Lauraine Jacobs

Food Writer and Author of Delicious Books

Wines to drink

23 January 2011


There’s always going to be an occasion to open some of those special bottles that are squirreled away in the cellar. We met a passionate wine buff, Rick, and his wife Diana visiting from Bath, UK at a friend’s celebration party this week. They were on their way to a Pinot Noir conference in Central Otago and really knew their New Zealand wines. But, my husband discovered, they’d never had the opportunity to drink the well-made wines of the cultish winemaker Neil McCallum of Dry River. So doing our duty for God and country we invited the couple, and their hosts here to dinner.

Neil McCallum (who is a good friend of ours) was one of the earliest to move to Martinborough in the very early 80s and plant the now revered Terraces with a range of grapes. They’ve proved to be stellar wines, and for the last decade or two, if you wanted to buy his wines directly from the winery, there was a waiting list to go on the mailing list. We stocked our cellar most years with a goodly selection, and now eke the wines out when we know there’s an appreciative palate around.

The evening was a great success. We started out with Dry River Riesling 1998 Amaranth from the Craighall vineyard. Neil designates a wine “Amaranth” when he’s convinced it will cellar for an extended period. Twelve years on, he was right with this one! The wine was sublime, very dry and steely with lovely lingering fruit flavours that were soft and subtle. “If you hadn’t shown me the bottle I would have been certain this was a ten year old Riesling from one of the best Alsace houses,” our guest said.

We then moved to the table for my fish course, and served Dry River Pinot Gris 2002 Amaranth. We live in an area known for Pinot Gris (Matakana) and this was spectacularly different from the wines we drink locally. With a complex palate, dry and yet bright and flavoursome, the match with our fish was good, although I kept wishing we’d had another bottle of that sumptuous Riesling on hand.

It was then time for the reds. In an unusual move, we served Dry River Syrah 2003 Lovat Vineyard first as I had cooked a subtly spiced pork belly and was convinced the syrah would work far better as a match for the food than the Pinot Noir we intended to drink too. The wine was spectacular; rich, dark, full of amazing aromas and flavours, and yes, it worked wonderfully with my food. But the Pinot Noir was crying out too. So another round of glasses was poured so we could try Dry River Pinot Noir 2004. It too was incredibly intensely deep crimson coloured. The flavours absolutely leapt from the glass and it was soft, unctuous and the stuff of dreams. Our British guests were impressed, their house hosts almost overwhelmed.

But there’s more. No-one was quite ready to leave and although we had Dry River Gewurztraminer waiting, we all voted to have another red. So I pulled another ace wine from the cellar. Cameron Douglas had given me a Clos de Ste Anne Pinot Noir Naboth’s Vineyard 2006 from the Millton Vineyards. The colour was much more New Zealand Pinot Noir-ish. A lighter more ‘muddy red’ colour but still a special wine with acres of complexity and lots of lovely wild flavours. I am sure Rick and Diana will find it hard going in Central Otago to match such a wine dinner as this one.

Note: Pic above shows the wines on my bench but I am not quite sure how that lovely rogue Felton Road Block 3 got into the picture. I can assure you we did not drink that on this occasion.

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