Canadian “Gold Medal Plates” Visit to Vineyard

Posted on March 30th, 2015

Olly talks about the Central Otago region and wines

Olly talks about the Central Otago region and wines

On 30th March we welcomed a group of 20 Canadian visitors to Misha’s Vineyard. Lead by well-known Toronto wine writer and educator David Lawrason, the wine interest group was part of a larger “Gold Medal Plates” tour from Canada who were visiting New Zealand. Gold Medal Plates raises money for high performance Canadian athletes through culinary events and trip auctions.

With the weather having been forecast cold and damp we were delighted to see clear skies and no wind in the morning as we set up marquee, tables and wine table ahead of their arrival. The area around Ah Foo’s House on the Top Block of Misha’s Vineyard has been used for

David Lawrason talks to the group about the style of New Zealand wines

David Lawrason talks to the group about the style of New Zealand wines

smaller groups and tastings before, but not for a larger scale lunch so our vineyard crew had done some clearing work earlier in the week to make sure we had space for the lunch marquee and a gazebo for the food and wine. We lit the fire in Ah Foo’s to make sure there was some warmth should the weather turn cold and to add to the character and atmosphere of the site.

On arrival the group were given an introduction to Misha’s Vineyard and an overview of the Central Otago wine region by Vineyard Manager Michelle Dacombe and Misha’s Vineyard winemaker Olly Masters. This introduction included a tour of the vineyard with Michelle to see the slopes and soils of the vineyard, and a tasting of wines from Misha’s Vineyard, Aurum, Quartz Reef and Mondillo hosted by Olly to show the quality and diversity of wines from the region. One of our seasonal vineyard team – Haruru Kubo a sommelier from Tokyo – helped with pouring the wines as we talked about the climate, soils, viticulture and winemaking that has propelled Central Otago wines to prominence in such a short time.

Cooking the Paella

Cooking the Paella

Rees Hotel GM Mark Rose with the Paella

Rees Hotel GM Mark Rose with the Paella

The group were staying at The Rees Hotel & Luxury Apartments in Queenstown, and lunch was prepared by hotel General Manager Mark Rosewho proved his culinary expertise in quite rustic surroundings. With limited cooking facilities available on the vineyard Mark and Mika used Ah Foo’s fireplace to prepare the Paella and our small BBQ to cook the chicken and seafood topping. The lunch was quite spectacular. The fireplace gave a slight smoky note to the Paella which was sensational, and the finishing touches produced a platter that could have been from any fine dining kitchen. Ah Foo would have been impressed!

Lunch is served!

Lunch is served!

David Lawrason gave a pre-lunch talk on the wines we had for the day, plus some other wines of New Zealand that had been bought along to show the group. It was really interesting to hear his perspective on the wines of New Zealand and how each region has such distinctive characters that show through.

Lunch was a huge success and we won a lot of fans for Central Otago wines from this high profile Canadian group. Thanks to Rudi (Quartz Reef), Lucie (Aurum) and Dominic (Mondillo) for assisting with great wines.

On tour in Hong Kong & China – March 2015

Posted on March 25th, 2015

A report on the recent sales trip to Hong Kong & China by Andy & Olly

With the focus that is placed on the Chinese wine market it is always interesting to get out and meet sommeliers, retailers, consumers and wine sales people in Hong Kong and China. The hype is always a little above the reality, but these are still very important markets and ones that Misha’s Vineyard has been investing in.

Members at the Foreign Correspondents Club

Members at the Foreign Correspondents Club

Olly Master (our winemaker) and I started in Hong Kong with visits to current and prospective customers at some of the most amazing hotels and restaurants including The Upper House and The Park Lane Hotel. Hong Kong was one of Misha’s Vineyard’s first four markets and we have started to develop some great history with both our wine distributor – Jebsen Fine Wines – and many of their customers. Monday night, after an overnight flight from Auckland, we did our first wine dinner with the enthusiastic and vocal members of the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club.

Olly with Celia from Jebsen HK and Roger Chan of Greys at The Upper House

Olly with Celia from Jebsen HK and Roger Chan of Greys at The Upper House

Organisers from the clubs wine committee wanted to have us share the stories of our Chinese connection with the members, as well as some detailed information on the wines. Perfect for myself to be the story-teller and Olly the more serious wine guy! We had a great evening – lots of questions and plenty of laughter and chatter. The evening finished with a quick quiz on Central Otago wines – with the winners taking home a bottle of our fab Pinot Noir.

