An Eye on Nelson

An Eye on Nelson

There is a beautiful little corner in the north of the south island of New Zealand, one of so many gorgeous regions of this wonderful country which I visited with a small group of New Zealand wine writers for a couple of days to keep an eye on Nelson.

NZ Wine Region Map 111214

Nelson is one of the smallest wine regions of New Zealand. With a smidgen over 1000 hectares planted with vines its production is 2% of all the country, whereas its mighty neighbour, Marlborough, over the hills to the east is the largest producer with 22,000 hectares of vineyards producing 73% of the wines of New Zealand.

Nelson enjoys a sunny climate where orchards flourish as well as vines. South of the Tasman Bay, the region is protected to the east by the Richmond Hills, to the west Kahurangi and the Southern Alps to the, er, south. When we arrived, in spring, there was a dusting of snow on the adjacent hills.

Nelson has been hidden in the enormous shadow cast by Marlborough and I certainly got the feeling that Nelson was hiding its light under a bushel! There are no big players here, no national, and no international wine groups though the only disadvantage is that there is not the financial clout to promote the region. However this lack of local corporate clout does work in the favour of the thirty or so wine producers whose individuality shines through as we were to discover with the wines.

There are two distinct geological areas within Nelson:

Moutere Hills
The softly rolling Moutere Hills are formed from the weathered gravels of an ancient river system. The gravel threaded clay soils are renowned for producing wines of richness and texture, and there is no irrigation except for very young vines.

Waimea Plains
Waimea means ’river gardens’ in Maori – with stony soils of alluvial origin, high sunshine hours and a moderating maritime influence, the wines are lighter and more poised in style with aromatic varieties succeeding well. Irrigation is required as the soils are free draining.

141113.197 Nelson Tasting, Harbour Lights Bistro, WWNZ, Nelson, NZ_blog

Our first port of call, the Harbour Light Bistro, for an introductory tasting of 22 wines of Nelson: Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. This was a great introduction with a variety of styles – I was taken with the Pinot Gris, which endorsed the success in Nelson of making good aromatic wines.

In spite of nautical distractions we were able to concentrate on tasting the wines. Click on the photos for more detail.

An Eye on Nelson

We spent our first day in the Moutere Hills and our first visit was to Neudorf, one of the oldest established wineries where owners Tim and Judy Finn made their first wines in 1981. The wines of Neudorf have a great reputation showing a finesse, style and grace that would delight, say, any Burgundy lover.

An Eye on Nelson

Richard Flatman, viticulturist at Neudorf Vineyards as well as the new chairman of Wine Nelson.

We tasted four Chardonnays from 2012 back to 2001. Well balanced and fine with the more recent vintages showing an elegance and style with a little less oak; then three Pinot Noirs – 2010,  2007 and 2002 – earthy but with, again, elegant fruit.

An Eye on Nelson

Continuing in the Moutere Hills we enjoyed a working lunch at the brand new winery, restaurant and art gallery of Woollaston, where the cerebral winemaker Shane Munn guided us through a selection of wines to accompany a great meal. Woollaston farms organically and the underground winery is gravity fed.

Working lunch

An Eye on Nelson

Our lunch menu with two types of greywacke rock

I liked the Woollaston Tussock Pinot Gris 2014, which went well with the John Dory, being dry showing a weighty spiciness braced by good acidity. The Woollaston Mahana Pinot Noir 2012 was big juicy and full of cherry, some spice and a touch of dark chocolate, just right with the confit duck leg.

An Eye on Nelson

Greg and Amanda Day, Andrew Sutherland (Harakeke Farm) and Neil Todd

Our next visit, still in the Upper Moutere, was to include some local history as the vineyard at Kahurangi Estate were originally planted by Hermann Seifried in 1973  and has the oldest commercial Riesling vines in the South Island. In 1998 Greg and Amanda Day bought the vineyard and the original building in 1998 and have developed the business as well as an agency for imported wines.

One of the pleasant discoveries of this trip was the camaraderie shared between the producers as Greg, accompanied by his winemaker Neil Todd, also shared the tasting with his previous winemaker, Andrew Sutherland, who now owns his small 3 hectare vineyard, Harakeke Farm, and makes his wine at Kahurangi.

Amidst a good selection of white, rosés and reds I liked the Kahurangi Nelson Riesling 2011; made with fruit from the oldest vines it is pleasantly off dry, bright with a good structure of fruit and herby notes. A lovely summery aperitif.

