Monday, May 24, 2010

A Little Practice

The weather backed off Saturday, allowing for an evening session in some junky four-foot waves. I was glad to smell the sweet scent of firewood as I walked up the beach towards the house. Despite forecasts calling for southerly conditions the following morning, it sure looked like offshore winds would prevail through the night.
I awoke early Sunday to find that it was northwest still and I was straight across the road for a surf check. My friend Brent was one of two surfers already in the water; I took these shots of him on a couple smaller ones before paddling out. As the morning continued, the surf picked up to solid head and a high waves. Surprisingly, the wind held off all day. Good for a little practice before I go.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Three Days From Indonesia

The end of vintage is a double-edged sword for winemakers. Winemakers looks forward to harvest time the most, preparing for months for their next shot at working their magic. Vintage means spending countless hours ensuring all grapes received are developed into the best possible wine. Unfortunately, this makes the end feel like the anti-climax; winemakers are drained and mostly finished with their job for the year (yes, that's a very vintage winemaker thing to say and I know it's not true, but it is the majority of work). Of course, there is another side to the sword. The stress and anguish often endured during vintage finally comes to an end: no more seventy hour workweeks or waking up in the middle of the night when you remember you forgot to check that struggling ferment before you left the winery earlier.
After debating my plans for celebrating the end of vintage, I finally made my decision last week: another tour of duty in Indonesia. Now all I need to do is pack my bags and find my way across the country to Auckland for my flight early Thursday morning. Should be interesting...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Harvest Update - All Done

Well, my first vintage of 2010 is officially finishing today and I'm not really sure how to feel about it either. During consecutive days of over twelves hours during mid-vintage, today seemed much further away. Looking back now, it's hard to believe its all coming to a close and I find myself wishing I could stay on longer.
I can't say that my 2010 vintage experience here in Gisborne has been the same as 2009. We had a much smaller team, particularly in the winemaking office where we had only one vintage winemaker (me) instead of three. This was primarily due to the decreased tonnage (our winery received just over 9,000 tonnes, approximately 70% of last year's tonnage). Nonetheless, my workload was significantly larger, more time consuming, and more rewarding. I'm not sure if I can say the wines this year are better than last, though they are all looking stunning. There are still a few ferments still slowly ticking away, though most of the wines have already been sulphured and placed throughout the winery. I'll be bringing you a harvest recap next week, so keep an eye out for that.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Tahoe - The Lost Trip

I found some old photographs I took earlier this year, including a few from my trip to Tahoe. Located on the border between California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is America's largest alpine lake (alpine lakes are those located above 5,000 feet in elevation) and the sixteenth deepest lake in the world. While Tahoe offers summertime fun from boating to mountain biking, its wintertime conditions are its claim to fame.
Tahoe is California's winter wonderland, home to a dozen ski resorts primarily located near Truckee, California on the lake's northern end. My first experience in Tahoe was just this past February during my last California road trip before heading off to New Zealand. I talked my friends Brandon and Mike into making a quick trip north from San Francisco despite less than stellar snow quality. Nonetheless, we spent the whole day snowboarding at Northstar-at-Tahoe, one of the best known resorts in Tahoe with 19 lifts servicing the 3,000 acre resort with 2,280 feet of vertical drop. I could see the mountain's, and the area's, potential for amazing snow. I only wish we could have spent a few days instead of just one.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Te Kairanga 2008 Pinot Noir


Located near the base of the North Island, Martinborough is quickly making a name for itself as a top cool-climate growing region. Martinborough's claim to fame is Pinot Noir, though their offerings of Reisling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Syrah are also beginning to turn heads. The surrounding mountains block most storms moving up from the south, but funnel cool ocean air through the valley at nighttime (any of this sound familiar?). Most of the wineries in Martinborough are small, family owned estates that pride themselves on the quality of their low-yielding vineyards; despite being home to 3% of New Zealand's total vineyard area, the region only produces 1% of the country's total wine volume.

