In Search of Premium Wines, Marcus & Rachel in Marlborough Days 4-5


Day 4 – We are up first thing today for an early start to a full day of tasting.  Today is rainy and cool…perfect day for wine tasting! Marcus and I drink a lot of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc back home in Canada so we are excited to taste and find some amazing small producers not currently available for our members back home.

First stop was Gibson’s Bridge wines they are a small “Boutique” winery with a quaint cellar door. We were greeted by the winery owners and led through their full range of wines that are predominantly Pinot Gris, which is what they specialize in. The wines were decent and we particularly liked the 2007 Reserve Pinot Gris.

What we have discovered as we have been tasting is that 2008 was a year with lots of rain during harvest and this is quite apparent in some of the whites we have been tasting…. how different from the McLaren Vale region where in recent years they have had the complete opposite growing conditions.

Next on the list is Te Whare Ra pronounced “Tea Faree Ra”. Marcus went in and rang the bell to see if anyone was around so we could taste. He was greeted by Anna who he immediately recognized and vice versa. After a few seconds of guessing how the knew each other, they realized they both studied winemaking at Adelaide University together, however not in the same year.  Anna is Australian and married to Jason a New Zealander and they are both winemakers who met while working together in Australia.  Anna led us through their wines and we were both floored at how fantastic their wines were, particularly their whites. This busy winemaking couple – (who have two sets of twins under the age of 6!) have a real talent for making aromatic whites.  Although all the wines were amazing the one that really jumped out was the 2008 Dry Riesling…WOW best Riesling I have tasted in a LONG time, maybe ever. This wine blew Marcus away as well; he couldn’t believe how amazing it was. Marcus didn’t anticipate buying a Riesling on this trip but we are trying to buy the best wines we taste and we are happy to say this wine will be coming back to Canada to our members! That night Marcus was giddy with excitement as we tried it again! We are also interested in buying their Pinot Noir and their Noble Riesling (for our higher members). It is a fantastic dessert wine and not as sickly sweet as ice wine. The first time I had a noble rot wine was while I was living in Australia. I am not a big fan of sweet wines however a really good noble rot Riesling is such a treat!

All in all today was a success! We have been lucky again to meet some amazing people to work with and the best part is that the wines have been outstanding so far. We have a long way to go but we are well on our way!

Day 5 – Marcus went off this morning to meet with a bunch of small producers that have been recommended to us by winemakers we have met along the way (too many to mention). Unfortunately the wines were either average or not available in the quantities we are looking to buy. Today is yet another cool rainy day – I know that under the cloudy cover this country is beautiful and I really hope that the sun comes out for one day so I can see it!

In the afternoon we headed out to some more wineries, first stop was Blayden Estate. They have been in Marlborough for 20 years. When they first arrived they were 1 of only 8 wineries, now there are over 109 as of today! They have the oldest Pinot Gris vines in the region. We went through and tasted all theirs wines and they were good…but we are looking for excellent so we will keep on tasting.

Next stop was Boremwood. We called to set up an appointment and Sarah who answered the phone said we could meet her at her house to taste. The 2007 Sauvignon Blanc and 2008 Gewürztraminer were particularly outstanding…only problem is that they are down to only 20 cases left…another dead end it seems.

Back to the cottage for some more research. I feel both confident and skeptical about our Marlborough trip so far. The wines that Marcus has selected so far have been very special and exceptional quality but we are running out of time and we still need one more superlative wine to add to our portfolio.  As usual while I am stressing Marcus is taking it all in stride not worried at all. I guess that is why we make a good team while I do the organising and he gets the job done!

We were greeted back at the cottage by Henny the dog, Jasper’s new friend. Henny ran and found a good fetching stick as soon as she saw the car pull up and dropped in at Jasper’s feet to play. Jasper has been having lots of fun playing with him and Henny has been wearing him out which is awesome for us!

Prior to this trip to New Zealand I have only transited through the country. My expectations were to find large mountains, similar to what we have in British Columbia and loads of sheep. Well there are in fact LOADS & LOADS of sheep, apparently more sheep than people in this country. There is green pasture after green pasture full of sheep…as far as the eye can see. When Jasper saw the first field of sheep he said “wow I have never seen that many before”.

As far as the mountains go there are some around here on the South Island but more like Okanagan Mountains not like Rocky Mountains. I guess watching Lord of the Rings has led me to believe that entire country was covered in large snow capped mountains…similarly people that have not been to Canada assume we are under snow, living in Igloos 12 months a year too! The Vineyards are mainly planted on very flat plots between the hills. Marlborough is not at all commercialized as I expected it to be. There are of course the larger wineries such as Cloudy Bay, Stoneleigh, Villa Maria, Kim Crawford etc. However the region is mostly made up of small vineyards and producers and lots of export labels capitalizing on Marlborough’s current popularity.