lengthy off-dry finish.

Čuvar Guardian Ballochdale Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2023 $33.99
Delicate, elegant, and subtle flavours of freshly picked blackcurrant with a nudge of canned pink guava, with a medium acid finish.

Čuvar Guardian Chardonnay Hawkes Bay 2022 375ml half bottle. $14.99
Very light, subtle and bone dry almost in a Chablis style with minimal oak influence. Hints of mandarin citrus, and a final yeasty tangy dry finish. 12.5% ABV.

Oblix Gimblett Gravels Chardonnay Hawkes Bay 2021 $23.99
Creamy and complex, with nougat, nectarine, and fresh cut pineapple. A hint of spicy oak and dried apricot, with a lengthy finish. Yum.

Čuvar Guardian Rivermere Vineyard Chardonnay Hawkes Bay 2021 $43.99
Very different from the Oblix as above. Tightly focused on minerality, and  with a hint of reductive struck match on the nose. Toasty oak, lime citrus and peach 13.5% ABV

Oblix Rosé 2023 375ml $13.99
Dry and elegant. Easy drinking at 12.5% ABV. Flavours of red summer berry fruits, plum jam and a crisp finish.

Čuvar Guardian Cornerstone Vineyard Hawke’s Bay Rosé 2023 $33.99
Delightfully soft and approachable just nudging off-dry. 12.7% ABV  Fab as an aperitif or with lighter vegan or seafood cuisines. 100% cabernet franc. Hints of marshmallow, clear apple juice, cranberry and raspberry.

Pegasus Bay Aged Release Pinot Noir Waipara Valley 2014 $70
Stunningly good wine. At ten years old, this wine is in its prime, leaning to the umami spectrum. Predominantly savoury, smoky flavours of grilled mushroom, black olive and vegemite. Then a segue into fruitcake, plum and black cherry. Fine grained tannins and lengthy finish.

Čuvar Iris Malbec Merlot Hawkes Bay 2022 $29.99
Full bodied, ripe, young, and generous at 13% ABV. Flavours of plum, cassis, dark chocolate, leather. Grippy medium tannins signal that this one could be popped away for 5 plus years.

I have been writing a regular wine column for The Nelson Mail newspaper since 2000.

Unfortunately the column space is not big enough to include my thoughts on all of the many wines I taste. Hopefully this blog will fix that. It also gives me somewhere to archive the many columns I write. I will also include some favourite recipes from my dearly beloved who loves cooking and of course because wine and food simply go together. I will also point you in the direction of upcoming events and websites I think are great. Enjoy, Neil

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