Winemaker's Comment - Autumn 2016

It’s with a sense of great relief and immense satisfaction that at the conclusion of the 2016 vintage I sit down to write this newsletter. 2016 was our 20th vintage. That means 20 vintages I have been at the helm and blessed with the wonderful position of making these wines. Arriving here as an enthusiastic, yet nervous 20 something year old, I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and journey, especially growing up with the region over the years. From a very youthful, pioneering industry that was Central Otago back in 1997 (and the New Zealand industry as a whole for that matter), it’s matured to what is now a much more established and sophisticated wine region and business environment. It feels proper. Our vineyards have also matured considerably and so have the wines. Over this time, our wines have cellared and developed pleasingly well, with almost no exceptions. We now have a lot more confidence in recommending to carefully cellar our wines for much longer periods, especially the last several vintages.  But that’s for those who enjoy more developed and mature characters.  It still remains, and is often commented on, that our wines drinks surprisingly well in their youth.

There is an immense amount of hard work that goes into running our vineyards, making the wines and keeping the business ticking along. I am just one cog in the gears and am fortunate and particularly grateful to be surrounded by a very hard working and exceedingly loyal team of special people: Mike in the winery; Sarah, Tracy and Nicola in the office; and Gareth and his team out in the vines. Of course, to make wines and run a wine business like this, it is not possible without a great owner and leader who inspires and carefully guides us; with the most gentle of touches. Whenever we need to make a call on something, it’s Nigel’s understated influence that never makes it too difficult. We just do what feels right and natural, what’s best for the vines and wines – the rest just follows. Inspiration from great bottles, great wineries and great leaders goes a long way.

The recent completion of the new Pinot Noir Bannockburn cellar was used to great effect to enable more time for the 2015 vintage to integrate, settle and harmonise. Before the dust had even settled there, the construction team moved over to the winery to work on expanding our offices and cellar door space. Our small and cosy cellar door has served us well over the years, but with more and more people trying to visit it has become hopelessly inadequate. With interest and demand for our wines continuing to increase (and definitely still no plans to expand production), we have made the difficult decision to close the cellar door for casual visitors. With our expanded space we plan to make visits to Felton Road more special; more than just your usual cellar door visit.  We want you to feel completely immersed within our journey and what makes our wines tick. We welcome visits by appointment where we will have more time to share our stories and wines with you. Please do call ahead as we would love to receive you and your friends.

The 2015 vintage wines seem to follow on effortlessly from the last few vintages. Precision, elegance, refinement and poise are all apt descriptors. It’s another fine year for us and I’ll leave it to the tasting notes for more detail. Is this luck or judgement? 20 vintages doesn’t properly answer that, ask me after 40!

Cheers to the next 20 vintages!


Blair Walter