Pop the cork and watch the delicious liquid glug out of the bottle into your glass. Most never think about the science. It is just fermented grape juice, right? Well yeah, mostly, but as long as we’ve been making wine, we’ve been utilizing the best available technology to make it taste better.
Imagine a passionate man in Switzerland, leaving his family land where they have made wine for 500 years. Leaving a Michelin starred restaurant that he co owned with his wife. Imagine growing obscure (for New Zealand) grape varietals like Zweigelt, Arneis, and Montelpulciano in the land of water downed Sauvignon Blanc. Imagine that the wine is really, really, really good. Because it is.
A career in winemaking attracts a large proportion of people with huge personalities. There are endless examples; Gary Pisoni, Didier Dagueneau, and Randal Grahm come to mind. Grant Taylor is one of these personalities. His excitement for wine is contagious and as he begins to speak about "experiencing the place" where his grapes grow, its almost as if he can't explain fast enough as he races to his next important point. Grant's passion combined with consistent winemaking has boosted the importance of the Otago region and helped garner international interest in New Zealand wine.
399 meters above the Heretaunga Plains, Te Mata Peak is an overwhelmingly beautiful place and one that gives a great view of the Hawkes Bay landscape at just shy of 400m. Where the “Hog's Back” ridge of stubborn limestone descends back under the ground, you find Te Mata Estate winery. Looking back, their cast of wines were among the strongest lineup tasted through New Zealand and with great price points to boot. Their history of producing wine on the estate is one of the oldest in the nation, going back as far as 1896. While the property has changed hands a few times, it seems to be in a good place now. I encourage you to check out their website as well. It pays good tribute to all of the people that make their wines possible, detailed vintage notes, cellaring advice, as well as a very nice article discussing closure options (titled oddly enough; Cork and Closure).
Flashy, luxurious, massive, expensive; all adjectives that run through my head while arriving at Elephant Hill. The $40 million NZ winery was built by Reydan and Rodger Weiss after they “fell in love” with the area upon visiting from their home in Germany. In addition, they built one of the country's best fine dining restaurants, which is admittedly spectacular. There's even the obligatory endless pool to complete the feeling. Intending from the start to export around 80% of their production, this was never meant to be a mom and pop winery; they were creating a brand. Seemingly endless resources can go a long way though
It is one thing to take a cooking class and make wonderful food. It is quite another thing to actually replicate it once you get home. One of my favorite things we made in Hoi An was the papaya salad. We traveled from Vietnam to Cambodia to Thailand to Laos. They ALL had versions of this salad. Despite considering myself a risk taker and odd flavor lover, I really struggled with the fermented shrimp pastes used in most of the renditions. The recipe here is tasty, spicy, reminiscent of my favorite versions, and 100% void of rotting fish. Although fish sauce has its place in my heart, it is not in this salad.
What's a billionaire to do when his wife and daughter demand he establish a business for the family's legacy? Well, if it's Terry Peabody, you hire the most lauded experts, seek out land with the most potential, and build a state of the art winery to create the first single vineyard wine label in the southern hemisphere; Craggy Range in New Zealand. Peabody made his fortune in a myriad of businesses; recycling power plant waste, building hydroelectric infrastructure, to trucking. He had no experience with wine outside of being an educated consumer. Enter Steve Smith, the first viticulturalist to also become a Master of Wine.
Some of my favorite stories always circle back to Hoi An. This sleepy riverside town close to the coast of central Vietnam was one of our most memorable destinations. We spent a gorgeous 7 days and 6 nights in this small town that is famous for many reasons. It is a protected UNESCO site, for it’s uniquely untouched old town architecture that miraculously avoided destruction in the American War (or as we call it, the Vietnam War). Hoi An is also famous for being the town with the highest ratio of tailors to denizens in the world. The food scene is unimaginably diverse and the quality of life versus price is pretty hard to beat.
Let me clarify something right up front; Chard Farm is not simply an irritating abbreviation of the grape variety, but an actual farm established by a guy actually named Chard around 150 years ago. To put that in a historical perspective, New Zealand wasn't discovered by the Polynesians until 700 years ago. To put that in a wine-historical perspective; humans have been making wine for 7000 years. While it seems the "old" angle is one of the most popular when it comes to brand building, the credentials of Chard Farm are legitimate and continuous; something that is a more infrequent reality.
The enormity, organization, and appeal of Hong Kong is apparent the moment you exit your plane. Absolutely opposite of natural, physical New Zealand (where I had spent the last 3 months), Hong Kong is instead a powerful symbol of human achievement. Endless skyscrapers of every possible design with food and drink to please every whim or craving. It also boasts an impressive art and musical culture. The efficient movement of a huge population through an equally large space; Hong Kong is the physical manifestation of so many creative and confident souls. The week that I spent exploring doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of a city that evolves faster than anyone can experience it.
Tucked away high up on a North-facing hillside in the relatively tiny sub region of the Central Otago called Wanaka, Dr. Terry Wilson and Dawn found the perfect place to build their home surrounded by soil they hoped would also yield some great fruit. They consulted the exhaustive soil maps and settled on the 4 hectares now planted to Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Chardonnay over the shingle and clay seams below. On a slope ranging from 350m to 380m above sea level, its one of the highest elevation vineyards in the country.
How lucky that their great vineyard site would be brought to its full potential when their daughter Sarah-Kate grew up to be a wine maker and international wine judge
It's impossible to talk about Rippon without mentioning the view, so I'll get that out of the way. Its located on the western slope of Lake Wanaka and is known for being the “most photographed vineyard in the world.” Alright, on to the important stuff, wine. One of the first to plant vines with the intention of making wine, Rolfe Mills started experimenting with grapes on this family's farm in 1975, planting over 25 varieties. He moved his family to France and learned hands on how to go about making great wine, returning to the farm in 1982 to begin Rippon in earnest.
From the beginning, they have seen themselves as custodians of the land and soil and have both embraced and become advocates for using biodynamic methods.