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THE CONTINUING STORY

9 November 2013

The Naming of a New Wine

“It is often in the darkest skies that we see the brightest stars”
Richard Evans

Halina
One and a half winters in a Siberian labour camp taught Halina two things – resilience and hope. She knew that living in fear was wasted energy. For Halina and her family to survive, she would need strength of character and a belief that there was a better future ahead of her.

As a child, Halina enjoyed riding with her father on the cavalry horses. She was fascinated by the mutual respect and trust she saw between horse and rider. Every opportunity she could find, Halina would be with the horses – keeping the stables tidy and the horses groomed and fed. She liked the physical work and preferred this to household chores.  The more time she spent with the horses the more she understood them and they her. She was developing her father’s ‘horse sense’ and it was this, that would help her deal with life in the most practical way, but more importantly, it gave her the courage to deal with some of the adversities that lay ahead.

It was no wonder that when she arrived at the labour camp in Arkhangel’sk she was put to work, minding the farm animals for the Russian soldiers. Even though she had to work long hours, she didn’t complain. She would tend to the nutritional needs of the animals and the cows would need to be milked.

The harsh Siberian winter was taking its toll. With little food, Halina’s younger sisters were beginning to show signs of malnutrition.  Tending to the animals on a daily basis gave Halina the perfect opportunity to sneak away small containers of milk back to her mother. The Russian soldiers would never notice and it would allow her mother to make a warm soup of milk and bread to keep Lucia and Sabina nourished. Unfortunately for Halina, her resourcefulness was short lived. Caught red handed by a Russian officer, Halina was lucky to have got away with no more than a reprimand. Instead of farm work, she was sent to work in the forests to log trees. She didn’t mind – the dense, dark spaces were filled with the scent of pine and Halina knew that one-day, the sun would shine!

*****

Archangel Halina Riesling 2012
My mother had a spirit that no one could tame. She loved nature and animals, story telling and the stranger. She loved the snowflake on her face and the sun on her back. She loved a gathering of family and friends, eating cake and all things sweet. She had a natural beauty and was truly unique. The name ‘Halina’ means ‘sun-ray’.

The inaugural Archangel Halina Riesling 2012 is a medium sweet style wine that has been crafted from grapes hand-picked from vines that sit on the sun-drenched terraces of the Archangel vineyard. Naming this wine ‘Halina’ seems a fitting tribute. Halina would have liked it a lot!

26 October 2011

If Walls Could Talk…

With a little determination, a little backbone and a little luck, I’m about to conduct my first ever wine tasting. “So, what are we tasting today” asks the professor (donned in knee length shorts). “Archangel 2008 Pinot Noir” I nervously reply. “Yes, just one bottle to show, and yes, just bottled last month” I add. They sniff, they sip, they swirl and sniff again – silence. Suddenly, I’m overcome with a heavy feeling of dread inside my stomach. What was I thinking of? I’m doing a wine tasting with, not only one wine, but one very youthful bottle of wine and, I’m presenting this wine to perhaps, the two most enthusiastic wine connoisseurs at Oxford University. The weight inside my stomach slowly turns to panic and I cannot bear the silence any longer. I blurt out, “so, what do you think?” The seated professor with his shoulder length, silver hair (and sideburns to match) looks at me, nods and smiles – “good” he says, “yes , very good!” This was three years ago.

Now, if these oak paneled walls could talk, what secrets would they reveal, I wondered? A moment of fleeting thoughts are distracted, as the butler places a dish of delicately sliced marinated beef carpaccio in front of me. He pours a generous amount of Archangel 2008 Pinot Noir into my glass. The food is delicious, the wine tasting better than I can ever remember… What a great room this is; the Senior Common Room, where many a famous Oxonian once wined and dined. I wonder…how many bottles of Archangel 2008 and 2009 Pinot Noir do they have left in the wine cellars beneath the college halls? The professor (donned in knee length shorts) and the professor with his shoulder length, silver hair (and sideburns to match), raise their glasses and turn to me. They nod, they smile and together they say “yes, very, very good.”

