Take Ewen “the Westie” Gilmour as a laugh-a-minute MC, add spit-roast lambs, swirling kolo dancers and freely flowing wine and you have the recipe for a great day out. Dallies in the Valley, held each February at the Artisan winery in Oratia, West Auckland, is a celebration of Croatian culture. Where else can you settle down to watch a tug of war between the “ichs” and the “non-ichs”?
“Oratia was a great place to grow up,” recalls Rex Sunde, “with a tight Croatian [mostly Dalmatian] community.” Sunde and wife Maria produced their first vintage at Artisan in 1999 and now market an impressive selection of locally grown syrah, viognier and pinot gris, backed up by other wines from Marlborough.
Many of the wines on sale by the glass and bottle at Dallies in the Valley were not grown in Auckland, and producers came from other parts of the province – Awhitu, Mangere, Waimauku. Pinot gris was in hot demand, “outselling all of our other wines combined”, enthused Babich. Others spent most of the day pouring chilled rosé.
Artisan Oratia Dominic 2010
This classy marriage of cabernet franc, merlot, petit verdot and syrah is a red Bordeaux style with a nod to the Rhône. Fleshy and rich, it has substantial body, an earthy streak and deep plum, nut and spice flavours. $45 (4.5/5)
Awhitu Greenock Syrah 2008
Drinking well now, this South Auckland red is fragrant and sweet-fruited, with mouth-filling body and strong plum and spice flavours, showing good complexity. $28 (4/5)
Babich Marlborough Pinot Gris 2012
Full-bodied, this is a drier style than most New Zealand pinot gris, with plenty of peachy, citrusy, spicy flavour. $20 (3.5/5)
Twin Totara Kumeu Cabernet Franc/ Merlot 2010
Bargain-priced, this single-vineyard red is medium-bodied, with ripe plum and spice flavours, showing some savoury, earthy complexity. Drink now or cellar. $18 (3.5/5)
Villa Maria Private Bin East Coast Pinot Gris 2012
This dryish blend of Marlborough, Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay grapes is ready to roll, with mouth-filling body and lots of peachy, slightly spicy and gingery, faintly honeyed flavour. Fine value on promotion at $12.95. (3.5/5)
Fino Valley Old Tawny Port
Amber/green, this fortified wine (18.5% alcohol) is sweet and raisiny, with a slightly “hot” finish. $15 (2.5/5)
WINE OF THE WEEK
Distant Land Marlborough Riesling 2010
Now in full stride, this off-dry wine is fresh and lively, with strong lemon/lime flavours, a hint of passionfruit, and toasty, bottle-aged notes adding complexity. $20 (4/5)