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The Meandering Lunch 2017 – Martinborough

By January 21, 2017No Comments
Now running in its 11th year, ‘The Meandering Lunch’ run by a collaboration of four small wineries has become something of a vinous institution. It’s not as well-known as the ‘Toast Martinborough’ festival run in November, but it has such a strong following that the 200 places are always fully-booked well in advance. The event is a totally different affair catering to a market which wants a quieter and arguably more stylish time of it, with a balanced enjoyment of wine, food, entertainment and the opportunity of making new friendships. The average age of those participating is greater than that of the Toast Martinborough attendees, and I suspect they enjoy this different experience, even though many of those at The Meandering Lunch also go to Toast Martinborough. The Meandering Lunch is held on the long Wellington Anniversary Weekend, so most tickets are sold to Wellington and Wairarapa people, though there are many from other regions, and some from overseas. The cost per person is $165.00.

This year, I took part in The Meandering Lunch, and saw the differences to other wine festival events. It was a very pleasurable and relaxing time. The four wineries working together this year were Coney Wines, Te Hera, Alexander Vineyard and Julicher Estate. All are too small to be involved in Toast Martinborough, thus offering wine enthusiasts the opportunity of seeing their wines in a group event. The four wineries all offer an entrée-sized food course with a selection of their wines at their cellar door or winery, with live entertainment as part of the package. The 200 attendees are split into four groups of 50, each with their own bus, travelling in rotation around the wineries. At the last winery, there is a dessert served. Thus each winery has four sittings, but the numbers are relatively manageable, especially compared with the larger crowds of Toast Martinborough.

Experiencing the Four Wineries

Tim Coney – Coney Wines

Coney Wines
Our first winery was Coney Wines on Dry River Road just south of the Martinborough Village. Run by Tim and Margaret Coney with daughter Lisa now making the wines. Tim showed us the differences in manual leaf plucking by humans and when done by sheep. The food served was ‘A Trio of Lamb’ with a Slow-cooked balsamic lamb filo parcel with roasted red onions and babaganoush, Manti – a Turkish-style dumpling with herb yoghurt and chilli butter, and Za’atar lamb cutlet with a cracked wheat, tomato and herb salad and tapenade.
I tried the ‘Ritz’ Riesling 2016, at 37 g/L RS, a medium-sweet style with youthfully fresh lime fruit flavours, some honied richness, lovely acidity and length. Then the ‘Rallentando’ Riesling 2016, a dry bottling , lighter and with delicacy, zestiness and a pure minerality. To complete the Rieslings on offer, I also had the ‘Ragtime’ Riesling 2014, at 11 g/L RS, showing a little golden colour with harmonious toast development, an off-dry palate with a little phenolic texture. Of the reds, the ‘Pizzicato’ Pinot Noir 2013 a lighter expression with some development showing in the garnet colour, and savoury dried herb and complexing notes of forest-floor. This still has good grip and structure, so it will continue to develop. A little more youthful was the ‘Que Sera’ Syrah 2013, with its classic black fruits, black pepper and spice aromas and flavours, unfolding aromatic raspberries. To finish the visit, Tim and Lisa sang a song for the group, to receive rapturous applause. www.coneywines.co.nz