Te Kairanga Estate is one of the larger players in Martinborough, with several distinct vineyard sites spread throughout the region (Martinborough Terraces Vineyard, Draper Vineyard, East Plain Vineyard, Angle Block Vineyard, McLeod Vineyard, Sutherland Vineyard, Springrock Vineyard, and Ruakokoputuna Vineyard). These different sites all have slightly different microclimates and soil compositions that allow viticulturists and winemakers at Te Kairanga to create the building blocks for their various wines.To accompany its three Pinot Noir offerings, Te Kairanga also provides a Reisling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay from the region (they also produce some Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and Gisborne Chardonnay).
Winery - Te Kairanga Estate 
Location- Martinborough, New Zealand 
Wine - Te Kairanga Estate 2008 Pinot Noir
Varietal - Pinot Noir
Appellation - Martinborough
Alcohol - 13% v/v
Price - $20 NZD 

Color - Ruby red.
Nose/Aroma - Cherries with a seasoning of oak.
Palate/Flavors - Cherries and violets upfront that lead into cedar oak and earthy flavors. Quite light bodied and the mid-palate is lacking a bit.
Style - Pinot Noir; elegance, not power.
Food Pairing - Lemon chicken with yoghurt sauce.
Comments- This wine is a pretty good value; there is nothing particularly special about it, but it shows good varietal character. Having tasted through Te Kairanga's range of Pinot Noirs, I can tell you that this wine pails in comparison to the Runholder and John Martin Reserve.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

6'1" STD

I popped in the Boardroom last Thursday on my lunch break to check the status of my new board. I was a bit surprised to see Tommy walking out of the back with the board in hand, but I definitely wasn't complaining. Fresh swell building Friday meant there would be solid surf over the weekend, perfect for trialing a new board. I was a bit hesitate to take it out straight away, particularly when I returned home from work Friday afternoon to find overhead waves stacking to the horizon and an empty lineup. I paddled out for an hour just before dusk set in, tentatively feeling out my new board. Saturday saw the peak of the swell, will solid head and a half high waves gracing the coastline before it quickly faded throughout the day Sunday.
Since I've been in New Zealand, I've primarily been riding Nick's fish (5'6'' x 19.25'' x 2.25'') that he gave me before I left. That being said, it's been an interesting transition back onto a proper shortboard, a slightly tweaked version of my usual shortboard with more width and thickness combined with different foam distribution (6'1'' x 19'' x 2.31'').

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Harvest Update - Nothing Left

We finally received our last few tonnes for the 2010 vintage last week, giving us the chance to cold settle the juice over the weekend until Monday. A quiet weekend was the perfect cap on our casual employees' last week, which included a party Friday afternoon and a 'winery field trip' to the vineyard on Thursday. The field trip consisted of harvesting grapes in teams, compete to see which group could pick the most fruit in the time allotted. Everyone seemed to enjoy having a nice sunny day away from the winery, plus it was a good way to get our last grapes off the vines.
Our primary focus now is ensuring all our wines are maturing properly and pushing through fermentation. It's a bit like building a house; the materials are created during vintage, fitted together afterward, and then cleaned up for sale. We are already racking, centrifuging, and trialing blends on several wines, primarily those destined for early to market products. On the other end of the spectrum, several lots are being slowly coaxed through ferment in barrel with weeks of gentle lees stirring to come.

I now have just over two weeks left until my vintage duties at the winery are completed, but I've yet to decide what's next...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Longbush 2007 'Tui' Viognier

Longbush Wines is produced at the Gisborne House of Wine, one of several urban wineries in town and located just across the street from the harbour mouth. Winemaker John Thorpe has been producing wine for nearly two decades under the Longbush name after getting involved in the restoration of the local Longbush QEII Reserve. The Longbush Bird Series is a tribute to not only Gisborne's best grape varietals but its native bird species; a portion of every bottle sold is donated to the Longbush restoration trust.
Winery - Gisborne House of Wine
Location- Gisborne, New Zealand
Wine - Longbush 2007 Gisborne Viognier
Varietals - Viognier
Appellation -Gisborne
Alcohol - 13.2% v/v
Price -$14 NZD

Color
- Yellowish gold.
Nose/Aroma - Honeysuckle and pineapple.
Palate/Flavors - Soft peach and lime flavors with crisp acid that fades into an oily texture with passionfruit and oak. Good length, though the middle is a bit hollow.
Style - Condrieu
Food Pairing - I used some Longbush Brie (made by Waimata Cheese Company) to make some Brie-stuffed mushrooms, topped with roasted garlic and onions
Comments- I thought this was a nice wine and a good bargain for the price. I don't think that Gisborne Viognier has seen its day in the spotlight yet, but it could be coming. I have seen several nice Viogniers from 2009, and 2010 should provide some good offerings as well.