Harvest Time…

 Welcome to binNotes | a wine blog

by L.M. Archer, FWS

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…and the riesling is ready!

Some views from my sister’s organic vineyard on the banks of the Yakima River for your enjoyment.

That it…lots going on right now, so catch up with you soon….Cheers!

Care to share? Leave your comments below – and thanks for stopping by!

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Thank You:

Leeanna, Dan, Miss Lily, Brew & the Crew

Copyrighted 2014. All rights reserved. |  Images courtesy: Handprint Farms

Wines of Corsica

 Welcome to binNotes | a wine blog

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by L.M. Archer, FWS

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It’s Official!

A view from the  island of Corsica, perhaps France's most elusive wine region.

A view from the island of Corsica, perhaps France’s most elusive wine region.

 My featured guest blog on Wines of Corsica is now published in The Good Life France.

Read it here.

Santé!

 

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Merci:

Lyle Railsback – Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant (www.kermitlynch.com)

Santo Roman – Rain City Wines (www.raincitywines.com)

Steven Brown – ANWD (www.anwdistributors.com)

Janine Marsh – The Good Life France

Copyrighted 2012-2014. All rights reserved. Image: Courtesy Vins de Corse

American Wine Story

 Welcome to binNotes | a wine blog

Like wine? Like compelling stories about wine? You’ve landed on the right page!

by L.M. Archer, FWS

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Looking for a movie about real heroes that also leaves you hankering for a great glass of wine?

Well, it’s here!

Image: Courtesy American Wine Story

This weekend, binNotes received an invite to the pre-screening  of American Wine Story  – available October 14th worldwide on iTunes and On Demand.

Powerful, poignant, and deeply personal, American Wine Story intertwines the legacy of Willamette Valley legend Jimi Brooks of Brooks Winery with other tales of a few far-flung American wine makers, chronicling leaps of faith from secure careers to follow dreams and pursue a common passion – wine.

Watch it here.

Care to share? Leave your comments below.

Cheers!

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Thank you:

Alisha Lumea – Polished Brands

Copyrighted 2012-2014. All rights reserved. |  Image courtesy: Willamette Wines

Pinot with Passion: Wooing Tree Vineyard | Central Otago, NZ

Welcome to binNotes: Meet the Winemaker

Like wine? Like compelling stories about wine? You’ve landed on the right page!

Today’s Exclusive:  Wooing Tree Vineyard |  Central Otago, NZ

by L.M. Archer, FWS

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It all started with the tree. The Wooing Tree. A rendevous spot for most of Central Otago’s ‘wooing’ couples. Fertile ground indeed, and the eventual site for award-winning Wooing Tree Vineyard, known for their ‘Pinot with Passion.’

binNotes first tasted Wooing Tree wines at The International Pinot Noir Celebration 2014, where owner Steve Farquarson held court over our Friday luncheon table. His wines poured out their sun-kissed brilliance with supple, food-friendly, red-fruited ease.

Pinot enthusiasts may recognize New Zealand’s Central Otago wine region for its annual  Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration, an event set against a stunning, craggy-mountained backdrop which features live music, epic cuisine, and world-class pinot. Known as ‘Vineyards on the Edge’, Central Otago grows pinot in the southern-most region of the world.

The story of Wooing Tree Vineyard centers around two couples who share passion, pluck, and some amazing luck to create one of Central Otago’s most well-recognized wineries.

So grab a glass of wine,  get cozy, and listen up as binNotes talks terroir with Steve Farquarson of Wooing Tree Vineyard:

b/N: Who or what brought you and your family to the world of wine?

SF: My wife Thea and I were working in IT in the UK and wanted to come back to New Zealand (home), but` didn’t really want to go back to an office job in the city. We really wanted to shift back to Central Otago for the outdoors lifestyle and were looking at setting up or buying a business down there, at this stage a vineyard was not part of the idea. We were talking to my sister and brother-in-law Jane and Geoff Bews and found out they were thinking about something similar, so we decided to pool our resources. We discovered quite a few vineyards were being setup in Central and very quickly we were thinking about doing this ourselves. So in 2001 we had the idea, later on in the year we were buying and setting up the vineyard which was planted in 2002. We stayed living in the UK and set it up remotely and shifted back for our first harvest 2005. Since then we have been hands on running a winery business with a very steep learning curve.   

b/N: Tell readers a bit about the history of Wooing Tree Vineyard  - what makes it so unique?

