Some of you may not know that I’m a Kiwi – and one with itchy travelling feet apparently! When growing up, I spent most of my younger years in the Northland region of New Zealand. Northland is at the very top of the North Island of New Zealand and as they say is ‘subtropical’. Nowhere is the sea more than 50kms away. Northland is also where a lot of the country’s wine growing history can be traced back to with the first vines being planted in 1819 in the Bay of Islands.
The Bay of Islands is also where my love for wine started when I got my first job at Cottle Hill Winery in Kerikeri. The reason I got the after-school job when I was 15 was because my parents frequented the cellar door so much. As a result they asked if I’d like to help with some gardening and cleaning which progressed into hand-labelling bottles, cleaning tanks, making platters and helping with netting the vines. The lovely owners, Barb & Mike, are quite possibly the ones to thank for my ‘hobby’.
Enough about me, let’s get back to Northland and it’s grape growing.. In the late 1800’s, many Croatian gumdiggers arrived on the shores of Northland and with them came their European winemaking skills. On my recent trip home, my parents decided to take us to visit one of the wineries closest to them – Longview Estate on State Highway One just out of Whangarei. It was a fabulous experience as we uncovered some absolute gems and so interesting to hear about the Croatian heritage of the Northland winemaking scene seeing as here in the Swan Valley in Western Australia, there is also a strong Croatian contingent. Apparently those who found it too cold in NZ shipped over here to find a warmer climate! I think you’ll find many Kiwis who have moved over here will say the same thing.
The Cellar Door & Vineyard
Okay so Longview sits right beside the highway, which can make it a bit tricky to pull into if you’re not heading north however the traffic definitely doesn’t take away from the beauty of the place.
The vines sit on lushly green rolling hills and in the distance you can see the harbour and mountainous ranges. The estate was established in 1969 by the Vuletich family which makes it the oldest established vineyard in the Northland region.
The cellar door, or ‘Wine Shop’ as the sliding door says is ready and willing for customers. There is a $5 tasting fee per person which is refundable on purchase. A lovely lady took us through our tasting, I think she may be the daughter of the owners. She was really knowledgable and was happy to answer all my crazy questions. At one point during the tasting we were even nearly sold a Dyson vacuum. It was pretty hilarious as who I believe was the owner couldn’t help but come in and tell us about his amazing vacuum. I have to admit, it looked like a good vacuum! You’ve got to love the laidback Kiwi attitude!
The Longview Wines
This is the interesting part. We tried through the entire range, as you do when you have to pay a tasting fee. Longview craft wines from Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec, Syrah, Chardonnay, White Diamond/Niagara and Gewurztraminer.
I loooved the 2012 Barrique Chardonnay which was selling for a steal at $18. Unfortunately they were sold out of the Gewurzt so I’ll have to try that next time/send my tasting team along (I know you’re up for the task Mum & Dad!).
However it was the ‘White Diamond’ wine that caught my attention and I can safely say I have NEVER had a wine like this one before. I had never even heard of the Niagara grape before! After tasting the white diamond and purchasing a bottle for $28 I got straight into the car and started Googling. Oh the excitement! I was on a high all night reading about this new thing in the wine world for me – total wine geek I know!
So… What is White Diamond wine?
I’ll let my tasting note fill you in…
WOW! I love coming across new grape varietals and this one really intrigued me! Introducing the Niagara grape – the leading green grape in the US for table grapes and wine. Let’s just say it was the last thing I was expecting to come across in Northland, New Zealand on my recent trip under the pseudonym White Diamond. Basically my tasting note upon first taste was that it’s like eating a bowl full of grapes. Memories of newly pressed grape juice came to mind alongside definite candied flavours of grape lollies such as tangy grapes & grape starbursts. It’s pastel yellow colour on the eye definitely didn’t prepare me for the intense grapey aromas and tastes of the 2015 White Diamond from Longview Estate. It’s not a world-class wine grape varietal but it definitely will leave a lasting memory on your palate. All opinions are based on my own taste buds”.
After putting up my tasting note across my wine apps and social media channels, it’s safe to say White Diamond has a cult following. I’m sorry for letting out your secret Whangarei, but I’m just so excited about this wine! Check out what the fans & locals are saying about this very unique wine in the comments below this FB post.
My Dad bought a handful of the wines, so when he does crack them I’ll make sure he sends through tasting notes to add to this post too!