Wine Club Newsletter - April 2020
A Very Special Visit: Kumeu River Winery
In 2006, we took a group of wine lovers on a tour of New Zealand, and fell in love with the people, the land, and the wines on both the North and South Islands. One winery I had hoped to visit the was Kumeu River, for I had their stunning Chardonnay’s back in the states, which I found to be sublime and of exceptional quality and character.
Our group did not go to Kumeu River Winery, as it was further north than the Hawkes Bay wineries we were scheduled to visit, but I had planned on visiting Kumeu River after the tour whilst we were awaiting departure from Auckland back to the states. We took the drive, and upon arriving, we discovered the winery was closed on that day of the week. SHOOT!
Ratchet ahead ten years, and we are making a return trip to New Zealand, this time with two groups of traveling wine lovers, and we were there for a full month. We focused on Hawkes Bay, Marlborough and Queenstown areas to take our guests, but I had definitely made time after the tours to go see Kumeu River (up closer to Auckland) on a day they were open.
Our last tour group finished in Auckland, and before some friends were departing that afternoon, we decided to lunch together at a fine dining restaurant overlooking the water. After lunch, Lori and I were due to drive East to the coast. We planned on staying at a Bed & Breakfast overlooking Karekare beach. It is a beautiful, vast, black sand beach that was in the opening scene of the 1993 movie “The Piano”.
Fate had different plans . . . at lunch, while taking a bite of duck, the meat became lodged in my esophagus, which sometimes happens to me if I am under stress or have eaten something I am allergic too. Generally, a gulp of something fizzy and acidic, such as Diet Coke, will send the object down the hatch.
I struggled in the Men’s room in the restaurant for nearly an hour, trying to force the Diet Coke down, but it would just come back up, alas, without any duck meat. Our lunch partner is a well-noted Gastroenterologist, who did what he could to help, and finally told me I should go to the Auckland hospital for removal of the object.
This meant Lori had to drive me there, while I am under duress, and people drive on the opposite side of the road, adding to Lori’s discomfort. After a couple of “Uh-Oh” moments in the heart of the big city, we make it to the hospital. As soon as appropriate, I convey to the nurse that we would very much like to be out of there before dark, as we did not want to be driving in a foreign land, other side of the road, out in the middle of nowhere.
Long story short, they kept me overnight because they had to stitch up my esophagus, torn because of my violent and extensive retching. Poor Lori, stressed because of my condition, could not find a place to stay overnight. Many New Zealanders fled north from the earthquake at Christchurch a few days prior, fearing another aftershock, and filling all hotel rooms.
Amazingly, she contacted some of our fellow travelers to get the name of the B&B they stayed at in Auckland. Lori called, they were full, but had a friend who could put her up for the night. She taxied over, and came back the next morning to get me.
I had a noon appointment with Paul Brajkovich, co-owner of Kumeu River Winery. I did NOT want to miss them this time, so I made sure I was out of there in time to get to the winery, which was definitely not easy to do as per the nature of my case.
An interesting side note, the overnight stay, the operation to remove the obstacle and all other occurrences was billed in the range of $2,000. In the United States, it may have been up to ten times that. And to our delight, the hospital invoice was covered by their government!
Got to the winery right at noon, met Paul, took a brief tour, and got right into tasting his incredible Chardonnays. Ten of them to be exact, including a 2006 “Mates” Vineyard, which tasted fresh, complex, exciting!
A few years back, Kumeu River Chardonnays were entered into a blind tasting in France, pitted against other top-notch White Burgundy wines. Every one of the Kumeu River Chardonnay wines placed first! I think they are some of the greatest made anywhere on the planet. In fact, in 2017, Kumeu River was nominated for New World Winery of the Year by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
On the left is Paul with all the wines he poured for Lori and I during our visit to Kumeu River. I wanted him to smile big, so I said “Just think, one hour ago I was in a hospital gown with my derriere exposed.” The picture on the right Lori took after our visit to the winery, enjoying one of the great Chardonnays Paul sent with us to unwind at the Karekare Beach B&B. What a DAY!