My last Hawke’s Bay meet-up was hosted in a hip little pseudo-Mexican restaurant called Mamagita in Haverlock with Miles Dineen and assistant winemaker George Leete of Crossroads Wines. I appreciated the gear shift from a winery visit to a casual cantina, allowing me to feel like a normal human just hanging with a couple of winemaker buddies, casually tasting 20 serious wines with platters of guac and tacos. Nearly tempted to guzzle a margarita, I, rather, kept my eye on the prize — the flagship wine “Talisman” that we would be tasting at the end (called, un-poetically, RGF in America due to somebody’s lame claim to the name). Talisman is a secret proprietary blend of five or so grapes, one of which is not a Bordeaux grape nor one grown by anyone else in the region. Threatening to sneak through the vineyards at night plucking leaf samples for lab analysis, I had good fun trying to trip Miles up in revealing the formula; alas, he kept it tight.
About Miles, he has been the winemaker at Crossroads since 2004. Born and bred in Hawke’s Bay, Miles’ first vintage was in 1996 as a cellar hand in New Zealand and then over in the US before completing a post-graduate diploma in viticulture and oenology at Lincoln University, Christchurch, in 2003. Miles chats about Mother Nature as a winemaker’s biggest challenge, compares Hawkes Bay to Sonoma, and wishes he could be traveling in the U.S.A.
I should also add a thank you to Miles (hopefully you read this one day) for transporting me to the Art Deco town of Napier to shoot photos. I would not have otherwise had a chance to see it, and am grateful for your hospitality in taking me. Thank you!
A little info from the Crossroads website:
Crossroads was started in 1987 with the aim to produce the best possible wine from an exceptional place in an exceptional country – Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand. To achieve this, it became clear we had to have total control of our winegrowing and winemaking from start to finish. To that end, Crossroads purposely sourced and developed more vineyards. Today, all our Hawke’s Bay wines come from our own vineyards.
Signature Wines and Prices:
- Talisman $48
- Winemakers Collection $38
- Milestone Series $26/20
What philosophy guides your viticulture and/or enology? Simplicity, respecting the earth and its fruit, making delicious wine that is a pleasure to drink.
What is your biggest challenge as a winemaker (e.g., volatility of Mother Nature, expense to income ratio, having to actually market your wine)? The weather is still the greatest human challenge.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of grape growing and winemaking in your region? Hawkes Bay is an awesome grape growing region for a whole range of varieties and wine styles due to our diverse soils and temperate climate. We are a long way from many major markets and trade blocs, but if anything, this makes us stronger as there is no room for complacency or bad wine.
What excites you most about New Zealand wines right now? New Zealand is one of the most dynamic wine producers in the world with ongoing rapid evolution; standards are high and the wines just keep getting better.
How do you think Americans perceive NZ wines? New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is now well respected and widely distributed and is going well in the states. There is less familiarity with our other varieties, but Americans are generally open to trying new things and the future looks very exciting for our wines stateside.
What is your favorite non-kiwi wine region? Sonoma, California–it has many similarities to Hawkes Bay on a slightly warmer base. Least? They all have their appeal.
Which wine or grape (in the world) is the least understood or respected? Muller Thurgau, the light, fruity, low-alcohol white wine that has been with us all along.
What do you drink at home when relaxing? Preferably a different wine every time. I stay with a style or region to get a good feel for what is going on; I am just coming out of a Cotes du Rhone vs California phase .
How do you spend your free time (if you have any)? Hiking, hunting, and hanging out with my family.
If you could be traveling somewhere else right now, where would you be? U.S.A.