Dirt Matters!

Posted on August 16th, 2016

Michelle Dacombe Feb 2015Michelle Dacombe, Vineyard Manager at Misha’s Vineyard talks about soil health in a very tough environment.

Not many things in life are more intimidating than looking at your first soil analysis and attempting to decipher its secret code: I just didn’t understand what I was looking at. All the numbers next to the elements that were measured seemed to be within the expected healthy range – but what exactly was I looking at? Dirt Matters 4How exactly was I to manage the nutrition available to the vines when I only get a snapshot of the soils fertility every second year?

Well, that’s what specialist suppliers are for, right? They give you the best advice available and make suggestions about what your soils may need. The soils couldn’t need too much – after all, we grow a tall green canopy and have a good fruit set and we are harvesting beautiful fruit every year. Well, that’s just it. Each season we are doing the things we think are best for the vines health and nutrition and we have had a good run, but could we be doing more or possibly even less?

Dirt Matters 1In May I went down to Invercargill, (New Zealand’s southernmost and westernmost city) for a three-day soil fertility course. The focus on the course is the Albrecht/Kinsey system. Albrecht was a soil microbiologist whose focus on soil was to correct chemical imbalances (chemistry) which can then correct soil structure (physics) to build the “house” for the microbes (biology). His belief was that soil pH was an effect of the chemical make-up, not the cause. So adjusting the chemical make-up of the soil through a fertiliser program can in turn shift your pH. A pH may need shifting to create an environment where the plants have better access to other nutrients. In a soil system, there is a limiting factor. An out of balance element can limit access to another element. Too much of any one element in the soil profile can “tie up” other elements.

Every soil is different and as many growers know soil pits may be dug before development, but consistency throughout a block is not guaranteed. This can make fertilising difficult, but a program should be developed that is generally good for the entire block. When soil tests are taken one of the important measurements is the soil’s nutrient supplying capacity. This is measured as the CEC or the Cation Exchange Capacity of the soil. The CEC of a soil is determined by the amount of colloids (negative charges) present, which is the ability of the soil to attract and hold plant nutrients from fertilisers (which are positively charged). The soil’s CEC is a reflection of the structure as well. Clay particles in soil have more colloids hence more negative charges to hold more nutrients. But a high clay component in soil can also be a detriment. The nature of clay is a fine texture which is a small pore space with little air and a strong ability to hold water tightly. Many high clay soils can experience pugging after significant rain events and in places like Central Otago very dry summers can turn clay rock hard. A soil’s CEC is difficult to shift. It can be increased by increasing humus content, but this is very difficult and natural organic matter in soils can take hundreds of years to build up. Not a commercial undertaking!

Dirt Matters 3Throughout the three-day course we swept through the periodic table ticking off the boxes of all the major and micro nutrient requirements for healthy soils and in turn healthy crops. The amount of information was rather overwhelming, but I was assured by folks attending their third event you take away more and more information each time.
I just received our soil tests back from last month and I am happy to say I can now read and understand them and even ask my supplier some technical questions! It has given me a newer vantage point on the ground I walk every day at work and also a deeper appreciation for the beauty and brains in nature. I think now I’ll be fretting less about soil fertility and the vines ability to cope with the stresses the natural environment of Central Otago throws at us. I’m looking forward to the next year’s course to enable me to crack a little more of our soil code.

Misha’s Vineyard and ‘Hapi Daze’ on the Negociants NZ Tour

Posted on July 15th, 2016

Misha & Andy joined the annual Negociants New Zealand tour of New Zealand

The NNZ Tour Team

The NNZ Tour Team

For a week every year, we join our distributor along with some of New Zealand’s icon wine brands as well as some legendary wineries from Australia, and tour the country. It’s called the Negociants Fine Wine Tour and it’s all about engaging in interesting discussions on a range of wine topics through the Masterclasses as well as showcasing each winery’s range of varieties and latest vintages to both the trade customers and consumers.

Our first stop was Auckland, returning to our favourite venue -the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. Our trade session kicked off with an enthusiastic audience (and a record number attending the event) who started arriving early, keen to get through the ranges of nearly 30 wineries. Held concurrently with the trade tasting, there were also four wine Masterclasses during the afternoon.

