Our second day in Central Otago, or “Central” in the local vernacular, proved to be just as rewarding as Day One!! On the recommendation of Matt and Andrew from Akarua, we made our way over to Wooing Tree Winery, just on the northern edge of the town of Cromwell. Sandy Anderson led us through a very diverse selection of their wines, including an unusual one called “Blondie”, which is a white wine made with pinot noir grapes. Most producers would make this into a sparkling wine, however they have not. It is a perfect sunny afternoon on the patio sipping wine, and they promote it as “the sparkling wine for people who don’t like bubbles”. They also produce an excellent pinot gris, a small amount of chardonnay, a yummy rose and a tasty off-dry riesling. Their first vintage of pinot noir won a gold medal and the Open Red Wine Trophy at the Air New Zealand wine competition, and even their entry level pinot noir, Beetle Juice, has garnered a number of awards of its own.
Winery number two on Matt and Andrew’s not-to-miss list was Aurum, a small family-owned winery also located on the northern edge of Cromwell. Lucie Lawrence, the Burgundy born, raised and trained chief winemaker, proudly showed us the fruits of her labour and that of her viticulturalist/winemaker husband, Brook. We enjoyed their sparkling blanc de blanc, for which they grow and make the base wine locally and then send to Blenheim to complete the methode traditionelle process. Their chardonnay showed a vanilla characteristic on the nose, but was very well-balanced, in the style of a well-made burgundian white. Lucie’s Burgundy roots also are evident in her pinot noirs. Her Aurum Pinot Noir has great fruit and fine tannins, while her two reserve pinot noirs, which she makes in small quantities, have rich flavours and are premium in quality. These latter wines are named for their two young daughters, Mathilde and Madeleine, who take great pride when “their” wines win awards, which they have done.
Our final stop for the day was at the Carrick Winery, a label which we enjoy in Alberta. While Colleen took the opportunity for some scenic photo ops, I did my best to sample their wines that we DON’T get in Alberta. They make very interesting pinot gris and rieslings, but I was also impressed by their sauvignon blanc, a varietal that is not often grown in these parts. Theirs was not as crisp as the Marlborough sauvs, but had a soft richness and lots of citrus flavour.