Monday, June 16, 2008

Waipara Valley Wine Tour

It was a fantastic day on Sunday and it was unseasonally warm too - around 19/20C - not bad for winter temperatures! It was all thanks to a Nor' Wester which had been boosting temperatures for the previous few days and we decided not to waste such a fine afternoon.

During the week I had enquired after local wine regions in Canterbury when a colleague in work suggested we try Waipara Valley which is only an hours drive from Christchurch.

After a little research, it turned out there were at least 6 vineyards open on the 'trail' in winter and if we left in the late morning we would have enough time to visit all of them.

The first winery was specifically listed as a 'must visit' by my colleague who recommended their Reislings. As a fan of this style I was looking forward with anticipation.

Peagasus Bay vineyard holds a beautiful restaurant attached to the tasting room which has a plate glass wall looking onto their warehouse full of oak barrels. Outside, they have a natural amphitheatre which is what I would call a dell, that holds a festival (that we missed somehow) that draws over 3000 people.

However, what impressed me about the surroundings was diminished not only by their sub-par Reisling but mainly through the obnoxious and snobby tasting room staff member. He carried a superior air about him that was bordering on offensive and he was very short with us, offering no explanations to each wine more than what it was before shuffling off to talk another staff member. Our servings were also extremely stingy. However, the look on his face when he found out I had been pouring my slop wine into the stainless stell water jar in what I took to be the spitoon made up somewhat for our shoddy treatment.

Next up was Mud House vineyard and they had a delightful tasting area overlooking a busy outside dining area and the service was exceptional. Our host explained each of their wines and we recieved a considerable amount of wine per glass for the paltry $3 fee including two if their most expensive bottles which came to around eight in total. She was very friendly and helpful in every way and I would certainly recommend stopping here.

Our next stop was Torlesse Wines which was reasonably busy for only one man working behind the counter. He didn't spend any time with us as he was rushing around serving others and putting wine through the till. Another off-putting aspect was a swarm of fruit flies buzzing around. Apparently they had dumped their skins nearby and the warm temperatures had caused an explosion of the little mites with some of them finding their way into our glasses. The wine itself, of the two glasses we were served in 20 minutes didn't impress any of us so we left and headed to our next vineyard.

Mount Cass is a relatively small place and was operated on this day by a lovely lady and her black wolfhound type dog that Keith fell to playing with while we got on with sampling the small selection of wines available. We got engaged in a thoughtful and insightful conversation about grape-picking seasonal workers and the work ethic of different nationalities. I always find it interesting when I am offered personal insights about such matters and since I knew nothing about the work ethics of any particular nationality (except perhaps the Germans who have a hard-working reputation) I stuck to sampling the wines of which we bought a delightful Gewurztraminer which is one of those wines coming back into fashion (and deservedly so).

Next up was Waipara Springs, our last stop of the day (as Daniel Schuster's was closed). It is a cosy little place down a gravel road and we were served by someone who reminded me of Imelda Staunton (the British actress). They had a wide selection of top notch wines including a fantastic Merlot which both of us bought a bottle of - quite surprising too as Jenny isn't overly fond of reds.

It was a fantastic day to spend any day, moreso because of the fine weather which harked back to the hazy, lazy summer days and now we have a small selection of great wines to enjoy on a special occasion.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Definitely sounds like my kind of day out!!! When we come to visit you (one day) I shall expect a tour! :-P

10:08 pm  
Blogger Skry said...

We can give you a tour of our own brewery too, as we are currently making our own. Got a few on the go at the moment.

Actually in a weird coincidence, one of our batches is ready tonight and we're having a beer party to celebrate! Hopw it tastes as good as the first time we tried this kind of pilsner...

10:07 am  

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