Monthly Archives: February 2016

A wine for all seasons

Hot sunny day. It has to be Rosé ( current favourites being the magnificent 2015 vintages from Te Whare Ra and Fromm La Strada ).

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Choices, choices…..

That was 2 days ago. It was 36c (or 96.8 F) in the vineyard and hot hot hot. Nothing else would do to provide that relaxing tipple to help enjoy the days labours.

Today, cooler times and a girls’ mind turns to more complex things. Pinot Noir to be exact – not too heavy and easily enjoyable.

Rosé just seems wrong when the temperature drops and there are hints of a chill in the evening air.

There’s something very special about hugging a big glass of something red and full bodied when you’re thinking of snuggling in for the evening. It brings to mind a story I shared over dinner the other night with some visiting friends of my (much) younger days and first interest in wine. After a busy working week, my habit on a Friday was to leave early and visit my company’s expansive wine cellar ( how lucky was I ) – pick my new bottle of choice and head home to my little weavers cottage in the beautiful North Yorkshire village of Osmotherley, light the coal fire, stoke the Aga and get comfy in front of the fire with a very big glass. Heaven.

There will still be some Rosé days left before Autumn truly sets in ( as well as Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and some other white varietals…) but the reds are starting to call my name and it makes the thought of colder nights that bit more palatable 🙂

Cheers!

Fi

 

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For long cosy evenings in front of the fire…

Summer and Sorbet

I talk a lot about my admiration for those that seem to effortlessly produce fabulous food while the rest of us live vicariously through foodie magazines and tv shows….

But, today a victory for the enthusiastic amateur !

I was fortunate to enjoy a delicious celebratory dinner at the stunning and internationally renowned Hans Herzog during the week. Under chestnut trees we dined on local salmon, pork belly and rib eye and to finish, we shared cheesecake with “organic estate plum” sorbet . Now to be fair, the cheesecake was underwhelming but the sorbet was the hero of the meal.

And then it struck me. We have the most prolific cropping plum tree I have ever seen and by far the most delicious. And we are organic. Surely it couldn’t be hard to do.

And it wasn’t.

Take 2-3 cups of sliced plums ( skin on) – preferably “organic estate grown” but don’t sweat it!

1/4 cup sugar ( start less and add to taste)

teaspoon lemon juice – again keep tasting to get it right)

Splash of something to hand like Fromm Riesling Spatlese or Grand Marnier

pinch of salt – always a pinch of salt ! Now I could say make it Marlborough salt flakes but that would involve pretentious twaddle and we’re not doing that.

Throw it all in a food processor, ninja or your own version of a whizzy thing to blend it into a fine liquid. If you’re doing it by hand, strain it after to get the lumpy skin bits out.

Put in a container in freezer and every few hours remove and rewhizz and freeze again until silky smooth.

And voila – “organic estate grown plum sorbet”.

This is currently being enjoyed with a chilled glass of Fromm Riesling Spatlese !

Just yum!

Sorry Hans but I think I’ve got this one nailed now….off to see if I can better your cheesecake too…. 😉

Fi

 

 

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Busy times in the vineyard

I used to be able to buy a glass ( or bottle) of wine without a care in the world – especially for those who toiled to fill that glass or bottle.

Changed days.

In the relatively short time we have been the proud new parents of our vineyard in paradise, we have had more sleepless nights , stress and worry than any of our collective three offspring ever brought us.

Don’t get me wrong. Like actual new parents, we love it. We are bursting with pride, we tell anyone who stands still long enough all about it and like childbirth, you forget the pain quickly as you appreciate the benefits!

However, it’s hard. Not really on us, but those that are helping us make decisions to ensure the best harvest brings the best quality grapes to make the best quality wine.

Yesterday was the green cut or final thinning ; the time you take out a varying quantity of grapes, depending on what mother nature has thrown at this particular vintage. Certain weather conditions will bring greater numbers of bunches per vine and heavier weights of bunches. All of this is critical to the winemaker to ensure they get the best product for them to weave their magic in the winemaking process.

Now it may be my Scottish blood, but I’m no fan of waste. Seeing beautiful grapes ( that taste sensational!) lying disregarded – even if for the ultimate sacrifice – made me sad but then, more positively, start looking for ways we could use them.

We’re not alone, a quick drive around our neighbourhood shows all of the quality vineyards doing the same thing in their quest for the perfect vintage.

