Introduction from Day One post
A number of New Zealand wine writers have formed an organisation to promote excellence and independence in wine reviewing and commenting.
Wine Nelson invited the group for a two day visit to the Nelson region so writers could experience the wide range of wines produced in Nelson and to also see the places these wines are produced to put the flavours they taste in wines into context, so they understand the environment the wines are produced in and the philosophies of the producers.
As a member of Wine Writers of New Zealand I was the our guide for the two days, proudly showing off the wonderful region, introducing them to great people and generally making sure everyone got to experience the best Nelson has to offer.
This wasn’t a laid back jaunt for some journo’s, these guys were in Nelson to work and work they did. On day one three of the group of eight who were able to attend rose at around 4am to head to airports and catch flights and the day finished at around 11pm after a five course degustation dinner. In the interim they had a regional tasting of about 30 gold medal and five star Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines, visited four wineries in the Moutere Hills winegrowing area (including lunch at Woollaston Estates) and worked their way through about another 40 wines.
Notebooks, tablets and laptops were put to good use as was the time travelling between wineries; there was plenty of discussion about the wines tasted and winemaking techniques described by winemakers. The group is preparing a summary of the two days, with each writer contributing, and that will be published in a few days but in the meantime here is a quick overview of Day Two.
The day started bright and early with an 8.30am checkout from the accommodation and the first winery visit at 9am. As I said, these guys were in Nelson to work and tasting wines at 9am definitely fits the definition of work. While the focus on day one was wineries in the Moutere Hills area day two’s focus was wineries on the Waimea Plains.
First stop for the day was at the picturesque Fossil Ridge Wines where the group tasted wine from both Fossil Ridge and Rimu Grove while sitting in the covered deck overlooking the lily pond. Tranja Fry, co-owner of Fossil Ridge also gave the group a small pottles of home-grown olives and macadamias to take with them.
Next stop on day two was Greenhough Wines where Andrew Greenhough and assistant Cameron Trott talked the group through a tasting of three flights of their wines, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and pinot noir. The real interest and focus of discussion was on a new style of chardonnay being produced by Greenhough’s but not yet released to the market, a Chablis style chardonnay. Two vintages of this new Greenhough style were compared (2012 & 2013). It is fair to say these wines not only generated plenty of discussion but were also rated very highly by the group.
The lunch stop for day two was Waimea Family Estate Wines where the group worked their way through a tasting of around 20 Waimea wines with comparisons between their entry label, Spinyback, and the estate range. This included a tasting of some newer varieties like Albrino and Gruner Veltliner.
After a light lunch it was off to Organic and Bio-Dynamic producers Richmond Plains and Te Mania where barrels of wine had been moved to the middle of the vineyard. These barrels contained base wines for the Richmond Plains Blue Moon sauvignon blanc, named after the Blue Moon butterfly. The writers tasted sauvignon blanc that had been fermented using three different yeasts, one a yeast started in the vineyard and grown in the lab for use in the wine. When the writers tasted the finished product from the previous vintage one was overheard saying ‘best sauv we have tasted on the trip’ and I must say it has been one of my favourite styles of sauvignon blanc for some time.
The final stop of the day and the visit was Brightwater Vineyards where Gary and Valley Neale and winemaker Tony Southgate presented a vertical tasting of Brightwater Vineyards Lord Rutherford Chardonnay, including the Best in Show 2009 version. After the chardonnay tasting Gary and Valley generously asked the group if they would like to taste other wines or relax with a refreshing beer, the beer won hands down and they produced a range of Nelson craft beers and local cheeses to enjoy for an hour while the group relaxed before heading to the airport or for those staying an extra couple of days, to their accommodation.
Wine Writers of New Zealand members who joined this visit to Nelson left tired but impressed with the wines they had tasted, food enjoyed and the hospitality of Wine Nelson.