The Pinot Gris Masterclass Panel

The Pinot Gris Masterclass Panel

My assignment was as a panelist at the Pinot Gris Masterclass where we provided our thoughts on the variety, its place in the world and why it can, (or never can) make ‘great wine’. We presented 6 examples of the variety including a 2012 Hugel Tradition Pinot Gris to have an example from Alsace – where arguably the best examples of Pinot Gris originate. The New Zealand Pinot Gris examples ranged from vintages of 2014 back to 2009 with the oldest being from Dry River – a producer who built their reputation in New Zealand with this variety back in the 1990s where they were one of the first producers. I presented a 2010 Misha’s Vineyard Dress Circle Pinot Gris which certainly showed this variety can produce wines that age beautifully, which was also one of the topics discussed in the class. This Masterclass was presented in the four cities we visited and each time it generated interesting debate amongst attendees particularly when we came to discuss the fact that Pinot Gris is “loved by the masses but often scorned by the experts”.

Misha and Celia Hay of NZ School of Food & Wine

Misha and Celia Hay of NZ School of Food & Wine

Before we left Auckland after our first hectic day, Andy and I decided to try one of the new Auckland eateries that’s been getting some great reviews – Little Jimmy. Located in Epsom, this suburban bar and eatery has an unpretentious feel but absolutely nails it in every aspect of their operation – no wonder it’s hard to get a booking here! Of course they have Misha’s Vineyard wine on their list with our Dress Circle Pinot Gris offered by the glass, along with a fabulous selection of premium glass pours. Little Jimmy has a policy of sourcing their food and beverages from top quality boutique New Zealand suppliers eschewing any of the dominant market players – and it’s a strategy that works well for them.

Some of our happy customers.

Some of our happy customers.

Our next port of call was Tauranga and this was the first year the Negociants tour had incorporated the Bay of Plenty. There was plenty of interest in both the trade and consumer event and the Trinity Wharf Hotel was a fabulous location by the water. After a great late night dinner with the Negociants team and our fellow wineries, we were up early to fly to Wellington en masse for our next series of events. The InterContinental Hotel in Wellington was host to our series of events in the nation’s capital, and as always, was a great venue. It was good to catch up with lots of familiar faces there including Raymond Chan, who did a great write-up of most of the brands at the event on his blog.

..and some more happy customers

..and some more happy customers

Our ‘travelling roadshow’ team get-together in Wellington was the Wholesale Boot Company (WBC) – a very funky first storey space- where it was Hapi Daze all ‘round (one of the Garage Project’s pale ale brews).. We knew we were going to enjoy the food at WBC when it kicked off with bowls of pork crackling and lime & chilli peanut popcorn – and the food didn’t disappoint from there! Our final early morning flight was bound for Christchurch and back to The George Hotel. We love The George – it always feels very familiar and absolutely never disappoints. Our final day of tastings and masterclasses went off without a hitch and we then celebrated the end of the tour together at Harlequin Public House where the celebrated chef Jonny Schwass cooked up a storm for us!

Our Table 188 friends

Our Table 188 friends

The great thing about travelling with the wineries on the Negociants portfolio is that you get to chat with some of the legends of the Australian and New Zealand wine scene – some of the New Zealand brands include Greywacke, Palliser, Rippon, Two Paddocks, Vinoptima and Saint Clair – and from Australia there are iconic brands like Brokenwood, Henschke, Jim Barry, Langmeil, and Vasse Felix. And during our evening dinners, each winery brings some wine to share with the group over dinner so it’s a fantastic way to educate and expand one’s palate. And it’s pretty nice being able to ask Johann (as in, Johann Henschke) to pass down the bottle of Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz, for another top up!

The End of Tour diner

The End of Tour diner

It’s always sad to finish the Negociants tour – it’s always an incredibly busy week but we get to see so many trade and consumers around the country and get to discuss interesting wine topics in our Masterclasses – and most importantly we have fun! There is an incredible camaraderie with the Negociants team and all the wine producers they represent. We love being part of the Negociants New Zealand portfolio and feel very fortunate to be part of their ‘family’. They took on Misha’s Vineyard at the very outset and I remember Clive Weston, the MD, telling me there were three things he looked for in any new addition to their portfolio: great wine; a great label; and people you enjoy ‘breaking bread’ with. This was the 7th time we’ve been part of the annual Negociants roadshow and have enjoyed ‘breaking bread’ with them every time!

Fiji – Sun, fun, old friends and new friends

Posted on June 3rd, 2016

Misha and Andy have just returned from another great week working with our customers in Fiji

Our welcome at Nankuk Auberge Resort

Our welcome at Nankuk Auberge Resort

This is our third year of visiting Fiji – something we do just after harvest at Misha’s Vineyard. The change of climate, change of pace and being able to work “island time” has such appeal as our busiest month ends and winter settles across Central Otago.

