Family of Twelve Tasting 2019

  • Celia Hay

The stories (or yarns) recounted offer a wonderful picture of the depth of experience for so many of the family members.

Paul Donaldson, talked with emotion when he explained how, as a teenager, along with his brothers, he spent countless weekends planting vines at the fledgling Pegasus Bay in the 1980s. He spoke of how his mother, Chris had become so fascinated by Riesling, that she insisted more vines be planted which resulted in many more weekends...And what an impressive result the Pegasus Bay suite of Rieslings are today.

From the matriarch, Melba Brajkovich of Kumeu River, we learnt about her marriage to Mate, eleven years 
senior and how she became his cellar-hand and so deeply involved in all the projects around creating a wine brand in Auckland. We loved the news that pumpkins had provided a cash crop to give important cashflow in those early years and they were eventually replaced by the Mendoza clone of Chardonnay on the now celebrated block of Mates Vineyard.

Clive Weston, from Nautilus presented the Paper Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc as an excellent example of continuing innovation in wine making from the Marlborough region. 

From Helen Masters of Ata Rangi, we learnt of the McCrone Family who had invested in Pinot Noir in Martinborough and confirmed that the Neudorf Rosie's Vineyard is truly the legacy of Rosie Finn. Stephan of Fromm Vineyard confirmed the rumour that their La Strada range had more to do with the Fellini movie than any Italian translation of the term. The Lawson Dry Hills Chardonnay 2013 was a tribute to founder Ross Lawson who had made the impressive progression from possum trapper to winegrower.

Annie Millton talked of the grape, viognier and how James and her had truly loved this variety from their travels to the Rhone Valley yet it still fails to find resonance with the New Zealand consumer. Guy McMaster, winemaker at Palliser Estate shared some classic Richard Riddiford stories now encapsulated in Palliser's iconic, The Great Riddler Chardonnay.

Mike Bancks from Craggy Range, presented Le Sol, a syrah that leads New Zealand's innovation and reputation and a grower of this full-bodied Rhone varietal. How exciting to taste a wine with this depth of character. 

Blair Walter, winemaker of Felton Road, recounted the significance of speedo swimsuits and their relationship with pigeage or punching down during fermentation. He explained how wearing a swim suit did not really make much difference to the quality of extraction of grape skin colour, tannins and flavour...Blair presented the Calvert Pinot Noir.

From Villa Maria, we were treated to the Ngakirikiri, a Bordeaux blend dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon from the 2014 vintage. This is Villa's flagship wine, and it is easy to sense that this wine is made for the future; to be aged and savoured over time.

For me, these personal stories start to offer a true sense of the human aspect of our wine making families and, as is in so many cases, what started as a small family enterprise has gone on to flourish in exceptional and impressive ways.

Many thanks to the Family of Twelve

-Celia Hay

Wines tasted:
1. The Paper Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Marlborough
2. Pegasus Bay Bel Canto Dry Riesling 2017 Waipara, North Canterbury
3. Millton Riverpoint Vineyard Viognier 2016 Gisborne
4. Lawson's Dry Hills Reserve Chardonnay 2013 Marlborough
5. Neudorf Rosie’s Block Chardonnay 2017 Moutere, Nelson
6. Palliser Estate The Great Riddler Chardonnay2016 Martinborough, 
7. Kumeu River Maté's Vineyard Chardonnay 2017 Auckland 
8. Felton Road Calvert Pinot Noir 2017Central Otago 
9. FROMM Cuvee ‘H’ Pinot Noir 2017 Marlborough
10. Ata Rangi McCrone Pinot Noir 2015 Martinborough, Wairarapa
11. Craggy Range Le Sol Gimblett Gravels Vineyard 2016 Hawke’s Bay
12. Villa Maria Ngakirikiri Bordeaux Blend 2014 Hawke’s Bay

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