Winemaker's Comment - Spring 2017

Spring is such an exciting time in Central Otago with the ever lengthening days, warming temperatures and spectacular blossom in the fruit trees. Whilst the hillsides and vine inter-rows reveal a flush of green, the vines are thankfully slower to break bud, lessening their exposure to potential damage from spring frost. Pruning is well complete, soils are turned, cover crops are sown, frost protection systems checked: the vineyard is a hive of activity getting set-up for the growing season and vintage 2018. Two small sections of Block 2 containing Pinot Noir and Riesling were recently ripped out and will be replanted this spring. It was sad to see these venerable 25 year old vines being pulled out; but being on their own roots meant they would inevitably be vulnerable to phylloxera someday. After making wine here for 21 years, we now feel we are in a better position to make these hard calls: where a more appropriate match of grape variety to soil will make for more profound and expressive wines in the future. Cuttings from closely monitored Mendoza clone Chardonnay vines from Block 2 were taken and grafted to phylloxera resistant rootstock. This process ensures we are replanting with vines that are enjoying, and quite possibly already adapting to, our soils, climate and farming conditions. In addition, given the 21 years of experience in making wine from these exact vines, we now further understand and believe in their wine quality potential.

A recent weekend wine event in Wellington highlighted to me, yet again, how wonderful the wine industry is. The generosity and friendship of wine lovers all over the world is something quite unique and very special.  As I shared with them, I firmly believe that the opportunity so kindly afforded to taste deeply and widely of the world’s finest wines, is the most influential contributor to not only wine knowledge and building a palate for fine wine, but in driving winemaking philosophy and eventual house style.  It is certainly not trying to copy or emulate a wine or a particular character, it’s far more intrinsic: it’s about understanding a range of fundamentals, about what is great, and what delivers such beauty, harmony and ultimate drinkability. 

On celebrating friendship in wine, Nigel and I will be in Burgundy again this spring (their autumn), to celebrate 10 years of the Central Otago/Burgundy stagiaire exchange programme. Every year up to four trainees from Central Otago trade places with four from Burgundy to experience not only the harvest and winemaking, but also to immerse themselves within the cultural aspects of winegrowing in each place. A unique tasting of Central Otago wines will be held for the domaines and families that have hosted stagiaires over the years, along with other events including a visit to the historic L’Abbaye de Saint-Vivant. Being founded by the Benedictine monks around AD 890, and situated and related to the most famous vineyards of Burgundy, the 21 vintages we’re celebrating is distinctively put into rather pale perspective!   

Nevertheless, in our own special way of sharing and celebrating, Friday and Saturday November 3 & 4 sees us opening the cellar doors and a whole range of our wines to taste, discover and converse over. We’re celebrating our 20th vintage release of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and we do hope you can attend. We will also have a little ceremony at midday on Saturday to officially open our new barrel cellar and refurbished tasting room.  RSVP essential to [email protected]

We hope you enjoy these new releases! 

Blair Walter