Redbank Estate Ltd is an 11.5 hectare vineyard on Te Muna Road (Maori for secret or special place), about seven kilometres out of Martinborough in southern Wairarapa. All grapes for our wines are grown on the property, and all wine is made on the property by winemaker Simon Groves, under the direction of owner Colin Carruthers. Predominantly, we grow Pinot Noir, and with 2014 are into our eleventh labelled vintage. We also make three styles of Pinot Gris, Syrah, Viognier, and Rose.
Autumn, Te Muna Road:
Vineyard, house & winery from above.
In 1996 Colin Carruthers, a Wellington QC, bought this unproven vineyard land from John Donald, longtime Wairarapa beef and sheep farmer. Colin’s second son James, who’d been diagnosed as bipolar, trained as a viticulturist and winemaker and together with Colin, they chose the site as ideal for pinot noir. However, shortly before the first vines were planted, James took his own life. For nearly two years the project was abandoned, until internationally renowned winemaker Larry McKenna, decided to establish a vineyard over the road from Redbank, at Escarpment, got together with John Porter of Porter’s Wines, renewed Colin’s interest in the vineyard and in 2000 the first Pinot Noir vines were planted.
Three years later the first grapes were picked, which were blended with Larry McKenna’s vintage. The following year John Porter bought some of the vintage and after ferment told Colin they should revisit the deal so John could make wine for Redbank, and in 2004 the first 900 bottles of James Pinot Noir were produced, named as a tribute to James’s memory and his aspiration for the vineyard, Redbank Estate.
In 2005 Colin married journalist Deborah Coddington, and they began planning a weekend house to build on the vineyard. However, increasingly captivated by the beauty and – as Maori noted in the 1800s – special loveliness of the Te Muna valley, the couple decided to live permanently on the property and take an active interest in managing the vines and helping make the wine. However, as anyone who’s been bitten by the grapegrowing/winemaking bug knows, investment is ongoing, so we haven’t given up law or journalism.
In 2008 Martinborough experienced a perfect vintage and Redbank produced near-capacity tonnage – 24 tonnes of Pinot Noir and six tonnes of Pinot Gris. Because increased production had become too much for John Porter’s winery, he had recommended we use Jane Cooper, winemaker at Masterton’s Matahiwi Estate.
In 2012 we decided to build our own winery so removed a small section of Pinot Noir vines, commissioned Holmes Construction, the company who’d built the house, and 2013 marked first vintage, made by Simon Groves, as the first to be entirely grown and made on the property.
“A man’s signature is the handprint of his life.”