News >> Hoarfrost to Hawkes Bay – the best of NZ in 10 days
In many an English novel I have read about a “hoarfrost” but it was only in Central Otago during the first week of July 2012 that I actually experienced one first hand. During my stay at Bannockburn in the Cromwell basin, visiting Felton Road and Quartz Reef, the region endured a cold snap with temperatures plunging to -8 and not getting above zero during the day, resulting in the rare but beautiful shards of white ice which give the appearance of snow, belying the intensity of the chill.
Fortunately for the locals the summers are warm to hot with temperatures reaching 35 and 40 at times, and record diurnal shifts of up to 29+ to zero. The temperature extremes are matched with a low rainfall of 350-400 mm p. annum. We had just recorded 360mm in the Adelaide Hills in May and June alone. The vineyards in the Cromwell basin therefore benefit from a long cold dormant phase, and the lack of humidity means disease pressure is almost non-existent, though spring frosts remain a constant threat with anti-frost windmills a feature of most vineyards.
In between a day on the Ski slopes, Puzzling World at Wanaka and the Louge and MasterChef Judge Josh Emett’s superb new restaurant Rata in Queenstown, I finally made it to Quartz Reef catching up with Rudi Bauer (Winemaker & Proprietor) and Simon Beck (Sales & Marketing). Ever since I first met Rudi just 3 or 4 years ago, he has been impressing on me how important the Quartz Reef Bendigo Vineyard is to the wine style and quality they are producing, and I can finally say “I get it!” Rudi was a pioneer in Bendigo in the truest sense, discovering this exceptional grand cru/premier cru slope on Bendigo Station and working with John and Heather Perriam to plant and develop it. Quartz Reef was officially certified Biodynamic in late 2011, and Rudi was like a child in a toy shop showing us all his (smelly!) ‘potions’ he is growing in underground pots to feed the vineyard. The lack of visibility due to the extreme conditions, could not take away from the magnificent site in terms of exposure and the quartz deposits lying under the vineyard.
A thorough bottle and barrel tasting in Rudi’s “no frills” Cromwell Cellar Door was sensational, with the highlights including the Quartz Reef Methode Traditionelle NV (creamy, textural and long, very French – no malo and 100% free run), and the 2010 Pinot Noir (wonderful vibrancy and restraint to this wine – blackberry and boysenberry fruit, exceptionally fine tannins and very long and satisfying). The 2011 Pinot Gris revealed enticing notes of cream, ginger and grapefruit with lovely texture, balance and length. Rudi also showed us some base wines including the Vintage Methode Traditionelle, still to stay on lees until end October 2012. Although almost 100% chardonnay, it showed amazing weight and concentration, butter, melon, mealiness and grapefruit.
Perhaps even more amazing for me was to comprehend the true ‘selection’ for the Bendigo pinot Noir. Each Quartz Reef worker gets to choose and follow a ferment which carries their personally chosen name. At crunch time, a selection of just one ferment (12 to 16 barrels) is made, based on how representative it is of both the vineyard and the vintage. We tasted the 2010, the ferment was that of assistant winemaker Sam Jarys, who named it “The Fell” after a favourite hill in his wife’s county in the Lake District, England. It has a wonderfully Burgundian nose, blackberry and raspberry with delicious spicy, gamey and briary overtones. The palate is all about finesse and very long. Quite simply a great Pinot Noir!
A weekend in Wellington was defined by a restaurant recommendation from Tracy Thomson (Le Petit Fromage) of Felton Road. Scopa on Cuba in the Bohemian hub of Wellington is the brainchild of two Italian (descent) brothers and we virtually lived there, from true Hot Chocolate at brunch, to authentic homemade pasta dishes for dinner and the best pizza outside Italy for lunch! We also managed to squeeze in dinner at Matterhorn, down the road in Cuba Street, with some exquisite dishes in the fine dining restaurant which also features late night cocktail and tapas bars. A visit to Te Papa Museum revealed a magnificent exhibition of unique Maori cloaks both present and past.
This was only my third trip to New Zealand since my first in July 1998. After each visit I vow to return very soon but I never do. This time it will be different! Mezzanine Area Managers take note: if you are heading to New Zealand on holiday Rudi, Elaine and Simon extend an invitation to you of a thorough vineyard tour and tasting just 45 minutes from Queenstown… and extreme sports opportunities abound in any season!