When we bought the land it had been unused for 100 years, before the grapes were planted, a number of trees needed to be felled and cleared, and unbeknown to us, one of these trees had quite a history.  The ancient tree commanded a place in local lore as a lovers’ rendezvous, and therefore had been given the name of the ‘Wooing Tree’. If only it could talk, it would have many a story to tell! Of course, the Wooing Tree was saved and the problem of coming up with a vineyard and wine label name was also solved. Today, the Wooing Tree is a popular place for weddings and marriage proposals and now sits prominently in the middle of the vineyard.

New Zealand’s Central Otago wine region has been called  “Vineyards on the Edge.” It’s the southern-most wine region in the world, and though it’s on the same 45th parallel as Bordeaux, the climate favors Burgundy’s pinot noir.

b/N:  What brought you to this wine region in general, and the production of Pinot Noir in particular?

SF:  We were part of a ‘second wave’ of producers in Central Otago so when we were looking at what variety to plant we had the luxury of the hard work the pioneers had put in finding out what grew best in the region.  It was clear Pinot Noir liked the climate in Central Otago, other varieties such as the Bordeaux ones had been tried, but just could not ripen. We have a continental climate with a short but hot summer and cold nights. The hot days and cool nights make it perfect for Pinot Noir to ripen up slowly, whilst building up the fruit flavours but still retaining the great acidity. We also have long day light hours, high UV light and very dry weather, and this all leads to a good hang time and no rush to bring in fruit. With the lack of rain we get to pick the fruit at the optimum time for flavours.

b/N:  Wooing Tree sits on a flat area within a wine region known for its high elevations. Central Otago also features wind-blown loess, yet your site features more sand and gravel. Talk a little bit about the terroir of Wooing Tree in particular that imparts its unique flavor profiles.

SF:  Our soils are very similar to the rest of the Cromwell basin, they are very light windblown loess and sand over a very free draining gravel base. About 70% of the Central Otago fruit is grown in the Cromwell Basin on similar soils. These soils give us great control in the vineyard in terms of irrigation; just enough to keep the vines going and if it does rain it disappears pretty quickly. It is true we are on a flat vineyard, when we were looking for land we were looking for a north facing slope, unlike many other vineyard areas in the world needing a slope for sun exposure, in Central Otago, the slope was desirable for frost protection. Having a flat vineyard we had to put in a frost protection system in from day one, we use aspersion (water) to protect the vines. In the time we have been here it has been discovered that even a slope doesn’t not always protect the vines in some frost events, hence a lot more frost protection systems going in the last few years. Wooing Tree is situated in the heart of Central Otago, giving it a good mix of the sub regions micro climates and making it one of the first vineyards to harvest, I feel this gives us plenty of time to ripen the fruit and as you say it is “vineyards on the edge” and the edge is often the season change. 

b/N:  Wooing Tree’s tagline is ‘Pinot with Passion.’ Do you have a favorite varietal  among those that you grow, and/or a particular Wooing Tree wine that you’re most passionate about?

SF:  Most of our grapes are Pinot Noir, so this is what we are most passionate about, we make three tiers for Pinot Noir, the Wooing Tree Sandstorm Reserve, Wooing Tree Pinot Noir and the Wooing Tree Beetle Juice, we also make a still white wine called Blondie and dry rosé from Pinot Noir and recently we have introduced a sweet rosé also made from Pinot Noir called Tickled Pink. We do specialize in Pinot Noir, but we do produce a couple of whites,  a Pinot Gris and a Chardonnay, these were primarily produced for the cellar door, but we are noticing a increased demand for Chardonnay, which is great news as we do love our Chardonnay.

b/N:  Tell readers a little about your team of wine makers.

