Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Five Most Scenic Vineyards in New Zealand

Maude Winery vineyard
I discovered this amazing little vineyard by sheer luck. (But isn't that the way of great discoveries?) When my sister Zaiga found I was going to New Zealand, she suggested I contact Vanessa, co-winemaker at Maude Wines. After asking about their vineyards, Vanessa took me to petite Mt. Maude Vineyard.

Dawn and Dr. Terry Wilson planted this vineyard "because all doctors want to plant a vineyard." They named it Mt. Maude for the stark mountain Mt Maude, across the Maungawera Valley just outside of Wanaka, Central Otago. Mt. Maude Vineyard, Maude Wines, New Zealand, Central Otago, Wanaka region.

Netting to prevent birds from eating the ripe fruit, the vineyard is four hectares of Pinot Noir, Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.  Mt. Maude Vineyard. New Zealand, Central Otago wine region, Wanaka region.

Rippon Winery vineyard
This has to be the most photographed vineyard in all of New Zealand. I even had to sign a release form stating that I will let them know how the photographs are used.

Biodynamic Rippon Vineyard, New Zealand, Central Otago, Wanaka.
Ruby Island points to Rippon Vineyard on the shore of Lake Wanaka in this aerial view.  New Zealand, Central Otago, Wanaka.
View of vineyard and Ruby Island through an old spider-web-covered truck. Rippon Vineyard and Winery, New Zealand, Central Otago, Wanaka.

Man O'War Vineyard 
Wnadering around the Man O'War property with vineyard manager Matt Allen, I was struck with the scale of the project. It is actually 150 acres of vines planted in 76 individual hillside blocks scattered over 4,500 acres. It's like a grand experiment with each vineyard having a distinct soil profile and microclimate.

Man O' War vineyard is on the "other" side of Waiheke island, requiring a scenic drive over an unpaved road. Barely visible are two hikers on the far left of the photograph. The boulders are the left overs of the ancient volcanic activity which created the island. Man O' War Vineyards, Waiheke island, New Zealand

Captain James Cook anchored along this coastline during his first voyage around the islands of New Zealand in 1769. When the good captain saw the ancient stands of magnificent Kauri trees ashore, he wrote in his journals that they would make great masts for the Man O' War battleships of the Royal Navy. Thus the name Man O’ War was given this unique part of Waiheke island. Man O' War Vineyards, Waiheke island, New Zealand

Located at the eastern end of Waiheke Island, Man O’ War vineyards are a combination of coastal hillsides with high cliffs, pristine hidden beaches, and a rugged coastline. Man O' War Vineyards, Waiheke island, New Zealand

Sheep, vines and crop trees co-exist on Man O'War Vineyard land.
Man O' War Vineyards, Waiheke island, New Zealand

Te Whau Vineyard
Te Whau was the first vineyard I saw from the Auckland to Waiheke Island ferry. So, actually, that makes it the first vineyard I saw in New Zealand.

Bird netting covers cabernet sauvignon vines of Te Whau vineyard. The view is of ferry and sailboats in Anzac and Putaki Bays.  New Zealand, Waiheke Island, Te Whau Vineyard

Te Whau cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay vineyards seen from the Auckland to Waiheke car ferry. New Zealand, Waiheke Island, Te Whau Vineyard

Auckland can be seen in the background from the Te Whau vineyard and restaurant. New Zealand, Waiheke Island, Te Whau Vineyard

Chard Farm Winery
This was the very first vineyard I saw in Central Otago, on New Zealand's south island.

The landscape seems to dwarf Chard Farm vineyard hanging on a lip above the Kawarau River.  (The vineyard is the patch of green in the distance. I wanted to show the river canyon in the photograph.)  Chard Farm vineyard, Gibbston wine region, Central Otago, South Island, New Zealand.

This Chard Farm 11.6 hectare vineyard was planted by Rob Hay, wife Gerdi, Rob's brother Greg and their parent's checkbook.  Chard Farm vineyard, Gibbston wine region, Central Otago, South Island, New Zealand.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Trump's wine choices not on my World's Most Incredible Vineyards List

A couple of weeks ago Trump hosted China’s president, Xi Jinping, for talks in the US. I wonder how the decision was made to serve the two California wines at dinner?

