Nigel’s harvest blog 

Friday 4th April

I’ve just been watching the Abel coming in from MacMuir. It’s the last pick of Pinot from a tiny but brilliant looking vintage. A hard frost was across much of Central last night, but with the last Chardonnay in the press, the last of the Pinot on the crush pad, there’s just a bit of Riesling and we are all put to bed. 

Debbie missed us. She nailed the North Island well and truly and probably didn’t do a lot of favours to Marlborough either. Very tough when you are all set to go and a tidal wave of rain comes through. 

So now we have the fruit pulled in, we just have to make it. For some reason the wild yeasts have been caught napping and been reluctant to get started. But Chardonnays are beginning to move now and I’m sure the Pinots will be going within a day or so. With so little fruit the winery has been strangely quiet. I keep looking at a large stack of very expensive new barrels. Quite a lot of those will be sitting empty for the next 12 months.

But that’s farming. You take what you get and there’s always next year.

Monday 3rd April

Debbie does Wellington

The storm approaches…  but just might walk past us. Wednesday now looks safe down here, though Debbie is already moving in on Wellington. If we get the storm it will be the kick back from the other side of the front as it wanders into the pacific on Thursday. Cornish Point is picked, always a good feeling as it’s our breadbasket, so to speak. Now we are working through The Elms, in Block 3, Block 2, Block 6 as we balance optimum moment and the possibility of getting fruit caught in a storm. 

But our risks are pretty minimal compared to others. By Thursday, we’ll have most of our most critical picks sorted. Then after the storm, we can grab the rest before it turns to custard.

Volume is the smallest for some years. When I worked in printing (and this was a long time ago) we would say work can be quick, good and cheap, but you can only have two of the three. So it is here, you can have it good, large and before the storm, but only two of the three. So we’ll be in before the rubbish, small and good. That’s the plan anyway. 

Yesterday we were named the 13th most admired wine brand in the world! How crazy is that? We are behind Vega Sicilia in 12th but just ahead of Chateau Petrus and Sassicaia!, for a little Pinot maker, in a village in the back end of nowhere this is more than a little amazing. In some ways it puts pressure on us, but… hey… nice problem to have. I’m wondering if it’s a tradition that you send a case of your wine to everybody who beats you? That would be something I’d be pretty happy to sign up for!

The Laksa worked, Bang Bang Chicken for lunch today, and goat tagine and couscous for the whole picking team tomorrow. Sam served a Muttonbird topping for today's lunch and has some sort of plan for hiding strange body parts (probably tripe) in future meals. He’s a bit too nose to tail for most of the Kiwis.

Saturday 1st April

No time for tricks today. Picking is continuing through the Saturday, but we’ll take Sunday off. Stunning fruit from Cornish Point: Abel clone Pinot, and Chardonnay. 

We’ve dodged the threatened rain, and the weather is staying near perfect, not too hot, not too cold. 

Volume is a worry. Bunches are small and berries are smaller. This is so often the way it runs, and especially in a challenging year. You can dodge the weather bullet and come in with some of the best fruit you’ll ever see, but there won’t be much of it. There’s a shocker due to come through NZ Wednesday / Thursday (possibly a throwback from the huge Queensland storm), so we’ll keep our eyes open. The indication is that it will be hammering its way through farther North, not good news for the guys up there. 

Making a bit of an experiment for lunch; take a Laksa base, but make a toasted cashew milk rather than the traditional coconut. I’ll report on how it works!

Thursday 30th March

Game on! Finally after several days of keeping us all on a knife edge, Blair decided the stars were aligned and pushed the go button. We’ve kicked off with the 777 in Cornish Point, following through with the other Dijon clones on Riparia rootstock; (sorry to be nerdy, some people seem to care about this stuff!). Then into Calvert to hit the 777 there. The fruit is extraordinary; a lot of small berries, low bunch weights, dark dark colour, thick skins, it’s going to make a "take no prisoners" sort of wine I think. There might not be much of it, though if the first yields are anything to go by. Early days yet, though.

Sam is keeping the team very happy at lunch, paella today, yesterday saw a pappardelle with an amazing ragout made from home made goat bacon, Highland beef, and Gareth’s tomatoes. He’s made the biggest haggis I’ve ever seen from the stomach of the larger goat we killed. We went up the mountain to get some hares but they stayed with their heads down.

The sun is shining, nights are cold, mornings misty. A perfect set of Central harvest weather.....

 

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