Lori and I spent a week in England in December. One of those business/vacation trips, which ended up being great. We were staying in a small town, Thame, which is near Oxford, and is where my day job company is located. Two days Lori took the train into London, with me joining her there in the evening. One of those evenings was a theater evening (Billy Elliot), while the second was to meet with friends that we hadn’t seen in a number of years. After wandering around a Christmas market near the Millennium Bridge, we went to the OXO Tower Restaurant (only 8 floors up to the top of the tower, but still a pretty good view overlooking the Thames River and London).
The restaurant has a very good reputation. The food was very good, and the service was excellent, except for the sommelier. After looking through the wine list I found a bottle of Te Whare Ra 2010 Syrah, from Marlborough, New Zealand. The sommelier tried a couple of times to talk me out of this bottle, suggesting both South African Syrah and Australian Shiraz as alternatives with bigger, bolder flavors. But I didn’t want that – didn’t want bigger, bolder Syrah with the mix of meals we were getting – and I did want the Te Whare Ra bottle.
When we visited New Zealand in 2005, and visited the Marlborough area where Winemaker B and then-fiance-now-wife Kim were spending 6 months (Winemaker B’s first post-UC Davis graduation job was in Marlborough), our favorite winery was Te Whare Ra. The name is pronounced Tea Far-ee Ra, and means house of the sun in Maori. There was a young couple running the place; I seem to remember twins about 1 year old at the time.
This couple really knew what they were doing around wine. They made the standard crisp Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, but also made a Gewürztraminer that we all loved. I don’t remember much about red wines, but anyone that can make a good Gewürztraminer can make almost anything. That was proved out with the 2010 Syrah. Not so big and bold, but lighter, smooth with a good balance between fruit and acids. It went great with our dinners.
Wine is about people and place and time, as well as about the wine itself and the food being enjoyed with the wine. This was a reminder of New Zealand 10 years ago, and now has a place in our memory with our friends Chris and Catherine with whom we enjoyed this wonderful bottle and meal.