Imagine Xi's diplomatic surprise if our President had chosen a world-class Chinese wine from a Yunnan Province vineyard. Two Yunnan vineyards are pictured below. Know and surprise your enemy? 

Trump could have chosen a world class wine from President Xi's own back yard. Chinese Shangrila Winery joint ventured with Moet Henessey to make wine from vineyards in the mountains of Yunnan Province.  Beng (some call it Bu) village on LanCang (also called Lantsang, Lansang and Mekong) River is one of my favorite incredible vineyards. This is in the Heng Duan (Hengduan) Mountain Range, Yunnan Province, China.

Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in front of historic Catholic Church, first built in 1867 and rebuilt in 1909, in Cizhong village on LanCang (also called Lantsang, Lansang and Mekong) River, Yunnan Province, China.

Trump could have chosen a French wine, such as a Romanée-Conti from the famous vineyard pictured below. To most Chinese, France is wine. Know and surprise your enemy.
Signature cross in front of world-famous Romanée-Conti vineyard above Vosne-Romanée village, Burgundy province, France.

Clouds create passing shadows over Romanée-Conti vineyard (to left of the paved road) in front of Vosne-Romanée village, Burgundy, France.

Neither of Trump's California selections are exceptionally good pairings with the hamburger he promised during the  presidential campaign to serve Xi . Apparently, the McDonalds-meal promise was not kept.

While Trump has repeatedly said that he is a teetotaler himself, he served his dinner guests a 2014 Chalk Hill Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast and a 2014 Girard Cabernet Sauvignon from Yountville in Napa Valley, according Decanter news.

Here are vineyards providing other choices Trump could have made from my World's Most Incredible Vineyards List.

Spring mustard flowers in highly-rated Screaming Eagle Vineyard on Silverado Trail Road. 
USA, California, Napa Valley.

Vineyard view from Artesa Winery on Henry Road, in the Carneros wine area of Napa Valley, California.

And don't forget Oregon. Check out my book Oregon The Taste of Wine to get insights into why Trump could have chosen a wine from Oregon wine country.

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes with bronze-colored leaf on knarly old vine in Valley View Winery and Vineyard in the Applegate Valley, Oregon.

My book China The New Wine Frontier offers a cellar door insight into President Xi and the Chinese culture, but it is only available in China. I'm now working on a version for the rest of the world.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

100 Vineyard Stories: Vineyard decisions with a 1000-year perspective

What does a 1000-year perspective do when making a decision in the vineyard? 

When making decisions in the vineyard, winemaker Matt Stafford thinks at least 50 years out. So if a block or some vines are not doing well in a particular soil, he replants with a different varietal, better suited to that terroir. Thus fruit quality is maximized for the long term. Craggy Range Winery and Vineyard, Hawkes Bay, North Island, New Zealand.

In New Zealand's Hawke's Bay wine region, the Craggy Range Winery family trust requires the winery and vineyards stay in the Peabody family for 1000 years. The kids, grand kids, great great great grand kids cannot sell (even to buy a yacht). No cashing in for 1000 years. 

Oyster shells and stones are placed below many rows of vines to reflect heat to ensure grapes ripen.  Craggy Range Winery and Vineyard, Hawkes Bay, North Island, New Zealand.

Winemaker Matt Stafford says that perspective completely changes how decisions are made in the vineyard. If a block or even row of vines are struggling for whatever reason, replant with something that will do better. 

That way, in the long term, you will have the best fruit to make the best wine possible.

Te Mata peak towers above the main Craggy Range Winery visitor's center near Hastings.   Craggy Range Winery and Vineyard, Hawkes Bay, North Island, New Zealand.

Would your perspective change if you were required to maintain our collective vineyard, our environment, our world for 1000 years before you could sell out? 

Monday, March 27, 2017

100 Vineyard Stories: Regrets of a Winery CEO

"Yeeah, I do regret getting out of wine making.

Michael completed his Master of Wine examines in 2009. Only 3-5% of those who try, pass the examines, according to Michael. But he still needs to write a 10,000 word dissertation to complete the degree. "There isn't a day that goes by when I don't think about that dissertation, just to finish the thing." Trinity Hill, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.

