Adventures in Christchurch
After departing Central Otago we headed to North Canterbury for a series of regional tastings as well as time in the city of Christchurch. Christchurch has been embattled by a series of severe earthquakes and this summer (it’s summer for them now) horrible wildfires as well. In 2011 the area was hit with a 6.3 earthquake that caused damage the region is still recovering from. This late 2016 brought a 7.8 earthquake just outside the area. The more serious damage and loss of life occurred in the 2011 quake, which caused buildings throughout the city to collapse. New buildings codes have since been instituted that require structures to be built to survive tremors rated up to 9 on the Richter scale. As a result, Christchurch today has the safest buildings in the world. Even so, the city is still recovering.
Walking downtown empty lots dot the landscape. Most today have been filled with art installations to make the lots into interactive space. One of the coolest examples was an outdoor public dance floor complete with surround sound speakers, dance lights, and a disco ball. For a $2 coin anyone can plug in their ipod or phone to play 30 minutes of music. Daniel Toral, David Keck, Jamie Goode and I spent an evening wandering the city and busted into a full session on the dance floor (shown above). (From what I can tell, we’re all horrible dancers but dang was it fun.)
Traveling the world of wine it’s fun to find new hangouts in other countries. They become a sort of comfort in the midst of so much change. Shop Eight in downtown Christchurch was one of those places – it felt great to hang out and it was easy to feel at home with the menu even in seeing unusual offerings. The food selection features a seasonal menu of small plates with a range of local produce, seafoods and meats meant to pair well with her eclectic-while-tasty menu of wines and beers. We had a great time exploring around the menu.
After selecting our wines we asked the server to go ahead and bring us her favorite food options. The wine menu has a focus on freshness with an array of options from the quirky side. They’re wines that bridge the gap between wine and beer lovers, which I find refreshing in the right circumstances.
The Naturalist 2016 sparkling wine from Cambridge Road was our first wine of the evening. Cambridge Road makes fantastic Pinot noir from the Martinborough region on the North island (some of my stand out wines from the trip), as well as Syrah, and then also plays with more experimental projects exploring vinification with low sulfur and lower intervention sparkling wine methods. The Naturalist was one such example – a refreshing and delicious, savory methode ancestrale sparkling wine made of equal portions Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc. It relies on wild fermentation and no added sulfur, and while the wine is certainly wild in the glass with sediment and textural density, it is also clean without worry of being pristine. It’s one of those bridge the gap wines that reaches towards the advantages of beer without going rogue into unbearable faults. It hits more at a level like spending several days camping on the beach with an outdoor shower, rather than either living in a germ free clean room of formica and steel on the one hand, or falling into a swamp with poor drainage or little water flow on the other. It also comes in at only 11.5% alcohol. Super easy to drink.
The Black Star 2016 Field Blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer from Waitaki Valley fruit made by Theo Coles goes a bit farther with the camping metaphor. It’s more like you’ve been camping on that same beach for several days with an outdoor shower and are now coming down from that handful of shrooms you ate this afternoon. The lights are still bright so that sunset is killing it but it’s also giving you way more feels than you have usually, your stomach is a little more sensitive and you’re not really ready to eat yet. Even so, you’re there to drink it in and enjoy it. The cofermented varieties certainly create some of what’s unusual about this wine but it’s also just meant to be funky without going full microbial. It’s made without sulfur and drinks well with a bit of chill on it.
After leaving Shop Eight we wandered around the city and found our way to an incredible playground that’s been built since the devastating 2011 earthquake, the Margaret Mahy. It’s an incredible installation with loads of fun for kids of all ages. The four of us had a great time running up and back down slides, racing on ziplines and not-quite peeing ourselves on a series of buried trampolines. Then we wandered down the road to the late night beer garden and drank a beer.
Christchurch is experiencing devastating wildfires right now. The 2016 earthquakes gratefully did far less damage to the city than those in 2011 but the coastline was seriously hit with many communities getting hampered by road loss from the heaving effect of the tremors. The fires now come at a difficult time when people were just recovering from structural damage. It’s a beautiful and special region full of utterly genuine and somehow gentle people. I hope the fires ease quickly and that people stay safe. I’m grateful for such a fun night in their city.
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