We snuck into Pegasus Bay winery anonymously, so as to not cause any fuss. Both Sue and I have had a fairly long association with the Donaldsons, with Sue selling their wines during her time at Eurowine, and I being mentored by Ivan during my wine judging days. Our intention was to say a quick “hello” on the way out after lunch. It was a beautifully clear and sunny, but crisp day and we elected to dine outside in the beautifully manicured grounds, despite the staff thinking we’d be better inside as hedges were being trimmed and the associated noise might disturb us. Seated in the garden, we were spotted! It was owner Christine Donaldson in the gardening gang. She came over to our table, secateurs in hand, for a delightful catch up.
The Pegasus Bay restaurant is one of the best spots to eat at in the Waipara Valley, having won numerous awards, and I must say our food, of beetroot salad and linguine pasta was excellent. We ordered three glasses of wine to accompany our lunch – the ‘Bel Canto’ Dry Riesling 2010, Chardonnay 2009 and ‘Virtuoso’ Chardonnay 2008. As wine buffs do, we lined up the wines to share, in the order we thought best. The waitress hearing our plan of attack suggested that the ‘Virtuoso’ Chardonnay should precede the ‘Estate’ Chardonnay, as it was more refined. I queried this in my mind – surely the super-premium’ Chardonnay would walk all over the ‘Estate’? But sure enough, our waitress knew her business and her wines, and we stood corrected!
Just as our meals were being served, extra wines appeared for us to try, courtesy of Christine Donaldson. They were two unreleased wines that will hopefully come my way for full reviews in due course. This preview was a bit of a treat. A ‘Bel Canto’ Riesling 2011, this being a little lighter than the 2010, less funky-flinty as well, but more luscious. I thought it more delicious than the 2010. And an ‘Estate’ Merlot/Cabernet 2009 which was stunningly fragrant, elegant and exotic with spicy florals, red fruits and clever oaking. These are two wines to look out for. Then another wine appeared on our table, brought out by none other than delightful winemaker and daughter-in-law Lynette Hudson. After some welcoming hugs and a run down on the 2012 vintage so far, we sampled the ‘Estate’ Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2010, about-to-be released. Its richness of fruit, subtle vibrancy and sensitive winemaker input adding layers of interest were its features.
As we were about to leave, Christine informed us that her husband Ivan had just arrived on the premises, and that sons Matthew and Paul were at lunch behind the winery but keen to see us. Christine led us to say ‘hello’, and we could see a bit of a party happening! The only family member not present was Edward, who was in Christchurch City. After a discussion about social media with Paul, and a bit of reminiscing with Ivan, Matthew proceeded to takes us on a whistle-stop tour of the working winery, showing us the first load of Riesling being crushed, and vats of Pinot Noir in cuvaison. We weaved in and out of tanks, up and down walkways and waved to numerous busy staff along the way.
We finally did say our goodbyes, having caught up with practically the whole Donaldson family, who did make a fuss over us. It was truly delightful. www.pegasusbay.com