10 November 2007

Ascension Vineyard - The Parable Pinotage

My first day in New Zealand and I’m having lunch with a glass of Pinotage made from grapes grown on the neat rows of vines I can see on the low slope rising up from the edge of the winery restaurant. (picture: Peter May, right in the vineyard with owner Darryl Soljan)

I arrived just before midnight, fourteen hours previously after a door to door journey of 29½ hours, most of which was on an aeroplane.

I’m with Sue Courtney, publisher of http://www.wineoftheweek.com/ and wine and food writer for the Rodney Times newspaper, and we’re dining at the Oak Grill restaurant of Ascension Vineyard which Sue is reviewing for her paper. The newly themed restaurant aims to bring the vineyard into the kitchen by grilling food over wine soaked oak chips cut from old wine barrels, and the mouthwatering smell of charcoal barbequed meats is in the air as we climb out of Sue’s bright yellow MGTF convertible.

Each dish has a recommended wine, and by co-incidence our choices each suggest Ascension’s ‘The Parable’ Pinotage. Sue has gone for grilled lamb steaks in Moroccan spices, I’ve picked a lighter choice of wild hare pie.

The sun is bright, it’s war, the sky is clear blue, I’m lunching in a winery restaurant and there’s a glass of Pinotage in my hand. It doesn’t get much better.

Ascension Vineyard ‘The Parable’ Pinotage 2006

The red colour has a purple tinge, the wine is medium bodied with dominant cherry flavours, there’s a lot of fruit and while it has had spent nine months in oak barrels (50% French 50% and American “to give it a lift”, a third each new, first and second fill) the oaking is subtle, giving some underpinning structure. Sue detects some leather, but I don’t; I think it is an enjoyable fruit-led wine and order another glass. The meaning of the ‘Parable’ name is explained on the back label as ‘placing two or more objects together and biblically “and earthly story with a heavenly meaning”’

A youngish man has been clearing tables of dirty plates; he’s not in the waiters’ black uniform but wearing a t-shirt and jeans and I assume he’s been brought in to help out as the restaurant is packed on this lovely Saturday. But when we’ve finished our meal he comes over, holding a bottle, and greets us. It is the winery owner, Darryl Soljan and he’s brought a bottle of the 2000 Pinotage, which was the very first wine released by Ascension and made from the Pinotage vineyard which they planted in 1996.

Ascension Vineyard Pinotage 2000 13% abv

Pale red colour that is browning. Light bodied, soft cherry flavours reminiscent of an old Pinot Noir, but with a sweetness on the finish. Very attractive, soft gentle wine. The characteristic Pinotage sweetness makes this wine, but it is probably passed it’s peak and should be enjoyed soon.

Ascension Vineyard is in the Matakana wine region, a short drive north of Auckland.


  1. Anonymous18:11

    Hi Peter, It's an MGTF-120, not an MGB. I couldn't drive a car without power steering!!
    It was really neat to be able to take you around my 'patch'.

  2. OK, corrected. Nice car :)