John Douglas & Katherine Gouldstone – Te Hera

Te Hera
The second visit was to Te Hera on Te Muna Road. This is the boutique winegrowing operation of John Douglas and Katherine Gouldstone. The vineyard is dedicated to Pinot Noir and Riesling, and was certified BioGro organic for the 2013 vintage. A pie was served at Te Hera: Wild rabbit, Parkvale mushroom and ‘Drunken Nanny Goat’ pithivier, on a bed of minted green pea and broad bean puree, with pickled local cherries and a rich wild rabbit jus. The dish was created by The Village Café.
Only three wines are made at Te Hera. The ‘Ocean Child’ Riesling 2016 was actually made from fruit from a Dry River Road vineyard, as the Te Muna Road district experienced damaging frosting that growing season. The wine showed freshness with exotic mandarin notes and a taut, racy, slender palate. The second label ‘Kiritea’ Pinot Noir 2014 was bright ruby-red with good intensity of primary fruit aromas of dark red berryfruit and a touch of resinous oak. Sweet and luscious dark red berries, black cherries and subtle oak on the supple palate, the flavours grow in richness and depth in the glass. The ‘Reserve’ Pinot Noir 2013 is indeed a more serious bottling, being a selection of the 10 best barrels given extended oaking. A little garnet colour now, but finely concentrated on nose and palate with complexing savoury layers to the dark red fruits. Some whole cluster? Very fine-grained tannins complete the wine. John Douglas held a quiz after lunch testing the diners’ vinous knowledge. Some questions are easy, and some are very technical, but it’s really fun.

Roz & Michael Finucane – Alexander Vineyard

Alexander Vineyard
Alexander Vineyard is relatively new, taking over from Croft Wines recently in The Meandering Lunch. Michael and Roz Finucane have been making wine from Pinot Noir and Merlot for over 15 years in Martinborough, their new winery and cellar door complex on Hinakura Road near the golf course commissioned in 2014. Nick Arnold provided the Alexander Vineyard food course, Medici’s Ora King Salmon Three Ways – Tea-smoked with citrus cucumber relish and herb crème fraiche, Vodka beetroot cured with fennel, rhubarb and orange salad, avocado and lime salsa, and Blackened Cajun with Greek salad and tzatziki.
I tasted the Alexander Chardonnay 2014, a wine made for them by a nearby winery while their own Chardonnay vines come to bear. This has intense citrus fruit flavours and noticeable spicy oak, the palate fresh lively and with excellent acid cut. I particularly enjoyed the second label ‘Dusty Road’ Pinot Noir 2015, dark ruby-red colour, with deep aromas of ripe, dark-red berry fruits with fragrant floral. Sweet and succulent on the palate, there are herb, oak and floral notes and fine supple tannins. The wine carries a 5-star sticker as reviewed by a well-regarded critic. The Alexander Pinot Noir 2014 shows a little garnet, and has a voluminous bouquet with a complex layering of fruit, herbs and oak, the palate well-concentrated with serious depth and density. Its structure will ensure good development. In September last year, Michael and Roz added 800 new clone Chardonnay plants to their 5 ha vineyard. This is exciting progress.

Wim Julicher – Julicher Estate

Julicher Estate
Wim Julicher and Sue Darling are one of Martinborough’s most endearing couples, and their Julicher Estate on Te Muna Road has been producing excellent wines since 2002. They have had the services of Finnish winemaker Outi Jakovirta for over a decade, and together they have won many top awards. Their food course was created by Ryan Tattersall of Cobar Restaurant in Days Bay. It was Slow roasted beef sirloin, pea, beetroot and roasted onion, with homemade raisins.
While a full range of wines was on offer, I tasted three. Firstly the Julicher Riesling 2014, bright straw-yellow with a taut bouquet showing lime fruit and secondary toasty aromas, off-dry on palate with a gently rich lime and honied palate, balanced toastiness and an attractive harmony. Then the Julicher Pinot Noir 2013, dark-red colour with some garnet, the nose quite fulsome and solid with savoury dark-red fruits, a little plum and liquorice, with herb, earth and game. The palate was juicy and plush with supple tannins and integrated acidity lending sufficient vitality for further aging. I also tasted the Julicher Pinot Noir 2012, from a cool, challenging year. Lighter in colour with garnet, the nose was fresh and lively, with herb-laced red cherry fruits, and lifted florals. Though elegant, the palate had richness at the core, and while showing cooler spectrum herb and acidity characters, this was a lovely surprise. Being the last port of call for The Meandering Lunch, there was considerable singing and dancing. The atmosphere there was no doubt the same at the other three wineries. www.julicher.co.nz

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