Some of the party at Ming Court

Some of the party at Ming Court

After visiting customers on Tuesday we returned to the two Michelin Star Cantonese restaurant, Ming Court at The Langham Hotel in Mong Kok. Misha and I had hosted a wine dinner at Ming Court two years ago and were amazed by the food and service – this dinner was no exception. The dinner guests were customer of Rare & Fine Wines – one of our long term retailers in Hong Kong whose stores boast some of the finest wines of the world, and whose customers are some of Hong Kong’s most discerning wine collectors. The menu was again truly amazing, with dishes matched to our wines by sommelier Vincent Yuen and the chefs in this icon restaurant of Asia. The guests had a great night – with lots of toasts and “cheers” as the evening progressed.

Wednesday was training day for the Jebsen sales team – a refresher on Misha’s Vineyard for many of the team and an introduction for some new sales reps who have joined recently. We also had the opportunity to have dinner with well-known wine writer and educator Mabel Lai, with her husband Hood and principal lecturer Karl who with Mabel run the Hong Kong Wine Academy. Mabel is studying for her Master of Wine which offer the opportunity for Hood, Karl and Olly to challenge her with some blind tastings of wines bought along. She certainly impressed with her well trained palate picking up most of the wine styles and characters!

Hong Kong is a vibrant and dynamic city and we love the enthusiasm we see at every event we participate in!

Fried Scorpion

Fried Scorpion

BBQ Snake

BBQ Snake

Grilled spiders

Grilled spiders

On to Beijing and Olly’s first visit to China. With our hotel being right next to The Forbidden City and a short walk to Tiananmen Square Olly had the chance to explore a little in the evenings and also try some local delicacies

Jebsen Beijing team

Jebsen Beijing team

Our visit to Beijing was quite brief – but with training of the Jebsen team in the Friday morning and an afternoon trade masterclass held at the China World Hotel we had the opportunity to meet quite a few sommeliers and all of the Jebsen Beijing team. A lot of the talk was of how clean the air was that week – unusual for Beijing but because the government was holding a major “congress” of all senior Communist Party leaders, the surrounding factories had been closed as they did for the Olympics to reduce the smog for a short period.

Next city was Shanghai – one of my favourite cities in the world (pollution aside). Since going there first more than 25 years ago it has changed drastically from drab grey two story concrete and brick houses and narrow street markets to a mass of skyscrapers, designer shops, massive shopping malls and great hotels. We had a weekend to explore and shop before starting work with customer lunches, trade meetings and staff training on Monday & Tuesday.

Olly presenting at TasteSpirit masterclass

Olly presenting at TasteSpirit masterclass

Part of the schedule included a masterclass on “Central Otago – Pinot Noir and more” for the TasteSpirit wine school founded by Young Shi (who visited us in NZ) and Siwei Zhu. The class was packed, and included one of our former vineyard workers who had returned to China to continue wine studies! Olly provided the technical and informative part of the class – with wines to show why Central Otago has such an amazing reputation not just for Pinot Noir – but also cool climate aromatic wines. My role was some light entertainment in-between with our Chinese gold mining stories, and the connection of Misha’s opera background to the wine names. They even played opera excerpts – selected by Misha – to match the wines. Olly and many of the class were convinced the music made the wines taste different!

Olly talks to a customer at The Langham tasting

Olly talks to a customer at The Langham tasting

The last event in Shanghai was an open trade tasting at the beautiful Langham Hotel where they have our wines listed and served by-the-glass. We had a number of sommeliers and wine retailers come through to taste the wines and chat to Olly and myself. The impressive images of Misha’s Vineyard had been set onto art boards by our brand manager at Jebsen China – Amanda – and had a real impact at the venue.

Final stop was in Guangzhou, a city of over 20 million people where I have not been for over 10 years. While our wines are with Jebsen Fine Wines in Guangzhou we had not made it there on previous visits to do training or visit any customers. It was a short visit but well worthwhile with our morning staff training and lunch at The Westin Hotel – overlooking the central park and some of the redeveloped areas of Guangzhou.

While everything about this trip flowed easily we know how much work goes into making these visits a success. A huge thanks to the Jebsen teams in both Hong Kong and China – we look forward to coming back again soon.

Vineyard Happenings…

Posted on March 20th, 2015

Michelle Dacombe Feb 2015Vineyard Manager, Michelle Dacombe’s pre-2015 harvest Blog Update

It’s a long time since my first week at Misha’s Vineyard – and a lot has happened! After a cooler, drier and windier spring than we have had in a while, we finally had some growth on our canopy in late November. December saw a very successful flowering period and some stunning weather throughout the month. In January we started our crop load adjustments which is where we remove bunches so that we’re ripening just the amount of fruit we require to ensure high quality yields (and not high quantity) and we trimmed the canopy and did a lot of leaf plucking to ensure we expose the fruit to the sun for good ripening. In February was all go with putting on the bird nets and now in mid-March we can finally breathe out and let the vines slowly ripen the crop.