SF:  We have been lucky to have two great winemakers make our wine, Carol Bunn made our wine up until 2009 and now we have the services of Peter Bartle. They are fantastic to work with and have won some great accolades for us over the years. The first vintage in 2005 resulted in a stunning pinot noir, which won the Open Red Wine Trophy at the Air NZ Wine Awards. Consequently Wooing Tree has gathered a truly remarkable following, collecting 8 trophies, many gold medals, a whole host of 5 stars, and praise from wine writers and wine lovers around the world.

b/N:  You practice Old World Burgundy traditions such as hand-harvest and low yields  Do you espouse ‘minimal intervention’ in production as well?

SF:  Yes the winemaking is very hands off as well, the winemakers are always saying they let the vineyard do the work, but of course we know that is not entirely true and they do put their special talents to work crafting the best wine from the grapes they get.

b/N:  What are your greatest challenges at Wooing Tree Vineyard? 

SF:  Frost certainly is a problem we can have many frost fighting nights from bud burst right up to harvest. Birds are another problem in the vineyard, we have to net the vines otherwise there would be no grapes left to pick. We are very lucky to have minimal rain and low humidity therefore disease is not much of a problem and apart from the birds there is very little pest pressure. We do have plenty or rabbits in Central Otago, but our vineyard is rabbit netted around the fence line to stop them getting in.

b/N:  “If owning Wooing Tree Vineyard has taught me anything, it’s taught me…”

SF:  It is a lot of hard work, but very rewarding, I love taking the product from the grapes to the bottle and then seeing the consumers enjoying it in the glass, often on the other side of the world. 

 

 For more information:

Physical Address: Opposite the Big Fruit Sculpture, Shortcut Road, Cromwell

Postal Address: c/o 7 Westmoreland Place |  Cromwell, New Zealand  9310

info@wooingtree.co.nz

 Care to share? Leave your comments below.

Cheers!

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Thank you:

Steve Farquarson – Wooing Tree

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Copyrighted 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Need Riesling??

 Welcome to binNotes | a wine blog

by L.M. Archer, FWS

Like wine? Like compelling stories about wine? You’ve landed on the right page!

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Need Riesling?!?

binNotes takes Terroirist Tuesday off-road…just in time for harvest…

Today binNotes breaks her own ban on infomercials for a good cause…

Wine Makers:

Looking for a few tons of luscious, citrus-noted, organically grown Riesling?

Handprint Farms in Prosser, WA. farms Riesling organically, and has a few tons still available.

Hey, it’s my sister’s farm!

Contact:  handprint@charter.net

Cheers!

Care to share? Leave your comments below – and thanks for stopping by.

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Copyrighted 2014. All rights reserved. |  Image courtesy: Handprint Farms

The Short List: Grey Day Blah Banishers

 Welcome to binNotes | a wine blog

Like wine?  Like compelling stories about wine? You’ve landed on the right page!

by L.M. Archer, FWS

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L.M. Archer - Wine Geek

”Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, and which incorporates itself with the grapes, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.” – Benjamin Franklin

As a writer, I’m inspired by other writers. As a blogger, the same applies.

Blogging isn’t always about educating and entertaining. Sometimes its about celebrating those who inspire us.

With Fall officially upon us, and PNW’s unofficial rainy season with it,

binNotes offers up her

Short List of  perfect grey-day blog pairings to banish the blah’s.

Cheers!

RN74:

Bergman’s Bourgogne: A  personal glimpse of Burgundy, one interview at a time.

Burgundy Report: The definitive field guide to Burgundy, Ah-Zed.

Francophile:
The Good Life France: Go-to guide for ex-pats seeking The Good Life in France.

Becoming Madame: American attorney turned modern-day Colette in The City of Lights.

Off Road Terroirists:

Terroirist.com: Industry insights and interviews that leave you hankering for a beer.

The Drunken Cyclist: Irreverent intersection of all things wine, cycling, family and math…

Geek:

PinotPhile:  Grey’s Anatomy for Pinot Lovers, by the avowed Prince of Pinot.

Great Northwest Wine:  Well-scribed, EZ-yet-encyclopedic resource of all things NW Wine.

Girlz:

Wine Folly, Madeline Puckett: Wine geek pixie, with charts.

Hawk WakaWaka Wine Reviews: The Philosophy of Wine, Illustrated.

Foodie:

My Custard Pie: An oasis of sensory delights from the desert of UAE.

