Tales of wine, people and travel

Taupo Expo hits the spot…

You know what they say about overnight success stories?

Kirsten Searle is a new visionary on the Gisborne wine scene as co owner and co founder of the second incarnation of Matawhero Wines

Behind every single one of them, there are two decades of hard graft as someone works hard to turn their dreams into reality. And Kirsten Searle of Matawhero Wines (pictured above) is an outstanding example.

As is this year’s Merchant of Taupo Scenic Cellars 15th Annual Wine, Craft Beer & Food Expo.

There were about 500 people at this year’s event, which was held last Wednesday in downtown Taupo.

It was a great night. And there was an outstanding range of wine, beer, food and spirits, including the exceptionally good Lighthouse Gin from the Wairarapa.

The annual event attracted 30 producers this year. These included all of our favourites from Astrolabe to Whitehaven, with Bach Brewing, Clearview Estate Winery, Coal Pit Wines, EuroVintage, Mills Reef, Moa, Moet Hennessey, Sapori d’Italia, Thomson Whisky and Tickety Boo, to name but a few of the top notch industry stalwarts who made the event such a great success.

The man at the helm of the Merchant of Taupo is Dale Henderson, who is thrilled to see the annual expo go from strength to strength – and is on a constant quest to refine it each year, which ensures that visitor numbers grow and the quality is constantly growing.

This year there was more food on offer from healthy salmon and rocket salad to deliciously tasty Over the Moon Dairy Company cheeses, which began in 2007 and have grown to become one of the North Island’s best quality cheese producers today, based in Putaruru. There were tasty chicken nibbles and sweet treats. And there was no shortage of interesting wines to match with them, including Lallier Champagnes and Kopke Port – two brands that we bring in directly, ensuring massive value for money when it comes to high quality at a modest price.

It was great to taste Whitehaven Wines from Marlborough, which supplied a wide range including the fresh two year old 2016 Whitehaven Marlborough Riesling (one of this country’s best kept delicious wine secrets) to the four year old 2014 Whitehaven Pinot Noir – drinking superbly now.

One of the freshest wines of the night was the brand spanking new 2018 Craggy Range Martinborough Sauvignon Blanc, a zesty little number which had been in the bottle for a brief two weeks at the time of tasting. It was drinking well too, given its youthful stage in life.

These and other wines, beers, spirits and food were the tip of an extremely successful wine expo, which had a fun, friendly vibe and clearly a strong following from Taupo locals.

It’s been 15 years in the making.

Let’s raise a glass to the next 15 – and wish Dale and the Taupo team continued success.

Craggy Range pops up (down) to Wellington

Craggy Range chef Casey McDonald pops down to cook for three nights next week at Egmont Street Eatery as part of Wellington on a Plate…

Craggy Range has news and it’s all good for Wellington fans of the Hawke’s Bay winery, which will pop up in the capital next week for three nights  from Saturday 18 August to Monday 20 August.

The reason for the pop up restaurant is two fold.

Terroir Restaurant at the winery is currently closed for renovations, so the restaurant is coming our way instead. And the Craggy Range pop up is part of this year’s Wellington on a Plate.

Local Hawke’s Bay flavour is the order of the day at the pop up eatery. Food will be prepared by Terroir restaurant’s chef Casey McDonald, who plans to bring produce from the Bay.

The Craggy Range pop up restaurant operates on Saturday 18 August and Sunday 19 August at Egmont Street Eatery. There is a special VIP night on Monday 20 August for a vintage release of the 2016 Prestige Collection wines.

The tasting will be followed by a four course dinner prepared by Terroir restaurant chef Casey McDonald.

Find out more here: or here:

  • Read more about the Craggy Range Prestige Collection wines from 2016 on this blog. Watch this space.

New head of Marlborough Wine Show

New Zealand’s largest wine region has a new chief judge at its annual wine show with the appointment of Jack Glover, who was announced this month.

The show is now in its eighth year and will take place on 15 to 17 October in the country’s biggest wine region. This year’s judging will take place over three days and will include wine writers Dr Jamie Goode from the United Kingdom, whose wine blog, The Wine Anorak, is one of the most widely read in the world today at

Local wine writer John Saker will also judge this year.

The Marlborough Wine Show was founded by Belinda Jackson and Margaret Creswell in 2011. Wine Marlborough, the regional winegrower representative body, purchased the show in 2017.

It is a key tool to protect the reputation of the Marlborough wine industry, as well as being a strong event to celebrate the winemaking and viticultural talent of the region; the world’s most Sauvignon Blanc focussed region.

Entries for the Marlborough Wine Show open on 27 August and the awards celebration is on 26 October 2018.

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