Two Reasons to Visit New Zealand: Winslow Wines and Omata Estate

At long last, we have come to Wine with Dinner’s final entry on New Zealand. I guess I have waited so long to write it because the trip was so much fun, I did not want to close the book. I encourage all of you to visit this beautiful country. I know that I will be going back some day, if for no other reason, to sample every available Marlborough sauvignon blanc that I can get my hands on.

But Marlborough aside, two wineries stood out to me on our trip to New Zealand. While there were many good wineries with quality wines, such as Pegasus Bay and Martinborough Vineyard, these two had that something extra. Therefore, I present them as two reasons (as if you needed more) to visit New Zealand.

Winslow Wines

One of our first stops in Martinborough was at Winslow Wines. We walked in just before closing and meekly asked if we could squeeze in a tasting. Winslow’s winemaker, Steve Tarring, greeted us with a smile and beckoned us inside. Rather than the rushed, last minute tasting that we expected, Steve spoke with us about wine and winemaking for over an hour, taking us through most of his fine selection of wines, including one of only three or four cabernet francs produced in New Zealand. The standouts at this first tasting were Winslow’s 2004 Pinot Noir and 2003 Petra Cabernet Sauvignon. The Pinot Noir had a dark ruby-red color with a complicated nose including red berries, vanilla, coffee, and licorice. The palate was delightful and well balanced with fruit on the front and coffee and spice on the back end, 4 Stars. The Petra was deep purple in color with aromas of leather, black pepper, cedar, and dark fruit and flavors of tart cherry and plum. The wine displayed strong tannins and will benefit from a little aging, 4 Stars, $23.18 per bottle.

Steve at Winslow Wines
Winemaker Steve Tarring Discusses His Winslow Wines

I say first tasting because Mrs. Wine with Dinner and I enjoyed our conversation with Steve so much that we went back the next morning to try the chardonnay that we had passed on the previous evening. In addition to the chardonnay, Steve gave us a treat — a sip of his prized 2004 Methode Classique Brut. This sparkling white is 80% chardonnay and 20% pinot noir, and it is truly exceptional, 5 Stars, $32.60 per bottle. It was so good, we bought a bottle even though we weren’t sure we would be able to get it back home. Now that it is here we both can’t wait to drink it and want to keep it forever at the same time.

Steve produces some quality wines at Winslow. While these wines are worth seeking out, the best part of any trip to Winslow will be hearing Steve’s thoughts on wines and winemaking. Sadly, the trip will be necessary as Winslow Wines does not distribute or ship to the States. Our loss. If you live in New Zealand, or are planning a visit, be sure to swing by Winslow Wines in Martinborough and, if you have room in your luggage, bring a bottle back for me.

Omata Estate

Our last stop in New Zealand was the Bay of Islands on the North Island. Knowing that we would be leaving in three days, it was a bitter-sweet moment when our bus (our plane had been turned away on account of weather) finally reached the end of its four-hour trip up the North Island and our driver from Seasonz (who did a very good job with our trip overall) took us the last hour to Russel and Omata Estate. Omata Estate is a lovely vineyard on sloping ground over the Bay. We stayed in the boathouse right on the water, from which we were able to take Omata’s sea kayaks into the Bay.

Come daylight we saw how beautiful our surroundings actually were. We walked up the steep driveway to the winery where we met our hosts and their dog, Molly, who is probably the finest winery dog I have ever met. One side story: I fell in a ditch and tweaked my ankle during our stay (entirely my fault) and upon hearing my yelp, Molly immediately came running to see if I was alright. The next morning, as we walked up the hill for breakfast, Molly came running to check on me. I swear that I could hear her say, “You all right? You’re sure? Positive? Okay, I need to go chase rabbits now!” Adorable.

 The View from Omata Estate
The View from The Hill at Omata Estate

On our second day we decide to sample both Omata Estate’s wine offerings and dinner menu. While I do not have any detailed notes on dinner, I do remember that Chef Paul Jack made an exquisite meal. There can be nothing quite like eating Chef Jack’s cuisine and drinking a glass of Omata Estate 2004 Syrah while looking out over the vineyard and down the hills to the Bay as the sun sets. Life does not get any better.

I, not surprisingly, do have detailed notes on the wines. All were consistently good, though two clearly stood out. First, Omata Estate’s 2004 Late Harvest Chardonnay is a beautiful sweet white that goes perfectly with any desert. As good as the Late Harvest Chardonnay is, though, it can’t hold a candle to the crown of Omata Estate’s collection. The Estate’s 2004 Reserve Syrah is one of the best wines that we tasted in New Zealand and has won acclaim from sources such as the New Zealand International Wine Show and Cuisine Magazine. The Syrah displays aromas of milk chocolate, clove, and pepper with a smooth texture on the palate and flavors of red berry and chocolate, 5 Stars.

Omata Estate does ship to the United States at a cost of about $250 (U.S.) per case. It is a steep price, but if you love Syrah it might be worth it. If it turns out that you really love Omata Estate wines, you can buy a vine at the vineyard. Even better, take a trip to New Zealand and visit this small piece of heaven on earth.

If I ever go back to New Zealand, I surely will want to visit Marlborough and other new places. However, I will be sure to make some time to stop at two of my new favorite places, Omata Estate and Winslow Wines.

Mab and Molly
Mrs. Wine with Dinner and Molly at Omata Estate

Winslow Wines
2006 St. Vincent (Semi-dry) Riesling, 3 Stars, $18.11 per bottle.
2004 Pinot Noir, 4 Stars.
2004 Antonella Cabernet Franc, 3 Stars 1/2, $21.73 per bottle.
2003 Petra Cabernet Sauvignon, 4 Stars, $23.18 per bottle.
2004 Methode Classique Brut, 5 Stars, $32.60 per bottle.

Omata Estate
2006 Sauvignon Blanc, 3 Stars1/2.
2003 Merlot, 3 Stars.
2003 Syrah, 3 Stars.
2004 Reserve Syrah, 5 Stars.
2004 Late Harvest Chardonnay, 4 Stars1/2.

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Published in: on May 28, 2007 at 2:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

You Mean I Might Actually Know What I’m Talking About???

Well, with a critical event at my day job being pushed off a few months, my bosses have been kind enough to grant me one evening a week until July 9 in order to take the WSET Intermediate Level 2 Certificate Course at the Washington Wine Academy.  Who knows, in a couple of months I might actually know what I am talking about when I write about wine!

Hopefully very soon I will find a little time and motivation to do my final entry regarding my wine tour through New Zealand detailing the wonderful experiences that Mrs. Wine with Dinner and I had at Winslow Wines and Omata Estate.  Keep the pressure to produce on me, people!

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Published in: on May 5, 2007 at 4:12 pm  Leave a Comment