Category Archives: New Zealand

Fool Bordeaux Lovers with These Wines (Hint: They Hail from NZ)

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Bordeaux of the Southern Hemisphere:

An Overview of Hawke’s Bay, NZ

The best way to understand a wine is to meet its maker and step foot on its home turf; only then can one grasp the essence of its identity derived from the place in which it was borne. To this end, I spent a few days in Hawke’s Bay, situated midway along the East coast of the North Island of New Zealand. Aside from Waiheke Island, 30 minutes from Auckland by boat, Hawke’s Bay is the only other New Zealand wine region focused on making high-quality red wines from grapes other than Pinot Noir.

Acclaimed wine writer Oz Clarke penned a book entitled Bordeaux. In it, he lists the few rare wine regions of the world that have similar enough growing conditions to Bordeaux to be considered “lookalikes”. Hawke’s Bay (along with Waiheke Island) makes the selective cut; Clarke references Villa Maria’s Reserve Merlot-Cabernet off the Gimblett Gravels, as a favorite exemplary wine of the region.

Upon arrival, I met James Medina from the Hawke’s Bay Wine Growers Association at Trinity Hill Winery for a presentation on the soils, climate, styles, wines, and producers of the area. One of the warmest and oldest regions in NZ, Bordeaux-blends and Syrah garner the greatest attention, deservedly so, although their Chardonnay warrants watching as the style continues to evolve from oaked and weighty to the current trend of lean, mineral-driven, and fresh. Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon show promise. The number one problem the region faces: small production and importers who lack the vision or confidence, or both, to gamble on bringing these wines to the States.

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The vineyards of Hawke’s Bay sit, in what might appear as counterintuitive planting, largely on the riverbeds, rather than the hillsides. Medine explained that because New Zealand is a relatively young country, the rivers (now dry, of course), swept the productive soils out of the valley, while the rumpled hills surrounding it retained fertile topsoil. Thus, the valley floor suits grape growing better; that, coupled with the fact that very few hillsides offer the ideal north facing aspect (remember: we are in the Southern hemisphere).

Hawke’s Bay soils carry significant diversity of composition—there are 27 different types; mixed with climate variation, a sundry of growing conditions exist throughout. However, two soil types in particular are proffered as the most clearly defined and worthy of distinction: The first and most prized by producers lucky enough to have vineyards on them are the Gimblett Gravels.

The Gimblett Gravels are not a defined GI (the NZ wine industry is still young; all regions are grappling with delineating their sub-regions), but those who own vineyards within these 800 hectares, banded together in 2001 to promote the special qualities of the terroir.

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The gravels, long ago laid down by the Ngaruroro River, became exposed after a huge flood in the 1860s. An immediate parallel can be made to the draining of the Haut-Medoc by the Dutch which led to the exposure of large tracts of gravel fields, also relatively flat, now currently planted to premier cru classé such as Château Latour.

Vines planted on the heavy gravel (with the right micro-climate conditions, of course) can translate into wines of structure, elegance, and good fruit concentration due to low-vigor thus low-yield, vine stress, and enhanced by the natural warmth of the region. The vines benefit in cooler years from the heat-retention properties of gravel, warming vines during chilly nights. The loose soil funnels rainwater providing good drainage, and contributes a dusty, tannic quality to the wines. The first Bordeaux varieties were planted in 1981, followed by Syrah in 1982.

The second important growing region is the Bridge Pa Triangle. It extends over 2,000 hectares on the western side of the Heretaunga plains and includes the largest concentration of vineyards in the area. Composed of several soils such as clay loam and sandy loam over red metal alluvial gravel, grapes from this zone are known for producing fleshier, plumper, more sensuous wines, especially in warm, dry years. Merlot performs especially well — would comparing the Bridge Pa to the Right Bank be a stretch?

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If Hawke’s Bay winemakers seek to mimic St. Julien or Pauillac or St. Emilion on their home turf, they are turning out admirable replicas. The varied blends I tasted of Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cab Franc (some Petit Verdot and Malbec) showed lovely expressions of fruit knitted together by Bordeaux-like structure and tannin, yet with a touch of Hawke’s Bay charisma introduced by the winemaker’s hand and regional climatic conditions – and likely the local yeast and microbes in the soil.

I found the Mills Reef Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 in the tasting quite evocative of a Left Bank bottle – the relatively lean, austere character of the wine showing leafy, earthy notes under a layer of blackcurrant, with those aforementioned dusty tannins. The other nine wines demonstrated a range of flavors, most likely driven by the blends used and the winemaking styles as far as oak usage and ripeness, but they shared a thread of a fruit/acid/tannin structure built for longevity.

Comparing Hawke’s Bay to Bordeaux doesn’t mean only profiling the reds. Both regions grow Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, although in Hawke’s Bay, nobody seems keen on promoting either.

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Unfortunately (depending how you look at it), Marlborough dominates the Sauvignon Blanc export market, the region synonymous with the grape. Winemakers around NZ have gratitude that the Marlborough behemoth brought global awareness to their country’s wines, but it often overshadows everything else produced in the country.

Hawke’s Bay producers of Sauvignon Blanc intimated that they’d prefer not to label their bottles with their region, believing consumers more likely to buy the wines if they are labeled simply “New Zealand” instead. I was disappointed to hear this because H.B. Sauvignon Blanc develops riper fruit with softer edges than Marlborough due to the warmer growing climate. The wines show a range of flavors from grapefruit and lime, to stone and passion fruit, and they offered a refreshing change of pace from many of their sharp, grassy cousins to the south. The winemakers also concurred that to their chagrin, they often leave a degree of herbaceousness in their wines because that’s what consumers recognize as New Zealand.

As for Semillon, I tasted a few instances of it that showed promise, although vineyard plantings don’t amount to much currently. Sileni Estates produces a very reasonably priced bottle (around $13), although they make very little of it. Clearview produces a characterful version that you’ll love or hate, according to Tim Turvey, winemaker and owner. I fell on the latter end of his appreciation scale.

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Perhaps the greatest development in Hawke’s Bay beyond Bordeaux varieties came with the not long after discovery that Syrah in their soils and climate performs marvelously. Miraculously. Magically. I tasted ten during the overview plus a few more at winery visits, and wanted to buy a second suitcase to cart these gems home. Sadly, I didn’t have the opportunity to do that, but I can go back and read my tasting notes and imagine a mouthful of rich, dark juice filled with black and blue fruit, some aromatic with florals and violets, others with freshly butchered meat, all dusted with cocoa and pervasive but ripe tannins, kept in balance by acidity.