"I was making wine in Spain and had a long distance relationship with a lady in London. We did that long distance thing for three years. It wasn't easy.

"Then I had a wine making job lined up in Argentina. But she didn't want to move there. So I had a decision to make.

"I took a job with Christie's, you know the wine auction company, in London.

"Now I'm CEO here at Trinity Hill in New Zealand, running a winery business. I work on a computer looking at spread sheets and travel a lot. At this stage in my life I can't just drop everything. I'm 43 with two kids. 

"Yeeah, we're divorced now. So I share kid time with my ex.

"Maybe when I'm 50, it'll be time to re-examine things."

Just to be sure that I didn't jeopardize Michael's career, I emailed him parts of the text. He made the following changes:

“Now I'm CEO here at Trinity Hill in New Zealand, running a winery business. At this stage in my life I can't just drop everything. I have 2 two kids who I want to spend quality time with.

"Maybe when the kids are older, it'll be time to re-examine things.”

Michael Henley
Trinity Hill Winery
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Sunday, March 26, 2017

100 Vineyard Stories: Cellar worker hated Father's winemaking

"When I was growing up, my father made wine. He used anything that would ferment, grass, any kind of fruit, vegetables, squash, anything he could think of. 

"It was awful. I hated the stuff. Completely turned me off to wine.

Nosing Chardonnay juice just squeezed from the press.  Craggy Range Winery, Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.

"Then I happened to go to a big wine festival down in Wellington. That was my first real wine. I loved it.

Dave Whittington watches Chardonnay juice pouring from the press. Craggy Range Winery, Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.

"Yeeah, now I've been here Craggy Range through a couple of winemakers. Taught them everything I know."

Dave Whittington  adjusts one of the fermenting tank nozzles during harvest. Craggy Range Winery, Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. 

Dave Whittington
Cellar Worker
Craggy Range Winery, Gimblett Gravels Vineyard facility
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Rene Magritte visits a New Zealand vineyard

On the ferry from Auckland (seen in the distant background), to Waiheke Island (not seen),  I saw the strangest thing. 
Rene Magritte visits Man O War vineyard, Waiheke Island, New Zealand.

Fortunately, years of transcendental training with remote tribes in Africa gave me the rapid reflexes to capture the vision with my trusty Nikon D810.
Later, over the third glass of Pinot gris-Sémillon-blend wine, I wondered if what I saw was Rene Magritte wanting me to experience New Zealand's Waiheke Island wine and vineyards differently?

100 Vineyard Stories: Man O War vineyard manager

Matt Allen, got his job as manager of the Man O War vineyards, Waiheke Island, New Zealand, by replying to a newspaper ad 24 years ago.

Janis: "Which vineyards remind you of your daughters?

Matt: "That's a question I've ever been asked before."

Vineyard Manager, Matt Allen, holds pruning shears while answering unusual questions. Bird- netted vineyards sit in the valley below him. Man O War Winery, Waiheke Island, New Zealand.
Hesitantly, Matt starts listing vineyards: "Madman, Asylum way out on the east side, Lunatic. And there's the one on a very steep slope." 

(I forgot to clarify if he was referring to himself as parent or his daughters.)

Matt: "Just when you think you have it right, then something happens; you get some excessive rain resulting in excessive vegetation growth. My oldest can get an A one day, and I think everything is going well. Then she gets detention the next day."

Janis: "Whose in charge in your family, you or your wife?"

Matt: "I like to think that I am in charge. But really I'm on the lowest, the 4th rung of the ladder."

Janis: "It's kind of like the vineyard. Whose really in charge?"

Netting keeps the birds from eating all the sweet ripe grapes. Vineyard manager, Matt Allen explained that it takes 6 men to put on the netting and 3 to take it off. But no grapes, no wine. Man O War winery, Waiheke Island, New Zealand.
Janis: "So how is the vineyard like your family?"

Matt: "Do you have kids?"

Janis: "Yes. Two boys, four grand kids."

Matt: "Well, tending vines is like having a baby every single year. After harvest you are pleased it's all over. You think you can rest. But then you start all over again. Pruning. Tending the weeds. It's crazy."

Matt: "But this is my 24th year of doing it here. Before that in Gisborne."

Janis: "That's a lot of babies."