Andrew’s Harakeke Chardonnay 2013, whose vineyard is on land that originally grew flax then gorse – a pernicious invasive plant given half a chance – and cleared to plant Chardonnay vines; biscuity peachy notes on the nose, it’s dry with good acidity replete with stone fruit and a long finish.

An Eye on Nelson

Our last visit of our first day was to Kina Cliffs, where we were welcomed by owners Julie and Alistair Ashcroft, who bought their 4.5 hectare vineyard in 2000, originally supplying fruit to local wineries before producing their own wine from 2009. They were accompanied by their neighbour, Alex Wall, who manages Kina Beach Vineyard for its Swiss owners who, in 2011, bought the vineyard which was established in 1998.

An Eye on Nelson

Although both vineyards are by the sea their soils are still the Moutere clay under gravel.

The Kina Beach Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay 2011 was a big fellow with toasty oak and creamy yellow fruit on the nose, dry, good acidity with a graceful texture of peachy fruit. Kina Cliffs Reserve Pinot Noir 2010, from their library stock, was a fine example of maturing Pinot Noir. Mid ruby with lots of ripe blackberries on the nose, dry with attractive spicy tannins with robust dark red fruit notes. Drinking well now but will repay keeping.

It was a shame to leave such a lovely place but we had to go back to town to put on our glad rags (well, shower and change) ready for the winemakers’ dinner at the smartest restaurant in Nelson – Hopgood’s.

Once again it was great to see the friendliness of the all the Nelson wine makers, producers and growers (the wine writers were delightfully outnumbered!) who had invited us to join them with a great meal accompanied well with Nelson wines.

An Eye on Nelson

Agnes and Hermann Seifried

I was first introduced to Nelson in the UK over 15 years ago when I used to sell wine in my Billericay, Essex wine bar from one of the original producers, Seifried, who are still going strong from their early start in the 1970s. So it was a pleasure to share the company of Austrian born Hermann Seifried and his New Zealand wife Agnes.

And so to bed with another action packed day tomorrow to keep an eye on Nelson, part two coming soon…

I was a guest, with other members of WWNZ, of Wine Nelson.

 

Takapuna Sculpture Onshore

Takapuna Sculpture Onshore

Trapped II by Donna and Colwyn Hanson (left) and Quarter-acre Weatherboard Paradise by Richard Wedekind

During our few months in New Zealand we have discovered a national fondness for sculptures and sculpture parks. Perhaps because it is easier to share your choice of art if it’s on show in your garden or park. And New Zealand is a country that embraces the outdoors!

Takapuna Sculpture Onshore

So the other day I took the ferry to Devonport, a speedy 20 minute ride across the sea, to visit the 10th NZ Sculpture Onshore exhibition at the Fort Takapuna Historic Reserve site.

Takapuna Sculpture Onshore

NZ Sculpture OnShore is a biennial exhibition of contemporary New Zealand sculptural work. The event raises funds to support NZ Women’s Refuges. Since 1995 ten outdoor sculpture exhibitions have been held and over $1.34 million has been raised for NZ Women’s Refuges.

Takapuna Sculpture Onshore

Fort Takapuna Historic Reserve’s commanding position at the head of the Rangitoto Channel in the Hauraki Gulf has made it an important lookout and defence site for hundreds of years, first for early Maori inhabitants and later for European settlers.

Takapuna Sculpture Onshore

Humpback Whale by Jack Marsden Mayer

Worthy winner of the Fisher Fund’s People’s Choice awards was the striking piece made from driftwood by Jack Marsden Mayer.

Takapuna Sculpture Onshore

Tree of Golden Pods by Karen Walker

I arrived just in time to have an hour’s guided tour which gave the few of us in the group a good overview of what there was to see.

Takapuna Sculpture Onshore

The scene was set so I set off to explore and take lots of photos, like this gentleman.

There were many moods, so let’s start with cheerful – indeed joyful
(click on photos for details).

 Thoughtful and provocative

Takapuna Sculpture Onshore

Feed the Kids Too by Bernie Harfleet. 6000 empty lunch boxes representative of the school children who go to school hungry.

Takapuna Sculpture Onshore

Feed the Kids Too. Buy a lunch box for $20.

 Birds, beasts and animals

Humanity, which includes some great art by school children who have their own show. There is a good documentary about the Children’s Sculpture Exhibition.

Takapuna Sculpture Onshore

Inside the Officers’ Mess there was a great display of smaller works

Takapuna Sculpture Onshore

Layered desk by Carrick Hill

Time to relax before leaving for home…

Takapuna Sculpture OnshoreThere was a lot of very good art on show. Most of the works were on sale and I congratulate the organisers, NZ Sculpture Onshore, for such an enjoyable event, for such good causes.