I enjoyed the wines of Trinity Hill, Mission Estate, Mills Reef, Church Road and Esk Valley. But rather than list out the bottles I drank with their tasting notes, it would be more useful to list the wines actually imported into the States. As I pointed out earlier, the only thing difficult about drinking these wines is finding somewhere to buy them.

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Here’s the list of Hawke’s Bay producers or producers with Hawke’s Bay wines in their portfolio, imported currently (as provided to me by the NZ Wine Growers Association):

  • Craggy Range
  • Te Mata
  • Mission
  • Elephant Hill
  • Bilancia
  • Alluviale
  • Villa Maria
  • Esk Valley
  • Maimai
  • Decibel
  • Crossroads
  • CJ Pask (soon)
  • Sileni
  • Glazebrook/Ngatarawa
  • Mills Reef
  • Clearview
  • Oyster Bay

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Is Pinot Noir Humanity? Reflections from the Central Otago Pinot Fest

OutdoorsNorthburn

Lakeside view of Northburn Winery.

This past January and February, I attended the 10th Central Otago Pinot Celebration. I was asked to reflect on my time at this year’s event by New Zealand Winegrowers, but will start with the story of a tree…

Strolling around Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown a few days after the event, the girth of an unusual trunk, a species of which I’d never beheld, drew my gaze up along its grand frame, and into the intertwined branches of its shadowy canopy. I stood for a while, watching the interplay of the waning sunlight on dappled leaves. Habit triggered me to reach for my camera. I twirled the machine in my hands, trying different angles to determine how to collect the moment digitally, forever, but I just couldn’t frame it as I experienced it in life.

Suddenly I was struck by a duality of emotions brought on by the paradox of great beauty: it has the ability to ignite immense joy and sorrow in the beholder, simultaneously. I could not take with me the beauty of this tree, and recognized the ephemeral state of the moment, meaning my brief interaction with it was only that. I felt oddly saddened.

So why do I ramble on about a tree when I should be talking wine? Because the tree left me pondering the various manifestations of beauty experienced at this year’s 3-day Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration, and the emotional arc each one created.

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Beauty is a complex and highly subjective concept, with several definitions in the dictionary, the first being “the combination of all the qualities of a person or thing that delight the senses and please the mind.” Considering that definition, I start with the obvious: the scenery of Central Otago. Set within the magnificence of the region’s natural good looks, the festival utilized various winery and restaurant sites nestled beneath the jagged peaks that ring Otago’s neat rows of vineyards, and at the center of which sits the sparkling, aquamarine-hued Lake Wakatipu.

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The Grand Tasting featured participating wineries inside The Shed at Northburn, a former station (ranch) picturesquely set on a ridge, now home to a winery and a rustic-chic barn. Each producer supplied its 2012 Pinot for vintage comparison, and a second bottle of its choosing.

We tasted the beauty of local foods. Vineyards and wineries hosted festival goers for a sunny, outdoor repast. I was fortunate to dine at Amisfield on sensationally fresh produce such as zucchini and leeks. The highlight, however, was a 20-hour, spit-roasted whole lamb, delivered with unintentional theatrics via a pitchfork, to our tables fringing Amisfield’s vineyards and duck-filled pond.

AmisfieldMenu

On the first night, welcome canapés and drinks — a showcase of white wines from the Pinot producers — started the evening off at Rata, a stylish, contemporary spot in downtown Queenstown. On our last evening, we celebrated at Skyline, a restaurant perched high above the glittering town, with a menu of regional highlights such as cured Aoraki salmon and tender venison filet.

Despite the stunning backdrop and fare, most attendees joined the celebration for one reason: their devotion to Pinot Noir. In Central Otago, Pinot especially is beauty in pure form. Through a colorful spectrum of hues from vivid ruby to gentle garnet in mature vintages, to nose and palate tendering floral notes; the garrigue of local, rampant growths of thyme; warm spices; and red and dark fruits, washed forward in waves of silk and velvet.

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But Pinot isn’t merely a sensual, shallow pleasure; it expresses beauty conceptually. Love drives folks to rationalize crazy decisions, and the Central Otago winemakers who’ve fallen for the finicky grape have enduringly committed their souls to her care. Pinot vines cling to vineyards at the end of the earth, such as those of Two Paddock’s Last Chance Vineyard, arguably the furthest place south in the world that a grape can be nurtured to ripeness while struggling against a marginal, frost-prone climate and hellacious winds. These dedicated stewards bottle each vintage’s expression of site, weather, and toil, telling the love story of their year, no matter how tragic.

Considering further the notion of beauty as “an outstanding example of its kind”, many Pinots at the festival demonstrated Central Otago sub-regions do, quite prominently, exist. Wanaka trended towards minerality; Alexandra, a land of great diurnal range, explored spice and fragrance; Wanaka Road, e.g., Pisa, Cromwell, and Lowburn, tendered sweet fruit and florals, while Gibbston, the highest elevation, celebrated the savory balanced with fine red fruit character. Bannockburn developed natural structure, and riper tannins, while Bendigo, the warmest region, added blue fruits and more powerful tannin.

We also explored the beauty of vineyard site: Felton Road Cornish Point. Beauty of vine age: Terra Sancta Slapjack Block. Beauty in viticultural philosophy: Burn Cottage. Beauty of clones, and even in Steve Davies’ Doctor’s Flat soil microbes, or so he would argue.

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Sam Neill, owner of Two Paddocks, near his Last Chance Vineyard.

There were beautiful displays of generosity and collaboration. Skilled orator John Hawkesby coaxed bidders out of nearly ten-thousand dollars at the charity auction to benefit Mercy Hospital Charitable Outreach and the Sport Otago Trust. The winemakers of Central Otago demonstrated a deeply ingrained spirit of sharing and partnership not just with each other, but also in the region’s bond with Burgundy, illustrated by the presence of French delegates who traveled thousands of miles to join, including Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.

But the conundrum of the immense joy wrought by beauty is the equal measure of sadness derived from knowing it and losing it, each glass drunk, another bottle gone, never again to be tasted; each festival event concluded, that day never to be regained.

