November already! Where did the year go? One of the best things about living in the country, though, is noticing more acutely the change of seasons. You’d have to be permanently dormant not to notice the wind out here, but it’s more than that. You can actually smell summer around the corner, as the spring lambs grow fat, the magpies fly from their nests in the pines, and days like yesterday are so hot the UV rays penetrate your sunscreen and you end the day with tan marks on your shoulders.
First, the whites:
Burings 2006 unoaked Chardonnay, made by Chris, a thoroughly nice chap, and this is what he says about this very pleasant chardonnay: “Mendoza clone grapes from three small Martinborough vineyards were hand picked at perfect ripeness. After primary fermentation a superbly balanced wine emerged which required no further intervention – a winemaker’s dream. The pale golden wine opens in the glass with aromas of tropical fruits and ripe peaches to delight the nose. The wine fills the palate with great fruit flavours typical of Mendoza, and finishes with a refreshing hint of citrus. Enjoy now or cellar for up to three years.”
Craggy Range Single Vineyard Riesling – from Te Muna Road, just along from us at Redbank. A very good riesling this was too, leaving aside the fact that we are biased in favour of Te Muna Road. “These grapes were hand picked and whole-bunched pressed, the juice then fermented cool and left on lees for some four months after vintage. The result is a deeply expressive wine with a combination of poise, elegance and hidden power all wrapped up in the juicy texture that is distinctly Martinborough.” That’s somewhat more wordy than how we would describe it, but I guess it shows our applause for this riesling was not astray.
Margrain Riesling 2007 Proprietor’s Selection. We really liked this riesling (Gee, we wish we’d planted riesling now, but I guess you can’t do everything). The label’s very stylie too, despite having a pukeko on it . I loathe pukeko – I know they’re natives, and protected, etc, etc, but they are stupid useless birds. They also spread disease from horses because they get into the horses’ feedboxes, scratch around and drop their calling cards, then carry on to the neighbouring property where they do the same. You’re not allowed to kill them, but I know Taja hates them too because when she was younger and fitter, she’d push the young pukeko under the water in the stream at my brother, Tim’s, farm and drown them. Anyway, back to the wine. Margrain is on Ponatahi Road (one of the most lovely stretches of highway in New Zealand), and the vineyard is described thus: “This genuine boutique estate is situated on the river terraces of Martinborough, recognised as one of the world’s great wine regions. The free draining, low fertility soils produce small crops of intensely flavoured grapes. Our wines are hand crafted exclusively from vines which we tend ourselves.”
And about the pukeko, Margrain are more kind: “The Pukeko depicted on the label is a curious native bird that comes up from nearby lowlands and struts arrogantly amongst the vines.” Arrogant because it knows you can’t shoot it!
And the only red we bought:
Murdoch James Saleyards Syrah 2006. I chose this syrah because a long time ago I rescued a pony from the Martinborough saleyards. She was a little grey mare, called Janeen, and my eldest daughter Briar rode her for years, before passing her on to Rupert and Valentine, who both learned to ride on her. She passed away in Russell, and is buried on the property of Martin and Hiwi Karmalade. The Martinborough saleyards, meanwhile, were turned into vineyards in 1986 by Murdoch James Fraser, so sentimental reasons entered into this wine purchase. But beware the fine print, and the lesson is, take your reading glasses with you when buying wine. In very small lettering on the back label, I learn that this syrah is only “named after the historic saleyards” and, in fact, is made from “grapes from a variety of selected vineyards”. Were they all in Martinborough? I do not know, but I have fallen into this trap before, not with this wine, but in Chicago when a friend thought she was buying Martinborough sauvignon blanc for us. In fact, the grapes were sourced from elsewhere in New Zealand, then made and marketed under a Martinborough label. Somehow I don’t like this, not sure why. Nonetheless, this syrah was okay. Just okay.