A wrinkle in vine
“How do you go back to the place where everything changed…?” I asked, once, and from that question a travelogue was born. The “place” I had in mind was Milford Sound, on which much more can and will be written many narratives hence, but certainly other interpretations are possible. Here’s one:
David Evans Gander pokes his head around a doorway. He’s casual in working shorts and shirt, knee-deep in one of those endless tasks that consume every morning, afternoon, and night of a winemaker’s existence. “Just a moment.”
We wait. It’s dark and cool inside, strangely silent outside.
A half-dozen moments later, he re-emerges with bottles in hand, ducks behind the counter of the now-closed winery café (really more of a pizzeria, to the apparent delight of most visitors) to retrieve some glasses, and groups us around a picnic-like table.
“So…how was Stony Batter?”
Rock is their forté
My first day in New Zealand was a bit of a blur. Not so much from jet lag as travel lag, a sense-dulling miasma of displacement and the nasty, filmy feeling of twelve hours of recycled airplane air battling the onrush of a world of new experiences and sensations. Among those sensations was a marvelous little wine – just a glass – shared with Theresa and Sue Courtney at Nourish. I’d spent the morning at Goldwater and Stonyridge, tasting a lot of wines that were – whether better or worse than I’d expected – familiar. But here, at this terrific little bistro, was a glass of sun-filled viognier that rose above all my expectations, especially for this highly cranky grape. Here’s what I wrote at the time:
Passage Rock 2001 Viognier (Waiheke Island) – One of the rarest of wine discoveries, a delicious viognier from somewhere other than Condrieu. Not that it tastes like Condrieu. There’s the requisite midpalate fatness, but it’s braced on both sides with excellent acidity and a lovely floral delicacy. Best of all, there’s no alcoholic heat.
Passage Rock. Few wineries I’ve not visited hold a special place in my heart, and none whereat I’ve tasted only one wine. And yet, there was something about that deliciously brief taste of viognier…well, if I ever got back to Waiheke Island, I vowed to visit. To see what it was all about, to get at the heart of the matter…no, I must admit, my aim was more personal: to try to recapture and relive that memory.
Sue talks about our morning while Evans Gander pours the wine and I study our surroundings. Passage Rock would be, in the absence of Stony Batter, the most remote of Waiheke Island’s wineries, and the facilities obviously represent a sort of haphazard expansion; needs-based, rather than designed. And while the vines fanning out from the main buildings replicate a descent to the sea found at our morning visit, it’s a gentler, slower, shallower descent to a much more distant shore. Which only adds to the feeling of isolation.
Soon enough, however, the first wines are in front of us and we’ve work to do.