I couldn't resist stopping by.
Now when I went on a quick trip to visit family in Whangarei I told myself I had no time to visit any wineries, but like any passion, sometimes you just cannot resist.
As I made the final approach to Whangarei after a long drive from the Hawke's Bay, I almost turned into the vineyard driveway on instinct as soon as I spotted the rows of vines growing just off the main highway.
I had to restrain myself but made a mental note to come back and investigate as soon as I could.
The very next day I found myself with a spare few hours and after traipsing around the city centre for a short time I decided there was no alternative, I would have to at least check out ONE winery during my very short stay in Northland.
Just 5 or so minutes from the edge of Whangarei, Longview is an easy one to get to, and as soon as you reach the top of the drive and park your car you know exactly why they named this place 'Longview'.
This picturesque vista has a wide panoramic view over Whangarei Harbour, including Limestone Island in the foreground and the looming Whangarei Heads in the background.
My wine tasting began in a small converted room at the bottom of the family house labelled "wine sales".
I had the great fortune of having the daughter of the current owner (the daughter's name was Maree) as my host for the tasting.
Now Longview has been around since 1969 and now spans 3 generations of the Vuletich family with Maree's brother often taking the winemaking role when not overseas or working on his new cider side business.
It was clear that Longview focused on Chardonnay as the first three wines I tried were in order :
Chardonnay/Gewürztraminer 2012 (mostly Chardonnay), Chardonnay Barrique 2012 and Chardonnay Unoaked 2011. All the Chardonnay had impressive texture, and weight to them with bright fruit flavours, with the Barrique being still so young as to being mostly fruit focused.
The reds were more for me. Merlot 2010, Malbec-Merlot 2012 (Just released) and Maree's Malbec 2010 (named for my tasting host). The Malbec 2010 was the pick of the bunch, these northerly Malbecs are always surprising me and even at just 12.5% alcohol it's still a nice grunty example of the varietal.
The last two were interesting. We finished finally with a rather standard Sweet Tawny Port (think 18% and lots of caramel notes). However the second to last wine definitely had me curious.
What was the variety of this wine? It's called White Diamond. Now many of you may think this is a blend name or made up, but no this is an actual variety of grape. The big difference is it is a completely different species.
All traditional wine grapes belong to the Vitis Vinifera species of grape vine. White Diamond however is a grape variety produced by crossing Concord and Iona grapes (which are both cultivars) and belong to the Vitis Labrusca species.
This White Diamond made from non 'wine' grapes was a sweeter styled, light wine, similar in some way to some of the Muscat varieties you see around but with a distinct aroma which many call "foxy" (Vitis Labrusca is sometimes called fox grape) or "musky". The smell is much like smelling a ripe bunch of fresh table grapes and this same musk or slightly rough texture also come through on the palate.