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QTMAGAZINE WINTER 2018
QTMAGAZINE WINTER 2018
A moist chill clings to the autumn
air in the Gibbston valley. The
early morning mist is rolling back
from rows of exhausted vines still
clothed in bedraggled rags of
rust and gold, all they have left
after producing one of the most
generous harvests in the valley’s
37-year grape growing history.
A group of overseas visitors has stopped for
photographs, attracted by the colours but blissfully
unaware of the drama that has played out on this
patch of land in the preceding months.
The winemaking year does indeed have all the
elements of dramatic theatre – conflict, emotions,
action, pathos, humour, tragedy – and sometimes
a happy ending. It’s a three-act play (Spring,
Summer, Autumn) where the actors perform on an
open-air stage exposed to the fickleness of climate
and the audience is often left guessing long after
the final curtain.
The real stars of this show are the vines themselves.
In Gibbston’s case some of them are seasoned
performers, commanding this stage for more than
30 years, giving their all for a growing international
audience. In the end though, they are only as good
as the supporting cast – the viticulturists and back
stage teams who coax and flatter, pandering to the
every need of their leading actors.
There’s a new script every year but often it has
to be re-written so cast and director have to
improvise. Winter is the down season when
broken props are fixed and the stage is set for
a new opening in spring. But there is little time
for rehearsal and the performers will have to
rely on stagecraft to carry them through many
uncertainties as the plot unfolds.
In theatrical terms the 2018 growing season and
ensuing vintage ran the gamut of dramatic genres.
Acts I and II were pure musical, uplifting and
heart warming with soaring melodies and feel-
good lyrics. By the end of January the region had
recorded the hottest and driest summer on record.
But while a box office bonanza was predicted there
was growing concern about the stress beginning
to show among the key players. If the intense heat
continued without the balancing influence of cool
nights, there was a good chance the fruit would
not reach physiological ripeness.This was rapidly
becoming a suspense thriller.
Then at the beginning of February, towards the end
of Act II enter the hero, initially cleverly disguised
as the villain, and the plot took an unexpected
twist. It rained. The special effects man delivered a
spectacular 140mls (nearly three months rainfall) in
just seven days. Normally this would have meant
disaster and the cheerful musical could have ended
as dark tragedy. But the rain cooled the temperatures,
soaked the parched ground and revived the stressed
vines without causing any damage.
Act III saw one of the earliest harvests on record
and a bumper crop for the region. It seemed this
drama would after all, have a happy ending. But
wait. Before the final curtain can come down
there’s an Epilogue, and that’s happening right
now, off stage, in the wineries. Is there a final twist
Kouzina QT May ƒ.indd 1
7/5/18 9:30 PM
By Wine Writer
and Wine Producer
The Bunker’s head chef and Kiwi
born co-owner Ben Norfolk has
revealed a diverse new winter menu
centring on the restaurant’s traditional
“ Kiwiana” roots.
The restaurant has occupied a hidden spot on
Cow Lane since 1997 and Ben says the new menu
maintains the focus on locally sourced produce.
“Food is getting very high tech at the moment and
I’m down with that, but this menu has a strong
Kiwiana influence with traditional ingredients
like paua, wild boar, Fiordland venison and lamb
from Provenance – a high-quality, ethical company
which only supplies two restaurants in town.”
“The Bunker is about true New Zealand fine dining
and I don’t want to change that,” he says. “I want
to use the best New Zealand ingredients to create
something that’s different. From simple mussels
to sexy snapper – we’ll mix it up with surprising
elements like squid purée and dehydrated kimchi.”
“I think our menu’s Taste of the South degustation
option is the real highlight, it’s great value for what
you get and is matched with fine New Zealand wines
again, focusing on high-quality, local choices.”
Ben was The Bunker ’s head chef between 2009 and
2011 before leaving to work in Australia, gaining
experience in Vietnamese and Asian-fusion cuisine.
He jumped at the chance to return two years ago
to take a partnership in the business and says he
“wouldn’t have come back to Queenstown for any
“The Bunker offers intimate dining with only 30 seats
in the main restaurant and a small, private dining
room upstairs so we’ve got time to really care for
our diners. The atmosphere is warm and inviting
with fireside dining and lots of personal attention.
The team are so passionate about hospitality and
creating great food. It’s like a playground – there’s
nowhere else in the world where you can really play
and make the menu yours.”
Upstairs at The Bunker
An elegant cocktail bar above The Bunker
is designed to extend the hospitality of
the restaurant. Upstairs at The Bunker has
a similar décor to the restaurant, a cosy
fireplace, intimate seating areas and a
sophisticated yet relaxed ambience.
“The cocktail bar works so well with the
restaurant,” says co-owner Ben Norfolk.
“Because we’re hidden, the restaurant
and bar are a bit of a local’s secret.
People love to come here for a chilled
drink. The bar team have amazing
passion for what they do and they’re
constantly updating the cocktail menu
with new creations and designs. There’s
also live music on Thursday and Friday
nights which adds to the atmosphere.”
By Bethany Rogers
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