Our Fiji schedule is generally a combination of visiting some existing customers, visiting potential new customers and hosting some consumer wine dinners to show our range of wines to locals and resort guests. We also manage to get a few hours of R & R which, in such a wonderful location, is a very important part of our visit!

Sooraj, F & B Mgr at Hilton Resort

Sooraj, F & B Mgr at Hilton Resort

We are very privileged to have Victoria Wines represent us in Fiji. They have the most incredible team who work very hard to present wines to the many resorts, restaurants and bars – and also have the best wine shops in Fiji. Sajeda and Joyce had our plan well prepared and we began our week of activities with visits in Denarau Island to the Sofitel Hotel where we had hosted a wine dinner last year, The Radisson Blu where we were staying this time, and to the Hilton Fiji Beach Resort where F & B Manager Sooraj has implemented some quite big changes since we met him in his debut week last year. It was great to spend time with them and get an update on the changes within the resort industry in Fiji, the growth in tourism and changes in wine consumption and taxes!
Tony Acland - Captain Cook Cruises

Tony Acland – Captain Cook Cruises

We also did an update training session with the Victoria Wines team in Denarau. While we were expecting to see quite an impact from the recent Cyclone Winston, it seems the swerving path of the cyclone spared most of the major resort areas on the main island while it did wreak havoc in some of the outer islands.

The Rhum-Ba at Denarau Yacht Club was the venue to meet with Tony Acland – GM of the famous Captain Cook Cruises in Fiji. The team at Captain Cook Cruises provide a range of cruises from day trips to 11 nights aboard and the wine selection is an important part of the experience. Tony was delighted with what he tried and added Misha’s Vineyard wines to the list immediately!

25 May 2016_Training with Radisson Blu Fiji (14)We did wine training with some of the serving team from Radisson Blu – in preparation for them serving our wines at the Signature Blu wine dinner later in the week. F & B Manager Ryan Henshaw joined in as we gave an overview of the New Zealand wine industry, a little about Central Otago and then a look at some cool climate varietals while tasting some Misha’s Vineyard wines. While Misha did tell them they could spit the tastes as they were due to go back to work – no-one did – they were enjoying them too much!

We ventured south to the Coral Coast and Pacific Harbour – a 2 ½ hour drive from Nadi. Again we were surprised not to see any damage from the cyclone but again its path had spared the coast from major damage. First stop was to The Pearl – where two years ago we hosted a lunch, then last year hosted a dinner in their new restaurant, Seduce. We were delighted to meet Jonatha Ramacciono who we had previously shown wines to at Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva. Jonatha has been appointed F & B Director at The Pearl and proudly showed us around the amazing new wing of the resort which features a very modern foyer/reception, a lovely 250-seat brasserie overlooking the water, a 400 seat Convention Centre and 132 new rooms. The Pearl of course has Misha’s Vineyard wines in the well-chosen wine list!

Dinner at Nanuku

Dinner at Nanuku

During the week we hosted the first ever wine dinner at the amazing Nanuku Auberge Resort – where we also stayed. The welcome ceremony said it all – a drum and conch horn to greet us – then a walk down to the lawn overlooking the sea escorted by Fijian warriors to meet “the Chief”. Our accommodation was in a magnificent villa overlooking the lush vegetation and the sea. We had a private pool – but the not quite enough time to relax as we had staff training booked for the afternoon. The Misha’s Vineyard Wine Dinner in the evening was meticulously planned by F & B Manager Logan Miller and was for 30 guests – mostly locals from Suva – and prepared by celebrity chef Jacques Reymond of French, Australian and Fijian fame. It was a wonderful night – including great food and an amazing impromptu singing performance by one of our guests. A huge thanks to the GM Mark, Logan and the whole team at Nanuku Auberge for such a memorable visit.

Misha & Dieter - Beqa Lagoon Resort GM

Misha & Dieter – Beqa Lagoon Resort GM

Our only venture off the main island was a short boat ride from Pacific Harbour to visit Beqa Island where we were hosted for lunch by Dieter Kudler, GM of the Beqa Lagoon Resort. Dieter is the ultimate in island resort GM’s – relaxed, friendly and with a sparkling sense of humour. We had a great time talking wines, islands, guests and menus. We hope we can get back out to Beqa again soon.

