When we completed the new winery in 2013 the question arose of what to do with the old winery, where Colin and I used to make the syrah and viognier.

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Now Simon makes that, to a much higher standard, in our new winery.

It’s such a lovely room, with vaulted ceilings, a kitchenette and separate toilet, and vintage wine posters on the walls, I didn’t want to just use it for storage. And we always need extra accommodation for friends and family. Some time ago, I bought this little beach changing tent from The Cotton Store to use when St Andrew’s ladies are have fund-raising fetes and selling pre-loved clothing. This little tent is great for customers to try on garments – if they can’t try, they won’t buy. So I got the idea from this cute little cotton beach tent to convert the old winery into a permanent glamping room, with two old-fashioned tents. Instead of dividing up this glorious space with walls, I would have tents inside. It took a whole year to complete this project. I couldn’t find second-hand tents so I had them made by Tent Town in Auckland, to the specifications and colours I wanted – sand and khaki  – then I had to get new frames made to hold them up because of course, inside, you can’t have guy ropes. And with one tent being accommodation for a double bed, we couldn’t have a centre pole. But now it’s complete, and it’s just fantastic.

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Now I’m scratching my head working out how to make a nifty outdoor solar shower.

On January 10th, the founder of Redbank Estate, Colin Carruthers QC, turned 70. Instead of announcing his age I could have been coy and simply said he’d had a significant birthday but as one of his birthday cards stated: “Wine gets better with age. We get better with wine”.

I started planning his party two years ago and it was orchestrated right down to the last detail. There were surprises; there were 240 fabulous guests from all aspects of his life – legal friends, judges from District, High, Appeal, and Supreme Courts, vineyard workers, local Martinborough folk, people from as far afield as Sydney and Melbourne, winemakers, viticulturists, journalists, business associates, clients – and of course family.

The Right Honourable Winston Peters, Leader of New Zealand First, longtime friend and sometime foe of CCQC was the keynote speaker, and three of CCQC’s children – Andrew, Tracey, and Paul – made very moving speeches. Then three of his granddaughters – Ruba, Rose, and Lila – wheeled in a huge birthday cake (in a borrowed supermarket trolley adorned with balloons) they’d decorated in a haphazard representation of the vineyard property, complete with miniature animals. They were piped in, appropriately due to CCQC’s Scottish heritage, by a piper dressed in his tartan.

We had a huge marquee dressed in fairy lights, under balmy summer skies – all was just perfect, exactly as I wished and prayed for. I was so happy, and the vineyard looked perfect. Grant Chilcott, a swing singer from Auckland entertained and there was dancing into the night.

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Nick Arnold from Martinborough’s Café Medici catered with roast pigs and lambs on spits, and our Te Muna Valley Pinot Gris, and James Pinot Noir flowed freely, along with Palliser Methode Traditionelle and Escarpment Chardonnay.

Then I had Transit buses to ferry the guests back into the village square. By all accounts that last bus was a very merry ride.

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Te Muna Valley Rose Label

When we completed the new winery and finished our first vintage, 2013, here on the property at Te Muna Road, it was the first time all our grapes had been processed on site.

We have a new winemaker, Simon Groves, and we have new wine varietals, specifically Rose, Pinot Gris Italian Style, and Pinot Gris Autumn Harvest, as well as continuing with the ever popular James Pinot Noir, James Pinot Gris, and Syrah and Viognier.

So we’ve been thinking for the past 12 months that perhaps it was time to move on from the old James label for all our wines, into a new, fresh look. With the help of Mike, designer at Lamb Peters Print in Greytown, we’ve come up with this, clean, crisp and modern, but still classic design, using an adapted photograph of our property.

The link with James wine will remain, as the Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris will be Te Muna Valley James Pinot Noir and James Pinot Gris, and all our wines, of course, are grown at Redbank Estate.

Our back labels are minimalist, covering off all the legal requirements and (important) easy to read in dimly lit restaurants.

Shown here are just the Rose front and back labels.

Already we’ve had very favourable reactions from Auckland restaurants – not just to the labels, of course, but to Simon’s new wines.

We hope you like them too.

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If you’re into wine memorabilia, or just anything lovely to do with wine, check out this website http://collectionary.com/club/wine
They have masses of great items for sale. Tempting. Tempting. And a beauty to behold.

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.

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