This may appear a glum ending for a recap of an ebullient occasion, but it’s not meant to be. By recognizing the fleetingness of life and the unstoppable passage of moments, I’m drawn to conclude, all from meeting a tree one evening in Queenstown, that Pinot people don’t spend life in anticipation of tomorrow, or focused on regret. They are present, alive in each moment, and lovers of life. To quote the Pinot celebration’s spokesperson Jen Parr of Terra Sancta: “Pinot is humanity.” Pinot lovers accept that what we cannot take to the grave makes precious what we have before us now, and for that, I will always be a Pinot person.

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Richmond Plains and Te Mania, Nelson, New Zealand

SteveGill Last week, I posted about my visit with Brian Bicknell of Mahi Wines. After our boat excursion on the Marlborough Sounds followed by an impressive wine tasting at his cellar door, I took off for a weekend in idyllic, low-key Nelson to spend a few days with the wine community out on the far northwestern tip of the South Island, not far from renowned Abel Tasman Park. My first stop in Nelson was with the team from Richmond Plains and Te Mania, owner and sales director Lars Jensen and winemaker Steve Gill.  Initially separate wineries, Te Mania and Richmond Plains eventually merged, retaining individual labels, but converging ownership and winemaking. Gill, who has been there since 2009, was my steward that morning. I had sent out a request prior to arriving in NZ suggesting to winemakers eager to break from the traditional winery tasting format, that I was keen to get outside into the sunshine and do something active, if convenient. Taking me up on the offer, Steve planned a picnic of local fish, spreads, crackers, and cheese, plus all the wines for tasting, to take out on a morning bike ride along the Nelson/Tasman Great Taste Trail. BikePathThroughFields Signature Wines and Prices:

  • Richmond Plains Sauvignon Blanc NZ$ 25
  • Richmond Plains Pinot Noir NZ $25
  • Te Mania Sauvignon Blanc NZ$25
  • Te Mania Reserve Pinot Noir NZ$ 35

 What philosophy guides your viticulture and winemaking? My philosophy is that wine is a magic blend of pleasure and healthiness. Organic viticulture and oenology means that our wines are healthy for the environment and for drinking. I have had winemaking experiences around the world (California, Burgundy, Alsace, and the Mosel) and have learnt that if you have a great site and healthy vines you will make great wine that is unique.  Biodynamics: I have always felt that there is a spirit and energy in everything and that respecting this increases the positive energy in life.  Richmond Plains was the first in NZ to make certified Organic/Biodynamic Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. What is your biggest challenge as a winemaker (e.g., volatility of Mother Nature, expense to income ratio, having to actually market your wine)?  Having our wines judged in wine competitions where a judge spends minutes tasting the wine. It’s like trying to know someone through speed dating; wine should be experienced with food over an evening.  It’s the difference between shaking hands with someone, followed by a quick chat, and spending the evening with someone. We have been very successful with wine competitions but I wish they didn’t exist as wine should not be a competition, it should be a celebration!  What are the benefits and drawbacks of grapegrowing/winemaking in your region? The benefits are that we have the highest sunshine hours in NZ, a cool climate that makes crisp refreshing whites and aromatic elegant Pinot Noir. Another benefit is the two distinct soils types (Waimea river gravels and Moutere Clay) which produce wines that reflect these soil differences.  An ironic drawback is that we make amazing wine from so many different varieties that we haven’t a single variety for which we are recognized. This has resulted in a recognition for aromatic wines which spreads from Sauvignon Blanc to Pinot Noir.  Another drawback is that we are a small region with artisan family owned wineries that struggle to get exposure when competing with large, Marlborough, foreign-owned wineries with big marketing budgets.

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 What excites you most about New Zealand wines right now? Pinot Noir. With increased vine age and viticulture/winemaker experience, there are consistently exciting wines coming from the Pinot Noir regions. And they are great value!  How do you think Americans (or the outside world) perceive NZ wines? Where the hell is NZ? They make wine there??? (only joking!) I think that most Americans know we produce great Sauvignon Blanc, though there is a growing realization of how good our Pinot Noirs and aromatic whites (Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer) are.  What is your favorite non-kiwi wine region? Least?  California or Oregon are my favorites: amazing, friendly people, great food, beautiful places — shame the wines are so expensive! I love all wine regions as there is always something special about the place, people, or wines that is worth discovering. My least liked wine is Australian Shiraz that has added tannin, acid, and sugar.  It tastes artificial and that is not good for you.  Which wine or grape (in the world) is the least understood or respected? Pinotage, and it deserves its bad reputation!  What do you drink at home when relaxing?  I have eclectic tastes and like constantly trying new wines from around the world.  Currently I am drinking a lot of really delicious Alsace whites (Binner, Boxler, Meyer Fonne, Bott-Geyl, and Paul Blanck).  How do you spend your free time (if you have any)? I spend as much of my spare time with my two-year-old son Theo who is pure joy to me.  Also I am very committed to a local 700 hectare bird sanctuary. I am a pest trapper and love hiking through the wonderful Kiwi forest. We are fund raising to build a pest-proof fence if anyone is interested in contributing? Brook Bird Sanctuary Nelson.  If you could be traveling somewhere else right now, where would you be?  I would love to travel with my wife and son around Tuscany. I have been a few times before with my wife, but I think my son would love Italy at his age at the moment. Give one surprising fact about yourself. While at University getting an honours degree in Neuroscience, I was in a punk band called Leper Sweetheart!  

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Mahi Wines, Marlborough, New Zealand

BrianBicknell

The best way to wine taste when visiting Marlborough, New Zealand? Hit the Marlborough Sounds in a boat with a winemaker.

Founder and owner of Mahi Wines Brian Bicknell generously took time on a stormy Saturday morning to motor us out across the water in his 100 year-old launch to lunch at the charmingly rustic Lochmara Lodge. As if straight out of a movie set, a tender made its way from the pier to retrieve us from Bicknell’s boat and deliver us to a few plates of fish and chips, the region’s famous green lipped mussels, and a couple of glasses of crisp Mahi Chardonnay.

We took a post-lunch stroll through the densely wooded hills behind the property while Bicknell pointed out the indigenous flora and fauna the region’s locals have been working hard to restore. Fortunately, the brooding sky that had greeted us in the morning cleared into a sunny Marlborough Day. Bicknell took a spin in a hammock; I had a turn at steering the boat (foot on the wheel, head out the hatch). After docking, we stopped over at the winery to conduct a proper tasting before Bicknell dropped me off at the Marlborough Wine & Food Festival that afternoon. A rare perfect day.

