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It’s been patchy, the weather, but today the mercury’s climbed to 31.1 in the vineyard and the dogs have taken to the shadiest side of the verandah, with Whetu collapsed upside down in her bed.

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Rowan, vineyard manager, says this long slow ripening is good. Not too hot at once. We’ve been over-run with magpies which the dogs, including Rowan’s new black dog Winston, love chasing down and killing. They trap them in the nets then it’s goodnight nurse. However, not so many small birds this year so maybe the magpies have kept them away. It’s no mean feat, killing a magpie, with their sharp snapping beaks. Hawk and Whetu have also seen to a couple of rabbits and a hare.

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We’ve done a massive fruit thin – grapes all over the ground. Soon the irrigation will be shut down and it’s time to haul out the picking bins and start scrubbing off the mold which accumulates over winter. You can’t pick grapes and put them into dirty containers, then expect to make good quality wine. As I write, the valley’s echoing to the sound of gas guns (belonging to Pond Paddock – they don’t trust nets) and in my parched garden the bees are really enjoying the flowering Italian arugula.

So far it’s been a good season but I don’t start feeling totally satisfied until the wines have been in the bottles for a few months and there’s a wee way to go yet.

Meanwhile, just over the fence, Lily and Smitty (Lily’s the bay mare, Smitty’s the palomino gelding) watch and grow fat in the long summer grass.

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Te Muna Valley wine labels 002I’ve been prompted to update the website slash blog after wine writer and critic Joelle Thomson visited Martinborough over summer and published two great articles about our vineyard, and our wines. This has led visitors to this site, and, we hope, to drink more of our wine.

The vineyard is looking a picture, as you can see from the photograph, taken a week ago, just before the nets went on. The vines are trimmed, weeds all under control, grass mown. The new winery now looks as if it’s been there for years, not just 13 months.

We’ve bottled our first vintage (2013) of Rose, Pinot Grigio (bone dry Pinot Gris), late autumn harvest Pinot Gris, and James Pinot Gris, and the Rose is a stand out. Not too lolly, it’s made with Syrah and Pinot Noir. And, of course, we’ve only tasted the ‘end-of-run’ wine, that is, the bottles left over when they’ve finished bottling the main vintage, which means it’s the wine at the bottom of the tank. Plus it’s suffering from ‘bottle shock’.

On Saturday February 1st, 2014, we got a great surprise to see a fantastic write-up by Joelle in the Dominion Post ‘Your Weekend’ section titled “Family First” about our vineyard. You can read it also in Joelle’s online wine magazine http://www.joellethomson.com/BLOG++COLUMNS/Martinboroughs+new+winery.html

It’s a lovely write-up, paying tribute to the people who helped Colin establish the vineyard – John Porter and Larry McKenna.

Also, we like what she said about the 2008 Pinot Noir:

“This wine does Colin Carruthers proud with its velvet smoothness, its luscious core of red fruit and its drink-me-now style. Six years old and just coming into its own, it’s a lovely drink.”

Of course you can get it from martinboroughwinecentre.co.nz or from me – deb.coddington@xtra.co.nz

Arriving hard on vintage were our 110 barrels from Matahiwi – here on the front lawn – over $1 million worth. It looked daunting while they were still on the truck, but once in the winery, on the specially reinforced area reserved for them, they looked as if they were always meant to be there, stacked four high.

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Everyone’s been talking up the 2013 harvest, saying it’s a perfect year, but I reckon it’s never a perfect vintage until it’s in the bottle. True enough, the night before we were due to start picking the Pinot Noir, April 5th, I woke up to the sound of the frost machines, starting up and down the valley. However, all was okay and we picked in perfect weather.

The winery worked perfectly. The first grapes to come off were some premium Pinot Noir grown for Rod Easthope, a highly regarded independent winemaker in Hawke’s Bay, and some specially grown for Cloudy Bay, who want to make a Martinborough Pinot Noir.