Jameson Fink: Wine Without Worry: Locavore with mad wine skills.

 Humor:

1 Wine Dude: Keepin’ it Real in the Wine ‘Hood.

The HoseMaster of Wine: A Legend in His Own Mind – and beyond, apparently.

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Thanks for stopping by.

Care to share? Leave a comment below!

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Copyrighted 2014. All rights reserved. | Photo courtesy Leeanna W. Horse.

Kiwis & Cowhorns: A Talk about Terroir with NZ Wine Maker Sam Weaver – Churton Wines

Welcome to binNotes: Meet the Winemaker

Like wine? Like compelling stories about wine? You’ve landed on the right page!

Today’s Exclusive:  Sam Weaver – Churton Wines

Marlborough, NZ

by L.M. Archer, FWS

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Ever wonder what those wild Kiwi winemakers do all day? Today, binNotes’ exclusive interview showcases bio-dynamic winemaker Sam Weaver of Churton Wines in New Zealand’s Marlborough region.

binNotes first encountered Sam Weaver at IPNC 2014, where we both attended the Distilling Terroir seminar. Sam had me at ‘biodynamic’ –  a passion of mine. Microbiologist by training, wine seller by trade, Sam eventually segued into biodynamic wine making. Today Sam serves as the talented wine maker for Mount Beautiful Winery in New Zealand while stewarding his own family-owned, organically certified Churton Wines.

So grab a glass of wine and get cozy as binNotes talks terroir with Sam Weaver…

b/N: You started out in rural Britain farming, then as a wine buyer in London. Who or what brought you to wine making, to Marlborough, NZ, and to Churton?

SW: Though I was born in the UK my parents are New Zealanders. I studied microbiology at London University and through a rather circuitous route ended up in the London wine trade. It was great fun and I learned a tremendous amount about wine. I tasted and drank many classic wines from great vintages and bought wines on a commercial basis from small growers in Burgundy, the Loire and the Rhone. All this experience was very influential in my future wine making.  At heart I’m a country boy and after 10 years in the wine trade and central London realized I wanted something different. I travelled to New Zealand to visit my parents and other relatives and was offered a vintage (harvest). In the end (1989) that morphed into an assistant winemaking job in Marlborough. Very early on I knew I wanted to make my own wine but I needed to accumulate enough wine making experience before embarking on that. We eventually established Churton in 1997.

b/N: Tell readers a bit about the history of Churton Wines – what makes it unique?

SW: When we started Churton we did so based on market demand. A UK wine merchant, Tanners Wines in Shropshire, approached me to supply Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. We created Churton that first vintage for them in 1997. Very quickly we decided that to be serious we needed to do something different to the norm and all the “me to” brands that were appearing. That first wine was made from bought-in (purchased) fruit. We quickly decided we wanted control of our own fruit supply. We eventually found a fantastic site outside what was then considered a good growing area and started planting in 1999. We now have 22.5ha (1 hectare = 2.47 acres) planted on the most wonderful elevated site 200m above sea level. We planted the vineyard to principally Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc with a small amount of Viognier and New Zealand’s first planting of Petit Manseng. As I had had all that European fine wine experience I took a much more European approach to the vineyard. The vines are close planted at nearly 5,000vines/ha. on rolling northeast-facing hillside slopes.

What makes us unique is that now all of our fruit comes from this exceptional site. At a high elevation with clay based soils and close vineyard planting, it produces fantastic fruit. There are now some other hillside vineyards ( 1-2% of the total are in Marlborough) but none, in my view, with the important easterly aspect. We set up the vineyard on the basis of minimal inputs with great care to integrate with the environment and have been running it bio-dynamically for the past 7 years. Biodynamics really is away of helping underline and express this unique place we call Churton.

Our basic premise is to capture the intensity of fruit aroma that are the hallmarks of Marlborough but to take these to another level where subtlety, depth, texture and length are paramount.

b/N: You also consult for Mount Beautiful Winery in North Canterbury, NZ. How does wine making at Mount Beautiful differ from wine making at Churton?

