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.
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!