So what’s my point here? Well, I don’t have marketing skills, but what I do have is better – passion, determination and a strong belief. A long time ago I had a vision; that Archangel wine would one day be at home at Oxford University. After all, what better place than in the college cellars for a wine to mature and age gracefully, and perhaps, if it be possible, to draw wisdom and inspiration from her room mates Chateau Margaux and Chateau Lafite. To one day be placed on tables where famous Oxonians once sat. To share the journey, the story with the future leaders of this world. Yes, it may have taken effort, spirit and determination, but it was worth it. Today, I’d like to thank my new friends – the professor (donned in knee length shorts) and the professor with shoulder length, silver hair (with sideburns to match) – Yes, I’d like to thank you for your vision, your faith and your generousity towards Archangel.

11 July 2011

DECANTER & Central Otago Pinot Noir

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow......

Dear Wine Friends
Firstly, my apologies for the lack of posts of late – I could offer 101 excuses, but I won’t. Please forgive my tardiness.

Today I awoke to a blanket of snow covering the landscape, creating a magical winter wonderland. Yes, after weeks of waiting, the snow has finally arrived in my home town of Wanaka. The ski bunnies are happy, which in turn makes the locals happy. For those that are not familiar with Wanaka – it is a small resort town located just north of the 45th parallel in Central Otago in the South Island of New Zealand. Nestled within a majestic backdrop of rugged mountains, Wanaka sits at the southern end of Lake Wanaka (New Zealand’s fourth largest lake). It is the gateway to the Mount Aspiring National Park and an array of exciting experiences. You can ski down mountains (or across); hunt for deer, wild pig or chamois (a kind of mountain goat/antelope); fly-fish for trout (brown and rainbow); fly over glaciers or jump out of planes (preferably with a parachute); you can hike up mountains or trek the terrain on horseback or mountain-bike. From boating adventures to water sports, we have experiences to suit all. Our trendy cafés and restaurants offer sumptuous cuisine created from locally produced food – and as for the wine, Central Otago can proudly boast some of the finest Pinot Noir (and white varieties) in the world. Now just to support the latter, I thought I’d share some news – at the recent Decanter World Wine Awards 2011(one the world’s most prestigious Wine Shows) Central Otago Pinot Noir ran ‘HOT’. Out of the 26 New Zealand Pinot Noirs that won Silver or above, 15 were awarded to Pinot Noir from Central Otago. Not a bad effort from the Central Otago wine producers. Of course I’m also proud to say that our Archangel Pinot Noir 2009 (which incidentally is only our second vintage) was awarded a SILVER. So naturally we are thrilled!

So, back to Wanaka and Central Otago – in case you decide to visit us, I thought I’d share a few of my ‘Hot Picks’ (in no particular order) which includes places to stay, places to eat and ‘must do’ experiences. Of course, there are numerous others which you can find on www.lakewanaka.co.nz

* Aoturoa Villa: www.aoturoa.co.nz – luxury and comfort in a boutique villa with the warmest of hospitality.
* Relishes Café: on Wanaka lake front – great food, great wine and the friendliest of staff.
* Cardona Ski field: www.cardrona.com – A great way to get your natural high – safe for beginners and with challenging ski runs for the more adventurous.
* Wanaka Skydiving: www.skydivewanaka.com – Highly recommended by my son (sorry I’m too chicken) and perhaps not if you suffer heart problems!
* Ridgeline Wine Tours: www.ridgelinenz.com – Relax and enjoy the wine. Let your host introduce you to some of Central Otago’s little gems.
* Wellwood Gallery and Archangel Wine Tasting Room: A sensual Wine and Wood Experience in a unique gallery setting.
* Puzzling World: www.puzzlingworld.co.nz – Quirky and fun, no matter how old you are!
* Rob Roy Track: Nature at its purest! Glaciers, waterfalls, alpine flora and fauna, etc,etc….simply stunning!

10 February 2011

Romancing the Pinot Noir

Three handsome Australian men, Central Otago Pinot Noir and sumptuous cuisine – what more could a girl ask for? This was Feast Restaurant in Cromwell just a week ago – a dinner hosted by Central Otago Winegrowers for three visitors from Melbourne. Our special guests for the evening were Ben Edwards, Chris Crawford and Dan Sims – sommeliers, matchmakers, composers of the finest wine and exquisite cuisine. They came to share their passion – their new wine venture, Pinot Unearthed. www.pinotunearthed.com

Their charm and infectious enthusiasm would captivate any audience. Somewhat smitten by these handsome young men, I listened intently as Ben spoke of their wine journey and how all three had fallen passionately in love – with Pinot Noir that is. It was going to be an interesting evening given the vast number of Pinot Noirs sitting on the table.

