I’ve read about it in magazines, studied the climate and the geography and varietals, but there is something about standing on a ridge overlooking hundreds of rows of beautifully arranged, perfectly parallel vitis vinifera in Marlborough that is completely awe-inspiring.
My first stop was Cloudy Bay, I figured it was necessary only because it’s on wine lists everywhere back home, and it was the inimitable Lawrence Turcotte that first mentioned Cloudy Bay as the prototypical expression of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. It was okay. The Pelorus 1996 Vintage Brut was better, most likely because it is a majority Pinot Noir, and cool climate Pinot Noir (think Champagne) is fantastic for the bubbles.
I had the opportunity to visit and taste with some fantastic people and spit out some fantastic product that I would have loved to curl up in a corner with and drink by myself – but one experience I will never forget was at Lawson’s Dry Hills, a boutique outfit that is hands down the most awarded and accoladed vineyard and winery I have ever heard of. One sip of the wine and you realize why.
I walked into the shaded cellar door after a tree-lined driveway and introduced myself to Sue, who immediately mentioned that the winemaker might be available; “I’ve seen him around today, let me check!”
Two minutes later,Marcus, maybe three years my senior, glasses and a beard, emerged from the doorway, walked right up and shook my hand, introduced himself and enthusiastically encouraged us to get started. He spoke with conviction, but calm as ever – with wonderful use of expletives. I was shocked at the difference between speaking with winemakers and speaking with ‘winery representatives,’ especially the French, who are so often stuffy and speak with pretense.
Marcus walked me through the entire line, even some of the single vineyard stuff that isn’t typically offered to taste. Sip after sip, varietal after varietal was such an incredible experience! The Chardonnay was powerful, but voluptuous, with oak and spice and fruit all in perfect harmony. The Riesling was incredible! The Gewürztraminer blew me away with its tropical fruit, spice, weight and alcohol – all perfect. I could have stayed all day and talked clones and viticultural practice.
The rest of the day was incredible, and I was able to taste the likes of Seresin, which is featured on the Wine List at The Fat Duck, as well as Framingham, which according to Jancis Robinson, has the best wine she has ever tasted out of Marlborough. I bought a bottle. More to follow.
Enough about the wine: it’s off to Abel Tasman National Park, and a road trip around the South Island!