All aboard the Chardonnay Express
It was a simple concept. Raise the profile of Gisborne’s flavoursome barrel-fermented chardonnays by serving eight wines, each with a carefully chosen food match, on a 120-year-old steam locomotive as it puffed through the Gisborne countryside.
They had the locomotive, a Dixieland band and the support of the Gisborne Classic Chardonnay Group. They needed people. No problem, Air New Zealand agreed to lay on charter aircraft from Auckland and Wellington as well as vigorously promote the event.
Of course, there was the odd hiccup. Just before the tickets went on sale an official discovered that the railway bridge needed strengthening at a cost of NZD $200,000. With the help of the local council, the necessary funds were raised and the project got back on track.
And so, on Labour Day weekend as the sun shone and the band played we all boarded the train. I estimate that there were around one hundred passengers. Our journey was short and scenic. Four wines, each matched with a separate tasty dish on the outward journey, four wines with four more dishes on the return journey and a one-hour stop at Muriwai for a social sipping session.
The wines will appear on my website at a later stage but my favourite was Matawhero 2016 Irwin Chardonnay, which I’d previously reviewed.
The outing was such a success that plans are afoot to make it a regular event.