Friday, August 26, 2016

Wine Tasting in New Zealand - Continued

Hawke's Bay is New Zealand's warmest growing region with 2646 average growing degree days. It is there that the Bordeaux reds do best, Merlot in particular. The Cabernets are more Bordeaux in style than the big American Cabs. Since they are low region II, they complain about quality in cool years. The region is divided by highway 2 - a main north-south truck route. East of the highway the vineyards reach to the ocean. West they climb into the hills. The wineries are beautiful. We had a wonderful lunch at Mission Winery. (Most have restaurants.) Particularly pretty is the Esk Valley. This is the closest region to Auckland, so gets many visitors.
Napier is my favorite city in New Zealand. If offers lots of tourist facilities and great restaurants. It is truly spectacular.
Heading south you come to the Wairapa wine district which only produces 1% of the NZ wine from 3% of the acreage. Martinborough is a place whose time has not yet come. Most of the vineyards - if not all - are organic or biodynamic and it shows. Weeds grow under the trellises, vines are diseased and scrawny. It is the only place in the whole country where we were served a defective wine. They pride themselves in using wild yeast. Well folks, there is a reason for using cultured wine yeast. Cultured wine yeast was at one time someone's wild yeast, but it produced outstanding wines, so it became cultured. Most wild yeast make dull, insipid, vinous wines lacking in varietal character. They may be hot, but they are not good.
The town of Martinborough reminds me of Zillah with the exception of a really good Thai restaurant. Other than that, there is not much happening.
After crossing Cook Strait, you enter Marlborough, New Zealand's most famous and prolific area. It is home to Sauvignon Blanc. This is NZ's Napa Valley with the exception of the climate. The wineries are mostly huge tank farms. With 2151 GDD, (low region I) it explains why we can't produce great Sauvignon Blanc in the Rattlesnake Hills. Most of the wineries have restaurants or tapas bars.
Blenheim is the St. Helena of Marlborough. It is a very touristy city with a fancy visitors center which has lots of information about the wine industry. It is also hard to get a room, so we stayed in Picton.
Heading south you enter the Waipara Valley. It is not well know. There are only 12 cellar doors (tasting rooms) in the area. The main grapes produced are Pinot Noir and Riesling. It was here we met our only snarky tasting room person. It doesn't matter how beautiful the winery, the staff make the experience. By the way, we prefer beautiful wineries as opposed to 'hippie' wineries surrounded by junk.
We stayed in Amberly which has one nice restaurant, not much else.
The southernmost wine region in the world is Central Otago and it is well worth the extra time. Glaciers come down to the lake on one side and on the other Pinot Noir grows. It only produces 2.4% of NZ wine. It has a truly continental climate and reminds me a lot of eastern Washington - only cooler with less than 2000 GDD.
Wanaka is the place to stay, but it was full with tourists. We spent the night in Cromwell, a typical farming town. In March (September in the northern hemisphere) is was cold - almost frosty.
NZ makes the Grumpy Winemaker happy. The Kiwis seem to have their act together on tourism and wine tasting. The Washington Wine Commission could take note

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