Signature Wines and Prices: (in NY)

  • Mahi Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc              USD 19.99
  • Mahi Boundary Farm Sauvignon Blanc           USD 27.99
  • Mahi Twin Valleys Chardonnay                       USD 27.99
  • Mahi Marlborough Pinot Noir                          USD 29.99

What philosophy guides your viticulture and winemaking? Hopefully I can cover both areas. At Mahi, we own or lease four vineyards and also work with five growers. The vineyards we have control over are certified organic, as we see this as perhaps being the best way of expressing a particular vineyard — by not adding too much to it nor changing the character of the site. Some growers are also organic and some are ‘sustainable’, and it is a personal choice; I am not going to force our growers to grow organically. We tend to keep the canopies open and crops lower so that we get good exposure to the sun and the wind to minimise Botrytis pressure.

In the winery, we take a relatively ‘hands-off’ approach with the goal being to make wines that are textural, subtle, and complex. Most of our wines are hand-picked, whole-cluster pressed with no additions to the juice, then run straight to French without settling. We then leave the juice and after maybe eight days the natural yeast from the vineyard starts the fermentation and we often get six different strains of yeast doing the ferment, rather than one if we inoculated.

We do not use press wine, just the free-run, which gives a more elegant wine, as the pH stays lower and the palate is a little more linear, rather than getting soapy with the press wine.

I love the concept of ‘Real Wine’, wines that have not been messed around with and hopefully show their vineyards in the purest possible way. Sounds a bit hippyish but hope you know what I am getting at?!

What is your biggest challenge as a winemaker (e.g., volatility of Mother Nature, expense to income ratio, having to actually market your wine)?  I think Mother Nature can obviously throw us the biggest curve balls, but I have been fortunate not to work a really bad harvest. Apparently, 1995 was like that in Marlborough, but I was at Errázuriz in Chile at that time, and we had a great one.

In many ways, if you make the right decisions through the year, you get to experience the great diversity of the weather, and it is one of my favourite things about wine, which is that it does change every year. If you crop at an appropriate level for your vineyard, and keep the canopy open, you should always be able to harvest good fruit, whereas if you over crop the fruit, it will not ripen fully and the wines will be mean and lean, and you will probably leave them hanging too long into the season, and push them into the Botrytis period.

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What are the benefits and drawbacks of grape growing and winemaking in your region? Every year I want to kiss the ‘gross physical characteristics’ of Marlborough, which could get a bit tricky.

I think the benefits of making wine in Marlborough are:

  • We have the Richmond Ranges to trap most of the rain coming from the west;
  • The Inland and the Seaward Kaikoura Ranges, which force a lot of the cold, moist winds from the south out to sea, and that go across the end of our valley;
  • The bottom of the North Island protects us from cyclonic conditions that can come down from the Pacific in February or March, two very important months for us;
  • We have a low mean temperature of the warmest month, meaning the fruit retains a lot of the fruit compounds;
  • A long period over 10 degrees Celsius so that the vines work longer and ripen some of the later varieties; and
  • A good diurnal differentiation.

The drawbacks:

  • Too far from a major city to allow for good cellar-door business;
  • Too many anonymous labels made for a market that is cheapening the overall image of Sauvignon Blanc, which I think is a noble variety;
  • Too many people in the industry for the wrong reasons, though this is a worldwide phenomenon; and
  • Too many people who don’t truly love wine, though as above, this is a problem throughout.

What excites you most about New Zealand wines right now? A greater appreciation of the range of varieties that can be produced. There is more regional differentiation and also inter-regional appreciation of sites.

I really love the Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir that is coming out of Marlborough, and loving some of the Syrah from Hawkes Bay.

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How do you think Americans (or the outside world) perceive NZ wines? I do not think the US market has a very good understanding of NZ wine and that is probably an issue from our end, and also because of the three-tier system. I realize other countries cope with the three-tier system, but personally, I have found it harder to get in front of the people selling the wine as you are usually dealing with an importer, etc.

As of the end of November, the US now accounts for 25% of NZs wine sales by volume, up from 23% at the same time last year, so something is working, but I imagine a fair amount of that is Constellation and things like Cupcake. Complexity is working hard at the on-trade area of the market, so I can only assume that is helping the category in total also.

I think the people have a better understanding of NZ now than ten years ago but it is probably too strongly focused on Sauvignon Blanc. It has been good to have that as our calling card but to be considered a classic wine supplying country we need to prove we can do it with things like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in particular.

What is your favorite non-kiwi wine region? Least?  My favourite wine region in the world is Burgundy, and probably least favourite is the Riverland area of Australia.

Which wine or grape (in the world) is the least understood or respected? I think Chardonnay is respected in certain circles but the main part of the market seems to think they are being clever when they say they do not touch Chardonnay. It is a classic variety, probably the best restaurant white wine because of its subtlety, and I do not understand how anyone can say ‘I do not drink Chardonnay’. I understand ‘I do not drink shit Chardonnay’, but no one is going to turn down great white Burgundy or Blancs de Blanc Champagne??

What do you drink at home when relaxing?

After a great Gin and Tonic, using Quina Fina Tonic Water, I have found I have been drinking a few wild ferment, barrel fermented Sauvignons over the Christmas break. Great structure for lighter white meats and heavier fish dishes, and refreshing enough for the summer afternoons. Other than that, Burgundy!

How do you spend your free time (if you have any)?

We have an old launch, over 100 years old now, and I love getting out on the Marlborough Sounds in that. Spending the night on the boat with a good wine, good book, fresh fish and a good friend in a bay surrounded by native NZ bush is a pretty special event.

If you could be traveling somewhere else right now, where would you be?  While Italy and France are real passions, I would love to visit India now. We export to 12 countries so I travel a lot but I have never experienced India, and after learning a lot about the country over the last few years, it is somewhere that I am really intrigued by.

Give one surprising fact about yourself. Weirdly enough, one of the reasons that I am in the wine industry is that I have a Grand Trine, apparently meaning that when I was born, my three major planets were arranged in a equilateral triangle, so 120˚ angles between them all. I am not really into it, but someone interviewing me many years ago for a job at a wine store that really cemented my love of wine, was, so I got the job over a lot of other people, and the rest is history.

