“Oh cool – what are you killing Dad?” my nine year old son craned his neck to see my husband drowning a white tail spider in a flood of Black Flag.  “It was a big bugger son” said my husband as he flicked it out the window, “it almost crawled into your shoe”.  “Should have let it Dad,” snipped the older sister, “the smell would’ve killed it for sure”.  Immediately a loud and lengthy dispute erupted about who smelled the worst, who was the ugliest, who had the stupidest haircut, the un-coolest friends and (this is where it got violent) whose turn it was on the computer.

white tail spider

I did what any sensible modern mother would do.  I quietly grabbed a bottle of wine and a large glass then snuck out of the room leaving my husband to cope with the carnage.

The wine was a bottle of Blackenbrook Nelson Riesling 2009.  It was diamond-bright, smelled beautifully floral, lime-laden and in the mouth it oozed crisp citrus, beeswax and apple flavours; so it was no surprise to learn that it collected the prize for Best Riesling at the First Fifteen Wine Challenge staged in Nelson recently.  Inspired by the current rugby celebrations, the competition was open to NZ, Italian and United States wineries.  Each country was charged with entering its own team of 15 wines comprising a mixture of pinot gris, riesling and gewürztraminer – the classic ‘aromatic’ varieties. After a day of intense judging to decide on the top 15 wines overall, the best pinot gris emerged as Etude Carneros 2010 from the USA and the best gewurztraminer was Cantina Tramin Alto Adige Nussbaumer 2009 from Italy.  A trophy was awarded to the best of each variety, and the region with the most wines won the overall award. Nelson romped away with seven out of the 15 spots, winning the riesling section and the overall title.

Ursula Blackenbrook

Daniel Schwarzenbach and his wife Ursula from Blackenbrook Vineyard are two of the hardest young winegrowers I’ve ever met.  Both were born in Switzerland yet Daniel left for New Zealand as a boy and trained as a Clinical Chemist/Microbiologist before chasing his winemaking dream in the early 1990’s.  Following his graduation in Viticulture and Oenology from Lincoln University he returned to Europe to work with some of the top producers in Germany, Switzerland and the Alsace and it was there that he met Ursula, a Hotel management and hospitality professional.  They moved back to New Zealand purchased a 20ha block of rolling pasture overlooking the coastal highway halfway between Nelson and the Abel Tasman. Having built his own small, but perfectly formed, 100% gravity-fed winery, Daniel set about creating fine, vibrant, interesting wines in a fully sustainable, low-impact manner.  Ursula is the marketing and export guru behind the brand and makes quite possibly the best cheese platter I’ve ever come across (when you’re in the wine business these things really matter).  They currently have a delicious Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris.  If you’re a fan of spicy, Turkish Delight and pure Lychee flavours you must try their Reserve Gewurztraminer 2010 and their 2009 Reserve Pinot Noir is incredibly dense and oozes spicy, concentrated fruit.  For a real kick of dried herbs, black fruits and muscular tannins, try their 2010 Montepulciano, and if you visit anytime soon (and if you’re very lucky) you just might get to sample the Botrytis Riesling that their young son Thomas has been looking after while it matured in a tiny barrel for the last three and a half years (he’s only 10).  Expect manuka honey, toasty, treacle and a hint of amontillado sherry on the finish.

Thieves steal entire harvest

You hear some wacky things in the wine trade, but this is a total head-scratcher.  According to German newspaper Der Spiegel, thieves in Germany stole a whopping 5,500 pounds of pricy Pinot Noir grapes from a winery in the country’s south-western region of Deidesheim earlier this month.

Stephen Attmann of the Von Winning winery told German press agency DPA that the thieves completely decimated the vineyard, plucking the award-winning Spätburgunder variety, or Pinot Noir grapes, just ahead of the scheduled harvest.

“We are suffering spiritually, not just financially, over this loss,” Attmann said. These thieves didn’t just chance across the crop, they came prepared, bringing in harvest machines to strip the vines of grapes worth approximately $US137, 000

The heist must have happened in the middle of the night, or simply under the noses of an unsuspecting vineyard crew.  I could be wrong, but I’m pretty certain nothing this brazen has ever occurred in New Zealand. I mean it’s fair enough that birds, sheep and the odd stray Labrador have been known to snaffle grapes from the vines, but actual human thieves are in a different spittoon altogether.

Most locals suspect the German thieves were acting on behalf of a rival winery as it’d be a tad tricky for just one person to get rid of such a large amount of fruit. Police are still investigating.

New Brews on the block

Boundary Road Brews

Hunua is home to the Boundary Road Brewery which has just unleashed a range of four new craft brews onto the market.  The Chosen One Golden Lager, a Flying Fortress NZ Pale Ale, the Bouncing Czeck (geddit!) Pilsener and the Grizzly Bear Ginger beer are now available in six-packs at liquor outlets around the country.  Ben Shaw, Boundary Road’s marketing manager said in the September issue of FMCG magazine that the brewery was excited about launching this new craft beer range.  “We’re also very excited for beer lovers to try The Chosen One which was the beer of choice by 999 Boundary Road Brewery beer tasters who selected it on behalf of their countrymen”.  Boundary Road Brewery also produces commercially well-known brands Hagen and NZ Pure alongside international brands Kingfisher, Tuborg and Carlsberg under licence.



Sip of the Week

Matua ‘Single Vineyard’ Matheson Hawke’s Bay Merlot 2009 $69

Ruby-hued and exhibiting saucy aromas of plum compote and chocolate while in the mouth it has succulent cherry, blackberry and enticing spices.  The oak is beautifully integrated, the acidity is elegant, the alcohol is warming and the finish is solid and muscular.  Definitely a wine for rare eye fillet.  www.matua.co.nz

Boundary Road Brewery ‘Chosen 1’ Golden Lager 330ml ($14x6pk)

A crisp, lipsmacking 5%abv  lager with lifted green hoppy notes, hints of oatmeal on the palate and a gentle tang on the finish.  A touch of bitterness cleans it up nicely.  Available at supermarkets nationwide.

Sileni Estate  ‘The Pacemaker’ Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Franc 2009 $27

I am a huge cabernet franc fiend, and this one is really spinning my wheels right now.   Aromatic plum and dried herb aromas lead to ripe, succulent, earth-edged flavours, plush, velvety tannins and a warming, gentle finish.  To buy visit www.sileni.co.nz (you’ll need to click through to the second to last page on their online shop – but it’s worth it) or find a retailer near you by visiting www.wine-searcher.com