Carl Hayes is fizzing. He opened the pop-up wine shop Deco City Cellars in Emerson Street for the summer, and as that ends its stint in the next couple of weeks, he has already launched his new permanent location in Bridge Street, Ahuriri.
I pull up at Cellar Ahuriri late morning on a Wednesday and the place has a sweet hum about it. The store opens up onto the sunny courtyard where the morning coffee drinkers at Miss Brown’s café perch, so there’s a sense of community and activity about the place. The whole front of the wine shop is open to the courtyard, so you walk from the warmth of the sunny seating area into the cool of the deep blue interior and you’re transported into wine-land.
Carl’s background in some of NZ and Melbourne’s most fabulous restaurants has left him well placed for developing his wide-ranging offering of wines and spirits. He’s proud of the fact you won’t find any of these on the supermarket shelves, and he and his team have tasted approximately 95% of the product, so you’re sure to find special wines with personal recommendations.
I’m keen to know how the move to Ahuriri has gone, into something longer-term after the successful summer in town. Carl says there’s been a really friendly welcome from the neighbourhood. “That’s a big difference – people actually live here. There’s a fantastic community and we’re excited to be a part of that.”
Also exciting – the 2021 vintage … “It’s looking amazing, by all accounts,” Carl tells me. And why so early this year? Apparently, it’s because many of the vineyards were pruned earlier than usual last winter, while labour was available and uncertainty was rife, so that’s brought much of the crop forward.
Carl works in with a number of local winemakers and wine personalities too, hosting tastings, taking private wine tours and teaching wine appreciation classes. His world is a world of wine!
So, what’s his personal choice after he knocks off from a day of selling the stuff? On a sunny day right now he’s into the Lamont Dry Riesling from Central Otago. On a rainy day he’s pouring Sam Harrop’s Grand Amateur “Merchant” – a delectable Cabernet Franc. And if there’s special people at the table Carl’s serving up the 2017 Still Point Chardonnay from California.
Wine, Carl muses, makes memories and ties us to places. He tells me about learning about the history of Champagne while he was in Melbourne. “They picked and processed those grapes right through World War Two, as the bombs were dropping, as a community. Children were taught their school lessons in the champagne cellars. It’s terroir, but it’s more than that even. A glass of wine can be a glass of history and of place.”
This is all pretty romantic for a mid-week morning, but what’s wrong with that?! From sunlight into wine-light and then back into sunlight again.
On Wednesday evening Cellar Ahuriri hosted a tasting event with Decibel Wines and Lunatic & Lover Botanical Rum. And I missed it because I wasn’t on the ball. Let’s not make these mistakes. Follow Cellar Ahuriri on Instagram for events, news and competitions. Salut!
Photos: Charlotte Anderson