Some of our hardworking seasonal team

Some of our hardworking seasonal team

Our casuals will have a bit of time to head off and do a bit of travelling before we start harvest and get into the real fun of grape growing. I must admit I can smell harvest in the air and every year I get a few wee butterflies of excitement as it gets closer. This year those butterflies might reflect a bit more nerves, but since the hard work is done and the weather has so far be kind, I can only sit back and look forward to a few weeks of smiles and high fives as the grapes make their journey from vineyard to winery. In anticipation of tasting the spoils from a good growing season, I might just raise a glass (or two) and reflect on the successes of previous vintages. Cheers!

Misha’s Vineyard shows NZ Junior Sommelier Winner the ‘High Life’

Posted on February 10th, 2015

Vineyard Manager Michelle Dacombe talks to Ollie

Vineyard Manager Michelle Dacombe talks to Ollie

Oliver Carr, or ‘Ollie’ as he’s known, was the winner of the inaugural New Zealand Junior Sommelier of the Year title which was judged last September during Auckland’s Wine and Food celebration. The competition was established by Celia Hay, director of the New Zealand School of Food and Wine. The rigorous judging for the New Zealand Sommelier of the Year and the Junior Sommelier title were judged by a team of industry experts – Cameron Douglas, New Zealand’s only Master Sommelier, Tim Hanni, a Master of Wine from California and Therese Herzog, an acclaimed restauranteur from Marlborough.

Misha’s Vineyard is the sponsor of the Junior Sommelier of the Year award, which is open to those under 30 years of age, with the Sommelier of the Year award sponsored by Champagne house Louis Roederer. The sponsorship makes sense for us given the focus with Misha’s Vineyard has always been on working with the country’s leading restaurants who distinguish themselves with outstanding food and wine but also outstanding service. By sponsoring this sommelier award, we hope we can play a small role in motivating and encouraging young industry professionals.

Touring the vines at Misha's Vineyard

Touring the vines at Misha’s Vineyard

Ollie’s prize was to experience a bit of the ‘high life’ in Central Otago as well as learning a little more about the region. His first afternoon was spent with Oliver Masters, who is not only our winemaker but also one of the most well regarded wine judges in the country. It was a great opportunity for Ollie to be able to do some tutored tastings with him and also to visit some of the top rated wine producers in the Central Otago region including Burn Cottage and Aurum Wines. Ollie was then guest of honour at a special degustation dinner at True South Dining Room at The Rees Hotel Queenstown where Executive Chef and rising culinary star, Ben Batterbury had designed the menu. This special dining experience was generously provided by Mark Rose, General Manager of The Rees Hotel Queenstown, whose strong belief in delivering accommodation and dining experiences at the very highest standards, result in the many accolades that the hotel and restaurant receive. (If you’re ever looking for fabulous accommodation in Queenstown, don’t hesitate in booking The Rees Hotel –and of course they serve our wines there!).

Included in the prize was also a helicopter trip over the main winegrowing region of Central Otago. Our local Cromwell-based helicopter company, Heliview Flights, owned by the fabulous couple, Jolanda and Richard Foale, took Ollie all around the Bannockburn region and then down along both sides of Lake Dunstan to see all the vineyards in the Cromwell basin where the majority of Central Otago’s grapes are grown.

Andy, Ollie, Michelle & Misha prepare for the Heliview trip over the vineyards of Cromwell Basin

Andy, Ollie, Michelle & Misha prepare for the Heliview trip over the vineyards of Cromwell Basin

Travelling with Ollie and providing the commentary during the flight was Michelle Dacombe, the Vineyard Manager for Misha’s Vineyard, who has spent many years working on vineyards in the region. Back on land, we headed to Misha’s Vineyard where Michelle took Ollie on a tour and talked about viticultural practices, soils etc. After all of that it was time for lunch, so we set up an impromptu lunch in our old goldminer’s hut, ‘Ah Foo’s House’ on the top block of the vineyard and enjoyed some Limelight Riesling and The High Note Pinot Noir.

It certainly seems Ollie has developed a taste for Central Otago as he has chosen to be temporarily based in the region and is working with one of the local vineyards over the next few months in order to broaden his knowledge and understanding of viticulture, having just completed a post-graduate diploma in Viticulture and Oenology at Lincoln University. He then plans to do some travelling and work at various wineries overseas during vintage to gain further experience.

Lunch on the vineyard at Ah Foo's House

Lunch on the vineyard at Ah Foo’s House

Given that Ollie has come from a family where his father has been a restauranteur for over 20 years, it isn’t surprising Ollie has been attracted to the hospitality sector. He has gained some solid experience in hospitality while working in Wellington, which is where we first met him when he was working at Shed 5, and along with formal qualifications and experience in vineyards and wineries, he certainly will have a fantastic base on which to launch his career in whatever direction he chooses within the hospitality or wine sectors.