After their grapes had gone, our first grapes came into our new winery. The first to arrive went into a vat for whole bunch fermentation. Then the main pick went into the destemmer for ferment. Colin of course had the honour of tipping the first bin into the destemmer.

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Simon Groves is our winemaker. He has huge experience internationally and in New Zealand. His “cellar rat” (who has actually also had substantial experience winemaking internationally and in New Zealand) is Geoffrey Franklin.

Rowan Hoskins, viticulturalist and vineyard manager supervises the picking, with Tony and Steve, and of course the dogs – Hawk and Whetu and Rowan’s dog Jet – help too.

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And me? What’s my job now? Making lunches like a good kiwi girl. Sandwiches mostly. Buying pies, scones, muffins from Roger at Providore when I’m too busy with my journalism duties. I felt like my mother when she made food for the shearers.

Just over a week later we finished the Pinot Noir and the Pinot Gris. The Noir came in at 24.5 brix; the Gris at 25, about where everyone wanted it to be, ie, not too hot and alcoholic.

So far the Viognier and Syrah is chugging along nicely. We just want another couple of weeks of balmy autumn weather, then we can get them off, and hopefully say, Yes, 2013 is a very good year.

Here’s to the 2013 vintage which will be made in our new winery.

 

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Almost completed, Holmes Construction are just doing things like the door handles, sealing the concrete floors, and overseeing the electronics. We’re very pleased with the result and the way it ties in with the house and the small winery.

The process has been relatively painless. We’ve been lucky with the builders -  a delight to have on site and extremely tolerant of the dogs’ antics and mischief.

Now we just have to stock it, and make some superb wines.

 

I am suitably ashamed that it is August and I haven’t blogged all year.

Enough said.

As All Black coach Steve Hansen would say, just flush the dunny and move on.

So here we are, it won’t stop raining, and we are building a new winery, a bigger one so we can process all our wine on site. At present our pinot noir and pinot gris goes off site to Masterton to be made into wine. It’s not that we’re dissatisfied with our winemaker there, it’s just that we now wish to have more control over the blending, when to pick, and be able to finesse the process more closely.

So we took the plunge, and decided to commence construction.

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As one wit asked, “Is that the famous New Zealand sauvignon lake?”

Could well be, Steve, could well be. But in fact it’s the rain which hasn’t stopped since the excavators arrived. We removed partial rows of pinot noir (there’s a semi-glut of pinot noir in NZ at the moment anyway, so no regrets there) to site the winery beside the house. Because it’s just up from where I sit writing, I look out at the builders all day. Holmes Construction are doing it, the same guys who did our house, and it’s in the same style. Should be finished by Christmas.

But right now it’s a mudbath, as ditches had to be dug to accommodate the cabling, the waste water, the electrics, the phone lines, and the security lines. What a mess.

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We’ve also taken out several rows of pinot noir up on the top terrace to plant some chardonnay. After touring Burgundy, specifically Chablis, a few years ago, we want to make chardonnay in the Burgundy style – elegant and dry, not big and oaky.

If nothing else, this will be exciting and challenging to try, and I’m sure Simon Groves and Olly Masters will succeed.

Speaking of Olly Masters, we bought several cases of Seresin Estate wines two weeks ago, after I had lunch in London with Michael Seresin and he opened a bottle of his superb Riesling. Olly is his consutant winemaker, and about to become ours. We bought Gewurtztraminer, which is a lovely dry Gewurtz, but still with fruit. We also bought the Marama (moon), Michael’s sauvignon blanc which would be the only sauvignon on the market I’d drink these days. I did taste some Greywacke (Kevn Judd) recently but was underwhelmed. Didn’t live up to the hype or his original Cloudy Bay – in my opinion anyway. We also got Seresin Riesling, which as I said is just a lovely, lovely riesling, chardonnay and Rachel Pinot Noir which is also great. Rachel was Michael’s mother. Not that it matters to me, but Seresin wines are all organic. Aside from that, they are fantastic New Zealand wines, not surprising because Michael Seresin is such a bloody perfectionist in everything he does, and all he owns or produces has to be beautiful to look at, hold, eat or drink.

