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Wine Country

Cityscape enjoys some top-down fun prowling the Waipara vineyards in Mercedes’ sexy new addition to their convertible line, the peerless C200 Cabriolet.

Our stealthy glide through the Jurassic Park-proportioned and elaborate wrought-iron gates of Pegasus Bay Winery sees all eyes on Mercedes’ newly-minted C200 Cabriolet, despite fierce competition from the line-up of European lux vehicles glistening in the midday autumn sunshine in the car park of the Waipara wine region’s heavy-hitter.

It’s little wonder; practically predatory with its sleek, low slung and aggressive stance, the C200 exudes the edgy, barely-veiled menace and agile grace of a panther ready to pounce, although I could be biased, having been effortlessly seduced by the vehicle in our drive up from Lyttelton.

C300 Cab 4407

Convertibles on the open road are generally a windy and noisy affair, but not so the C200. Dynamic and cutting-edge styling converge with some aerodynamic genius, especially when the AirCap buffer above the windscreen and rear air deflector are engaged. If I really concentrate, I can feel the wind gently teasing my hair (I think), with the top down doing 100km/h on State Highway 1 – but that could be the cunning addition of the AirScarf system caressing the back of my neck with warm air. Combine this with heated seats, and you have a convertible for all seasons. What’s more, we don’t have to have K.Flay jacked to the ceiling when our favourite tracks come on to hear them, with the 5 Loudspeakers suitably pimped out with FrontBass.

Back in the car park, looks alternate between envy and awe; we’re getting used to them, having already stopped at Amberley’s Nor’Wester Café for a heart-starting, precision-crafted Allpress Espresso sipped under the dappled sunlight of the spiky leaved giant palm, from where we can spot rubbernecking passers-by taking many a second (and third) look. Indeed, it’s an eye-catching display of inimitable beauty – dazzling jet black and shining chrome exterior melds with buttery cream leather seating and brushed aluminium featured across the futuristic dash.

I can’t help myself and also give it a second look, over my shoulder, as we make our way to the winery homestead’s towering pink turret, almost expecting to see a shiver of anticipation ripple through its lustrous, metallic black body.

TastingRoom128

The first tasting is a given; the Sauvignon Semillon is a perennial favourite, and on a semi-summer top-down day like today, it’s a perfect sipper in the rustic, wooden and delightfully anachronistic surrounds of Pegasus Bay’s refined cellar door. We move onto their game-changing Gewürztraminer, teasingly exotic on the nose with pawpaw and laced with a gingery warmth on the palate and a refreshingly dry finish that is deemed boot-worthy. While I pull the pin, my partner in crime works through some reds, settling on the dark cherry elegance of the Pinot Noir.

It feels good to be back behind the wheel, where intuitive handling joins a well-thought out cockpit and everything is within reach. Paddle shifters allow you to take things into your own hands, but the 9G-TRONIC transmission is seamless, so I let the vehicle do its own thing. I’m also easily won over by the tightly-wound 2.0-litre, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, which takes us from a gentle purr to a throaty roar when I put my foot down, turning our wine trail road trip into a hunt as we prowl the vineyard roads.

WH CellarDoor Courtyard

It’s still a cracker of a day when Waipara Hills’ iconic roadside building comes into view and, basking in the afternoon sun in the landscaped garden and overlooking the endless rows of vines, we enjoy the epitome of a Euro-style alfresco vineyard lunch. We devour a baguette featuring an eye-rollingly good spiced prune fromage, a dreamy and indulgent combination brought home with the addition of the slightly sweet onion jam, which is gently cajoled into submission by the delicate acid profile of the multi-award winning Equinox Riesling.

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Several wineries are still on our hit list, so it’s on to mains and the precision pairing of a delicate, fluffy gnocchi with the moreish hum of chorizo, tangy preserved lemon, crunchy pine nuts and sharp parmesan. This masterpiece is sublimely matched to the stone fruit freshness and mineral tingle of the Equinox Sauvignon Blanc. Similarly inspired is the comfort on a plate that is the beef ragout, which is bolstered by earthy mushroom and tossed through fresh pappardelle, and has its own elegant suitor in the devilishly enticing Equinox Pinot Noir, which is resplendent with soft tannins and sun-warmed red berries.

Both wines make it to our boot, which is surprisingly spacious giving the elaborate folding roof mechanisation, with room for several cases more.

Vehicle supplied by Armstrong Prestige (mbchristchurch.co.nz)
Pegasus Bay Winery (pegasusbay.com)
Waipara Hills (waiparahillswines.co.nz)
Nor’Wester Café (norwestercafe.co.nz)

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