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Pyramid Valley Vineyards, North Canterbury, New Zealand

Gorgeous lunch prepared by Claudia

Gorgeous lunch prepared by Claudia Weersing

After departing Pinot-centric Central Otago, I carried on north to the next New Zealand wine region of Canterbury, located about 45 minutes outside of Christchurch. One of my three winemaker visits included the eye-opening Pyramid Valley, known for being the first vineyard in New Zealand — and one of only a few in the world — to be established from nascency under strict biodynamic principles, as well as stick to a strong non-interventionist/natural winemaking philosophy.

My lovely host for the afternoon, Brittany Thompson, Assistant Winemaker and Production Manager, picked me up in her truck full of energetic dogs. Our visit started not with a traditional winery tasting, but rather a picnic on top of a nearby hill with wine box “baskets” prepared by winery co-owner Claudia Weersing, who dabbles, quite effectively, in cooking. Apparently, I was the guinea pig for the wine box-cum-picnic basket concept, and I wholeheartedly gave it a green light, suggesting they make it available to future customers. The box included a clever dessert in a jar, smartly wrapped sandwiches, and the elusive greengage plum–my first. I was also introduced to the country fun of sliding down a hillside hay field on one’s belly or back, an activity apparently never endeavored with journalists — until meeting me.

Set in Northern Canterbury, Pyramid Valley Vineyards, was founded in 2000 by Mike and Claudia Weersing. They spent ten years working to find the perfect tract of land with the ideal limestone and geology make-up for the vines they wished to plant. They knew they’d hit proverbial paydirt when the consultant back in France reviewing their soil sample asked where they were in Burgundy. After pulling the hay from my hair and out of my shirt, and socks, and pants, we sat down at the tasting bar to go through their entire line-up of wines. I had a hard time holding back my surprise at how characterful, how evocative of place each wine was. Certainly no poker face could I project. I was particularly fond of the Cab Franc — it was the best I tasted in all of New Zealand. I recommend tracking down their Pinots, Chardonnays–frankly, anything from this winery.

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THE OWNERS MIKE AND CLAUDIA:

Mike and Claudia Weersing came to New Zealand in 1996, when Mike began making wine with Tim and Judy Finn at Neudorf Vineyards in Nelson. After a long and intensive search to find a site for their own vineyard, they purchased a farm in the Pyramid Valley, near Waikari in North Canterbury, in 2000.

Mike studied oenology and viticulture in Burgundy, beginning at the Lycee Viticole in Beaune, and continuing at the Universite de Bourgogne in Dijon. He has worked extensively in the vineyards and cellars of Europe, for producers such as Hubert de Montille, Domaine de la Pousse d’Or, and Nicolas Potel in Burgundy; Jean-Michel Deiss and Marc Kreydenweiss in Alsace; and Ernst Loosen in the Mosel. He has made wine in France and in Spain for Randall Grahm of Bonny DoonVineyards, vinifying in the Rhone Valley, the Languedoc-Roussillon, and the Navarra. New world vintages include apprenticeships with James Halliday at Coldstream Hills in the Yarra Valley of Australia, and with Russ Raney at Evesham Wood in Oregon’s Eola Hills.

Claudia was born in Schleswig, Germany.  A fashion student and skilled clothesmaker by trade, she  is now a committed biodynamicist which guides her approach to the land.

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY:

Wine to us is a genie, genius loci; our job is to coax it from its rock to bottle. Every gesture we make, in vineyard and winery, is a summons to this spirit of place. Biodynamics, hand-based viticulture, low yields, natural winemaking – these are some of the means we’ve adopted better to record and transmit this voice.

For example, all of our wines are fermented with their own yeast starters, cultured every year, from the vineyard itself. If wine is meant to be the bottled breath of a certain place, from a certain moment in time, then we feel that working with yeasts from that site, of that season, is an important step towards transparency and authenticity. Our cultures allow very long, very regular ferments: most of our whites ferment for more than a year. During this time, the wine is protected, so no sulphur is necessary. After so long a ferment, the wine is stable: thus most of our wines are bottled unfiltered, again with little or no sulphur.

Each wine is allowed to flower as it wishes. If the Pinot Blanc stops with 4 grams RS, so be it. If the Gewurztraminer ferments to dryness, that is its choice. As my friend and hero Edmond Vatan once replied when I asked him about malolactic fermentation, “Pwah, le malo, si ca se fait, ca se fait.”

So, at home we’ve sponsored a marriage of clay-limestone soils to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, hoping to bring to the wine world a special, new place-voice. With the Growers Collection, we are allowed to work with admired colleagues, and with sites, soils, varieties different than those at home. All of our wines are devoted to people and place; all bring rich rewards of community.

BACKGROUND ON THE VINEYARD:

The home vineyard has been established according to rules that Mike grew to respect and inherently to trust during his time studying and working in Burgundy: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay have been planted, on clay-limestone soils on scarp slopes, at a density of 10,000-12,000 vines per hectare. The vineyard has been biodynamically managed from inception.

Each block is planted to reflect a specific soil type hence the somewhat irregular looking blocks. In total we have only 2.2 hectares planted in 4 separate blocks. The differences you can taste reflects the soil and climatic differences between each block, which is never more than 400 metres at most. We vinify each block and variety separately but identically in a mixture of old oak and clay amphorae so  the outside influences on the grape are minimised.

The blocks themselves were named by Claudia after the weed varieties predominant in each, which also reflect the different soil. The Angel Flower is a more exposed block, north facing that reflects a lightness, delicacy and an ethereal scent. The Lions Tooth with its golden dandelions and obvious lime rich soil shows a rich golden colour with a toasty sulphite nose. The Earth Smoke is a heavier clay, with a denser, wild, gamey outcome. The Field of Fire slopes away to an eastern aspect and into the heaviest clay and makes typically a green-hued delicate wine.

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Felton Road, Bannockburn, Central Otago, New Zealand

FlyingwithBlairSetting a new definition for the term “flying winemaker”, Blair Walter is both renowned winemaker of Felton Road and local pilot. I had the pleasure of spending heaps (to use a Kiwi term) of time with this charming fellow during the Central Otago Pinot Fest, at the winery, and up in the air, soaring above the Milford Sound of South Island. Fortunately, the day was clear and still so we didn’t have to test his poor weather flight skills.

Blair has been the winemaker for Felton Road–founded in 1991–since 1996. He took some time before my arrival in New Zealand to answer questions about his winemaking, as well as reveal he was formerly a guitarist in a rock’n’roll band, the “Shagnasty & the Texan Medium Fries”. Fortunately, after visiting in person, I can say that the wines are phenomenally better than the name of that band.