We wish Ollie all the best for his career and hope our small contribution provided a little education and inspiration!

Misha’s Vineyard Joins in the Pinot Celebration Fun

Posted on February 9th, 2015

Misha talks to Central Otago wine pioneer Alan Brady

Misha talks to Central Otago wine pioneer Alan Brady

Misha’s Vineyard participated in this year’s 2015 Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration – it was the 11th time this event has been staged but it was the first year we have been involved.

Held in Queenstown each year, the Pinot Celebration is a two and a half day extravaganza where Central Otago Pinot Noir is placed centre stage and beautifully supported by a stunning array of aromatic white wines from the region. This event has been one of the key reasons that the Central Otago region is the envy of all others as it demonstrates a great cohesiveness within the local winegrowing community. This sense of community has come about for many reasons: it’s a relatively new winegrowing region (20 or so years old) and with that comes a pioneering spirit and sense of comradery and support; it’s a region that’s predominantly made up of family-owned boutique producers; and there is a common thread that links everyone – our ‘hero’ grape variety, Pinot Noir, which accounts for about 80% of the grapes grown in the region, with every producer having Pinot Noir as either part of their range or exclusively focussed on it.

Two examples of  stylish attire! Jeffrey Bragman from the US with Rockburn winemaker Malcolm Rees-Francis

Two examples of the stylish attire at Pinot Celebration! Jeffrey Bragman from the US with Rockburn winemaker Malcolm Rees-Francis

The Pinot Celebration sets out to present a balanced program of activities – some were educational, some exploratory, but all enjoyable. Attending these celebrations is quite a varied audience comprising wine producers, wine writers, wine retailers, sommeliers and ‘pinotphiles’ – a term coined to describe consumer Pinot Noir lovers. In fact there were pinotphiles from all over the world, some of whom making the Pinot Celebration a regular event on their calendar! This year the events included a masterclass to understand and appreciate German Pinot Noir – Spätburgunder with a visiting German expert to guide us through this excellent tasting; a masterclass that set out to discover whether the various ages of geological features across the region could be the basis for explaining similarities in some of the Pinot Noirs produced, and a Grand Tasting with every producer showing two Pinot Noirs, current vintage and an older one, in a morning that took dedication and resilience and sheer determination to taste through them all. We showed our 2013 Misha’s Vineyard The High Note Pinot Noir (although it will be a couple of years before we release it) and our 2010 Misha’s Vineyard Verismo Pinot Noir, which had won a Gold Outstanding medal in London the year before last. We had some fantastic comments on the wines and now a few people have had a taste (quite literally) of what’s coming with future Misha’s Vineyard Pinot Noir releases!
UK Master or Wine Tim Akin was very excited!

UK Master of Wine Tim Akin was very excited!

Interspersed with those more serious tasting exercises at the Celebration there was an informal welcome event where a range of older vintage white wines seduced the crowd along with a constant stream of food prepared by one of New Zealand’s icon chefs Josh Emett, and a winemaker’s party complete with a Maori haka and plenty of older Pinot Noirs as well as aromatic whites to keep one busy tasting all evening. The ‘celebrationers’ were broken into smaller groups for lunches and on the first day headed to various creative venues for lunch which included a barrel hall, marquees in vineyards or around beautiful gardens, with only one lunch in a conventional dining space in a winery restaurant at Carrick Winery, which is where Olly, our winemaker, and I enjoyed our winery lunch.

Mel Brown (Providores) with Theo Coles (Kalex Wines)

Mel Brown (Providores) with Theo Coles (Kalex Wines)

The second day of lunches took people to some of the finest restaurants in Queenstown where degustation menus had been developed to perfectly complement a selected range of predominantly older wines. Olly and I were very fortunate as our lunch was at True South Dining Room at The Rees Hotel where Executive Chef Ben Batterbury has a reputation for serving Queenstown’s finest food. There were four wines expertly matched by Ben to a lunch that had our group raving. Ben, as always pushed the boundaries on the matching and it worked brilliantly. He paired our 2009 Misha’s Vineyard Dress Circle Pinot Gris with a dessert – which when I found out at the beginning of the lunch had me let out a little gasp, as pairing an off-dry Pinot Gris with a dessert would not have seemed like an obvious match to say the least. To describe the dessert as a deconstructed apricot cheese cake certainly doesn’t do it justice – it was so much more than that! Yes I should have known better than to doubt Ben’s ability to understand and match flavours and textures! These various lunches over two days provided great conversation topics when the group came together for the evening events as people shared and compared their experiences.

