Dancing Petrel Wines
Whilst sitting enjoying coffee at Waterfront bar in Mangonui, I spotted some beautiful vineyards on the slopes at the far side of the harbour. These are the vines of the newly founded Dancing Petrel Wines named after the Storm Petrel, which pirouettes across the waves. I was hosted by the very welcoming owner, Kim Gilkinson who has lived here since 2012 and bought the vineyards in 2018. She says the vines were not in the best condition. However she has put a lot of work in since. The plantings include a small planting of Tannat and recently Gewürztraminer. The wines are made at Marsden winery.
Dancing Petrel Viognier 2018
Carbonated, fresh apple apricot floral nice balance easy drinking
Dancing Petrel Viognier 2018
not overtly floral, apricot in the finish, dried apricot chews nice balance length sl saltiness
Dancing Petrel Viognier 2018 (Oaked) slight nutty on the nose
Dancing Petrel Pinot Gris
some fruit pear subtle
Dancing Petrel Rose
Syrah and Cabernet Franc hints of red fruits
This is not the easiest place are to produce grapes given the high rainfall and predominantly clay soils. However, given the amount of warmth and the North facing slopes, there is some potential. The stunning location on Paewhenua Island with 360 degree panoramic views over Mangonui harbour and the tourism should aid a new wine business.
Marsden Estate, Kerikeri, Bay of Islands, Northland, New Zealand
Rod Macivor founder of Marsden was preparing for his earliest harvest on record. So early that he was having trouble acquiring the yeast supply. Never in the 27 years since commencing Marsden has the harvest been this early. It had been a particularly dry few months. How much may be down to global warming is unknown, but this felt like an ominous sign. I had travelled to Marsden in Kerikeri near The Bay of Islands having heard about Marsden’s quality and the award winning Black Rocks Chardonnay. I was lucky enough to be hosted by Rod despite him being immersed in work. They had one of their grape growers field day/workshops today. Marsden works a bit like a Co-op with Rod making wine for over 40 individual growers. This reflects the scattered nature of Northlands wine growing areas over a large distance, the remoteness and low volumes produced. It’s not the easiest place to grow grapes with the high rainfall and humidity increasing risks such as fungal disease.
I was lucky enough to meet Mark Nobilo who with his many years of knowledge and wisdom advises local growers and winemakers in his own time. I also met Ben Byrne, winemaker at the expansive and heavily invested property; The Landing, which is making quite a name for itself.
Marsden Pinot Gris 2019
Floral pear textured slight spicy finish
Marsden Black Rocks Chardonnay 2018 +
Lovely buttery malo nose vanilla toasty peach. lees contact, smooth toasty oak long vanilla finish 30 % new oak lees few months
Marsden Viognier 2019
apricot tinned peach, bitterness good acidity
Marsden Tempranillo 2015
Red berry, chocolate yoghurt oak soft tannins 12 months oak cellar savoury
Marsden Chambourcin 2015
American French hybrid recently commercial, salami nose peppery
Cured meats spice smooth good acidity
Marsden Syrah Vigot 2015 +
Mixture ripe blackberries spices turmeric pepper, lovely wine. I had to buy a bottle as well as the Chardonnay and Pinot Gris!
Barrel sample tannat
Blueberry and good tannin excellent development and approachability despite being a barrel sample.
The wines are made very well. I particularly enjoyed the Syrah and it was good to try a wine with 5 years of age.
It was interesting to try the Chambourcin, something more unusual which is adapted for the climate up here.
I enjoyed meeting Rod who exudes generosity, passion and ability which is reflected in his excellent wines.
Villa Maria Estate was founded by George Fistonich, now Sir George, in the 1960’s and is still family run. They have extensive holdings in Auckland, Marlborough and Hawkes Bay. The 40 hectare site sits on an extinct volcano, the crater creating a natural amphitheatre. They hold summer concerts, past performers include Simply Red, Radiohead, Rona Keating, Simple Minds, Tom Jones. In March Aha and Rik Astley are booked, a great excuse to prolong my stay!
We were guided through their wines by winemaker David Roper in their aged cellar. Categories of wine start with Private Bin, then Cellar selection, Platinum (recently introduced) and their best wines are the Reserve selection.
I was really impressed by Villa Maria’s quality and consistency and price range. The 2019’s have only recently been bottled but were drinking beautifully.
We had a lovely lunch in their restaurant outside, overlooking the vines and tried a few more wines, including their excellent Albarino which had a distinctive saltiness. Then a walk in the Albarino vines with David Roper who had managed to put up with our company for 3 hours.
A Seat at the Table?
This is the title of the excellent, recently released film poses the question – Has New Zealand earned a seat at the table as a maker of the worlds best wines?
I think so, but I am biased. I’ve loved everything about New Zealand since I worked as a Junior Doctor here, at the Wairau Hospital in Marlborough a quarter of a century ago. It was then a fledgling region with most of the land in the Wairau and Awatere valley bare and full of sheep. How I wish I’d bought a few acres! A lot has changed since then with New Zealand showing itself as a world class producer of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay not just a mass producer of its most widely planted grape Sauvignon Blanc.
I had decided to take a sabbatical from work and what better place to be than in New Zealand for Summer. My tour will span major regions in North Island, starting in Auckland, then to Northland, Hawkes Bay and ending up in Waiheke Island. I plan to review my favourite wines and give an up to date picture of the latest trends in the New Zealand wine industry.
Kumeu River Wines
I can’t imagine a more beautiful place in the world to have a vineyard – just awesome. Steep mountain ranges, valley floors, gorges, glacial waters of the Kawarau river, a fusion of light and landforms.
Aaron, Kiwi wine lover and psychologist and I started on our quest for the finest pinot in Central Otago at Bald Hills in Cromwell. Owner Blair Hunt showed us his lovely collection, after a long day on the road from earhquake hit Christchurch, via lunch at Riverside Kitchen.
The newly opened wine trail bike route in the Gibbston valley provided the ideal oppurtunity to explore Perigrine wines and Amisfield. More examples of superbly made beautiful, fruit filled sensuous pinots.
Day 3 was the highlight. We met Alan Brady, who planted the first vines in the Gibbston valley over 30 years ago and was the instigator for the wine boom here. After the initial embarrassment of not having his recently released book ‘Pinot Central’ but the one by John Saker, we were treated to a delightful tour. First of Gibbston Valley Winery then Mount Edward, followed by lunch in the sun. Surprised myself by ordering a rosé. Not normally much of a fan, these are 100% pinot and just delicious, with the most vibrant floral nose and supremely balanced palate that I am at last a convert to these rather unpopular numbers.
Alan is a true gent, humble for a man who has achieved so much here. He also rang ahead for us to arrange a tour of Rippon Valley wines in Wanaka the following day.
Off then to Felton Road and unfortunately just missed much talked about charismatic owner Nigel Greening. However had a tour and tried the wines.
The Holy Grail was found after four days of searching and 20,000km with four flight changes. All had been worth it. The passion/organic/biodynamic/terroir all came through to deliver a palatal treat – a real assault on the senses – wines gushing with fruit, flowers and complexity and something unquantifiable. The sense that a perfect harmony was present – bottled beauty!
While Block 3 was particularly good, we loved them all. Well done to Felton Road, and after this nothing really mattered (except Man Utd seeing off Arsenal the following day!) We still had some stamina, and well worth it too as Jane Docherty from Carrick was a great hostess to the fine wines of Carrick.
A great trip and now have the ammunition for a “Best of Kiwi Pinot” WanderCurtis tasting in the early summer!