Signature Wines and Prices:

  • Pinot Noir ($40-$75 USD)
  • Chardonnay $30-$40)
  • Riesling $26 USD)

About the Vineyard (from the site):

Considerable research by Stewart Elms (hence the Elm tree logo) in 1991 identified the north facing slopes at the end of Felton Road, Bannockburn as being one of the warmest and most ideal sites in Central Otago for the growing and production of premium wine. Heat summation data and soil maps of the area, developed as a result of the construction of the Clyde dam, were helpful in this decision. The three different soils identified are free draining with low fertility characteristics, and combined with the unique climate, are ideal for the production of premium quality Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling.

Our vineyards are managed by our own viticulturist, Gareth King, and his team of dedicated staff. Meticulous summer management of a single vertical shoot positioned (VSP) canopy ensures even and early fruit maturity. Shoot thinning, shoot positioning, leaf plucking and bunch thinning are all carried out by hand as required to ensure optimum quality fruit. We have inter-row planting of various different cover crops in order to assist in controlling vine vigour, improve soil health and general biodiversity.

What philosophy guides your winemaking? Our aim is to make vineyard-expressive wines of clarity, finesse, and precision; farm as sensitively as possible (Biodynamic certified on all 4 properties) and make the wines as hands-off as possible.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of grapegrowing/winemaking in your region? We have low rainfall and low humidity; pair that with our warm days, and cool nights, plus high sunshine hours, and we’ve got very low disease risk. We get bright acidity from the cool nights that translates into vibrant wines; schist soils contribute to the mineral infused and driven wines.

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What excites you most about New Zealand wines right now? The ever increasing quality from ageing vines and minds!

How do you think Americans perceive NZ wines? The rest of the world regards NZ Pinot Noir as the finest Pinot Noirs outside of Burgundy. In America, it is different because you have your own very large domestic production of fine Pinot Noir.

What is your favorite non-kiwi wine region? Burgundy. Least? I love all wine regions that are making vineyard and regionally expressive wines (there will be some that don’t focus on this but I am not about to try and name them!).

Which wine or grape (in the world) is the least understood or respected? Riesling is a bit of a challenge for some – incredibly interesting and versatile as a food wine because of the possibility in our cool climate to make very balanced and poised wines of varying sweetness levels.

What do you drink at home when relaxing? White or Red Burgundy.

How do you spend your free time (if you have any)? Sailing, flying, mountain biking, and tramping (hiking).

If you could be traveling somewhere else right now, where would you be? Vietnam.

Give one surprising fact about yourself. Was guitarist in a rock’n’roll band called “Shagnasty & the Texan Medium Fries!”

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Amisfield, Central Otago, New Zealand

StephLambertonredtractor

Stephanie Lambert, PhD, is one of a small percentage of female winemakers in Central Otago (and New Zealand generally). She started as assistant winemaker at Amisfield Vineyard in December 2008, and was promoted to winemaker in August of 2010.

Amisfield is still a young vineyard, like many in Otago—it was first planted in 1999, and rewarded with an inaugural vintage in 2002. They are members of the Sustainable Winegrowers of New Zealand. The owners of the winery opened a restaurant, Amisfield Bistro, not far from Queenstown, that developed a popular following for their locally sourced food and tasting menu called “Trust the Chef” which runs $65/person and requires a leisurely 3-hours of one’s time.

Stephanie answered a few questions prior to my arrival in New Zealand, although filled me in on much of her life while we tasted wines and had lunch at the Bistro. We dined on an excellent artisan bread board which had a flavorful sourdough and herb butter combo, plus whitebait (fish gold) and stuffed zucchini blossoms. Relatively unique to the region, Amisfield makes a small amount of Chenin Blanc—definitely track it down if visiting in person.

AmisfieldBistroZuchini

Signature Wines and Prices:

  • Amisfield Pinot Noir $45
  • Pinot Gris $30
  • Riesling $25
  • Sauvignon Blanc $25
  • Plus other varieties in very small quantities: Chenin, Gruner, and Pinot Blanc

What philosophy guides your winemaking? Our goal is to make wines with personality, that are a pure and true expression of their site, the weather, and the people that help grow and guide the wine. In Maori: He tangata! He tangata! He tangata! means “It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.”

At Amisfield we try to grow and make wines with integrity. We are very hands on in the vineyard with a full time permanent crew that has some of our longest serving staff. We want our raw environment to lead us rather than for us to put too much influence on the site. We are continuously trialing and experimenting with different techniques and applications in the vineyard to help balance our vines as well as have as little impact on the soils. We put as little on the vines as possible and try to maintain biodiversity in the vineyard. We have ducks, guinea fowl and trout in our ponds. We have an onsite wetland that treats all our winery wastewater which we can then re-use for irrigation. We are slowly converting one of our blocks to organic viticulture. We like weeds as this promotes biodiversity.

The grapes at the winery are treated very similar. We like to handle the grapes as little as possible and have a gravity flow winery built for Pinot Noir. I do not like to push the wines, and over the years I am becoming more relaxed with the grapes and the wines. For our Pinot Noir, we do natural fermentations; I like the complex wild dynamics!

With the whites, I use a combination of natural and inoculated fermentations. Again, I like to make wines with soul or personality. Some bits of the personality might be a bit strange but as long as they are telling a story, I am happy; imperfections can be interesting.

What is your biggest challenge as a winemaker (e.g., volatility of Mother Nature, expense to income ratio, having to actually market your wine)? In Central Otago, it is the weather: no two vintages are the same or can be predicted. I am very lucky at Amisfield, as the company’s philosophy matches my winemaking style. We are driven to make wines of interest, and not so much for the market.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of grapegrowing/winemaking in your region? A benefit for grape growing is the perfect weather for Pinot Noir; but that same cool weather often makes it difficult to get our Chenin ripe. We have a South African Vineyard Manager, so the most important wine in the shed is the Chenin!

AmisfieldBistroFocaccia

What excites you most about New Zealand wines right now? We are still young but now have some history behind us. We are learning what works on our sites but are also young enough to plant or try different varieties. We have 13 vintages behind us now at Amisfield, and I am just starting to feel I understand the land and the grapes. We can taste our back vintages and see our progression not only in vine age but also as winemakers. It’s a very positive outlook for the region. I like how most winemakers from NZ have travelled and seen other techniques from around the world and come back home and adapt and use these to our wines.

