Pink Bubbles

Wellington puts out a not bad publication called Capital.

It’s edited by Alison Franks ( and published by the Bristeds I think. You can see more about the mag on Facebook. Anyway, I was impressed enough by the quality of writing, choice of subject material, and design to subscribe.

Also they have good people writing for them – real writers, not wannabes playing at writing, people like Sarah Lang, Joelle Thomson.

In one of the back issues I was given (which prompted me to subscribe even though I don’t live in Wellington, they cover the greater Wellington region) Joelle wrote this about us:

What do you do with Pinot Noir grapes when you want to make a top pink drop? One option is to turn it into sparkling wine, as Simon Groves is doing on Te Muna Road, Martinborough. The wine will wear the Redbank Estate brand of Colin Carruthers and Deborah Coddington’s vineyard. Groves is their winemaker. He stuck to the classic formula for high-quality sparkling wine production, picking the grapes at pretty low sugar levels to create a sparkling wine with high natural acidity; this makes it taste fresh. The wine’s pale pink colour comes from minimal skin contact and Groves expects the price to be ‘accessible rather than high’. This wine is a traditional method – which means that its second fermentation (when the CO2 dissolves, causing the fizz) will take place in the bottle, and the wine is then aged in the bottle to gain flavor. About 2,000 bottles will be released in late 2016.

The name we are giving this pink bubbles remains, at present, a closely guarded secret.

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Chenin Blanc

In October last year we ripped out a few rows of Pinot Gris and replaced them with some Chenin Blanc.

I know, I know, it’s difficult to sell, and  yardy yardy yar. But we love Vouvray, with its distinctive dry yet rich flavour. Jancis Robinson calls true Vouvray (from Loire) “medium sweet, reasonably acid” and in my view she’s bound to be correct, but the best Chenin Blanc produced in New Zealand which I love is Millton’s from Gisborne. It’s delicious. We won’t be calling ours Vouvray, obviously. Not allowed, but that would be pretentious anyway.

I took a photo when the guys started digging the holes for the baby vines, and today  (in 33C degree heat) I took some snaps of the young vines and just three months on they’re thriving.

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In three years’ time, hopefully, I shall be having my first taste of our Chenin Blanc, just as today I tasted our first Chardonnay from vines planted thirty-six months ago.

The  Chardonnay’s delicious. Oaked, not too woody, still fresh tasting with some fruit. We’d hoped for a Chablis style but the vines were determined to do their own thing and at least we don’t have a big oakey turn-your-mouth-inside-out and wither up your balls Chardonnay.

Coming soon to an outlet near you.

An Update on Buying Our Wines

It’s been a while. There have been developments. Notably, Simon Groves, our winemaker, has been shifting the wine out into the market place, arguably one of the toughest jobs in this business (apart from paying the bills). It’s all very well producing great wines but that counts for nothing if they just sit in the warehouse aging.

So we were delighted towards the end of last year when the owners of three of New Zealand’s premier lodges – The Farm at Cape Kidnappers ( at Te Awanga Havelock North, Hawke’s Bay; Kauri Cliffs ( at Matauri Bay, Northland; and Matakauri ( Queenstown decided to stock our wines in their restaurants. They don’t choose lightly.

But don’t fret. You don’t have to be staying, or dining, in one of these fabulous places to imbibe wines from our Te Muna Valley vineyard.


In Martinborough itself, Micro Winebar in Ohio Street sells heaps of our wine (‘like’ Micro on Facebook). And in Kitchener Street, a mere stagger away from Micro, Café Medici ( sells our wonderful Syrah to accompany its gutsy meals.

Sited between these two restaurants you can find Martinborough Wine Merchants (used to be the Martinborough Wine Centre) which sells all things pertaining to wine and yes, my book too, The Good Life on Te Muna Road.

Over the Hill, in Wellington, you can buy retail at Centre City Wines – they do Internet shopping, and the restaurants which stock Te Muna Valley Wines, or our other label, which we are slowly phasing out, the James label (shown below) are Avida (doesn’t stock James, only Te Muna Valley, just to confuse you), Shed 5, and Pravda.

Stephen Morris MW at Avida also takes some of our cleanskins and in his lovely handwriting just signs it, SM. Works a charm on the customers.

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In Hawke’s Bay, there’s a fantastic distributor for us called Advintage – – well worth a visit if you’re in Havelock North and they also sell on line. Really good value-for-money prices and I’m not just talking about our wines.

Then further up the line, in Taupo, you must have heard about, or called in at Scenic Cellars, or The Merchant as the place is also known these days – We really are blessed in this country with so many good booze outlets.

By the time you get to Auckland you will have run out of supplies, so you can go and see Migeul at Accent on Wine in Parnell who has supported us since the very beginning. He has a great range of European and Argentinian wines if you’re that way inclined.

Australians, we haven’t forgotten you. Get Wines Direct stock our drop –, and right on Christmas we scrambled to ship our first container of wine to the UK which you should be able to purchase by now from Planet of the Grapes – – a sort of wine bar, restaurant, and wine shop all rolled into one.

So that’s it, wine lovers. A long post after such an absence and hopefully the harbinger of more to come for 2016.


Publication Day and Book Launch

It’s been five years in the making, and now today, 29 May, my book, “The Good Life on Te Muna Road”, published by Random House, $40, goes on sale. You can buy it on line (Google it, or from Hedleys in Masterton who will deliver all over New Zealand or overseas ) or from good bookshops.

This task started when I was at a book launch for all round good guy and celebrity chef Martin Bosley, who had just written his second lovely book. Nicola Legat, then publishing director of Random emailed me the next day suggesting I write a book about going back to live in the country. “Eeek,” I replied. “I’m not sure I can manage that. I am scared.”

Well, I’m still scared, but I’ve done it. Nicola was marvelous. My first drafts were utter rubbish (she didn’t say so in as many words, but I knew that’s what she meant) but when I “found my voice” as it were, I was away.

Then I had to map out the chapters, and write. Writing is five per cent talent and 95 per cent discipline. Within that discipline is a lot of faffing around. By faffing around, I mean finding jobs which desperately need seeing to – the ironing, gardening, mowing the lawns. Finally, on 31 December 2013 I made a New Year resolution that I would finish this book and I did. The first drafts were followed by about five more drafts, and a contract with Random House. There followed rigorous editing, proof-reading, selection of photos and here we have the final product.

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I am very pleased with the way it looks. The dogs – Hawk and Whetu – have been photographed so many times they are demanding their own agents (one each) and those directors’ chairs with their names on the back rests. This cover photograph (which my photo here hasn’t done justice to) was taken by Jane Ussher.

The book is a tribute to small town New Zealand. When I started to write about returning to the country, to Martinborough, I had to explain that I had lived here before, so then I described what that was like, in the late 1970s living in a large old wooden homestead where poets, artists, photographers – numerous political activists and protestors would visit and stay, and generally create mayhem.

So it’s a sort of memoir, but really I am just the vehicle for a narrative of why tight communities are so important in terms of keeping us happy; healing us, and restoring our trust in humanity. The book also gives some history of where I have lived, both European and pre-European.

I love Martinborough. I was brought up on a farm, not in Wairarapa, but in Hawke’s Bay, and I always wanted to return to the land, be surrounded by animals and a big garden. My dreams have come true, thanks to Colin Carruthers, my husband. This book is a tribute Martinborough and it’s people through my lens.

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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.


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.

2015 Starts With a Party

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.


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.


Te Muna Valley – New Labels for Redbank Estate


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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