I've always liked the word convivial, which is defined by Webster's Dictionary as "relating to, occupied with, or fond of feasting, drinking, and good company". And here is where we will share all things related to feasting, drinking and good company - with a little travel thrown in for good measure. Consider it our "at the table" section where you can find food and wine pairings, recipes, restaurant reviews, travel tips, and more. And once we get started we hope that you'll share your table - photos, friends, travels, and wine pairings with recipes. Welcome to our table, please make yourselves comfortable.
Harvest 2019 is nearly upon us, and we are blessed with settled warm dry weather conditions which are bringing the fruit on beautifully. The vineyards could not look better, so there is a great sense of excitement and anticipation in the air!
Our 2018 Chardonnays were racked from Eggs and barrels last week and are now safely in tank for finishing and stabilising. The quality of these wines is fantastic, with excellent purity and concentrated power. We are super excited about these wines and look forward to bringing them to the market in due course.
Following our theme of innovation, we have a spectacular ‘whole berry ferment’ wine to share with you. I have tried many ‘Orange’ wines that have been fermented on skins and left for long periods to age on skins, and to be honest, I usually find them excessively phenolic, bitter and often oxidative. So I have tried a very different approach! Handpicked Chardonnay was gentle de-stemmed through a specialist Socma destemmer, resulting in whole berries and no stems. We then foot crushed the berries before fermenting in an open top fermenter in a chilled barrel room. As soon as the ferment was dry, we transferred the young wine to a concrete egg for 11 months maturation. The result is spectacular!! Lifted aromas of orange rind, mandarin peel and floral notes lead to a richly textured well-structured pallet with no bitterness or astringency. Instead exotic fruits, suave texture and beguiling aromas seduce. Truly unique and full of expression! Watch this space….
Here in Australasia, we are just releasing our highest level of achievement with Chardonnay, the remarkable ‘ZEN’. This is a World First wine, being the inaugural wine ever made in a French Oak Egg. This is utterly compelling wine, and un-like any other you have ever tried! Purity, concentration, power and richness define this very unique wine. The oak is seamlessly integrated, and the terroir of the vineyard is fully expressed. Made from dry grown old vine Mendoza Chardonnay, this highly differentiated wine is only available in tiny quantities, as we only produced 110 dozen for the world. Talk to Ann soon and secure your allocation folks!
We are very excited to be represented by the lovely Ann Feely and Mondiale Wines and look forward to sharing our unique wines of Hawke’s Bay with the Chardonnista of America!
March 3, 2019
There was a time in my life that I only drank Chardonnay. There was a time in my life that I drank anything but Chardonnay. And then I discovered white Burgundy, more specifically the wines of Puligny-Montrachet, home to the most expensive chardonnays produced on the planet. Which is a way of saying that it was a very expensive habit and one that I really can’t afford, even when I lived nearby. Part of the portfolio I used to manage included two of my favorite Chardonnays – Domaine Leflaive from Puligny-Montrachet and Kumeu River from New Zealand. I swear, when tasted blind, on some occasions I could not tell them apart.
One of the reasons I was excited to go to New Zealand was that one of my last visits would be at Kumeu River. Their Mate’s Vineyard Chardonnay had been one my favorite New Zealand Chardonnays. That is until I discovered two Chardonnays from Hawke’s Bay from the same vineyard, Skeetfield, that truly tasted like white Burgundy. Both Tony Bish and Rod Easthope produce stunning examples of Chardonnay off the same vineyard and, since they are both in the Mondiale Wines portfolio, I recently had the chance to taste them side by side. I highly recommend it.
When I arrived in New Zealand, the New Zealand Winemaker of the year awards were just about to be presented and Tony Bish was one of the six finalists. Tony was being recognized for both his work at Sacred Hill and his own Tony Bish Wines. Reading his background on the awards website made me very excited about meeting this skier turned winemaker turned legend. When I found out his winery was also a wine bar called Urban Winery, I was all the more intrigued and excited. Speaking with Tony and his wife Karryn a day or two after the awards ceremony, I was awash in their thrill of the awards ceremony, including Karen’s pictures with Sam Neill of Jurassic Park fame, owner of Two Paddocks and one of the funniest follows on Twitter.