Our Winemaker Olly talks to Dane Campbell from The Musket Room

Our Winemaker Olly talks to Dane Campbell from The Musket Room (NY)

We went straight to the top for the final dinner – literally up a gondola ride to the Skyline restaurant and breathtaking view over Queenstown, and with a special guest chef brought in to prepare the feast. Wines were provided by the participating wineries with every guest also encouraged to dig into their cellar and bring something interesting to share. The number of amazing bottles on the tables at the end of the night proved that this was not exclusively a Pinot Noir celebration!

So why haven’t we previously been part of this wonderful event that attracts well over 200 Pinot Noir lovers from around the world along with those influential wine journalists and sommeliers who are invited to experience the ambiance of this special event?

Hong Kong wine writer Rebecca Leung with Misha

Hong Kong wine writer Rebecca Leung with Misha

For the past five years since we launched our wines, our prime focus has been to establish and build our export markets so that we can be sustainable and viable from a financial and business perspective. To do anything well it takes a lot of hard work and a very focussed approach. But with over 20 export markets now established, we are moving into our next phase of development which is more about but supporting and growing the markets that we are already in, and participating in events and activities in those markets that we believe will be beneficial in building the Misha’s Vineyard brand.

Congratulations to Central Otago Pinot Noir Limited (COPNL) – the marketing arm of our local winegrowing association, who put this event together. There is a lot of commitment and months of work by a small team of volunteers from our local winegrowing community to pull off an event like this. They did it brilliantly!

The Misha’s Vineyard wines that were shown at the 11th Pinot Noir Celebration – January 2015 were:

Welcome party at Rata
Misha’s Vineyard Lyric Riesling 2010
Grand Tasting
Misha’s Vineyard The High Note Pinot Noir 2013
Misha’s Vineyard Verismo Pinot Noir 2010
Winemakers’ Party
Misha’s Vineyard The High Note Pinot Noir 2010
True South -The Rees Hotel
Misha’s Vineyard Dress Circle Pinot Gris 2009
Grand Dinner
Misha’s Vineyard The Gallery Gewurztraminer 2009

Festivals, Friends and Fun at Misha’s Vineyard in January

Posted on February 6th, 2015

Misha looks at some activities on Misha’s Vineyard through January – normally our quietest month!

Hat Party on New Year's Day.

Hat Party on New Year’s Day.

Even when we think we’re going to have a quiet month, it never really works out that way. But to be honest, I think we’d be bored if we did have things too quiet! Our year started with a New Year’s Day party at home with a ‘hat party’ which was a lot of fun, but then we were back into work mode with our first wine festival two days later.

Annabelle & Misha at Old Cromwell Wine & Food Festival

Annabelle & Misha at Old Cromwell Wine & Food Festival

The Old Cromwell Wine & Food Festival is a small affair but an opportunity to let our local community come and try our wines since we don’t have a cellar door. About a dozen Central Otago producers (mainly the boutique wineries) set up marquees alongside some food tents and with wonderful warm weather, we all enjoyed a fabulous afternoon on the green. We chatted with the locals, served lots of wines and got into the rhythm of things with a little dancing in our tent to the sensational country pop music of Jody Direen – the guest performer for the afternoon. We were lucky to have our friends, Mark and Annabelle staying with us at the time, as we roped them in to help serve wines in our marquee. And it was lucky they did, as the four of us hardly paused for breath all afternoon!

Sharon & Chris on the vineyard with Andy

Sharon & Chris on the vineyard with Andy

It’s an amazing thing, but we always find at these festivals that when people can try a taste of our Limelight Riesling, it then becomes their favourite. It was the most popular wine we served that day – ahead of our Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc. Even Jody Direen enjoyed a glass of Limelight Riesling during her performance and then posted in her Facebook later how much she enjoyed the bottle she’d taken home with her!

Our first visitors in January were Sharon and Chris Dawson – Sharon’s brother Carl manages Golddiggers – a wine retail store in Thames, a town in the Coromandel Peninsula of NZ, where Andy and I had a really fun tasting event last year and broke the record for selling more wine than any other wine dinner they’d had!

Andy & Kip on the vineyard

Andy & Kip on the vineyard

Then Kip Heegaard and his father Peter, all the way from Minnetonka, Minnesota (USA), popped in to see us on their way to the fabulous Cedar Lodge, north of Wanaka, for a spot of heli-fishing. I met Kip and his wife Lucy on Twitter and found out they visit many vineyard and taste many wines and write a blog called the Thirsty Kitten. Their blog works as their “virtual” wine bar where they share what they love to do — sip, learn, and talk about wine. When Kip told us “Lucy and I are huge Riesling fans although ours hearts belong to Pinot noir” – we knew we’d hit it off so it was great to be able to meet Peter in person.

Later in January it was nice to get a call from Liam Hindle from Victoria Wines, our distributor in Fiji, to tell us he was in town and wanted to visit along with his wife and daughter.