Right now, CCQC and I are touring around Tasmania enjoying beautiful weather and some wonderful Tasmanian wines, while Martinborough, according to the Redbank weather station, seems to have had around 66 millimetres of rain in the last seven days. Not good for the vintage at this stage, but that’s grape-growing for you.

We spent two days in Sydney – hot and sunny, wandering around Rushcutter’s Bay checking out the yachts preparing for the Sydney-Hobart race which departs every Boxing Day. Then we flew to Hobart on Christmas Eve to our first destination, Museum of Old and New Art, or Mona, which is owned by millionaire gambler David Walsh. It’s also home to Moorilla Estate wines. Walsh has sunk over $180 million of his own money into this place and it’s amazing. The pavillions where guests stay are all named after Australian artists or architects. We were staying in Esmond, (Esmond Dorney), only built in January 2011. The furnishings and art are great – a rug on the floor greets you with, “apropos of nothing it’s nice to see you and besides we need the money”. Books in the shelves are all chosen by staff.

I can’t recommend this place highly enough, in fact, it’s worth a trip especially from New Zealand just to see the Museum itself, and Walsh’s art collection which he spent $100 million purchasing. You will be jolted, you will be delighted, you will be charmed. You will definitely not be bored.

For Christmas Day lunch we went to Henry Jones Art Hotel in Hobart – a very long lunch, splendidly executed. I had been a tad grumpy, having been forced to pay by Visa in advance, way back in about October, in full, for all the food and wines, but it was well worth it. All inclusive the price for two of us was $160 each and the wines were very good, not cheap quality, and they kept coming and coming. One stand-out was a Pooley Pinot Grigio. The food defeated me – I couldn’t eat it all. We began with an egg nog. Then a small fresh heirloom tomato salad with fresh buffalo mozzarella. Then ocean trout and fig salad. Then turkey ballotine, compressed potato, and cranberry (by now I was flagging, and couldn’t eat all my turkey). Then a perfect wee Christmas pud with brandy butter. Then (oh no, oh no, get thee behind me Satan) coffee and mince pie. I die I die.

When we’d recovered from this gluttony we drove to our next stop – Priory Lodge at Bothwell, run by the perfect host, Greg Peacock. This was truly charming, and luxurious with a chalet overlooking a lake with swans. We dined in the grand old sandstone manor each night with the other guests – all interesting, lively and chatty. Greg cooked each night, and he had a good cellar, so CCQC and I kept up our usual pace of one white and one red (I’ll leave it to you to work out whether that’s glasses or bottles).

Next stop, the highlight of our tour (in price at least), Saffire Freycinet on the Freycinet Peninsula, where we spent New Year’s Eve, stuffing ourselves silly on the degustation menu. This is probably the equivalent of the anti-health spa, if there is such a thing. The mini-bar is all-inclusive in the price. Dinner, lunch and breakfast are all-inclusive. And if all that food wasn’t enough, we went out for a trip to an oyster farm where we learned all about the life cycle of oysters, then Graeson (who took CCQC and me) spread a crisp white tablecloth on a table in the middle of the water, poured two glasses of Tasmanian bubbly, and shucked some oysters for us. Bliss.

So now here we are in Hadspen, at the Red Feather Inn, which is just lovely. It’s so beautifully and tastefully decorated, managed by Ian and Tanya, with huge glorious gardens, a quince orchard, whitewashed walls, and decorated with French antiques. It also has a cooking school and holds weddings and functions. I can’t begin to describe how lovely this place is, but I’ve taken heaps of photographs (silly me, I’ve left the cord at home which transfers the photos to the computer so can’t put them on the blog!).

If I don’t burst like Mr Creosote from one more wafer thin mint, I will return to New Zealand and Redbank Estate after we visit Cradle Mountain Lodge, and the Islington in Hobart, on January 9, to do some well-needed exercise in the vineyard, which is being ably minded by Mike and Nikki in our absence.

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