I spent part of the day collecting the disregarded bunches and distributing them to family and friends ( funnily enough not as much of a novelty for them in this wine region, as it would have been in Auckland…!).

So, thoughts turn from verjuice ( see previous blog on this recipe for unripe grapes) to delicious grape juice from sun kissed grapes that make some of the most stunning pinot noir in New Zealand.  I have added it to my growing list of ‘things to produce’ and will share in due course.

Of course there is always a silver lining – the birds are happy and hopefully may leave our netted precious bounty alone, but for me it’s another lesson of the fragility of being in the hands of nature and therefore the need to be nimble enough to make hay ( or grape juice) while the sun shines.

Fi

 

 

 

Belties devastate 2016 grape harvest….

I could see the above as the headline screaming from the local Marlborough paper as I searched , increasingly manically, for our three temporary bovine guests ; Oreo, Anzac and Tollhouse.

You can’t just lose these animals. They’re huge.

The cows ( or to be specific, Belties to us country folk….ahem..)  have already caused me enough stress this week ( see previous blog) but after a busy desk bound morning , I thought the responsible thing to do was to have a walk around the patch to see if everything was ok after last nights stormy weather (I’ve heard that this is the type of behaviour consistent with owning land in the country and it was about time I made it part of my routine. Especially with M away).

No cows. Anywhere.

No cows in paddock, or at usual shade tree, not at watering areas, not even at their favourite pear tree.

Now, we are surrounded by vineyards groaning with the promise of the imminent 2016 harvest. And cows like grapes. It would not take 3 , one tonne Belties long to make some serious damage to said crops.

Thankfully, help was at hand quickly to start the search party from our ever helpful neighbour T, who I already suspect finds most of our ‘potential crises’ amusing.

I was beginning to start crisis planning for upset neighbours, ruined vines  or worse, when T appeared, smiling. Not usually a signal of imminent disaster .

Our 3 girls were safe , enclosed and had happily decided to lie flat in the creek out of normal sight.

Panic over. Headlines averted. Harvest safe.

This week’s score (so far)  : Belties 2 : Fi  0

I see a cow free future ahead.

 

Fi

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Is that a smirk I detect…..

A taste for pears

Beautiful Oreo

We have a beautiful pear tree that has never been harvested. It is laden but I have plans . One friend is making pear cider . Another is taking some for horse feed. And I am looking to ripen as many as I can to enjoy and make delicious things with .

There are still hundreds left .

So I thought they would be a welcome treat for the three beautiful Belties * that are temporarily  living with us. They loved them .
What I failed to take into account is that a wire fence is no barrier between fully grown and very heavy Belties and their newfavourite food .

It took a loss in water pressure to start an urgent search around the property as that could only mean one thing – a leak in our our much needed water system .

Luckily we didn’t need to look far . A fountain had appeared where our pear smitten Belties had trodden on pipes , broken through fence and trampled their trough .

How happy were they . Belties in pear heaven .

Me , I’ll take it as yet another lesson in country living . I’m truly not in Kansas anymore.

Fi

*Beltie : The Belted Galloway is a heritage beef breed of cattle originating from Galloway in the west side of southern Scotland, adapted to living on the poor upland pastures and windswept moorlands of the region. The exact origin of the breed is unclear although it is often surmised that the white belt that distinguishes these cattle from the native black Galloway cattle may be as a result of cross breeding with Dutch Lakenvelder belted cattle. It is the belt that gives them their name.

Meet the Dash button

Very funny!

The Local Tourist

Let me introduce you.

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These little pieces of plastic could put an end to last minute dashes to the supermarket when there’s no toilet paper in the house or the kids want mac cheese for dinner and there’s none in the cupboard.

It’s high tech convenience straight out of The Jetsons although George and Jane might not have been thrilled with the low tech hook and adhesive strip that make sure the Dash is exactly where you need it – on the washing machine or in the toilet roll cupboard for example. When you run low you push the button and Amazon delivers the item to your door. No doubt in the future delivery will be immediate but at the moment there’s a 2 day wait so a personal dash could still be the only option in the case of toilet roll or mac cheese emergency. There’s a Dash button for a whole range of products but I…

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Drinking in the good life

 

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There are many many many reasons why I love where I live and live where I love.

The clear air.

The less busy way of living.