Liam and family from Vitoria Wines in Fiji visit the Vineyard

Liam and family from Vitoria Wines in Fiji visit the Vineyard

It was the first time Liam had been to see Misha’s Vineyard so he wasn’t quite prepared for what he’d find on our vineyard – rocks! As a former geologist, Liam gets pretty excited by rocks, naturally, and he was gobsmacked by the size, quantity and shape of the rocks on Misha’s Vineyard! To be honest I fell in love with the rocky outcrops on our ‘canyon’ when I first saw the piece of land that became Misha’s Vineyard so I can understand his enthusiasm. Although he’d seen many photos, standing on our vineyard is the only way to appreciate the size and steepness of our land – in fact we made Liam and his daughter walk down the ‘ski slope’ block to truly appreciate it’s incline!

We finished the month with the 11th annual Pinot Celebration in Queenstown. But there’s so much to tell you, it’s worthy of its own posting!


The Art of Leaf Plucking at Misha’s Vineyard

Posted on January 22nd, 2015

A little about why we pluck leaves from the vines

The vine before leaf plucking

The vine before leaf plucking

We’re midway through summer and at the point in the season where we need to do some leaf plucking. This process involves the removal of a few leaves around our grape bunches which increases the exposure to sunlight and provides a number of beneficial effects:

– it reduces disease pressure, particularly the incidence of powdery mildew and botrytis, due to the increase in airflow and reduction in humidity as well as an increase in UV levels. The open canopy also allows for more effective disease prevention activities e.g. application of sprays.

– the effects of increased light and temperature also increase tannin levels in the berry skins which help them survive disease attacks but also add structure to the Pinot Noir wine.

Vines after leaf plucking. Fruit is exposed but leaving a

Vines after leaf plucking. Fruit is exposed but leaving a “verandah” leaf cover above

– this temperature/light benefit also results in increased rates of malic acid degradation which is an important step towards ripeness and also reduces levels of green unripe flavours from compounds such as methoxypyrazine.

All of these things allow us to let the fruit ripen for as long as we think is necessary and that the level of ripeness is uniform through all the fruit rather than a mix of under and over ripe fruit. Visually being able to see the fruit easily as we walk down the rows also makes it much easier to monitor the fruit and also speeds up our hand-harvesting.

Whilst this may seem like a straight forward operation it is important to not overdo it and important that it’s done soon after fruit set in order to avoid sunburnt grapes. Generally it will be carried out more on the shaded side of the canopy. The best result is achieved if the work is done by hand which allows for the variations in canopy density and row orientation to be taken into account. It also minimises any physical damage that might result from machinery bruising the fruit.

It is not the most exciting job in the vineyard so it is also important that the work is closely monitored to avoid over or under achieving!

(Olly Masters – Winemaker & Michelle Dacombe- Vineyard Manager)

Misha’s Vineyard North Island Road Trip

Posted on October 9th, 2014

Misha talks about our recent trip to some of our North Island customers.

Owner & Chef Jeff Dunstan from Domaine in Hamilton

Owner & Chef Jeff Dunstan from Domaine in Hamilton

Last year we enjoyed our road trip visiting customers around many towns of the North Island and so this year we decided to do it again! We thought we’d be a little smarter this year and instead of driving from the South Island we booked flights from Queenstown. However we forgot the unpredictability of spring weather and on our day of departure, we sat at Queenstown airport for many hours watching snowflakes and threatening clouds restricting most flight departures for the morning. Arriving in Auckland several hours later than planned, we finally picked up our rental car and started our Bay of Plenty, Coromandel and Waikato wanderings.

Sonja & Andy at LQ Mt Maunganui

Sonja & Andy at LQ Mt Maunganui

Working to a very tight schedule prepared by Sonja who looks after this region for Negociants New Zealand, (our fabulous distributor), we headed off to Hamilton for our first brief stop. We did manage to fit in a dinner at a restaurant called Domaine which is run by Jeff Dunstan, who’s also the chef. It’s a great spot for enjoying some innovative food and has a small but well-chosen wine list (that we’re on of course!).

The next morning we were off, passing through the wonderful small town of Cambridge and popping in to see Andy and Nikki at the Cambridge Fine Wine Company, then by lunchtime we were in Tauranga. Our first stop there was Somerset Cottage which is run by Anne Butcher with her husband and Chef Rick. It opened in 1986 and is still going strong and operates as a cooking school as well as a restaurant. Then we went on to Mt Maunganui – Andy’s home town. During our driving around “the Mount” over the next day, Andy was reminiscing about growing up in the area, pointing out where he lived, where he’d surfed etc. “The Mount” is still a fabulous spot but these days you need a lot of cash to own a house near the beach but there are plenty of folks that do!

