On a sunny spring afternoon we drove up to Matakana, (about an hour from Auckland, NZ) to check out some of the local wineries. Given Heron’s Flight were celebrating 20 years of their cellar door open with woodfire pizzas on the go we decided to visit.
We did a tasting with David Hoskins, who established the vineyard and winery along with his partner Mary Evans. While the vineyard started out with french varieties (from which they won a gold award for their first vintage Cabernet in 1991), they turned their focus towards Italian varietals from Pietmont – namely Dolcetto and Sangiovese. Personally I was really excited to taste the Dolcettos as I’d never tasted this variety before, and I believe it’s rarely grown outside of Italy. Heron’s Flight would definitely be classed as boutique – I have no idea how to describe their vineyard area as anything but tiny, and given they have around 2.5 people full time it should give you an idea of the scale (apart from when it’s time to harvest!).
On visiting the cellar door it was like visiting an old family friend, it felt like a real home with real wine made by real people. After the tasting we walked through their fantastic reading room through to a patio overlooking the vineyard. Friends, family and pets relaxed or pitched in to bring out pizzas in the sunshine -it was awesome!
When I asked how he got to where he was David replied he always interested in wine, and would often head out to West Auckland on the weekends visiting the cellar door of Malcolm Able (who was a customs officer by day, and winemaker on the weekends) – I managed to find a bit of info on the history of wineries in Kumeu here. Malcolm showed him was was possible, and inspired him to make the leap. In the early days there was a lot of camraderie and David mentioned the Spence Brothers at Matua and the Corbans had been supportive.
Heron’s Flight are also famous for their grape juice and make verjus too – we got distracted by the wines, but will have to try these for next time! Check out their juices here. Anyways, onto the wines…
2012 Dolcetto Rose $23 NZD
This Rose is made in typical Italian style, it’s off dry (as in very slightly sweet). While tasting David explained the name, Un bacio d’alba means ‘the kiss of dawn’ – it’s the colour of rosepetals, beautiful. They stopped fermentation early to leave a bit of residual sugar and on tasting it wasn’t cloying with sweetness, but rather light with juicy strawberries and clean, refreshing finish. David said CO2 is added to give it a touch of spritz, we found it to be definitely more subtle than a frizzante but it is just noticeable! A very pleasant drop n a sunny afternoon. We ended up enjoying a bottle alongside woodfired pizzas after the tasting.
2011 Dolcetto Unplugged $25 NZD
Cherries medium bodied with good acid, subtle tannin and savoury notes. David explained the Dolcetto variety gets it’s name from the fruit size, tiny wee grapes which ripen early. Dolcetto means little sweet one in Italian – CUTE! – more info on the varietal here. This wine is made to be enjoyed rather than keeping and easy drinking, perhaps similar in that respect to French Beaujolais? Well worth it!
2010 Sangiovese Unplugged $25 NZD
Lovely, soft and smooth bright cherry and raspberries, but refined. Made in typical Chianti style, it had more savoury character than the Dolcetto, with a delicious fruitiness. Interesting and easy drinking.
2010 Sangiovese Reserve $55 NZD
A rich violet nose, lovely rich red fruit savoury with a touch of tobacco, should age for 10 years. More savoury characters than the unplugged, being aged in a mix of new and old oak. Gorgeous. The 2010 vintage was a good one for Matakana vineyards, which saw a long, dry hot summer.