There are magical places in this world that haunt you. 5 years ago as a neophyte sommelier in David Bouley’s chaotic world, I met 2 guests who spoke well of New Zealand. It was a great table, one where a lot of priceless info was exchanged. We are still in touch today. They turned me on to Leeuwin Estates “Siblings” Sauv blanc/Semillon from Western Australia which became one of my favorites to pair with Bouley’s benchmark dish “Phyllo Crusted Florida Shrimp, Cape Cod Baby Squid, Cape Cod Sea Scallop, and Sweet Maryland Crab Meat in an Ocean Herbal Broth”. The brisk and briney Jalepeno/pine needle attack of the Siblings matched up perfectly with the freshly sauteed fruits of the sea resting in a luminous, herbal green tide pool.
After many hours of talking, the guests, Derek and Mark, enthusiastically shared the name of a one of a kind resort near the village of Martinborough on the North Island of New Zealand that they said was “magnificent”. Mind you, at the beginning stages of my career, I had visited local wine regions, at best. Here were two well-to-do gents going on about a remote NZ hideaway named Wharekauhau (pronounced Faira-ko-ho). I could merely drool over the sprawling estate as I tuned into the website in 2003 after that dinner service. It was quite a place, Wharekauhau, the kind of lush, pastoral sheep station on the dramatic coast of NZ you dream of after a busy night in a hot, claustrophobic, high pressure Manhattan kitchen like Bouley. I always took a cab home to the UWS to avoid total meltdown at Chambers ST. subway station in my miserable suit. But I never thought I’d see Wharekauhau for real until now, that is.
As we approached the estate, I couldn’t believe my good fortune. It was a place that had been on my mind for years, and now I was going there. Even procuring a flat tire along the rural road couldn’t slow me down for too long. I was determined to get there in one piece. It was truly at the end of the world.
This was a real sheep station, with sheepdogs to prove it, and a nice French girl looking after the joint, named Caroline, thrown in for good measure. It also had nice cozy beds and cottages overlooking Palliser Bay. The views of the green fields sloping to the sea inhabited by sheep were pastoral and quietly bucolic. An exquisite place to drink nice sparkling wines from Daniel Le Brun, Deutz’s local Marlborough branch, Pelorus from Cloudy Bay, and top-notch, free standing Allan Scott.