Martinborough to Hawkes Bay

G’day. Now Saturday.

Despite a grey and drizzly start to the day, I spent an enjoyable Friday morning in Martinborough with Palliser Estate, one of the longest established wineries here. Winemaker Allan Johnson, who has been with the winery for over 20 years, prides himself on his achievements with Riesling and Pinot Noir in particular. We tasted several and I didn’t hesitate when he suggested we might try some of his older Pinots too – lovely, bright fruits in the wines that just get silkier with age.

Allan Johnson - Palliser Estate wine-maker

Back into the yellow mean machine for a drive north up to the Hawkes Bay region on the West coast and an appointment with one of my favourite wineries – Craggy Range.  Vines are dotted everywhere here in Hawkes Bay but the greatest concentration is to the north-west of Hastings, an area called the Gimblett Gravels, rapidly achieving international recognition for its Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot etc) and also Syrah. These are quite different in style to the bigger, bolder examples from across the Tasman Sea.

Craggy Range -'Giants' Winery, under Te Mata Peak

Even in a region full of outstanding wineries, Craggy Range stands out. From the dramatic architecture of the winery, cellar door and restaurant to the superb range of wines, all from single-vineyards, everything here is classy. I tasted a selection of the recent releases and some pre-releases from the range with Steve Smith MW – a brilliant winemaker who brings out the true expression of the variety and place. Craggy make wines from this region but also from Martinborough, Marlborough, Central Otago and the Waitiki Valley. You may have tried their Wild Rock range too, from differing regions. Great dinner in their ‘Terroir” restaurant, with some lovely older vintages of Chardonnay and Syrah.

The things I do for you lot.....

WOTD – 2009 Pinot Noir, Calvert Vineyard, Craggy Range- this comes from Bannockburn in Central Otago, the vineyard is bio-dynamically managed for them by the Felton Road guys and is full of fruit and spice, berries and plum – really lovely.

Saturday morning – two missions today – to look at some new wineries and to find a TV showing the Manchester derby later on!  Enjoyed a tour round stopping at various wineries and tasting – Mission Estate, Unison, Alpha Domus, CJ Pask amongst others. Some good discoveries and clear to see the potential this region has for quality reds.

Hope the reds are quality tonight against the noisy neighbours!

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