Back to Denarau and our now familiar “home” at Radisson Blu – where we were truly treated to a great stay by GM Gerard Knight and his team. We had a great Friday night out at Waitui – the new adults-only Beach Club of the nearby Sofitel Resort where F & B Manager Jason Blackburn explained the facilities which include its own pool, bar, gym, restaurant and relaxation areas where adults can be separated from the more family oriented areas of the resort. What is great is that you don’t need to be staying as guests to use it. For a fee you can visit for a day, as a local or from another resort. Also the monthly themed dinner makes a great night out for locals from Denarau and Nadi.

Amazing desert prepared by Radisson Executive Chef - Brent Assam

Amazing desert prepared by Radisson Executive Chef – Brent Assam

Saturday was our final dinner in Fiji – and it was quite a night. We had 36 guests to our Misha’s Vineyard Wine Dinner at The Radisson Signature Blu restaurant which the team had set up with a gold mining theme to commemorate the gold mining history on our vineyard. There were also grapes to stomp on arrival – and a fire on top of a barrel to toast marshmallows while sipping Misha’s Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc. Executive Chef Brent Assam, (who won Australian Chef of the Year 2014) not only served an amazing meal, but then topped it with a theatrical performance preparing dessert at each table in front of the guests. It was just a memorable evening with everyone delighted they had been part of it. F & B Director Jack Mcnamara then got behind the bar himself and treated Misha and I to a very welcome Espresso Martini Cocktail – it was finally a time to and relax and enjoy some Fijian hospitality.

It was sad to have to leave Fiji and come back to winter at home – but we are already looking forward to next year – same time!

How Our 10th Season at Misha’s Vineyard is Shaping Up

Posted on March 24th, 2016

Michelle Dacombe Feb 2015Michelle Dacombe, our Vineyard Manager, has shared her diary notes of how she’s found the 2015/2016 season at Misha’s Vineyard. This will be our 10th harvest so it’s another key milestone. As yet, we haven’t started picking but that will start early in April.

Michelle’s Season Diary:

• June-August: It was a very cold dry winter – with some mornings at -5 C

• September: This month was the start of the growing season. We recorded low rainfall and very few frosts – but then frosts are not an issue for our frost-drained site at Misha’s Vineyard

• October: Low rainfall was recorded during the month (9mm), but we had warmer temperatures, good Growing Degree Day (GDD) heat accumulation, and plenty of wind. Budburst was on a par with the 14-15 season.

• November: This month was very dry (10mm rain), with lots of wind dominated by northerlies and we had cooler temperatures causing slow growth of the vines. There was plenty of damage from wind, even with the canopy wires up which normally protect the new growth. There was no sign of flower on the vineyard during this month. We were able to get most of the shoot thinning and bud rubbing completed.

Our Abel clone in January

Our Abel clone in January

• December: Flowering started in first few days of the month on the lower altitude blocks and was finished across the vineyard by the 16th of the month. The wind continued throughout the month and a southerly change with cooler temperatures kicked in during the week of 14th December and we wondered when summer would arrive. Our fruit set looked good – we had bigger bunches than last year, but fewer bunches. Finally in the week leading up to Christmas, temperatures got very hot and so by the end of the month the vines looked a bit tired and there were a few yellow basal leaves around. However we did enjoy lovely warm weather over the Christmas/New Year holiday period!

• January: Some cold easterly weather arrived and so did small outbreaks of powdery mildew – mainly in our Lakefront Block where we have quite a lot of vigour in some of the bays. With the application of some JMS stylet oil, we were able to contain the problem quickly. We completed all the trimming on the vineyard and we leaf plucked (by hand) the vines on the lakefront, ski slope and house blocks but it only required a very light level of leaf plucking this season. We also removed the laterals around the fruit in other blocks when we did the fruit thin.

• February: Temperatures started off very hot and vines pushed a lot of lateral growth. We also did trimming again across the vineyard. We had 27mm rain on 17th which cooled things down. We had an increased level of wind again – which we normally don’t have at this time of year. During this month we had veraison (which is when the fruit starts to ripen and the berries change colour) – and it was fairly even across most blocks on the vineyard. Our small crew of 6 casuals joining our permanent crew, did a great job of putting the bird nets on the vineyard and completing the fruit thinning. At this stage, our crop level is looking larger than last season – which is a direct reflection of berry number and size. The reality is we don’t have more fruit, but we do have heavier fruit.

