I have been talking to plenty of people who don’t really want to visit Christchurch so soon after the recent earthquakes but having been there recently I have seen a community that just keeps going. Sure it is different and it will never be the same Christchurch but there is still a lot the Canterbury region has to offer visitors. For me one of the attractions is the wine industry and in particular Waipara. If you are not ready to visit Christchurch yet why don’t you do what we did a few weeks ago, spend a couple of nights in Hanmer Springs and take a day trip through to Waipara, an hour’s drive away.
While Waipara has many vineyards and wineries there are only about three or four you can visit to taste wine without arranging something with the owners so you can spend a very comfortable day checking out the best Waipara has to offer.
If you travel down the centre of the island on a reasonably regular basis you will have noticed the vineyard in a stunning location above the Waiau River, about five minutes drive south of the Hanmer Springs turn off on SH7. I have been watching the evolution of Marble Point Winery with a certain amount of curiosity for about the last five years as I have whizzed past on my way to or from Christchurch. I say with curiosity because the vineyard seems to be established in pretty inhospitable territory and no one else has plantings in the area. This time we decided to stop in on our way back from Waipara to check out the wines.
Situated on old alluvial terraces of the Waiau River the location isn’t just stunning but the old river bed soils are perfectly suited to winemaking, particularly riesling. The natural environmental conditions (heat in the summer, very cold in the winter) means the fruit develops ripe characters quite quickly and without too much sugar and that means well structured wines packed with flavour at reasonably low alcohol levels.
On reflection and with a little more knowledge about the people behind Marble Point Wines I shouldn’t be surprised at the exceptional quality of their product. Owners Sheryl Dennis and Richard Campbell met Kerry Hitchcock in Hanmer Springs. Kerry has been involved with the wine industry all his life, starting as a wine maker for Cook’s and finishing as marketer for Montana. Kerry now works as a consultant for the industry and has been the guiding hand behind the enthusiasm of Sheryl and Dennis.
Marble point currently produce riesling, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and pinot noir and have received favourable early reviews. Michael Cooper rated the 2008 Marble point pinot noir as a 3.5 star wine when it was just released and about a year later Sue Courtney said it deserved 4.5 stars. While this wine is packed with character and flavour my favourites have to be the two superbly well balanced medium and dry rieslings. The 2009 chardonnay is also a very smart wine, nutty, softly creamed stonefruit flavours with a touch of oak spice while retaining the stony mineral character that is evident in all of the wines.
Go to http://www.marblepointwines.co.nz/ to find out more.
I have been drinking
Lawson’s Dry Hills 2007 Riesling – $23 but on special for $14.99 at FreshChoice Nelson
How often can you buy a trophy winning wine for less than $15? This delight won the riesling trophy at the 2010 Royal Esater Wine Show. Packed with softly cooked citrus flavours, a touch of mandarin, backbone of minerality and juicy acidity – this wine has it all.
Halo Hawke’s Bay 2009 Chardonnay - $24.99
From Sacred Hill this is classic Hawke’s Bay chardonnay at its best with layers of complexity on the palate and in the flavours. Creamy in texture the wine is rich yet has subtle nut and stone fruit characters. From an outstanding vintage this is a delightful wine to discover.