Through the Cellar Door

Step into my Bodega.

My name is Shaughn Jenkins.
I'm a New Zealand Wine Professional.
Come and join me to learn about the wide world of wine!
 

Church Road - Taradale, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand

January 2014

A tour of absolute delight.

The secret entrance to an absolute gem of the New Zealand wine industry.

The secret entrance to an absolute gem of the New Zealand wine industry.

Now I knew Church Road Winery in sunny Taradale had a wonderful reputation wine-wise but I had no idea that when I made the sudden decision to take their winery tour, that it would be one of the best experiences I had ever had in wine.
We were a small group (which by complete co-incidence consisted of myself. an old acquaintance from high school and her family).
The tour operator Lyndsey was an absolute delight, knowledgeable and approachable she gave us all the details we could ever ask for as we moved through the winery and surrounds.
We entered a room that contained many Oak Cuves (some 7,000 litres others 18,000 litres) which were absolutely stunning.

18,000 litre Cuves with barrels set up for the tasting after the tour.

18,000 litre Cuves with barrels set up for the tasting after the tour.

The history of Church Road is astounding, with it now being the third oldest still operating vineyard in the country.
Church Road itself was first planted in 1897 though the area had already been planted since 1851 by the Catholic Church.
The business had changed hands and names several times over the past 117 years and in order to help you understand that, the tour also includes a museum on the company and a look into the old cellar which is now just a place of interest and mostly used for events like weddings.

The front of the Tom McDonald Cellar.

The front of the Tom McDonald Cellar.

Inside the cellar. Light was poor but the acoustics were amazing.

Inside the cellar. Light was poor but the acoustics were amazing.

Now the Museum was a complete surprise to me, if you are expecting a gift shop style room with a few newspaper clippings, old photographs and perhaps the occasional vintage bottle of wine you could not be more wrong.
While yes, those things were included, there was so much more to this museum.
Some clever individual decided to build the museum when they couldn't afford to demolish the old concrete tanks. Cutting open the sides separating the subterranean tanks and fashioning archways and halls connecting the all together, each tank a room full of treasures and little pieces of Church Road's history.

Included in the museum were re-creations of the old vineyard and winery equipment, a cork tree, and ancient wine-related pottery from around the world. There was also an old cellar containing ancient (probably awful by now) bottles of wine from some of their earliest vintages as well as mock-ups and displays of each step in the winemaking process at various points in time.
These displays came complete with intricately detailed mannequins, each based on particular people in Church Road's Story.

Whoever made the mannequins really did an amazing job, complete with bushy moustache and cigarette.

Whoever made the mannequins really did an amazing job, complete with bushy moustache and cigarette.

Once the tour concluded our group tried a small selection of wines (just 4 this time) and one of the unique wines made by Church Road (Marzemino) which was meant to be on the list. It was not included today, however since it was supposed to be, our host said we all must come and taste it back at the cellar door once we returned there.
It was worth the wait. The 2010 Church Road McDonald Series Marzemino was an absolute triumph. I purchased a bottle for myself. Once the other guests had left I was allowed to try a few more wines, including Verdelho (rare in New Zealand but which I have had a lot of involvement with) as well as two wines from their Grand Reserve tier of wines. These were the Grand Reserve Barrel Fermented Sauvignon Blanc 2011 and the Grand Reserve Chardonnay 2012. With nearly a year of maturation inside French oak before release the Chardonnay was a powerful beast for it's young age and it struck a chord with me. I believe I shall return another day, purchase a bottle and cellar it away for a good few years.


Value for money: $15 for a tour which includes a tasting at the end. I spent nearly two hours all up with the extended tour and extra tastings so incredible value.
Tour: One of a kind. The history, the knowledge, the unique cellar and museum all well presented and open to any and all questions. Would go a dozen more times. Twice daily. 11am - 3pm
Tasting: four wines seemed small at first (though I understand it is for the interest of time) however the extended tasting they were more than willing to do made the experience very special. Absolutely superb wines.

Final Verdict: A must-see. If you head to Church Road you simply must take the tour. The experience is something I will remember for a very long time to come.