A Day in Wellington

141026.143 Mt Victoria, Wellington, NZ_blog

“I love this city, the hills, the harbour the wind that blasts through it. I love the life and pulse and activity, and the warm decrepitude…there’s always an edge here that one must walk which is sharp and precarious, requiring vigilance.”

So wrote Patricia Grace, award-winning New Zealand Maori author, about her home town of Wellington and so did we, falling in love with this, the smallest and friendliest capital city, when we spent just over a day in Wellington. Far too brief a time there but we did seem to have packed a lot in.

It was windy when we’d arrived the previous evening, as we’d been warned, so it was good to wake up to sunshine, blue skies and just a gentle breeze.

A day in Wellington

The grand Civic Square, City Gallery to the right

A short walk to the City Gallery (everywhere is a short walk in this small city) to find breakfast at the adjacent Nikau Cafe. Highly recommended, it was just the place to start the day.

Whilst Wink indulged herself with pancakes with honey butter, apple syrup I was wise and had a self assembled dish of sage fried eggs, black pudding and, er, sautéd kimchi (a Korean fermented cabbage dish, more pungent than, but similar to, sauerkraut). It made for an interesting change…

A day in Wellington

There is art everywhere in the city. In the Civic Square, with a backdrop of statues of nikau palms, Neil Dawsons’s Ferns appears to be held aloft by a chap with a spring in his step.

After breakfast we walked over the City to Sea Bridge, a dramatic thoroughfare with non-traditional wooden sculptures carved by prominent Māori artist Paratene Matchitt, some of which form the sides of the bridge.

Our gentle stroll along the quay was nothing compared to the effort of the paddlers on the water.

A day in Wellington

Then it was time for a trip on the cable car, which is still in use by commuters as well as tourists; it was built at the turn of the 20th century opening up development on the hills above the city.

A day in Wellington

It was a jolly rattle up to the top where we were greeted by great views over Wellington, and the blue, blue sea.

A helpful official guide showed us the route to walk down through the Botanic Garden. Just follow the symbols embedded in the path, so off we went.

The garden was established in 1868 and the trees growing today grew from seedlings planted at this time, and are some of the oldest exotic trees in New Zealand.

 A fine garden seat in memory Basil, the horticultural cat.

The Lady Norwood Rose Garden with spring flowers, a grand conservatory, the park keeper’s house and more statuary.

We paused at the Seddon memorial which honours the life of Richard Seddon, an important prime minister at the end of the 19th century, before continuing down through Bolton Street Cemetery.

When the motorway was built through it in the 1990s they planned to move the 2000 graves in its path, only to discover another 1700 bodies there which were not documented! Which of course were moved as well.

A day in Wellington

By this time Wink needed a little encouragement to laugh…

On past the seat of government to return to walk along the quay to reach Cuba Street as it was well nigh time for lunch; in spite of our hearty breakfast we had worked up an appetite. And not just hunger because we were keen to discover more of Patricia Grace’s “…pulse and activity, and the warm decrepitude…as well as the edge here that one must walk which is sharp and precarious, requiring vigilance”. 

A day in Wellington

Bollards modelled on burgeoning Kiwi ferns

I will tell you how we got on during our day in Wellington in my next post…

Medal Winning Wines in Auckland

Medal Winning Wines, Auckland

Last week I attended a small tasting of Medal Winning Wines in Auckland. When I am in the UK I do try to spend a few days every year in deepest Sussex, wine judging for the IWSC. So it was good to see how the wines fared in New Zealand.

The International Wine and Spirit Competition was the first competition of its kind to organise blind tastings and promote the world’s best wines and spirits. Now in its 45th year the IWSC is now joined by various other similar competitions, each with its own style and method of judging.

Medal Winning Wines in Auckland

Samples are presented in flights of numbered glasses to avoid the possibility of judges being influenced by the shape of a bottle. Judges are provided with a score sheet and given the basic parameters of the class being assessed. Samples are assessed quietly; and without comment; marks are recorded and collected by the panel chairman who may then open discussions in respect of judges’ comments and scores.

Detailed chemical analysis helps refine judging to further assess a wine’s future stability and legal compliance. Every single wine is assessed on its own merits within the context of its class.

Medal Winning Wines in Auckland

Blind tasting is a good, useful exercise and I always enjoy doing it, particularly not being influenced by the label and other information.

After the recent announcement of the IWSC results for New Zealand, Glengarry  Wines, a major NZ wine retailer, organised a small tasting of Medal Winning Wines in Auckland for their customers.

