ABOUT OUR HOME WINES
Our search for this very special place we call home was a journey of almost two decades. From falling for the mystery and wonder of wine, through work and study in Burgundy and around the world, to our wide-eyed discovery of New Zealand, and the five year quest for a site here that could combine all of the characteristics we so adamantly sought – marginal climate, clay-limestone soils, scarp slopes, eastern to northern aspect, etc. – finding our way home has been a ranging, rich and fascinating migration.
We’ve developed four vineyards here over the last fifteen years, two of Pinot Noir, and two of Chardonnay. Their unusual shapes and differing sizes have been determined by describing, and then adhering to, discrete areas of homogenous soil and aspect. Each block is vinified and bottled separately, as an expression of its specific place.
Our vineyard names are derived from common names of predominant weed species in each block. As soil conditions change, our weed mix responds accordingly. We have managed these vineyards biodynamically from the very beginning, doing so by hand for our first two tractor-less years. It’s perhaps little surprise then, that we’ve become somewhat intimate with (and even fond of) our weed population.
Earth Smoke Pinot Noir: for fumitory (from the Latin fumus terrae), a gentle and tender weed, with a beautiful magenta flower. Its wispy gray-green foliage, rising from newly cultivated ground, does indeed resemble smoke, especially in the half-light of dawn.
Angel Flower Pinot Noir: for yarrow, a lovely grassland and pasture plant with very fine, fennel-like leaves, and a brilliant, composite mass of delicate white flowers. Yarrow is the basis of biodynamic preparation 502, and has a strong association with heat and light.
Lion’s Tooth Chardonnay: for the common dandelion (from the French dent de lion), whose serrated leaves resemble feline teeth. Dandelion is a spectacularly well-balanced plant, and is enormously useful: its early leaves are delicious in salads, its root can be used to make a tonic coffee-like drink, and its flowers engender both wine, and biodynamic preparation 506.
Field of Fire Chardonnay: for the much-maligned grass, commonly called twitch or quack (Latin Agropyron repens), a crafty plant with creeping rhizomes, nemesis to many a home gardener. Twitch usefully shatters the somewhat dense clays at the surface of this small block, while not competing at limey depth with our vine roots.
Our home vineyards allow imagination and conviction to be set free. Whatever means, methods, mentality we believe should produce a truer, more transparent and authentic wine, we invoke here. Our plant density is the highest in New Zealand, our yields austere, and the vineyard environment – embracing soils and plants and animals and insects and above all, people – is lavished with care.
Wine to us is a genie, genius loci; our task is to coax it from its stone bottle. Wine’s magical capacity for evoking site, we consider an obligation, as much as a gift. Every gesture we make, in the vineyard and winery, is a summons to the spirit of place. Biodynamics, hand-based viticulture, natural winemaking – these are all means we’ve adopted better to record and to transmit, with the greatest possible fidelity, this spirit’s song.
So, at home we’ve sponsored a marriage of clay-limestone soils, to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, witnessed by the New Zealand climate, in the hope that we may bring to the world of wine a small chorus of new, unique, euphonic place-voices.
Photo showing the Earth Smoke soil profile and limestone sub-soil