Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Wanaka Wine

We visited three wineries in the Wanaka area, each with its own story to share. The first was on our drive from Queenstown to Wanaka at the Wet Jacket winery. We don’t think any marketing advice went into this choice of name. The story is that the owner, who is an outdoorsy type, as is just about everyone in this part of New Zealand, was on his boat fishing in Milford Sound while he was trying to come up with a name for the winery. He happened to be in Wet Jacket Bay and decided that would be a good name. The bay was named by Captain James Cook when some of his crew returned from a bit of exploring having been drenched in the rain. I guess he didn’t have any people left to honor by naming a place after them so chose this one. Our winery owner liked the story since it tied the history with his own effort to create history with his wine.

We had a great afternoon, so we sat outside for our tasting joined by another couple from the US. The tasting room is in an old sheep shearing shed. The shearing area remains as it was along with some wool left over from when they stopped shearing sheep here 30 years ago. The focus here is on Pinot Noir and we bought a bottle. As we left, we stopped at the attached Whitestone cheese shop to buy some more of that excellent cheese from Oamaru.

The second winery we visited later that day involved a bit of a hike. After checking in to our condo, we had some time before dinner and the concierge suggested the ‘short’ walk to Rinnton Winery just up the street. After tasting we could walk back along the lake shore. The walk turned into a bit of a trek mostly uphill. The one kilometer turned out to be just to the winery road leaving us almost another kilometer up hill to the winery. Fifteen minutes turned into 40 and we arrived at ten to five with barely enough time to share a tasting while enjoying the view and watching them set up for a wedding one the field below. One of their wines is Osteiner, a seldom-grown German varietal. They are the only growers in New Zealand. The wine is similar to a Pinot Grigio with a smooth creamy texture and not much evidence of tannin. We liked it enough to buy a bottle even though that required carrying it back. The walk back was somewhat easier as it was mostly downhill. We stopped for several minutes to watch a pair of fantails flit around the trees hawking bugs. Their ability to fan their tails gives them excellent maneuverability as they chase the bugs for their dinner.

We visited our third winery the next day after a hike to see the Blue Pools (see separate post). Here the winemaker’s son shared their story of hope, love, and survival with appropriate pride. Stefania and Halina grew up in Warsaw, Poland before World War II without ever meeting. When the war came, they were sent to an Arkhangel’sk, Siberia labor camp as POWs. Released from there, they made their way through the Middle East to Kenya as refugees. They would finally meet when they both took advantage of the opportunity to help the war effort serving in in the WAAF England. There they met a pair of Polish officers, fell in love and fortunately survived the war to be married. One of the couples later moved to Dunedin, New Zealand, where their son Ian used his education to make money in the oil industry in Europe. He met and married Mary, the other child of these two couples. When they settled in New Zealand, they decided to start a winery in Central Otaga near Wanaka and chose Archangel as the name for his winery. The story continues today as the Ian and Mary’s son poured us wine and shared the story. Two of their Rieslings are named for Stefania and Halina each exhibiting some of the personal characteristics of the ladies.

Driving up to the winery reminded us of driving up to Brassfield Estate Winery in Clear Lake, California. The road climbs past dry farmland before arriving at a tasting room surrounded by interesting sculptures. The comparison continues after entering the tasting room to enjoy the excellent wines in this beautiful setting.

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