Neil Hodgson's wine column
Most winery cellar door outlets operate as off-licence facilities. This means they can only give you a sample of the wine to taste before you buy, while others have both an on and off-licence.
The on-licence means they can sell you a glass or bottle of wine to consume while you are there and is normally associated with a cafe or restaurant.
One of the things I love about visiting wineries is enjoying the variety of food styles on offer, as well as the wines.
One of our favourite places for a casual lunch is Kahurangi Estate, where you can have the best wood-fired pizzas in the region; Neudorf Vineyards has delicious, locally produced treats for you to enjoy on the winery lawn and it also encourages visitors to bring picnics, while Woollaston Estates serves wonderful platters of food. However, for a real treat we head to Hans Herzog Estate in Marlborough, where we are treated to a fine dining experience.
Last week we took a day off work and headed to Hans Herzog to celebrate Sari's birthday.
It seems like a long way to go just for lunch. But on a lovely sunny day the trip to Marlborough and back is part of the day out, while two hours over lunch in a wonderful setting is a real treat.
Hans Herzog has two dining facilities, its formal evening restaurant and the less formal Bistro where you can dine inside the cellar door facility or in the manicured garden setting during the day.
Sitting under established trees with a plate of tuna tartare and a glass of crisp yet elegantly textured Hans Herzog 2010 sauvignon blanc barrel fermented sur lie, is pretty much as good as life gets. That is until you have the perfectly cooked fillet steak with a glass of 2002 Hans Herzog Spirit of Marlborough bordeaux style blend.
There are a few things that make dining at Hans Herzog special; this is fine dining in a vineyard setting where the focus is on beautiful, fresh ingredients and impeccable service, while the wines are handcrafted delights that have been aged for a couple of years before being released.
Very few winery restaurants have a range of aged wines available for you to enjoy with your meal, but there is one other we visit regularly on our way to or from Christchurch that does.
Pegasus Bay Winery at Waipara has won the Cuisine magazine Winery Restaurant of The Year award for the past five years and the dining experience there is similar to that at Hans Herzog - focused on the best fresh ingredients prepared with huge skill, matched to perfectly aged fine wines and served efficiently by skilled, knowledgeable service staff.
Before this becomes a restaurant review I should talk about some of the wines.
Hans Herzog Estate is located in a special little micro-climate that allows Hans to carefully nurture his vines so they produce fully ripened, heavier red wine grape varieties, something that normally only happens north of Hawke's Bay in this country.
The intensity of flavour he coaxes from varieties like cabernet franc, merlot, montepulciano, cabernet sauvignon and syrah is at their best when those flavours have been carefully crafted by hand into fine wines and then aged for a few years; and that is just what Hans and Therese Herzog do.
Dining at Hans Herzog Estate is an affordable treat and you will enjoy fantastic food with outstanding wines.
Check out herzog.co.nz for information about their wines, foods and events.
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