There were just over a dozen wines on show, all Gold Medal or Silver Outstanding Medal winners, which feature in the Glengarry portfolio. There are, of course, many more NZ medal winning wines available elsewhere.

Medal Winning Wines in Auckland

Jo Burzynska, wine author, journalist and fellow judge, gave a brief introduction to the IWSC and the wines on show.

Medal Winning Wines in Auckland

 Then it was time to enjoy the relaxed, informal tasting.

For me three wines stood out from a very good bunch.

.Medal Winning Wines in Auckland

Ara ‘Select Blocks’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012
Gold Medal

Freshly mown grass! Dry with a good bite of refreshing acidity, lots of grassy, citrussy notes on the palate.

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 Medal Winning Wines in Auckland.

Two Sisters Central Otago Riesling 2009

Gold Medal

Pale gold with sherbetty lime skin and floral notes on the nose. Medium body with its natural sweetness balanced by bright acidity, bags of flavour with good weight.
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Medal Winning Wines in Auckland

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Terra Sancta ‘Shingle Beach’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2012

Gold Medal

Pale ruby, with earthy meaty blackberries on the palate. Dry, robust but maturing tannins, with the lovely dark fruit flavours developing most elegantly on the palate.

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.Medal Winning Wines in Auckland

Sarah Eliot, co-founder of Terra Sancta, with a smile that matches her wine!
Oh, I nearly forgot – sometimes a wine tasting comes to a sticky end and there was no exception here:
Medal Winning Wines in Auckland.
Marisco ‘A Sticky End’ Noble Sauvignon, Waihopai, Marlborough 2011
Gold Medal
Gold with a rich nose of marmalade and heather. Sweet, but not sickly, with lemons and Manuka honey on the palate. 18 months in old oak has added a certain elegance.
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This was a good early evening tasting with not too many wines to taste and all, of course, of excellent quality and producers on hand to tell the consumers about the wine. However I was surprised that there was no tasting sheet, which would have surely encouraged orders.
You can read about all the Medal Winning Wines at this tasting here.

Auckland Botanic Gardens

Auckland Botanic Gardens

How fair is a garden amid the trials and passions of existence. ~Benjamin Disraeli

Mr Disraeli sounds a tad gloomy but when you work a 5-day week the weekends do become rather special and looked forward to.

Auckland Botanic Gardens
Huakaiwaka, the Garden’s Visitor Centre

So on an overcast, rainy Saturday a couple of weeks ago we drove the 20 minutes south to visit the Auckland Botanic Garden. In fact someone told us that when you travel in Auckland the journey always takes 20 minutes, which seems to happen more often than not!

Typical of the short modern history of New Zealand the Auckland Botanic Gardens were only opened in 1982. But the temperate climate of this fair country has enabled the trees and shrubs to become established quickly. Indeed I think all New Zealand is a botanical garden, witnessing trees awash with flowers in the depth of the Auckland winter!

Auckland Botanic Gardens

As well as a collection of indigenous plants there are a number of special areas: African plants, roses, camellias, magnolias, palms, edibles, herbs as well as an arboretum.

Auckland Botanic GardensNot forgetting the Potter Children’s Garden which enthuses kids and the young-at-heart and where self-discovery is encouraged within the garden with the many interactive features.

 Click on the photos to see what is happening

The African garden

Magnolias

Plants, shrubs and trees brightening up the overcast day.

The gardens are home to birds too.

Auckland Botanic GardensKereru, the New Zealand wood pigeon, a big chap with gorgeous plumage.

Auckland Botanic Gardens

Tui, or parson bird, are one of New Zealand’s most accomplished songsters and are superb mimics. They are often in the trees by our house in Three Kings and enliven the mornings with their melodious call.

Auckland Botanic Gardens

There was a reminder that it is still spring with trees nearly in blossom over a host of narcissi.

Auckland Botanic Gardens

You can row your boat up the creek and pitch your tent. Well, at least the artist thinks you can…

Auckland Botanic Gardens

As you can see, the amenities are fully organic.

Auckland Botanic Gardens

In spite of the rain there was a delightful splash of colour provided by a wedding group.

Auckland Botanic Gardens

The sun also came out giving us time to sit and contemplate these beautiful gardens.

Auckland Botanic Gardens

There is handsome art amongst the Auckland Botanic Gardens which added to the pleasure and inspiration from our visit. We look forward to returning to see the roses in full bloom.

The garden is a love song, a duet between a human being and Mother Nature. ~Jeff Cox

Auckland Botanic Garden
102 Hill Road
Manurewa
Auckland
New Zealand