A walk through Hans and Theresa Herzog's meticulously tended Wairau vineyard is akin to a stroll in paradise. Lofty green mountains hover above the fruited vineyard that recalls both the Garden of Eden and the idyll expressed on a Watteau canvas. Without seeming out of step, the Herzogs' Mahara Winery combines the best of the natural world with the civility and comfort of old world charm. Located at the end of Jeffries Lane in one of Marlborough's more temperate locales, the Mahara Winery is simply the finest vineyard in Marlborough, and more; it is, also, New Zealand's best restaurant.
Unquestionably, Hans Herzog is the maestro behind the artistry at this exceptional estate. Descended from one of Switzerland's most renowned families (not to be confused with the Baron Herzog label, purveyors of inexpensive kosher wines, who sadly have blocked Hans Herzog from ever selling wine in the United States again under his rightful name. Hans Herzog's family has proudly carried their surname for more than 500 years, but the Baron Herzog group has recently claimed legal right to the Herzog brand name under US law and they are preventing Hans Herzog from using his name on the label. The Mahara Winery was formerly known as Herzog. What is truly ironic in all this is that Hans Herzog is the real baron. So much for justice!)
Hans Herzog was once the proprietor of Zurich's most fashionable restaurant. Today, he and his wife Therese hold court at the small intimate restaurant on the Mahara property, which is actually part of their home. However, this is no rustic little affair. The Herzog Luxury Restaurant is an impeccably appointed temple of gastronomy that serves artfully prepared cuisine and equally impressive wines. This is the place to dine in New Zealand. "An epicurean heaven," is how one critic described the Herzog restaurant. And "I really can't recommend the restaurant too highly... without a doubt it offers the finest dining in New Zealand," is how Wine and Food critic James Halliday describes it. And then there is the wine.
Hans Herzog is a master in the cellar as well as in the kitchen. His small, impeccably clean and well-appointed winery draws attention to its master. In fact, the Mahara Winery resembles more the atelier of an artist or master craftsman than it does a modern winery; testimony to the very hands on approach Hans takes to his wines and the passion with which he approaches wine - his labor of love.
An experienced wine maker, Hans Herzog has made wine for nearly thirty-five years. He is renowned for practicing only sustainable methods of viticulture and intentionally limiting vineyard yields, which are purported to be the lowest per vine in Marlborough. His high-density planted vineyard comprises only ten hectares (22 acres), but is packed with nine different varietals: Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Viognier, Montepulciano, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. In all, six different wines are made at Mahara, and each is more intense and profound than the next. However, the estate's meritage blend Spirit of Marlborough is, perhaps, the best known internationally. It is neither fined nor filtered and is the equal of many a great Pomerol.