How do you think Americans perceive NZ wines? Hopefully Americans perceive our wines as high quality and unique. (And not Australian.) Our wines are cutting edge, coming from a small yet sophisticated country. I think in general our products are perceived as premium.

What is your favorite non-kiwi wine region? Least? I had a fabulous time in Oregon but that could have been more for the Mexican food and tequila. I was there in 2003 and 2004,so the region and winemakers were still learning a lot, but it certainly made me see how passionate and focused the region was on Pinot Noir. I loved that. I fell in love with Pinot and I fell in love with the Pinot winemakers: their outlook, their friendliness, and dedication to the one grape was fascinating. I love Alsace and Burgundy also. Champagne was not pretty but has a very interesting history, especially since visiting gave me the opportunity to see exactly what the wars did to the region. Least favourite? Well, I worked in Australia for a while and I think the Riverland region in SA/Vic would be my least favourite. Never been there, but mass-produced, clean and calculated winemaking doesn’t suit me.

Which wine or grape (in the world) is the least understood or respected? Well I must say I am a bit boring on this topic as I like the status quo grapes the most and I’m not much of an experimenter. Carignan, or closer to home, Gewürztraminer, perhaps.  I wish we made/planted more of Gewürzt. It’s a lovely wine when made well but also takes a lot of skill to perfect.

What do you drink at home when relaxing? Riesling. I love Riesling with a hoppy pale ale on the side.

How do you spend your free time (if you have any)? I am a solo mum to a 2 year old boy named Jasper, so all my spare time is spent with him having fun and playing games at Lake Wanaka.

If you could be traveling somewhere else right now, where would  you be? Right now, I would be sailing around the Whitsundays off the Australian coast. A relaxing holiday in the sun, no hassles, just swimming — I love swimming. Probably more realistically, if I was around home, I would be on the wild west coast of NZ, camping with my son in the tent at Okarito Lagoon, hunting for greenstone on the beach, making drift wood huts, and looking at the stars. The added bonus is that there is no cell phone coverage!

Give one surprising fact about yourself. Hmm, not much surprising here. I ran away to Australia for my education and then came back to NZ, so all my secrets are in Oz. University was so much fun, that’s why I stayed so long, and then once I finished my PhD I went back to get a Brewing Post Grad certificate also. Yet to be put to use…

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Northburn Station, Cromwell, Central Otago, New Zealand

TomRichardLaurenNorthburn

Northburn Station Winery near Cromwell in Central Otago, had a previous life as a sheep station, founded back  in 1882. Tom Pinckney, co-owner  with his wife Jan, purchased the property in 1993, and planted vines in 1999–their first vintage was a Pinot Noir from the 10×5 clone.  Jan’s brother Richard Broadhead (above in photo) is the company wine operations manager and winemaker. They’ve since built an event space/barn they call The Shed and run a restaurant, and farmgate shop from the property. They also serve a wine and small bite pairing menu.

Before my arrival in Otago, Tom took some time to answer questions about his winemaking philosophy and distaste for corned beef.

Signature Wines and Prices:

  • Northburn Station Reserve Pinot Noir RRP NZ$45
  • Northburn Station Riesling RRP NZ$25

What philosophy guides your viticulture and/or enology? We are organic and  bio-grow certified, and practice biodynamics.

What is your biggest challenge as a winemaker (e.g., volatility of Mother Nature, expense to income ratio, having to actually market your wine)? Attracting people to our facility (cellar door), and selling volumes at appropriate prices; expense-to-income ratio always a problem mainly due to the low volumes we produce, therefore fixed costs are spread over a small revenue base. However, sales are growing strongly!

What are the benefits and drawbacks of grape growing/winemaking in your region? We are ‘on the edge’ therefore yields are low and canopy management costs high.

NorthburnVineyard

What excites you most about New Zealand wines right now? Their quality and potential to maintain high prices.

How do you think Americans perceive NZ wines? High quality, high cost.

What is your favorite non-kiwi wine region? Bordeaux. Least? Southern England.

Which wine or grape (in the world) is the least understood or respected? Riesling. People still don’t get this grape.

What do you drink at home when relaxing? Our own Riesling and Pinot Noir and a wide range of European wines.

How do you spend your free time (if you have any)? I play a lot of sports with my young family.

If you could be traveling somewhere else right now, where would you be? Japan to go skiing.

Give one surprising fact about yourself. Hate corned beef….too much at boarding school!

TomPNorthburnVineyard

 

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Pisa Range, Central Otago, New Zealand

PisaRangeJennyWarwick

Pisa Range Estate and Winery, established in 1995, is located at the bottom of the Pisa Ranges of Central Otago, New Zealand, hence the suitable–if unimaginative–name, as Jenny Hawker professed to me during my visit last week with her and husband Warwick, son Andrew, and playful dog Pinot. Prior to my visit at the winery, Jenny answered a few questions about the property, the challenges of selling wine and why she’s passionate about her garden vegetables.

Signature Wines and Prices: 

  • Pisa Range Estate ‘Black Poplar Block’ Pinot Noir RRP NZ$56
  • Pisa Range Estate ‘RUN 245’ Pinot Noir RRP NZ$32
  • Pisa Range Estate Riesling  RRP NZ$28

What philosophy guides your viticulture and/or enology? ‘Minimal intervention’: allowing the wine to express its sense of place or terroir.

What is your biggest challenge as a winemaker (e.g., volatility of Mother Nature, expense to income ratio, having to actually market your wine)? Challenges occur every season since no two are the same;  volatility of international markets.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of grapegrowing/winemaking in your region? Benefits are the climate, purity of sunlight, and our geographical position which results in minimal pest and disease pressure. The greatest drawbacks are climate, e.g., frosts, as well as labour availability.

What excites you most about New Zealand wines right now? We are still very young, but many vines are coming into maturity or at least now have some age on them.  Our future looks very exciting.

How do you think Americans perceive NZ wines? There is little or no knowledge of NZ or its wines.  NZ has a very low profile in the USA and there is a great need to raise awareness.

PisaRangeWinery

What is your favorite non-kiwi wine region? Least? Burgundy is special. Least would be South Africa — their  focus is on production of bulk wine rather than fine wine.

Which wine or grape (in the world) is the least understood or respected? Possibly Grüner Veltliner. It’s a wonderful food wine.

