Friday, November 23, 2012

New Zealand 2012 - Part 4: Wine Tasting in Waipara

Part 1:  Asiana Airlines FirstClass – Los Angeles to Seoul
Part 2:  Asiana Airlines BusinessClass – Seoul to Sydney
Part 3:  Air New Zealand EconomyClass – Sydney to Auckland to Christchurch
Part 4:  Winetasting in Waipara
Part 5:  Exploring Christchurch
Part 6:  Air New Zealand EconomyClass – Christchurch to Queenstown
Part 7:  Winetasting in Otago
Part 8:  Exploring Queenstown
Part 9:  Hilton Queenstown
Part 10:  Overnight in Sydney
Part 11:  Singapore Airlines First Class – Sydney to Singapore
Part 12:  Singapore Airlines First Class – Singapore to San Francisco

The second day of my trip to Christchurch included a wine tour along the Waipara wine trail.  I found this tour through and when I checked in the morning before I was the only going and they were going to cancel it.  Thankfully, I received a fax at my hotel that additional people signed up and the tour would go through in the afternoon.  I had a great time, but it wasn’t as much of a guided tour through the wine country with insightful commentary along the way.  Instead it was just a paid driver who didn’t really share much at all about our itinerary.
I was picked up at my hotel by the tour bus just after Noon and joined a couple from New York City already seated.  On the way out of town, another couple from Washington State joined us as well.  The trip out to Waipara took about 40 minutes and we would be served lunch and wine at our first stop.  We lucked out because the weather that day turned out to be perfect. 


Waipara Springs winery looked promising as we arrived with a rusted metal corkscrew at the entrance and a nice exterior seating area outside the tasting room.  We were directed to sit down at a central table as they brought water over for us.  There were a couple groups of people having lunch and drinking when we arrived.  Lunch for our group consisted of a “flat plate” hodgepodge of a small salad, fried mushrooms, chicken wing, slices of cheese, olive tapenade or pepper chutney, deli slices, smoked salmon, sausage link, and fruit.  It was all over the map with some parts being tasty and others passable.  A very odd combination nonetheless. 


We were able to try seven different wines from two of their labels.  This winery was my least favorite of the four visited, and everyone else agreed as no one purchased anything.  The tastes included:

  • 2009 Waipara Springs Dry Riesling – not as dry as I would’ve expected given the description, but a clean finish and nice balance of fruit. 
  • 2011 Waipara Springs Riesling – much sweeter than the first Riesling with a slightly stronger citrus flavor yet a much clearer / nonexistent color.
  • 2012 Waipara Springs Sauvignon Blanc – not your typical New Zealand sauvignon blanc, contained a much more pronounced spice note verging on red pepper but the aroma carried the citrus element.
  • 2011 Waipara Springs Premo Chardonnay – their reserve brand aged in oak 10 months, high minerality, very smooth finish with more qualities of a sauvignon blanc than chardonnay to me.
  • 2009 Waipara Springs Blush – very light and dry with barely a hint of strawberries and peach, paired well with the pepper chutney.
  • 2010 Waipara Springs Premo Pinot Noir – very spicy for a pinot in my mind, strong finish and upfront red fruit and earth notes.
  • 2009 Waipara Downs Merlot – much less spice compared to the 2010 with rich plum coming through from nose to finish, my favorite out of all the ones tasted here.

After ten minutes of not knowing what we should do – was dessert included?  Do we try more wines?  Where do we go?  - our driver finally returned and escorted us back onto the van for the next destination. 

The second stop on the wine trail was the best out of the four.  Everyone in the group purchased a bottle or two from the winery.  Torlesse Wines, a smaller family run winery, let us taste pretty much everything on the list.  The winemakers son was our host.  He was polite and cordial and very laid back with our tastings. 


