15 March 2014
This column was first published in Your Weekend magazine in The Dominion Post, The Christchurch Press and The Waikato Times on Saturday 15 March 2014.
A friend who longs to escape the corporate world has been wearing his dream around his neck for years; it’s an engraved pendant, bearing the logo of the business he would like to own one day. Another friend has her work philosophy painted on the dining room wall. Mine is written on the bathroom mirror. It’s hard to ignore your dreams if they’re dangling round your neck, staring you in the face or waiting for you to trip over them. And that’s exactly what happened to winemaker Theo Coles when he was making wine in Tuscany a few years ago. He often began his day by popping down to Sienna for coffee. As you do. While wandering around the beautiful streets of this ancient Italian city, he stumbled –literally – across an old etching of a ram.
The bucolic rural background and the proud ram in the foreground reminded him of home in New Zealand, and the fineness of the artwork struck a chord in his winemaking philosophy. Which brought him to a small pinot noir vineyard planted on limestone on – believe it or not – Ram Paddock Road in the Waipara Gorge. It also brought him to the name Hermit Ram for his small scale winemaking project. Like most things we hold close to our hearts, Hermit Ram is a labour of love. The Ram Paddock Road vineyard is owned by Gareth and Camille Renowden. There are only 900 pinot noir vines planted at high density and the soils are high in active lime – the nutritional equivalent of a rare fillet steak for grapes.
Coles does most of the vineyard pruning himself and makes the wines; a skin fermented orange field blend, a pinot noir and a syrah. He also makes wine for Mountford Vineyard, Kalex Wines and has a family. It’s busy. But someone’s got to make hay while the sun does its stuff. The wines push boundaries – and taste good. The grapes are all hand plunged during winemaking, much of it in a large old barrel. There’s no new oak flavour here. The wine is then hand bottled under cork and hand labeled. Time consuming doesn’t begin to describe it, but Coles wants to make different styles of wine from this sliver of lime-rich hillside. The syrah is a style departure for this part of the South Island. Too cold in Canterbury for syrah? I don’t believe so, having followed Belinda Gould,’s syrah when she used to make wine at Muddy Water. The proof was in the bottle.
Wines of the week
2012 Masseria Altemura Fiano $18.50
If you’re a chardonnay fan, check this out; a full bodied, waxy, bone dry white from southern Italy. It’s fresh, it’s rich and it’s great value at this price. Buy online and have it delivered to your doorstep from www.sapori.co.nz
Treat of the week
2012 Misha’s Vineyard Limelight Riesling $28 to $29
Take a German grape, a Martinborough winemaker and a beautiful wine region – and meet Misha’s Vineyard in Otago. Winemaker Olly Masters is a Wairarapa local who hotfoots it down to Central to make this stunning wine from grapes grown on a windy slope above Lake Dunstan. It’s light bodied, full flavoured – red apples, white peach, honey – and lives up to its name. www.mishasvineyard.com
Reaching for the stars
2012 Hermit Ram Pinot Noir $55
Theo Coles chose the label before he found the grapes to make this wine, but he always wanted to make a light bodied, intense red; the red equivalent of an aromatic white. This elegant pinot succeeds with its silky red fruit flavours – a lovely style. Buy from Decant and Vino Fino in Christchurch or email Theo Coles at: firstname.lastname@example.org