Sunday, 11 May 2008

Daniel Schuster, Waipara, New Zealand

Hilda and I were driving down towards Christchurch on our honeymoon when I spotted a sign saying Winery and pointing up a little road to our left. So we went up there and started tasting wines. The person doing the tasting was a lady of indiscriminate age somewhere in her 20s or early 30s. The vineyard was Daniel Schuster.

The wines were done in the traditional order, first white then red from plain to complex.

An unremarkable chardonnay was followed by a riesling. Being German and having tried kiwi rieslings at a wine tasting in Dublin I didn't expect much, but this was lovely! A nice light and fruity wine that seemed dry to me but supposedly has 10g/l of sugar. I never tasted it. Hilda and I agreed that this was a wine that could have been made in Germany and bought a bottle that is still sitting at home. The lady looked very confused at our enthusiasm.

After this auspicious start we tried 3 pinot noirs in order. The plainest one was an honest red that was unpretentious and achieved what it set out to do. This would be a nice wine for a pasta lunch, if you were local. The other two were a lot more expensive, with the top one costing 90 Nz$! And I totally failed to get the point of them. Thin bland wines that had been oaked in a desperate attempt to give them volume, as Hilda pointed out later "houses on stilts". The lady serving must have seen the look of disbelief on my face because she said "now you see why Dan is called the 'godfather of pinot noir'?". Hmm, a godfather is a crimelord, right? So one could be forgiven for thinking that he is the head of the racket that commits crimes against this lovely grape. He was one of the pioneers of pushing the grape further south to my knowledge.

So if you are in New Zealand and want some nice riesling, seek out Dan Schuster. Just stay away from his pinot noir!

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Kai in the City

This was the night we ate at the Maori restaurant Kai in the City, 21 Majoribanks St, Wellington, New Zealand. We shared a seafood platter, and added dessert - chocolate pudding for me.

The first question that struck us when we started on the tiny cups of delicious chowder that sat in the middle of the platter was, Why aren't people queuing in the street and beating down the doors? How come you can get a table here without even booking - lucky for us, but incomprehensible.

This was seafood cooked with respect for natural flavour and a delicate touch. The chowder was perfectly balanced in flavour, the dishes interesting and varied, and we suddenly understood why people rave about the green-lipped mussels. The oysters were the best we'd ever had - and considering that we both love oysters, this is indeed saying something. In NZ, oysters are shucked at once and either frozen or placed in brine, which made us wonder what they're like fresh.

My chocolate pudding was accompanied with a jam of pepperbush berries, which doesn't sound tempting but turned out to be a perfect tart counterpoint to the chocolate. Pepperberry jam is what blackberry jam wants to be when it grows up, and we clearly need to find some way to grow our own pepperberry bushes.

If in Wellington, make sure to visit this place. Try the meat platter - we plan on having that next time.