Welcome to the WineBlog of RedbankJames – Winebox Red

In our family we have a word for hangover – chrise-i-crook. It originated because some friends – can’t remember who – decided decades ago they needed to address their drinking problem so started going to AA (a marvellous organisation, by the way). They met another couple there who had realised they needed to go to AA when their toddler, who slept in a cot in their bedroom, woke up one morning, pulled himself upright by the bars of the cot, leaned over the side and said, “christ I crook”.

Anyway, that’s a bit how I felt this morning. It was Mum’s birthday yesterday so we celebrated by lunching at Alana Estate. Highly recommended too – they couldn’t have been more obliging, from the moment I phoned to book for eight people and couldn’t remember my own telephone number as a contact, to the pink balloons and ‘happy birthday’ mats decorating the table, to the beautiful chocolate birthday cake they made for Mum. Having run a restaurant, I know what a pain big family groups can be, especially if they want to bring a cake, or order one from the chef. They don’t understand the costing and expect to get a cake for less. But that’s eight desserts the restaurant was missing out on from the menu – I just said charge us the usual dessert price times eight, and everyone’s happy.

Alana Estate restaurant is one of the few good, upmarket restaurants around here that’s open for lunch throughout the year. It’s consistent, the food is good (I had Asian style shredded duck hotpot and it was packed with duck and shittake mushrooms – very tasty). Others had the shoulder of lamb which was pronounced excellent, the scallops on puy lentils – very satisfying. We had two bottles of 2004 Alana Estate Pinot Noir and I’d have to say it wasn’t as good as James, but then I’m biased and the good winemakers at Alana Estate would have to say James isn’t as good as theirs.

That night, the two of us felt like celebrating further, so we opened a bottle of very special, very unique, New Zealand wine:

In case you can’t read the label, it’s “The Winebox Red” – and, according to the label, “pressed in Auckland, harvested in Cook Islands, Propagated in New Zealand.” It would warm the cockles of Winston Peters’s heart, in fact, he signed a bottle for Colin who donated it to a charity auction for Life Education Trust.

But this was his second-to-last bottle. It was produced and bottled by George Fistonich’s Esk Valley Estate Ltd in 1994, and it’s merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc. A stunning wine, berry delicious and leathery merlot, made from grapes grown at Puketapu by Greg and Fiona Duley.

What a shame there’s only one bottle left – perhaps we should keep it for our superannuation. Then again, I had a bit of a bear head this  morning, only relieved when I tramped up and over the 110 acres, caught the horse, and went for a ride.


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