So what is it about Pinot Noir that arouses such strong emotions? This fickle grape variety with its temperamental nature, often described as the ‘heartbreak’ grape – and can see the viticulturist, winemaker (not to mention the vineyard owner) delve into the depths of despair. But they often say that nothing worthwhile is easy and Pinot Noir is one of these things. At the Pinot Noir Celebration (27-29 Jan 2011), guests and enthusiasts from as far a way as Sweden and Scotland descended into the resort town of Queenstown to embrace all things Pinot Noir. Wine lovers seduced, waxing lyrical about this elusive grape variety. Pinot Noir more than any other wine, has the power to seduce and arouse the senses in a physical, emotional and spiritual way. With the alluring notes of “earthy, truffle, gamey”, Pinot Noir’s aromas have been likened to human pheromones – those that stimulate sexual attraction.

So it’s no wonder that so many of us have been captivated by this enchanting wine variety with its rather capricious personality. Like Ben, Chris and Dan (the three sommeliers), there will be many others that will follow a similar path – a journey in search of the “holy grail of wine” that we call Pinot Noir. Whether it’s the romance ‘of the wine’ or ‘in the wine’, for me it doesn’t really matter – With Valentines Day just around the corner I know I will be kissed by an angel – Archangel Pinot Noir that is – a memorable way to celebrate this romantic occasion!

20 December 2010

Angel Bread, Borscht and Pinot Noir

Christmas is a magical time. It’s a time when people like to follow tradition. It’s a time for giving and sharing, a time when family and friends come together to celebrate with food, wine and song. For me Christmas Eve or ‘Wigilia’ (vi’gilja) is a special time – a Polish tradition that celebrates the onset of Christmas with a vigil supper. A twelve course meal that traditionally begins when the first star appears in the sky. Childhood memories come flooding back of large family gatherings; the ritual of dressing the tree to Christmas carols; the pure white linen cloth draped over the table, with a few pieces of straw beneath the cloth, to signify Christ’s birth in a manger. The extra place set at the table, just in case an unexpected stranger comes knocking at the door – a mark of true Polish hospitality. The sharing of ‘Oplatek’ or Angel Bread before the meal begins – a symbol of love, unity and forgiveness. Borscht and the countless meatless dishes. The exchanging and of course, the excitement of opening of gifts.

In essence I still follow these traditions, although I don’t wait for the first star to appear in the sky – a little difficult when you live in New Zealand and Christmas Eve falls on one the year’s longest days. I confess to my borscht being made on beef stock but still with the addition of wild porcini mushrooms that make this soup an earthy delight. I will drink Archangel Pinot Noir and may even add some to the soup (my mother-in-law swears this will create a soup that will be fit for a king) – we’ll see. I’ll reduce the amount of dishes I serve (a necessity for my expanding waistline). I will share the ‘Oplatek’ (Angel Bread) with my family and honour those who are too far away or no longer with us. I’ll set the table with an extra place – just in case. But most of all I will go into Christmas with a sense of gratitude. Knowing that we are all connected in some way and no matter what tradition or belief you follow, I wish you peace and happiness always.

29 November 2010

A wine LOVEMARK

Part of the enjoyment of wine is the pleasure it brings into our lives. Wine creates a sense of occasion, it evokes emotion, it excites the senses – wine brings people together. As we open a great wine, a story unfolds, it reveals the journey, the place, the people, the vintage.

Walking amidst the vines can evoke all sorts of romantic notions – the anticipation and promise of a new vintage, the thrill and excitement of a new wine. The vineyard – an artist’s palette of red and gold with row upon row of sculptured vines is like music to the senses. It is all this and more that lured me into the world of wine – I am a romantic at heart!

So, here I am, a vineyard owner, wine producer, marketer, salesperson….. I’m officially in the world of wine – it has become my way of life. I won’t pretend, the journey has not been an easy one and I’m sure, the future will not be that straightforward. There have been moments where I have felt overwhelmed, at times frustrated, often exhausted. So why do I do this to myself? Well it’s easy – The vineyard is my passion, the wine is my LOVEMARK – like ‘nectar’ to the soul.

As I write this (my first blog) I ponder on how wine has become so much a part of our daily lives. Yet, there is so much more to learn, so much more to experience. As I begin this journey into the world of wine, I invite you to walk with me, where together we can share our stories.