The natural produce.

The friendly and authentic people.

The glorious hills acting as a glorious movie-set backdrop everywhere you look.

The bountiful vines . Everywhere .

But today, another reason soared to the top of my list.

It’s Friday , we have good friends coming to stay over the Marlborough Wine and Food Festival weekend and we wanted to get some wine to share. In the past, this would have involved a trip to the supermarket or, far less frequently, a good wine shop.

Today it involved driving to one of our neighbourhood wineries – 4 minutes from home. We went to the cellar door, selected what we wanted, tasted again something that we had forgotten and went happily on our way with our treasure.

Today’s favourite winery is Fromm. The wines are wonderful and, being next door,  you don’t get much closer from vine to table than that.

Sláinte !

Fi

Plums in abundance

I’ve always admired and been slightly envious of those people who were able to take simple produce and turn it into something delicious. Even moreso if they had the produce to hand – be it fruit, vegetables, milk , honey or any other natural delight.

Part of my search for the good life is doing just that. We are working with the existing produce at the property for time being but have exciting plans to develop more.

This week has been exciting as one of the plum trees, which I still can’t identify, has hit its peak. The plums are firm and look underripe but they are perfect, with an amazing flavour. We’ve got friends coming over the weekend so I thought about doing some stewed plums for putting over muesli as a delicious breakfast treat.

It was so easy. Heat some water, sugar ( sparingly to start as you can always add more to taste later), orange juice and a cinnamon stick until sugar melts. Then add plums and poach on simmer for 15-20 minutes. So easy and so yum!

Enjoy !

Fi

 

 

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Fresh and warm, straight off the tree
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Ruby flesh looks as good as it tastes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stewed plums
Finished ! Plenty for the weekend and the ‘angel’s share for Mum & Dad !)

Feed the birds…

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Netting on a perfect day

We would happily pay “tuppence a bag” to stop the wretched things gorging on everything ripe !

Today was netting day – and I think we got the timing spot on . The grapes are turning colour ( veraison) and the birds have not done any damage. Nets are not pretty but they do the job. We are on the final push towards harvest and our babies are now hopefully safe.

It’s an odd situation. I take great pleasure in putting out wild bird seed and ensuring there is plenty of water to look after our wonderful bird families who in return give us the most fantastic bird song.

In addition to the many various types of bird around us, we have doves. How cool is that! They are calm and friendly. They sit and wait as we feed our hens and then happily get stuck in to the hen feeder with them. They provide a stunning white feathered escort alongside the cars everytime we drive home.

They’re great.

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Beautiful turtle dove

However, when you have precious vine babies and other produce waiting to burst into life, you can’t help but get protective.

On one hand I’m feeding the birds to protect and nurture them but when they become vine and fruit enemy #1, it’s all on.

If anyone has any ideas for protecting nature’s spoils from our feathered friends I would love to hear them. Everything we have tried doesn’t seem to work. Nets it is then.

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Useless bird scarers providing  fiesta atmosphere for the birds’ feasting….

Saying that, as I type I’m listening to them.

I wouldn’t swop this glorious birdsong for anything.

Fi

 

 

 

Wobbly boots

There’s a first time for everything and today was no exception.

I take massive pleasure and pride from living in New Zealand – the shaky isles. They’re given that name for good reason – we live on major fault lines and therefore experience the odd shake – or mother nature’s sneeze as some gentle folk call it.

After 15 years in New Zealand, I had managed to avoid any shaking of any kind until today. As I was finishing a blog, I felt the weirdest of sensations. The room went slightly soft focused and bent a little and it felt like someone ( perhaps a giant) was pushing the side of the house while everything in it was resisting. It was short and sharp. By the time I had actually realised what it was and took action, the second one hit – gentler this time. Ignoring all advice I’ve assimilated over the years to ‘Drop, cover and hold’, I grabbed the doodles ( our unconcerned labradoodles) and what seemed essential at the time – my shorts which had been discarded on what was a very very hot Marlborough day .If the house was going down, I was not going to be out and about in my knickers.

However damage was limited to that displayed in the photo below.

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Joking aside, it was a jolt that will stay in my memory . I now know what an earthquake actually feels like ( this one was 5.8 magnitude and not far away). That will hopefully allow me to focus on the right advice and pay less attention to what I’m wearing!

Cheers,

Fi