What a stunning day we had out in the Upper Moutere celebrating the local artisans of the region. The Upper Moutere hills sit in northern tip of the south island, with mountain ranges to the east, south and west, and the Tasman bay to the north. It receives more than 2300 sun hours a year, making it one of -or as we in Nelson believe – THE sunniest region in New Zealand.
One crucial element that defines the area and makes it so special is the soil- clay-bound gravels known as the “moutere gravels”. Dense and naturally infertile, the soil retains the much-needed water throughout the summer and lends a concentrated, textural quality to the wines grown in the area. We also found that is contributes to many other artisan products in the area- mainly cheese, olive oil and mushrooms. It was a thrill to meet these family-run, passionate producers right in their environment.
Our first stop was Neudorf Olives. Owned and run by Jonathon & Susan, they were inviting the moment we drove up- and drove UP we did! from the road their driveway is deceiving- doesn’t look that steep and windy, but we kept going, and going, and finally found ourselves at the top of the hill with amazing views of the sea and Nelson beyond. WOW. They produce only single-grove extra virgin olive oil and it is exquisite. They have 1310 olive trees, planted to Leccino, Frantoio (both italian) and Koroneiki (greek). We tasted them all and truly each one has its own unique flavour & texture. Really worth seeking out or ordering online.
Our next stop down the road was Neudorf Mushrooms, owned by Hannes & Theres. Again, their property is hidden back off the road and allows for stunning sea views. I adore mushrooms, and am thrilled we have a boutique grower in the region. I had tasted their Saffron milk- cap at the farmer’s market- how is it I had never heard of that mushroom before? but now I’m hooked! It is a beautiful saffron colour, and tastes rich and deep. They are the first commercial growers of it in New Zealand, and they’re right in our back yard! (so to speak)- that means more for us…what I’m really excited about, though, is their small “truffiere”. They haven’t had any truffles from it yet, but are staying positive (as am I!).
Next it was on to Neudorf Dairy (seeing a pattern here with “Neudorf”?- all the producers are on Neudorf road I can proudly say we have had every cheese that Neudorf dairy makes- many more than once! Their solely sheep’s milk cheeses are made in the traditional European way, and if you closed your eyes and tasted them, the smell and taste would harken you back to a “fromagerie”… They had a nice mix of hard & soft cheeses for us to sample- I’ll never pass up a cheese tasting! and we took away a small cheese platter to enjoy with our wine at our last stop (whew!) of the day – Neudorf Vineyards.
It’s 1978, and the New Zealand wine industry is almost nonexistent, but Tim & Judy were young and enthusiastic, and thought they’d give it a go! Because so little was know about basic viticulture in New Zealand at that time, they planted a plethora of varietals (think Merlot, Cabernet Sauv., Gewurtz and Muller Thurgeau) to see what would stick. Those mentioned above did not, but what did, and has put them on the wine industry world stage, is their amazing Moutere Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It is that combination of climate & soil type (both mentioned at the beginning) that has given their wines an intense concentration and texture not found in other wines around the country. They, like the other producers we saw, are creating unique and amazingly flavourful products from the land they love, and we are the spoiled (and oh, so lucky) recipients of their work.