What do you drink at home when relaxing? Depends very much on what we are eating, but usually Pinot Noir or Riesling.

How do you spend your free time (if you have any)? Gardening. The background to this answer is somewhat long. I grew up on a ¼ acre in Hawke’s Bay—everyone grew up on a ¼ acre after the war—plots were neatly defined. At the time, we grew everything at home and thus had the luxury of plucking passion fruit, peaches, apricots, and our own asparagus. You never ever forget those tastes. They stay with you forever. We then had seven overseas postings, for varying lengths of time, and what you need when you are away most is comfort, which food provides.

We were posted in Beijing at one point. We tried to grow tomatoes on the 13th floor of an apartment by hand pollinating them. They grew, although we weren’t overrun, but we got a sense a satisfaction from it. We always dreamt of having land of our own, so after we completed this last posting in Kuala Lumpur, we started to think about what we wanted to do when we returned to New Zealand.

We looked around Nelson and Martinborough, but moving here was rather serendipitous—we went to a dinner with some people who needed to sell a block of vineyard land in Pisa, so we decided to buy it.

If you could be traveling somewhere else right now, where would you be? Singapore — it’s vibrant, interesting, and always reinventing itself.

Give one surprising fact about yourself.  I spent almost 30 years living in many different countries around the world!

PisaRangeBottles

 

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Terra Sancta, Bannockburn, Central Otago, New Zealand

JenParrReunion

Ten years ago, Jen Parr and I contemplated our future lives over a glass of Cab Franc. We’d been invited to a party held in the loft of a mutual friend under the Brooklyn Bridge just outside Manhattan. I still hear our words; I can picture the way we draped ourselves across the butcher block island of the industrial-chic kitchen, drinking a fresh vintage of our host’s newest Long Island vineyard experiment.  We soberly (in seriousness of topic) outlined our paths, oblivious to the rest of the guests floating around us.

We both aspired to follow a vinous trail, no matter how windy or steep or challenging it might become. Jen hoped hers might lead her through the great vineyards of the world; mine – I was still unsure of how it would unfold. But now, a decade later, Jen and I are reunited by our careers, on the soils of Terra Sancta in New Zealand.

Terra Sancta Winery in Bannockburn, Central Otago, was formed in 2011 by owners Mark Weldon and Sarah Eliott, Kiwis, but coincidentally, also former Manhattan-ites and still lovers of that grand East Coast city that relentlessly propels folks from its walls and into the vines.

Despite the young age of the Terra Sancta label, the oldest vines back to 1991, one of few wineries to possess a vineyard surpassing 20 years of age in the region. Jen Parr, the head winemaker since 2007, will have completed 8 vintages at the winery, come 2014 (including when it was under different ownership).

Prior to my arrival in Central Otago for the Pinot Noir Fest, of which Jen is the two-time Chairwoman, she answered a few questions about Terra Sancta’s winemaking philosophy and professed her love of Loire Valley Chenin and licorice ice cream.

TerraSanctabottleriverview

What philosophy guides your viticulture and/or enology (answer depends on role of respondent)?    Our philosophy is coined “terra specific” which means we treat our different blocks and sites as individuals and give them the love and attention they require.  Personally I try to understand every nuance of every block and think of them as extended family.

What is your biggest challenge as a winemaker (e.g., volatility of Mother Nature, expense to income ratio, having to actually market your wine)?   Mother Nature is generally kind to us in Bannockburn except in a year with significant spring frosts.   For me, the greatest challenge is trying to nurture grapes without altering their pre-ordained destiny.   Making terrior wines is “hands-off” in the winery but all interactions in the circle of wine life give energy and direction.  The goal is to work synergistically together to make wines that reflect our place.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of grapegrowing/winemaking in your region?  I struggle to think of any drawback to making wine in Bannockburn.  The climate and soils of the region are so special and perfectly suited to making great Pinot Noir.  The arid climate, the gold mining history, the lack of significant rain and the wonderfully beautiful surroundings all add to the appeal of making wine here. 

What excites you most about New Zealand wines right now?  Being involved in a young and growing industry is very exciting.   Pinot Noir excites me the most at the moment as I think in Central Otago we are embarking upon a new era where particular sites will begin to distinguish themselves as extraordinary or of a higher “cru.”  

How do you think Americans perceive NZ wines?  Sauvignon Blanc would probably be the first wine that comes to mind.  I think (would hope) that they view our Pinot Noirs as wines of great quality but they may think they are a bit expensive compared to other new world wines.

What is your favorite non-kiwi wine region? Least?  Sorry, but only one?  Northern Rhone and Beaujolais are neck and neck for me for red wines and I love Chenin Blanc from the Loire.  I don’t know that I have a least favorite region as I think it’s important to understand all wines of the world.  I drink less Bordeaux perhaps (although that’s changing) but I don’t dislike the wines, they just don’t sing for me in the way Burgundy, the Rhone or Beaujolais do.

Which wine or grape (in the world) is the least understood or respected?  Riesling. The sad reality is that this noble grape is largely mistrusted (probably as much as misunderstood).  An amazing wine with such poise and nobility, but it’s incredibly difficult to sell.

What do you drink at home when relaxing? Single Malt, Craft beer… Oh, you probably mean wine – yes, plenty of that.  Lots of Pinot Noir (including rose), Rhone reds and some Beaujolais.  I swap a lot of wines with friends so am always trying wines from all over the South Island.   Riesling and bubbles seem to be the wines for “occasions” in our house.

How do you spend your free time (if you have any)?  I spend lots of times with our dogs who are heaps of fun.  I’m outside as much as possible:  skiing in winter, mountain biking, hiking and tramping/camping the rest of the year (aside from harvest).  I also love having people around for dinner or a wine.

If you could be traveling somewhere else right now, where would you be? Right now, in the most wonderful part of summer, I’d like to be here in Wanaka.  Once the season changes, I’d like to go to Italy to explore Piemonte, Tuscany, and Sicily.   I’d love to do a lot of it on a bike.  And if I was there long enough, I’d head to the mountains and ski.

Give one surprising fact about yourself.  This is a hard one to answer as I tend to lay it all out on the table so I don’t think of myself as a modern woman of mystery.  Given my passion (bordering on obsession) for wine, it might surprise some that I used to sell financial software.  Also, I’d do just about anything for a scoop of licorice ice cream.

 

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