Dec 22

Marlborough Country II

by in Drawing & Writing

Inside, Antje and the server did that thing that seems to happen most often to Germans, where they speak to each other in English for a while before realizing both speak German natively. In this case our server was Swiss-German, just like the proprietor, and he guided us through the five wines.

Wines are a subjective experience, and for us, subjectively, our palates were drying up. The wine was good, and we appreciated that the Hr. Herzog eschewed all forms of mechanization, but no wine jumped out us, nothing said, “This is the one.” Also, the place knows–or thinks–it is the best in town, and that got old after a while. The server did what he could to persuade us that their Sauvignon Blanc was absolutely top-notch, but Antje shrugged and told him that she’d realized she was more of a Pinot Gris fan. “OK, OK,” he said. “Do you have a map?” He pointed us down the street to Gibson Creek.

It was the last leg of the rip. Most cyclists go counter-clockwise, and in retrospect it should be the other way. The rectangle’s left leg is where the tiny boutique vintners, the little labors of love, nest up and grow grapes. These are the family operations, and you can’t even really find their wines in New Zealand, let alone elsewhere.

We parked our bikes at Gibson Creek, which looked like a wood-shop with the front wall removed. Inside an old man smiled and opened his arms. “Well! I guess you’re hear for a bit of wine tasting! Come on in! Come on in!”

When we stepped inside he said, “Now, do you know what we do here?” We told him we’d heard that their only wine was Pinot Gris. “That’s right! That’s right!” When Antje said that Pinot Gris was her favorite, he positively beamed, “Well you’re my girl, then! You’re my girl! That’s right!”

His name was Robin, and he made you feel as if your presence had made his entire day, that he’d keep you there just as long as he could. He had white hair and white grandpa eyebrows, and Lord of the Rings would have lost nothing–and maybe even gained something–by casting him as Bilbo Baggins.

“Now our first one… is the… 2009 Reserve,” he said, pouring two small glasses. The owners were gone that day, he explained. As their stand-in, he had a hand-written list of notes to which he constantly referred as he presented the wines.

“Now, Pinot Gris has become quite fashionable recently, in the last fifteen years, because it’s a touch sweeter than the Sauvignon Blanc. It’s especially popular with the ladies.” Antje liked it. It was less acidic than Sauvignon Blanc, she said. “Yes it is, isn’t it!” he laughed. “Yes it is!”

“In Germany we call it Grauburgunder,” Antje said. Robin smiled at her, confused. “Grauburgunder,” she repeated, “that is what we call Pinot Gris. In Germany.”

“Now I’m not familiar with that one,” he smiled.

“It is the German name,” she said.

“You’ll have to write that one down for me,” he smiled.

“‘Grau’ means ‘gray’ in German,” I tried. “So it’s the same name, Pinot Gris, just in German.”

“But doesn’t Gewurz mean gray in German?” he asked. “From Gewurztraminer?” [a german grape]

“Gewurz means spiced,” Antje said. “Like spices.”

“Oh!” His eyes lit up. “Well, my my!” He laughed at himself. “I’ve been telling people the wrong thing, then, haven’t I? All day long! I’ve been telling them Gewurz means gray! Oh no! Here,” he said, pulling out his paper pad. “What was it called again?” Antje spelled G-R-A-U-B-U-R-G-U-N-D-E-R for him, and dutifully he transcribed it, letter-by-letter.

“OK, then! Grauburgunder! So next is the 2009 Cellar bottle–or wait, now hold on. Oops. The first one was the Cellar bottle, I’m sorry about that. This one’s the reserve. Sorry about that!”

It didn’t matter. The wines were delicious, and it was our first “vertical tasting*,” having just learned that word at the Wine Museum in Napier.

“Now this next one is from 2010, which was… oh, I’d say the best year for wine in 20 years.” It did taste better, crisper somehow. But would it have if he hadn’t called it the best year? Who knows.

A fourth, a fifth, a sixth were poured. The sixth was a Rosé. The owners reappeared from wherever they had been. “You doing alright? The wine alright?” Absolutely. “We could’ve just retired,” he shrugged. “We could be on a beach right now. This is a lot more… challenging.” We told him he’d been recommended by Hans Herzog.”Oh really. Well we always appreciate that, it always helps. Expensive out there. We only charge $20 per tasting.” [A joke. It's free.] A seventh was poured, Pinot Gris mixed with Gewurztraminer. “Gewurztraminer!” Robin laughed. “Now I know! Hold on–what it is again?” “Spiced,” Antje said. “Spiced… traminer.” “OK, then! Spiced, not gray!”

We looked over the list, trying to decide which to buy. “Have I given you the last one?” Robin asked. “It’s the… Gewurztraminer. Ah yeah, we did that one.” The winery produces 2,000 cases a year, and when we finally chose two bottles, Robin rounded the price down.

Which is why, if you ever get down to Marlborough, go for the boutiques–and specifically, Gibson Creek.

* “Vertical tasting”: same vineyard, different years.
“Horizontal tasting”: same year, different vineyards.


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2 Responses to “Marlborough Country II”

  1. From Eva:

    “Gewurztraminer” sounds delicious. I think, it’s a new idea for the winetrading. And it’s very good that the Herzogs produced wine on new zealand! We have so much talents ;0) I wonder, that you memory about the winetasting in your writing, hihi :0) I’m every evening excited to read about your journey

    Posted on December 22, 2011 at 19:49 #
  2. From Mark/Dad:

    I have loved your adventures, the writing and the drawings are both beautifully done. I usually read them at the end of my week. Picked a fine one to finish with, so I will go get a glass, to toast your travels, a great New Zealand Christmas, and to seeing you both in February. Glad you finally got some good wine and a great tasting place. How did you remember all the bad jokes?

    Posted on December 23, 2011 at 03:13 #