Tay St Breakfast - YUM

Tay St Breakfast – YUM

We had spectacular breakfast at a spot called Tay Street Beach Café which is owned by Hamish Robinson. Andy tells me it’s located where the old caravan park used to be along with the corner store – and most importantly, it was where he bought Buzz Bars when growing up – a kiwi chocolate addiction he’s never managed to kick! Hamish has done a marvellous job with this café as it has that perfect casual beachfront feel but prides itself on excellent food and a wine list which defines itself by having an amazing array of great wines by the glass! We love that!

Whilst in the area we visited various wine shops and restaurants with our last stop at Trinity Wharf Hotel. Wow – what a stunning place and what an amazing location. We were charmed by Alain Degas, Restaurant Manager, and although we were there to show him our wines, we ended up trying some of the lovely wines he’d selected for his wine list! (And yes, we do call this work!).

Thames Wine Club - what a fun team of wine enthusiasts!

Thames Wine Club – what a fun team of wine enthusiasts!

We then made a quick dash to the small town of Thames, and had little time to prepare for our first wine event of the trip at GBD Restaurant at the Junction Hotel. We weren’t sure what to expect with this wine matching evening and we became even more wary as noticed many of the guests that were seated had large glasses of Guinness in front of them – along with 7 wines glasses for the tasting! One of the guests explained to us that “Guinness was a good palate cleanser”. Well now I’ve heard everything! But you know what, that group of predominantly farmers, were just great. We had a very noisy and fun evening and everyone enjoyed our wines and ordered a record amount through our retail partner Golddiggers Thames. Thanks to Karl from GBD and Carl from Golddiggers – a great duo in putting together these wine nights for their very enthusiastic (and very unusual) wine tasting club!

Stu Simpson at the keyboard. Piano Bar, Whitianga

Stu Simpson at the keyboard. Piano Bar, Whitianga

With an early start, our final day was in and around the Coromandel peninsula with visits to Matarangi, Cooks Beach and Whitianga. I think there will be a little more Misha’s Vineyard wine drunk in the Coromandel this summer as we had great feedback on our wines and it was a pleasure to meet all the customers in this stunning part of New Zealand. So if you’re holidaying there this summer, you can find Misha’s Vineyard wines at the new Cask n Cans store in Matarangi – where Wayne “Puk” has an outstanding selection of premium New Zealand wines (in spite of the name of his store!), at Cooks Beach Liquor Store where Raewyn also has a small but lovely selection of wines, and at the Piano Bar in Whitianga where Stu might play a few notes for you while you sip a glass or two.

Andy, Misha & Gary - Tairua Goldiggers Wine Club

Andy, Misha & Gary – Tairua Goldiggers Wine Club

Our final event in the Coromandel was in the small town of Tairua where we had a Misha’s Vineyard degustation dinner at Shells restaurant organised by Gary Barker from Golddiggers Tairua for his Wine Club. This group was very serious about their wines and there was a lot of discussion, but again the feedback to our wines was amazing and I think we left Tairua with a quite a few fans.

We love visiting customers in some of the smaller cities and towns in New Zealand and look forward to next year’s North Island road trip.

Congratulations to the Sommelier, Junior Sommelier and Wine Professional of the Year!

Posted on September 21st, 2014

Sommelier OTYAndy Gladding wins New Zealand Sommelier of the Year and trip to Champagne
Facing a day of blind tastings, theory and practical assessments, including decanting red wine over a candle and opening a bottle of Champagne before the judges, Andy Gladding triumphed over his high-calibre competitors.

The New Zealand Sommelier of the Year Awards, under the direction of Master Sommelier Cameron Douglas and New Zealand School of Food and Wine director, Celia Hay, was held on Monday 15 September.

The competition is part of Auckland’s new W&F Wine and Food celebration held at the New Zealand School of Food and Wine in the Viaduct with 25 leading wineries pouring their wines and international experts presenting masterclasses on cheese, wine, olive oil and honey. The next W&F will be held in September 2015.

Andy Gladding - Sommelier of the Year 2014

Andy Gladding – Sommelier of the Year 2014

Andy was assessed with other finalists on a number of key skills including his knowledge of the world of wine, spirits and other alcohol beverages, including Sake, to his ability to write notes on 6 wines, tasted blind. Andy was also required to open a bottle of Louis Roederer Estate in front of judges, Therese Herzog, Tim Hanni MW and Master Sommelier, Cameron Douglas. Andy then decanted a bottle of red wine over a candle while answering questions from the judges.

Over this broad assessment of sommelier skills, Andy confidently demonstrated that he has a huge depth of knowledge along with outstanding practical ability. His expert customer service skills show a natural empathy with his clients and ability to listen and advise on a beverage choice based on their preferences.
Wins trip to Champagne
The New Zealand School of Food and Wine has sponsored Andy’s flight to Paris and Champagne Louis Roederer will then host him at this family owned estate. Louise Roederer’s New Zealand distributor, Eurovintage will then facilitate Andy’s visit to other French Estates in their portfolio.