SW:  I guess both feed off each other and are the result of my collective experience, and so have many similarities. The primary difference, of course, is the fruit source and to some extent scale. Mount Beautiful is a great vineyard in its own right. It is a long way further south, so it a somewhat cooler harvest, and usually is about 2 weeks later than Churton. The vineyard is a much larger  – currently 70ha. This scale necessitates a different approach. At Churton, we are biodynamic, so we hand-pick all of our fruit. Within 22.5ha, we have 19 different vineyard blocks. We are very detailed and meticulous. The size of Mount Beautiful means that it’s more difficult to run at that level of detail. Sauvignon Blanc is machine picked and treated a little more conventionally than Churton. The aim with Mount Beautiful is to make wines that are a little different to Marlborough wines but still produce strongly commercial New Zealand wines. At Churton, I simply let the vineyard speak!

b/N:  You’re passionate about biodynamics. Tell readers a little bit about the path that led you to the practice of biodynamic farming in general, and at Churton specifically. What’s the most important thing folks need to know about biodynamic farming, and why it’s worth the investment?

SW:  As I’ve mentioned, I come from a rural background. My feet are firmly entrenched in the soil and in agriculture. I also grew up in a very anti-establishment environment. This led me to question conventional approaches to almost everything! In the 80’s and early 90’s I studied wine very seriously in the UK I even wrote a paper on organic and biodynamic wine production. When I came to establish our vineyard I did it conventionally but with very minimal in put. We did no soil manipulations and simply planted in the old established pasture land. As the vines matured we changed to a completely organic based system. We’d always used elements of biodynamics: planting by the lunar calendar, making compost, etc. Taking the step to use the biodynamic preparations seemed logical. As we became more confident we were able to suspend our disbelief of some of the more unusual techniques and see whether they worked for us. Biodynamics is a journey not a result. The more we practice the more we understand and want to implement different ideas.

What is important to know about biodynamics is that it is not a dogma. Rudolf Steiner made suggestions and we are free to use elements of those suggestions and to evolve them in any way that will suit our farm.

Biodynamics is not a religion. What makes it exciting is that it allows a strongly grounded approach which accepts and makes use of science but at the same time allows for a spiritual involvement with your land and farm.

As a microbiologist, biodynamics really helps focus us on enhancing the farms micro biome, the use of compost, the use of preparation 500 (cow horn manure),  the plant and animal diversity; all this leads to a healthier microbial population. This healthy microbial population means vines have better access to water and nutrients. They have more disease resistance. The grapes that come to the winery have a healthy microbial bloom which means natural ferments are easier.

Biodynamics helps express terroir in all the ways above, but if you need any more evidence, look at Matt Goddard’s research work at Auckland university. He is a microbial ecologist and has studied yeast populations and species across conventional, organic and biodynamic vineyards in New Zealand. He has found that although all the vineyards studied have a wide range of species of yeasts, those that are biodynamic have greater populations and more diversity than any other type of viticulture. What’s more, at Churton we have unique yeasts that are only found here. They are not only found in the vineyard but also in indigenous yeast ferments in our wine.

Now that is really cool. Terroir and wine quality are clearly linked by their microbiology and that is emphasized by biodynamics!

b/N: How does your affinity for Burgundy influence your wines?

SW: Burgundy has always been my go-to wine. As a winemaker, I think that it’s essential to have icons. As you may have realized, I’m an idealist. At Churton we are not trying to create Burgundy, we are trying to make Churton. The two will never be the same. The importance of drinking widely and deeply is to help establish the vision for what you want to create in your own wine. For example one problem I see with many New Zealand pinots is that they are struggling with tannin structure. In Burgundy the tannins are very different – much more savoury and integrated, much more mature. This is a fascinating area and probably for me the real key to making great Pinot Noir. Churton’s tannins are very different to the New Zealand norm, and this is very much as a result of site, soil, water management and of course biodynamics. Recently one of our wines was analyzed for a panel of different tannin markers alongside some other very well known New Zealand pinots our wine stood out as have a very different structure to all the others which was great. As a winemaker I want my tannins to run through the mouth, I don’t want them to be separated spatially. I’m particularly critical of tannins that appear as a separate component and in one particular part of the mouth (e.g., front of mouth.)

