The art of fine wine
Wineries in Nelson have new season's products in stock and their cellar doors are open for visitors. A great summer activity is visiting these wineries and tasting their offerings. But with 23 wineries to choose from, it's fair to ask which ones should be visited first?
My book group recently attended the Nelson Wineart new release tasting. Please don't ask me what books have to do with wine; simply accept that they are both fine pleasures to be enjoyed.
Wineart had 123 wines to sample. We decided to treat the tasting like a research project and came up with a sophisticated four-point scale to rate the wines. We then worked hard to taste as many wines as possible so that we had a decent sample size.
Our rating system consisted of: "yes, yes", "yes", "not really" or "no". A serious wine reviewer would not be impressed, but it worked well for us and was fun.
Since then I have visited the wineries where a wine scored a rating of "yes, yes" and checked them out for aesthetics and food.
A top contender for aesthetics is Woollaston Estates in Upper Moutere. There is a lot more than wine on offer, with an art gallery, gorgeous sculpture and fantastic views from the outside seating area.
On the first Sunday of each month there is live music on the lawn. For me, drinking a glass of wine while looking out to super-sized sculptures from the tasting room courtyard is a top experience.
Immediately in front is Andrew Drummond's huge sculpture Vertical Form, Counter Rotating and Christine Boswijk's work Totems for a Vineyard with 13 ceramic eggs atop massive poles, which were made from gum trees felled during the winery's development.
At Woollaston I chose a sauvignon blanc and the tasting notes said of this wine, "fresh lifted aromas of elderflower, limes and tropical fruits. On the palate juicy tropical fruits, citrus and fresh green herbs linger to a long finish, with a defined mineral core that gives the wine texture and elegance".
My book group friends had simply said "yes, yes".
Neudorf, also in Upper Moutere, rates high on my aesthetics list. This vineyard was established in 1978 and today is a must visit for its gorgeous wines, as well as the many music events held there such as the Classic Hits winery summer tours.
Headliners for next year are Wellington's seven-piece masters of dub, reggae, soul and R&B - Fat Freddy's Drop, joined by Anika Moa, Boh Runga and Hollie Smith.
But back to Neudorf wine. My bookie friends had rated Neudorf Moutere chardonnay 2011 highly, and respected winewriter Raymond Chan agreed, giving the wine a perfect 20/20 score.
If you want food with wine, my pick is Kahurangi Estate, again in Upper Moutere. There is a great little cafe that serves a simple menu of wood-fired pizza and salad. This is perfect when accompanied by the Kahurangi syrah, which my bookie friends rated a "yes, yes".
Cuisine magazine's rating was similar, though more wordy: "A robust wine full of intense fruit flavours teamed with distinctive white pepper and a pleasing, lingering palate of dark fruit and spice - four stars."
Also good if you want to enjoy food and wine is Fossil Ridge on the outskirts of Richmond. The vineyard takes its name from the nearby Monotis richmondiana fossils. These molluscs existed during the dinosaur (late Triassic and Jurassic) era 200 million years ago and are found throughout the vineyard and Richmond Hills.
The cafe is open from December until March and I have a lovely memory from last summer, of sitting outside in a sheltered courtyard overlooking tranquil gardens, drinking a rose wine with lunch. This is an exquisite summer drop, which Fossil Ridge says has, "an enticing strawberry bouquet . . . creamy mouth feel and lasting piquant berry fruit intensity".
For a pleasant outing, or special family function, go to Seifried Estate and the adjoining Petite Fleur restaurant. There is relaxed indoor-outdoor dining, children's playground and the full range of Seifried wines to choose from.
I sampled the award-winning riesling, described by Seifried's as having "a clean varietal nose with lemon-lime notes and delicate blossoms". Note the irony that my book club friends are happy to use one or two words to describe their favourite wines, while the experts need many more.
In the future I am going to insist my friends extend their vocabulary and come up with phrases like "beautifully refined, seamless, complex and sophisticated" or "succulent characters balanced against zesty mouth-watering acidity" to describe wine.
Nelson wineries are all family-owned and offer a great afternoon excursion. Be like my friends and simply enjoy the experience of drinking good wine, or take notice of the tasting notes and search for your own personal favourite. You are bound to find one (or two). Yes, yes.