Andy Gladding is Beverage Manager at leading Auckland restaurant, The French Café where he has worked since 2011. “Andy is an incredibly passionate, hard working and dedicated member of The French Café and we personally could not think of anyone more deserving,” comments French Café owner, Creghan Molloy-Wright.

There are three awards in the competition, NZ Sommelier of the Year, Junior Sommelier of the Year and Young New Zealand Wine professional of the Year. The other winners are:

The Winners - Oliver Carr, Alexis Robin and Andy Gladding.

The Winners – Oliver Carr, Alexis Robin and Andy Gladding.

Junior Sommelier of the Year
Oliver Carr
Currently working part-time in hospitality, while studying winemaking at Lincoln University, Oliver wins a tour of the Central Otago wine region as guest of Misha’s Vineyard.

Young New Zealand Wine Professional of the Year
Alexis Robin

Orginially from France, Alexis is based in Central Otago. His prize is being part of Herzog Estate’s Harvest Weekend in and vintage at Yealands Wines in Marlborough, April 2015.

About the Wine and Food Celebration
The New Zealand Wine and Food Event is an annual two-day public event in Auckland comprising a showcase of New Zealand and international wine, cooking workshops and master classes. In 2014 these included presentations by US-based Master of Wine Tim Hanni and renowned cheese expert Juliet Harbutt. The event is organised by Celia Hay’s New Zealand School of Food and will run again from September 13, 2015 at their premises in Auckland’s Viaduct .

For more information contact
Contact: Celia Hay, Director, New Zealand School of Food and Wine
021 981 947

Michelle Dacombe – First week thoughts..

Posted on August 8th, 2014

Welcome to Michelle – our new Vineyard Manager at Misha’s Vineyard. Michelle shares her thoughts after week one!

Michelle Dacombe_Vineyard Manager_Misha's Vineyard_Aug 2014My first week at Misha’s Vineyard started on a Monday where I met the vineyard crew and learned a little about my new surroundings. I was able to join in on the last of the pruning in the Top Block (which is all Pinot Noir) and enjoyed a fine day of sunshine. On Tuesday I attended the Otago Polytech to get a Growsafe certification, then it was back to the vineyard on Wednesday for rock removals!

Yes, we’re currently removing rocks from the Lakefront block which so far has never had any rocks removed since this part of the vineyard was planted – so it’s a big task but necessary before we can get the sweeper and mulcher down the rows to clean up the winter prunings. Then we’ll carry on removing rocks down the Ski Slope (where the Sauvignon Blanc is grown) and another block of Pinot Noir.

Thursday saw a fair bit of rain but that gave me time to duck into the shed in the morning and get familiar with all the gear. After lunch we headed into Dress Circle and finished the last of the pruning of the Pinot Gris. In fact we have just one-third of the Ski Slope Sauvignon Blanc left to prune, and that will be it for 2014!

A few of the rocks that appear on the vineyard

A few of the rocks that appear on the vineyard

Friday was looking promising despite the forecast for all of about 45 minutes. Before we could blink a quick moving southerly front came through dusting the vineyard with snow. We thought we could sit it out, but it kept on coming, so the crew got a reprieve and an early weekend. I must admit it was a great day for watching the squally snow showers pass through the valley, especially from inside an office.

My first observations of the vineyard have me looking up. Anyone who has visited this site knows what a spectacular view there is from anywhere on the vineyard. I’m feeling especially spoiled at the moment. I have also been struck with a great sense of positivity from the team here. The vineyard crew are full of smiles, enjoy one another’s company and seem genuinely pleased to be here. Their experience on this site will be invaluable to me as the growing season begins. I’ve got Ian to help me study up the irrigation system, Aaron to give me a few lessons on the tractors here and Sue is the ‘go to’ lady in the vineyard having been here the longest. I hope that I will be able to bring my own positivity to the mix and to try a few new things. I’d like to start with sowing some cover crops into the grass sward this spring. I’m thinking a mix of plants to help open up the soils and build organic matter, which in turn will allow the soils to hold more air and water.

Sue - Pruning

Sue – Pruning

The most important thing may be to start drinking a few more wines after work….after all it’s important to know exactly what we want to achieve here on the vineyard so that it can be translated into the wines.

This season will obviously be bringing me challenges as it’s my first role as a manager, but I am very much looking forward to the new experiences in growing different varieties than I have in the past. I’m especially excited about growing Gewurztraminer and looking forward to tasting this vintage’s late harvest. Meanwhile, I’ll keep my nose down looking at the soil and thinking of ways to improve an already great vineyard.