Well, what can I say – when in Otago, try as many wines as you possibly can. Especially the pinot noir. And of course, true to this motto, I just had to fit in a few wineries on my last visit to New Zealand. First stop: Two Paddocks in Central Otago. Well, easier said than done…
In search of the source: Two Paddocks HQ
Someone famously said that if you indeed managed to find this place, you definitely deserved a glass of their wine, alluding to its location slightly off the beaten track. That someone is Sam Neill, the proprietor of the Two Paddocks business, whose name you probably associate more with scaring the bejeezus out of you in Event Horizon than a mouthwatering pinot noir from Central Otago. Ah well, how things can change in a couple of hours!
And we were certainly not disappointed upon arrival… eventually, after following directions that involved waypoints such as a lake, a dam, a red bridge, a green post box, a disused gold mine… followed by a right turn after 3km. I am getting carried away, but it was rather obscure. The friendly farmers we asked for directions somewhere outside of Alexandra did not exactly help either, stating with a rather cheeky expression on their faces:
“If you go that way, you’ll end up in Southland!”
Well, you do not want to go there, they seemed to be suggesting. Of course the curious waypoints all made sense once we had reached our destination after a few detours, but to this day I am not quite sure where we had gone wrong; it must have been the pub in the village Clyde.
How Two Paddocks started
Back at Two Paddocks, Jenny, the uber-friendly office manager had opened the cellar door for us and was eager to talk wine… and pour it.
So whilst the wine was flowing, Jenny explained about the history of Two Paddocks. As a business, Two Paddocks now own four vineyards, but it all started with the original vineyard that lends the company its name. Two Paddocks, located in Gibbston, was started in 1993, and produced its first vintage in 1997. In 1998, the 7-acre vineyard Alex Paddocks near Alexandra was acquired, and two years later, Redbank joined the family, a 130-acre farm in the Earnscleugh Valley, which to date is established as the company’s headquarters.
Redbank, however is not only the biggest of the vineyards. Being the official HQ, it also features the tasting room, and even more interestingly, used to be a research station for crop and food, and for that reason still carries on the tradition of growing medicinal and culinary herbs such as lavender, saffron and Echinacea, amongst others.
And last but not least, just this year, a fourth vineyard by the name of Desert Heart was acquired, this time near Bannockburn in the Cromwell region of Otago.
Now onto the wines…
Two Paddocks is not only the name of the company and the first vineyard, it is also the label of the flagship wine. Picnic is a lighter wine, from the easy drinking range. The top pinot noir, Two Paddocks Pinot Noir, is the result of the best grapes from all vineyards, whilst Picnic Pinot Noir is the more affordable version. Aside from pinot noir, there is also Picnic Riesling, which is grown at the Redbank vineyard and very good value for money.
There are also the even more deluxe pinots produced from single vineyards in certain years: Two Paddocks The Last Chance Pinot Noir comes from the Last Chance vineyard in Alexandra (and the 2002 first vintage is said to be top), whilst Two Paddocks First Paddock Pinot Noir is from the very first vineyard at Gibbston.
My verdict? Excellent. Absolutely gorgeous. O for awesome! I am no wino, and thus viticulturally challenged from a vocabulary perspective. But I sure know when a wine is good, and this one certainly is. And although I went there for the pinot noir, I made friends with the Riesling as well.
Where to buy Two Paddocks wines
So, how can you get your hands on one of these delicious but rare wines? You have two options: if you’re not in New Zealand, but in one of those select few locations, you may count yourself lucky and beg a distributor for a bottle or two. Or you might brave it and try to find your way to the source, the tasting room somewhere in Central Otago.
Or you could try the Two Paddocks online shop and order to your heart’s content (or as long as stock lasts, more likely). But don’t spread the word just yet, I need to put in my order first. 🙂