My love affair with the Waitaki Valley and its wines is no secret, and what I would like everyone to know is that this is not just a one season stand. With every vintage and every new wine, I become even more smitten, more enamoured. Although it started as a harmless little Pinot Noir flirtation in 2004, it's the region’s Chardonnays that have me hooked for eternity.
From a wine quality and purely scientific point of view, it can be put down to the combination of the region’s cool climate and the superfine chalk and limestone influence on the soils.
The Chardonnays from the Waitaki are quite unique in NZ: They are truly an expression of place. Their acidity, freshness, minerality, length of flavour, precision, transparency, and pure energy are unrivalled.
I must confess as well to an emotional attachment, I was born in the Waitaki Valley, in the Kurow maternity hospital. That hospital still exists today however it has been repurposed into a home for the care of old people at the other end of life. I am not sure if ending life at the same point you started it and making a lot of wine in between is the actual purpose of life, but it will do me until someone suggests a better one.
Our Waitaki Chardonnay grapes are usually the last picked (last vintage was the 12th of May). They signal the end of the year's hard work in the vineyards and the start of a party to celebrate. The crew goes home or to wherever they are staying, gets cleaned up then returns to the vineyard, to a huge bonfire, to the most varied potluck imaginable, to lots of wonderful wines and the opportunity to reminisce.
A farmer-winemaker growing grapes looks mainly down: down at the soil, down at the plants, down into the wineglass. A look upwards is usually brief and just to check on the weather, never mind gazing into the heavens. However when you are sitting around that bonfire with a typically crystal-clear star filled Waitaki night sky, you can’t but help look up. Then when you find out one of your pickers is an astrophysicist who was part of a Nobel Prize-winning team, the evening's usual entertainment of acoustic music is happily discarded for a chance to look at and even photograph things the imagination couldn’t even come up with. So, no more photos of winemaking or grape-growing in this post. Instead, I have included some of what you see when you look up at night. It really is quite “mind blowing”.
Our friend insists anyone can do this from their back yard with the right lens and no light pollution, though I am not so sure. At some time in the near future there may be the opportunity for anyone visiting Gibbston to do this as one of their activities, but that is for someone else’s post.
I would like to thank Professor Brian Boyle for the use of his photos and adding the night skies of the Waitaki to my growing list of reasons for loving that place.
I had better get back to the reason for this newsletter: to announce the release of our 2020 Waitaki Chardonnay. Most of you receiving this newsletter will know exactly what you are getting because you know this wine as well as I do.
Apologies for the 1 case limit however total production is just over 100 dozen and we want to share as much as possible. The good news is Kelley’s grafting has been very successful and there will be a little more in the future.