Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Journey with wine

Opening a box delivered from the Wine Society, I was intrigued by a label ``Catherine's Block'' and accompanying story about a father and daughter stumbling on an abandoned  vineyard near Waipara in North Canterbury.
The grape variety of this bottle was pinot gris (2012). Pouring a generous glass I discovered my best New Zealand pinot gris to date. It had taken a long time for Kiwi winemakers to get their heads around the variety. (In Europe I typically enjoy the similar pinot grigio.) 
Curiosity led me to discover this winning father and daughter team. Tony Rutherfurd and Catherine Keith undoubtedly had a winning formula put together by winemaker Frank Manifold.
They explained pinot gris suffers with too much wet weather. Leaving the grapes to ripen longer before harvesting is a key. Other tricks lie in techniques of winemaking.
Catherine's Block is their premier wine label. Most have a label, Mount Brown Estates. An entry level label is Wild River.
  Frank Manifold made his first Mount Brown wines in 2013. One was a pinot noir grand reserve.
They entered it in a Sydney boutique wine show. Nine hundred of the 1000 entries were from Australian vineyards. Mount Brown took the top three places including wine of the show.
  I got to know Tony, Catherine and Frank well. I wrote a story for Latitude magazine. Later I took photographs of hand-picking pinot noir grapes on the original Mount Brown vineyard. It was all hands on deck, even the two Keith children.
  Mount Brown is a hill just north of Mount Grey.
They built their vinery in nearby Purchas Road utilizing engineering skills mostly amongst the vineyard staff.
  A visit to Spain introduced them to tempranillo. On his return to New Zealand Tony was offered some tempranillo vines. The warm Waipara Valleys summers meant the variety thrived. Another innovation was a barrique-fermented sauvignon blanc.
   This year Mount Brown  added a pinot noir rose and a chardonnay. No wonder, then, I look for Mount Brown labels in my local New World supermarket. Wild River pinot noir is priced about two dollars below the Mount Brown pinot noir. To me it represents good value. Mount Brown pinot noir rivals those from

famed Central Otago and Martinborough regions.
  I enjoy visiting vineyards while on my travels. It is particularly good to get to know the people behind my choice wine labels.     



Friday, 23 December 2016

Christchurch is not boring

Media reports this week informed us backpackers are bypassing ``boring Christchurch.''
Nothing could be more misleading. Christchurch is a city literally being rebuild following seismic events almost six years ago. The people are resilient and friendly. We know how to make great coffee and are quite good at pouring a cold beer or cracking the top from a superb wine from the Waipara valley.  Many attractions including our popular Botanic Gardens were not greatly affected by the earthquakes. The Arts Centre of Christchurch is re-opening in stages. The rebuilding and strengthening of its neo-Gothic buildings has been one of the world's largest heritage restorations.
Ideally start with a Welcome aboard Christchurch Pass available from the Welcome aboard booking office in Cathedral Junction. The pass will get you on the best local attractions including the guided heritage tram tour and Port Hills Gondola cableway, the latter with its sweeping views of Canterbury Plains and mountains.

Christchurch is the ideal hub for exploring Banks Peninsula, Hanmer Springs and other Canterbury attractions. It is also the principal entry point to the South Island. Spend a couple of nights in a local backpackers then head off on your South Island adventure.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Can you believe it?
 Sake from Queenstown, New Zealand.

Three Queenstown men, Craig McLachlan, Richard Ryall and David Joll have one thing in common. They have a love of Japan and are keen to share some delights of that country.
Teaming up with Japanese businessman, Yoshi Kawamura, owner of a sake brewery in Canada, they have produced the first sake from New Zealand.
They call their successful hand-crafted product Zenkuro. `Zen’ means all while `kuro’ means black.  It’s a play on `All Blacks’ I suspect.

Already their sake is popular in some restaurants and souvenir shops. In the latter it is a popular gift for Japanese visitors to return home with. They are hopeful of having their sake served on Air New Zealand flights from Auckland to Japan.
Sediment left behind, kasu, is being collected to be used for cosmetics. Kasu soap is being trialed.

I came across Zenkuro at a recent reception in Christchurch commemorating the Emperor of Japan’s birthday. David Joll, director and brewer was ecstatic about the product. He was explaining its gluten free properties along with being low in calories. Alcohol level is similar to wine. And, as with wine, sake is a great food accompaniment.

I particularly enjoyed their `White cloud' Nigori Jynmai sake. It is crafted by lightly filtering the fermented morami (mash)  to leave behind just sufficient lees to maintain its original white hue and slight sweetness. It can be matched with spicier or sweeter foods or snacks. It is superb when served chilled.   
More information. www.zenkuro.co.nz

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Canterbury's magical thermal destination

The diehard Cantabrian I am, living in Christchurch, New Zealand, I have frequently spent time at Hanmer Springs about 140 km from home. It is a delightful thermal town amongst forests and mountains. But Hanmer Springs last month was close to the epicentre of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that rocketed up the east coast  of the South Island. Curiously, Hanmer Springs, apart from a good shaking, suffered little. The town and its attractions were back in business within  a few days. Talking of attractions in the form of adventure tourism, I typically stop off at the century-old Ferry Bridge carrying the roadway  across the Waiau River Gorge. This is the home of Hanmer Springs Attractions offering jet boat rides, white water rafting, canoeing and bungee jumping amongst other thrill-seeking activities. Regrettably seismic events have slowed visitor numbers into the region.  One would hope that will change soon, especially with the holiday season just around the corner. Enjoy adventure activities, walking in the forest, mountain biking or lazing in a thermal pool.  Getting there is less than two hours from Christchurch. The earthquake had no impact on accessibility.