I'd just walked in the door after dropping the kids at school when Kirk Bray from Georges Road Wines arrived on my doorstep clutching a couple of bottles. There was only one thing for it - I put the kettle on.
Well it was only 9.20am. We agreed it was a bit early to start tasting, but it'd been ages since we'd spoken so we thought it was as good a time as any to catch up over a cuppa. I invited him to sit at the dining table and no sooner did I turn around to sort out the coffee than I almost had a conniption. I'd arrived home very late the previous evening having been away for a few days leaving the husband in charge of the children. The state of the room suddenly became painfully raw.
This open-plan living lark is all very well and good but I could hardly see the floor for the stray socks and tea towels, the dining table was crusted with bits of dried-up rice bubbles, the kitchen sink heaved with dirty dishes, the cupboards were grubby, crumbs had invaded every visible surface and the pantry was so bare I didn't even have a ropey old gingernut to offer him.
But he didn't seem to mind, in fact he seemed blissfully happy just to talk about the growing season from heaven that he's having right now.
"Everything is looking incredibly clean on the vines. This summer has been just amazing for ripening and it's looking pretty solid out there for a good harvest," he said, slurping on his coffee. Compared to this time last year, when winemakers in Canterbury (much like the rest of the country) were tearing out their hair over unseasonably wet and wild conditions - this year has (cross fingers) all the makings of a classic vintage across the board.
Bray's vineyard is in Waipara, New Zealand's fastest growing wine region, a handy 45-minute drive north from Christchurch. He and his wife, Alison, bought the 8ha block in 2003 and, with help from some mates, planted 25,000 vines, comprised of pinot gris, syrah (yes, really) and riesling. He is also sourcing fruit for his pinot noir from a vineyard next door to Black Estate on the main highway.
Does he have employees? No. He is a one-man band, says Bray. "Georges Road is still a pretty small operation and I can pretty much do everything out in the vineyard and in the winery myself, plus it means I can keep my eye and hands on everything, control it, and create the wines to my own standards."
He's on the right track, too.
Ever since tasting my first Georges Road wines two years ago, it was pretty clear that Kirk has talent, something that other local winegrowers seem to have picked up on pretty early.
Notably, Kirk makes the wine for Hennie and Celia Bosman at what used to be Sandihurst Winery, but is now known as True and Daring. It's here, at that facility in West Melton, that Kirk also makes his own wines.
"They have a great setup at True and Daring; loads of capacity, which is good because I bring in around 20 tonnes for Georges Road."
But he's not ruling out maybe one day having his own basic winery on site in Waipara. "It'd be good not to have to move the fruit too far from the vineyard to process - but that's a big investment and the market is still a bit of a struggle."
He's happy to stick to using cork in what's become a screwcap-led market.
"I just think that, for these wines, we've handled them in the most natural way possible from the vineyard, into the winery, used natural, wild yeasts, no fining, and a real 'hands-off' philosophy with everything we do - that cork is a better seal, especially for aromatic varieties designed to age."
And with that I have to ask him to leave. The coffee has run out, I have an appointment to get to and I've also spied cat food stuck to the skirting boards that I need to scrape off before he sees it.
Later that afternoon, when the house is clean and I've calmed down, I open the wines he left, a 2012 riesling and his 2012 pinot gris.
Looking at the bottles, I remembered something I'd meant to ask him. All Georges Road wines have the distinctive image of a key on the label. I'd forgotten to ask why he uses it. Surely it must mean something? So I looked it up on the net, and it turns out the key is actually a personal nod to his time as a winemaker in Germany where he worked full-time having completed his winemaking studies at Lincoln University. This key, which is still on his key ring today, was used to open the sample valve on all the wine tanks.
"Constant sampling and tasting of the wines in the cellar is important for any winemaker," says the introduction on the website. "This key represents Kirk's introduction to a style and philosophy of winemaking that he has used ever since."
Question answered. Now I can't wait to see what he unlocks from this year's harvest.
Georges Road Waipara Pinot Gris 2012, $25
Attractive aromas of pear and peach custard sprinkled with soft spices lead the way to a squeak of sweet, clean fruit that broadens into a luscious, long mouthfeel. The finish is crisp and crunchy and I'd love to try this wine again in another year or two because I'm positive it'll develop into something quite succulent.
Georges Road Block Three Waipara Riesling 2012, $24
I love rieslings like this one that have been fermented with natural yeasts, because they have an extra layer of complexity that really adds to the overall impression.
This snappy, juicy riesling has pure fruit, clean lines of acidity, lovely green apple, citrus and honeysuckle flavours and boasts a delicious, gum-tingling finish.