Several of the wines we tasted were my favorites of the day (we tried a total of 12 here).  I only wish they distributed their wines within the US.  We tried:

  • 2011 Sauvignon Blanc – an excellent sauvignon balancing out the right amount of citrus and grass with a smooth finish. 
  • 2011 Pinot Gris – surprisingly good (since I usually don’t like pinot gris) with a strong citrus and fruit note all the way through, great almost syrupy texture.
  • 2011 Gewürztraminer – just the right amount of fruit and sweetness with a crisp but long finish. 
  • 2010 Chardonnay – a buttery chardonnay with a strong finish and fair amount of acidity.
  • 2011 Rose – very light with noticeable fruit.
  • 2008 Late Harvest “Sticky” Riesling – do like that sweet dessert wines are called “stickies” down here, excellent dessert wine with a strong honey character and syrup texture. 
  • 2011 Pinot Noir – a light amount of fruit balanced well with the spice notes.
  • 2010 Omihi Pinot Noir – their reserve label which did translate into a better wine, better ratio of fruit over spice, linger red fruit finish.
  • 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon – spicy but smooth without the typically strength seen in CA cabs, bold aroma with a finish of red pepper on the tongue.
  • 2010 Port – hides the 18% ABV well with fruit /plum forward notes.
  • 2010 Creme de Cassis – my first time actually trying this black currant derived beverage reminding me almost of concentrate grape juice with a great finish and texture, very dangerous since it is also 18% ABV.

At this point our group of 5 realized that our preferences in wines were similar, especially since each of us purchased the same wine.  The others bought a few more things that I did though.  Our third stop was at The Mud House. 


This winery was back in the more corporate mode of wine making as they have vineyards in a couple wine regions in New Zealand.  The upside of this was that we could try two of the same wines but from the other regions to discern the differences.  We tried 10 wines including:

  • 2011Mud House Riesling – refreshing fruit with a strong finish and texture.
  • 2011 Equinox Riesling – higher sugar and fruit content than the previous wine which lingers perfectly on the palate.
  • 2011 Mud House Pinot Gris (Marlborough) – light and refreshing with a hint of grass like a sauvignon blanc.
  • 2011 Equinox Pinot Gris (Waipara) – less fruit on the tongue but a better overall wine due to a stronger and tastier finish.
  • 2011 Mud House Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough) – typical New Zealand sauvignon blanc, very aroma forward, grassy.
  • 2011 Equinox Sauvignon Blanc (Waipara) – aged 10 months in oak creating a much more mellow wine, less aroma but more flavor on the palate, less grassy nature and improved texture.
  • 2010 Mud House Pinot Noir (Marlborough) – strong aroma, mellow taste with a hint of pepper, light & clean finish.
  • 2010 Mud House Pinot Noir (Otago) – much heavier wine with greater spice and stronger fruit, retains good finish.
  • 2011 Mud House Rose (Marlborough) – pinot noir grapes giving it a nice and fruit flavor, very refreshing on a warm day, slight bit of effervescence. 
  • Equinox Late Harvest Riesling – very light and simple, sweet and clean finish, not syrupy, more of an aperitif than dessert.

The final stop on our tour through Waipara was at Pegasus Bay.  This winery was on the best grounds out of the four with neatly kept gardens and lakes around the property. 


This winery was my second favorite of the trip.  We tried 8 wines including:

  • 2010 Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon – fruity and acidic but well balanced, you can taste the addition and weight of the Semillon against the sauvignon blanc.
  • 2009 Riesling – very sweet Riesling with a strong acidic nature to be paired with spicy foods.
  • 2010 Gewürztraminer – fruity wine with a bit of effervescence, dry finish.
  • 2009 Chardonnay – light aroma with a medium buttery body, good finish, a decent chardonnay for my taste since I am usually not a fan.
  • 2009 Pinot Noir – very good pinot with a limited amount of spice and strong fruit finish.
  • 2009 Cabernet Franc / Merlot – traditional Bordeaux blend with some cabernet franc included, light bouquet but complex taste.
  • 2009 Aria (Late Harvest Riesling) – very sweet with a medium syrup body and a touch of leather.
  • 2010 Finale (Noble Semillon) – Semillon grape with the botrytis fungus creating a very sweet and dense wine, very similar to Sauternes. 

After we tried the last wines, I was able to walk about the winery a bit and check out the grounds before the drive back to Christchurch. 


The return drive was relatively quick given I was in a good place after trying 37 wines.  I learned that I much prefer a Waipara Sauvignon Blanc to a Marlborough one even though I love those.  And, that I want to try and find a few distributors of New Zealand wine to try a few other regions.  At least I have another tour through Central Otago soon to try more wines. 

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