WE, US, OURSELVES
We first met at the ripe age of 18 at Bacchus wine bar in Auckland during university days (Bacchus - the God of Wine and Pleasure). It was a sign...
After finishing university, Murray followed his interest of plants into the vineyard and Rachael followed her love of language and psychology into the art of persuasion in advertising.
For over twenty years we have talked about creating our personal dream of combining both our skills to make our own wine label one day. After several ski seasons, we travelled to Melbourne where Murray worked for a harvest in Champagne and Burgundy whilst studying winemaking and working in the Yarra Valley. Meanwhile Rachael spent her time in Melbourne working at various advertising agencies focused on all aspects of traditional advertising and marketing.
Then a new winemaking role moved us back to Marlborough, New Zealand, where we have worked in winemaking and wine marketing since 2008. Along the way adding two daughters, Chloe and Madeleine to the family.
From little things big things grow
After many years in the industry, we decided to pursue our own dream of having our own vineyard and wine label. In 2017 we purchased 4 hectares of hillslope land straddling the Brancott and Omaka Valleys in Marlborough. Planting of a small close-planted chardonnay vineyard began in 2018 (0.29 ha) on a north-east facing, clay-based hill slope. The vines are planted in one of the highest density of plantings in Marlborough.
Labour of love
With no affordable machinery able to work the land we have had to rely on nous. We drove in every post by hand. Every plant has been measured out and planted by hand (with the help of our children Chloe & Maddie and Rachael's parents, Sue & Brett). Every wire, wire clip, irrigation dripper has been clipped by our hands. Irrigation trenches dug by hand. Every post was carried up and down the hill by hand (no need for the gym). Vines have been mulched and weeded by hand hoe. We have done it all by ourselves with the help of one or two good friends, on weekends, mornings and evenings around our day jobs. After a lot of blood, sweat and tears, we had our first harvest four years later in 2021.
New Zealand's smallest Biogro certified organic vineyard
There is a common belief that it's too hard to establish a vineyard organically. From the outset we wanted our 3220 vines to never have to endure synthetic herbicides, fungicides, insecticides or fertilisers. Having never used such inputs, we are fundamentally opposed to their use.
Organics is not necessarily the easy way, but it creates a healthy environment of biodiversity and vitality within the property. It buzzes with insect life, multiple flora and birdlife. The appearance of their resident rams (Clover, Barley and Basil) move into the vineyard after harvest and through winter to help maintain the interrow and fertilise the soil.
We noticed changes in soil health immediately. The crumb structure has improved significantly, the soil is spongy and the worm population has increased dramatically. The soil is easier to cultivate and holds more carbon.
A curiosity was brewing
From the outset, biodynamic principles were employed. The vines were planted on favourable days in the lunar calendar and the soil preparations have been applied by hand. The animal life has grown to include a couple of Red Devon heifers, Wiltshire sheep and poultry in an effort to minimise inputs and outputs from the farm entity.
Beyond this, has been an effort to minimise imported chemical inputs. By making our own plant teas we aim to learn more of natures own remedies, immunity elicitors and health giving properties. Whether its seaweed from the beach, or nettle to help with vine health, or willow, fennel, kawakawa, and manuka for their antimicrobial properties, the options seem endless and largely unexplored.
We strongly believe that the chemical mindset of modern agriculture has its days numbered and the biological mindset is growing.
CLOSE PLANTED VINEYARD - HIGH DENSITY VINES
Pushing the boundaries in Wairau
The chardonnay vineyard is a north-east facing clay hill slope in Wairau (Marlborough) overlooking the Brancott Valley. Close planting aims to produce high quality fruit for wine production as the vines are in greater competition for space, nutrients and water, they are naturally devigorated. This results in smaller bunch architecture and ultimately lower crop loads as each vine produces between 100-250g/vine. These small berries create wine with intensity as a result of high skin to juice ratio. At 11,000 vines per hectare, this is one of the regions highest density plantings.
NUMBER 8 WIRE
Imagination lead to inspiration and intuition
Nothing has been conventional. Due to a limited budget, the winegrowing approach has had very little mechanisation. We have had to rely on our nous and some old school technology. The hard part of organics is managing undervine competition from weeds. Mulching and hand hoeing have been a part of the establishment before investigation into cheaper mechanical tools. We purchased a Ransomes (1950s crawler tractor) and had it engineered to help with mechanical weeding. Later, a small manual hand plough was purchased to enable different means of cultivation. Rachael drives the mower and Murray controls the Boisselet hand plough to manage the undervine.