I think you will see from the detail in our vineyard layout that Churton is very much about site and how we can maximize each different aspect within the vineyard. This approach leads us to produce fruit with evenness in ripening and mature tannins. As I’ve mentioned we work with our different climat and that attention to detail is what helps give us vins de terroir and that is a very European approach. Celebrating the differences in site rather than trying to make a homogenous whole is really what the Burgundians do well.

 

 

b/N:  Churton is a family affair.  Your son Ben did a recent vintage at Bonny Doon Vineyard in California  - what was that like for him? Your other son, Jack, has worked in Europe. How have these experiences informed their contributions at Churton?

SW:  Ben is currently in France working at another bio-dynamic producer, Chapoutier. He loves exploring different wine producers from the angle of biodynamics. Both Mandy and I actively encourage the boys to get a broad view of the world of wine. Ben came back from Bonny Doon Vineyard saying: “Dad our wines are too fruity we need to be more reductive in our winemaking.” That’s great that they can gain the confidence and ideas from elsewhere. It all contributes to the unique expression of Churton.

b/N: Your wife Mandy sits on the executive of OWNZ (Organic Winegrowers of New Zealand). Does OWNZ foresee a greater investment in organic farming in New Zealand in the future? More stringent requirements? Anything about New Zealand organic farming that may differ from other wine regions in the world?

SW: New Zealand is a fantastic place for organics. In Marlborough we are fortunate to have very little disease pressure so it’s a relatively easy conversion. OWNZ aims for 20% of New Zealand wine producers to be organic by 2020. Currently its slipped a little down from 9% a few years ago to I think 7% (we’ve had a few tough years that have taken some people out). There has been a lot of investment in the organic sector. We’ve just come to the end of a period of research across three viticultural areas looking at organic focus vineyards and comparing management and costs. In New Zealand, we have a scheme of Sustainable wine growing. OWNZ objective is to get Sustainable wine growing to accept organic accreditation and to allow people to move from the lowest entry level through to organic certification status within the one scheme.

 

b/N: Tell readers a little bit about the unique qualities of Marlborough’s terroir in general, and Churton’s in particular, that impact the flavor profiles of the wines produced there.

SW:  I’ve described the vineyard above: a high terrace mostly facing east and north. That east facing aspect is so important. Think of the Grand Crus in Burgundy. They almost all face east. The reason is that east facing slopes get the early morning sun. Morning sun is more beneficial than afternoon sun. Morning sun is cool but allows the vines to photosynthesis and if wet, to dry out quickly. Afternoon sun is hot and will dehydrate the vine and especially grapes as they are close to harvest. Hot afternoon sun will produce higher sugar through this dehydration but will not produce riper tannin. Cooler morning sun helps the vine have slower more even ripening, retains acidity and aroma. Our terroir delivers that, as well as its unique character and interaction between the soil and environment, and its unique microbiology.

b/N:  Do you have a favorite varietal(s)? If so, which one(s), and why? What’s your ‘go-to’ wine from Churton? From Mount Beautiful?

SW:  Churton has to be both Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc – both unique in style to Marlborough and have exceptional texture. Mount Beautiful Riesling is consistently good; the Pinot Noir will follow with more vine age.

b/N:  What are your greatest challenges at Churton? At Mount Beautiful?

SW:   Churton is under-capitalized and as a consequence under-resourced in all sorts of ways, while Mount Beautiful doesn’t have those problems!

However, Mount Beautiful is an isolated vineyard a long way from other vineyards, so it’s difficult to get support. The Mount Beautiful vineyard is also a little frost prone, while Churton isn’t.

b/N:  Finally, “If wine making has taught me anything, it’s taught me…”

SW:   Treat the vineyard well with love and you can trust the fruit in your winemaking.

 For more information:

Churton Wines | 941 Waihopai Valley Road, R D 6 Blenheim 7276, New Zealand | info@churtonwines.co.nz

 Care to share? Leave your comments below.

Cheers!

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Thank you:

Sam Weaver & Family – Churton Wines

Mt. Beautiful Winery

Follow binNotes: | Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook

Copyrighted 2014. All Rights Reserved. All Images  of Churton Wines courtesy Churton Wines. Image of Mt. Beautiful Winery courtesy Mt. Beautiful Winery.