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Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Wine tour operator, wine writer and lapsed physiotherapist. "Nature abhors a vacuum. I personally hate dusting."


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Happy Holiday wine recommendations

Short and sweet – Happy Holidays everyone. Here’s a bunch of recommendations, from bargains to splurges to help you celebrate the end of the year, and spend time with your favourite people.

Best Wishes and Cheers!

Lamarca Prosecco NV $NZ 23.00
Italian sparkler to appeal to everyone. Frothy bubbles. Just off-dry, crisp and fruity with pear, apple and hint of spice.

Soljans Estate Marlborough Legacy Methode 2012 $NZ 29.99
Champagne style from a small family-owned winery in Kumeu. Creamy crisp texture, fine beads of bubbles, toasty and mouth filling. Great Value.

Tupari Marlborough Rose 2017 $NZ 20
Pale rose pink, with aromas of strawberry. Bone dry, with cranberry and red berry fruit flavours.

Soho Marlborough Rose 2017 $NZ 20
A softer off-dry style than the Tupari with strawberry, lychee and marshmallow. A clean fruity finish.

Rockburn Central Otago Pinot Gris 2016 $NZ 28
Poached pear aromas. A rich and unctuous palate of mandarin citrus, pineapple and ripe pear with a hint of sweetness. Yum.

Pegasus Bay Bel Canto North Canterbury Dry Riesling 2015 $NZ 35
Aromas of beeswax and florals. Rich and complex layers of flavour – ripe grapefruit, marmalade and clover honey. Just off-dry.

Kidnapper Cliffs Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2014 $NZ 55
Funky, yeasty aromas  plus a hint of grapefruit and flinty minerality.
Flavours of cashew nut, grapefruit, nectarine and mandarin with a dry crisp lengthy finish.

Matawhero Irwin Gisborne Chardonnay 2016 $NZ 56
Elegant and classic chardonnay. Subtle aromas of citrus and a hint of funky minerality. Flavours of toast, tropical fruit, grapefruit, brioche, a hint of toffee apple and a medium crisp finish.

Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir 2014 $NZ 47
Nose of spice, damp earth, slightly barnyardy with a bit of savoury truffle. On the palate, it is rich and soft, with spicy oak, black currant, tamarillo and a bit of good old Vegemite yeastiness. Dry finish.

Saint Clair Pioneer Block Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Merlot 2014 $NZ38
Black berry fruit and earthy aromas. In the mouth, it’s spiced plum, cassis and vanilla oak with a dry finish.

Auckland's newest wine label - Hunting Lodge


A few years back, there were rumours in Auckland that Australia’s Treasury Wine Estates were planning to pull Matua winery out of Waimauku to centralise operations to Marlborough. And sure enough, in 2015 they announced that the entire site would be shut down and put on the market. Up for sale on the 31 hectare property was a large winery and bottling plant, admin and cellar door. Also for sale was the heritage listed Hunting Lodge built in 1868 as the property's original farm homestead - and formerly one of Auckland’s renowned fine dining restaurants.  The Matua label was established in 1968 by brothers Bill and Ross Spence from very humble beginnings in an old tin shed in Swanson. They pioneered Sauvignon Blanc in Waimauku, with mixed results. And the first Montana plantings of Sauvignon Blanc in Marlborough were propagated by Ross Spence. Matua went on to become a major player, with the brothers eventually selling in 2001, and it has been owned by Treasury Wine Estates since 2011.
With around 50 jobs gone, and in the wake of an identical move by Constellation Brands USA shutting down the Nobilo site in Huapai, things were looking pretty grim for both local employment and west Auckland wine tourism.

But, to the rescue came the Sutton Group, a NZ dairy and infant formula company founded by Brent and Denise Sutton who are locals and have been friends of the Spence brothers for many years. Sutton Group is family-operated and has an estimated net worth of $55 million.
Since 2016 there has been a major revamp of the site and branding as Hunting Lodge Winery.
Says Michelle Hayes, cellar door manager who previously worked for Matua, “The biggest change obviously is that it’s come back to being a family business, which is what Matua originally was. And also not being run by big corporate that wasn’t really looking after the property. So the ethos behind the whole Hunting Lodge Winery is quite unique and there are so many different things going on here. It’s quite exciting.”
Some very smart branding and logos emphasise the sustainability angle of the new winery, with plans to eventually have a ‘farm to table’ dining experience using fresh produce from their own Waimauku market gardens. In addition to the totally renovated cellar door and admin block, there is a new tasting room café, and a brand new wedding and functions facility. The sizable winemaking and bottling plant has expanded its bottling line capacity, and the historic Hunting Lodge with be reopening in November with a return to its rustic fine dining roots, headed by former Clooney chef Des Harris.
On the winemaking front, former Matua winemaker Pete Turner has come back to oversee production of their own boutique Hunting Lodge label wines, as well as a large amount of continued contract bottling for Matua, plus bottling and contract winemaking for other labels. Around 50 staff have been re-employed and now back on site in and around the winery.

The Hunting Lodge wines are now made from contract grown fruit, but there are new Chardonnay plantings and plans to make a barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc from Waimauku fruit. Meantime the tasting room features a diverse range of very elegant wines at $20 to $38. Current line-up is a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough Rosé, Gisborne Viognier, Marlborough Pinot Gris, Marlborough Albariño, Gisborne Marsanne/Viognier, two Marlborough Pinot Noirs and a Hawke’s Bay Syrah.
With a return to a functioning winery and vibrant visitor experience, Hunting Lodge has fortunately reversed the all-too common phenomenon of large corporate buyouts of family owned wineries. For now, the future of the label and local winemaking in Auckland is looking very positive.

Phil owns and runs Fine Wine Tours Ltd. in Auckland