Tony is still a shareholder and consultant at Sacred Hill but since 2013 he has been focusing exclusively on Chardonnay and is producing his wines at the Urban Winery in Napier. Having his own winery has allowed him to experiment with concrete and wooden eggs including a 2,000-liter Taransaud Ovum. The Ovum is the beautiful wooden egg that graces the cover of our website. We will import just a few cases of the Zen Chardonnay, the first Chardonnay in the world made exclusively in an Ovum. While the Fat & Sassy Chardonnay is machine harvested, the grapes for the rest of his wines are handpicked and whole bunch pressed at Sacred Hill. The juice is then brought back to the Urban Winery where all but the Fat & Sassy are fermented in concrete eggs.
I’ll let the winemakers share in future blogs about their winemaking techniques and why they like to ferment in concrete and/or wooden eggs, but for me, in reviewing my tasting notes from my visit with Tony, I was struck by how much structure and mouthfeel was present in each wine made using eggs. Repeatedly, my notes say, “tastes like white Burgundy”. And then, after tasting the Skeetfield Chardonnay, I wrote my highest compliment yet – “investment level wine”, meaning I think the wine has an ability to gain or retain value, to become a collectible wine, just like some of the greatest white Burgundies. For me, that’s the highest compliment I can pay a wine and the man that made it.
During the planning phase of my first trip to New Zealand, Martin Cahnbley (Planet Wine) and I were discussing which wine regions I should visit. I said that I really wanted to go to Central Otago, Marlborough, and Martinborough. Martin insisted I add Hawke’s Bay to that list. He said there were some very small, very innovative winemakers there that I needed to visit. I was not happy with his suggestion.
New Zealand is an immensely beautiful country, but it’s also difficult to get around for someone like me who does not like driving on the other side of the road. And this was a road trip – five flights within New Zealand and driving myself from winery to winery. Including one harrowing drive from Wellington to Martinborough over a mountain in the rain while gripping the steering wheel so hard my hands ached. Visiting Hawke’s Bay would mean arriving on a Friday night and visiting wineries on a Saturday and Sunday. This was also in late January when most Kiwi’s are enjoying their last days of Summer holidays before school begins. I didn’t think it would work.
I didn’t want to go for other reasons too. In all my wine studies and tasting experiences, somehow, I got Hawke’s Bay and over-ripe Merlot burned into my brain. Just like we all have Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc seared into our palate memory, I had Hawke’s Bay and Merlot forever intertwined. I was insistent on not going. Martin was very insistent on my going. That’s when I said, “I am NOT going to f***ing Hawke’s Bay!” Martin laughed at me and my ignorance, told me to relax and he would set me up for visits with two people I just HAD to meet before I left New Zealand.
Martin set me up for an appointment on Saturday afternoon with Tony Bish, former winemaker at Sacred Hill winery, who now owned his own winery and wine bar, Urban Winery in Ahuriri in Napier. Tony is still a consultant and shareholder at Sacred Hill but left to focus on his true passion, Chardonnay. Tony told me that the idea for starting out on his own came while on a trip with Rod Easthope to South America to watch the All Blacks play. Rod had been the winemaker for Craggy Range and had come to a similar decision while on the same trip. During that trip, both had visited wineries using concrete eggs and both now use them in production. Martin had set me up for a Sunday morning visit to Easthope Family Winegrowers. If they were up for a Sunday morning visit, well then, I could do it too. A visit to Hawke’s Bay offered appointments with two well respected and internationally renowned winemakers who struck out on their own and used innovative winemaking technics. How could I resist?
I’ll write separate Blog posts about my visits with Tony and Rod in coming posts. I wanted to make this post about opportunities that come along that completely change your plans – and for the better. I had started out my trip to New Zealand not really being able to define Mondiale Wines and Martin had kept telling me I needed a vision and had to define it. Not until my last two visits of the entire trip, with these two amazing winemakers, having met their families and learned more about them did I find my vision. My perception about wines from Hawke’s Bay had completely changed and maybe I could help others discover that there are truly unique wines coming from visionary winemakers in a place that deserves discovery. As I sat outside with Rod to eat lunch just before catching my flight back to Auckland, I said “you know, I didn’t want to come here. Martin made me. I am so glad he did.”