• March: We finished putting on the bird nets on the 4th March and completed the last crop adjustments – ie ‘the green thin’! Our casual staff finished with us mid-month as all the work has been completed on the vineyard and now we just wait for ripening and Olly our winemaker to make the first picking decision. We did our first sampling of fruit to check brix levels (ie sugar levels that indicate ripeness) on the 16th March and we were at exactly the same sugar levels as on the 20th March last season – so indicating we’ll likely have a very similar picking schedule to last year. The ripening of the fruit across the vineyard seems to be very even although the warmer nights earlier in the month increased the ripening of the Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. On the 17th March, it seemed the autumn mornings had arrived as we had fog and just 3 degrees. We are now just waiting to get the right level of ripeness in the fruit and for Olly to give us the go ahead and the 10th harvest at Misha’s Vineyard will commence!

Dining out with Misha’s Vineyard

Posted on March 3rd, 2016

Two amazing opportunities for foodies and wine lovers to experience degustation menus matched with Misha’s Vineyard Wines happened in February.

Misha presenting at Table Restaurant

Misha presenting at Table Restaurant

The first event was a Long Lunch at The Nice Hotel in New Plymouth. The Nice Hotel with iconic host Terry Parkes have served Misha’s Vineyard wine for a long time. We’ve always been fascinated with this hotel and its reputation for beautiful décor, amazing food and hospitality that goes beyond just being a place to stay and dine. Terry knows just about everyone in New Plymouth and our three day stay at the hotel backed this up with a constant flow of locals dropping in any time – day or night. There is no distinction between guests and friends at The Nice Hotel – you are all treated as friends!

Seaweed crumbed Tuna served with The Starlet. YUM!

Seaweed crumbed Tuna served with The Starlet. YUM!

We were treated to a guest room in the “Best Suites” building which was amazing. Our Long Lunch on Sunday bought in a mix of regular guests of Table Restaurant and people who wanted to come along and see what the reputation was all about. None were disappointed. Chef Ben Crawshaw had prepared a fantastic 5 course menu of perfectly matched dishes which were served in leisurely style befitting a “Long Lunch” in the outdoor courtyard of Table restaurant. The sun was shining, the food was delicious, the chilled wines really popular and laughter louder than the music Terry had chosen to accompany lunch. It had been a long time since we were last in New Plymouth – but we’ll be back soon.

Chetan and his amazing team of chefs plate while telling guests about the dish

Chetan and his amazing team of chefs plate while telling guests about the dish

After a few days spent visiting customers in various towns in the southern part of the North Island we arrived at The Copthorne Hotel in Wellington for our long awaited Misha’s Vineyard Summer Degustation Dinner. Executive Chef and F & B Manager Chetan Pangam had hatched the idea with Misha’s some time ago and while schedules are always hard to align this was well worth waiting for. The dinner was sold out well ahead indicating how popular the dinners at One80 restaurant are.
Curry leaf Ora King Salmon

Curry leaf Ora King Salmon

The dinner was more than food and wine, it was theatre with an incredible view of Oriental Bay as the backdrop. The eight course degustation meals were plated on a large bench in front of the 80 guests with Chetan talking about intricacies of the dish as he and his team of chefs served and meticulously decorated each plate.
Misha talks to guests about Misha's Vineyard

Misha talks to guests about Misha’s Vineyard

Misha and Andy took turns at introducing the wines and telling the story of Misha’s Vineyard, then our guest star of New Zealand Opera – and one of the touring 10 Tenors, Cameron Barclay, performed songs to match the wines! A High Note aria to match our estate Pinot Noir, a piece from an opera of the Verismo period to match our Reserve Pinot Noir and a Cadenza to match our Late Harvest Gewürztraminer. It was truly an amazing evening with local Wellingtonians and a number of overseas guests coming to see us after the dinner to congratulate us and Chetan on providing one of their most memorable evenings.

It’s always a treat to have these wonderful venues host lunches and dinners that not only feature our wines, but help us tell their customers who we are and why we love the wine business. Thanks to two incredible hosts for their passion and support in making these events happen.

Misha’s Vineyard Matches

Posted on February 1st, 2016

The 2016 year is kicking off for Misha’s Vineyard with a season of wine dinners and events planned across a wide array of locations during the first few months of the year.

Table logoTable restaurant at Nice Hotel is an award-winning restaurant and considered to be New Plymouth’s finest. On February 21st Table will present their first Sunday Long Lunch of the year featuring Misha’s Vineyard Wines. Hotel owner and host Terry Parkes has built a huge reputation for The Sunday Long Lunch at the Nice Hotel – popular with local business people, foodies and wine enthusiasts. Misha and Andy will talk about the wine as the chef team present a 5 course degustation menu over a leisurely Sunday afternoon.

s5_logoFollowing later in the week the The Copthorne hotel’s One80 restaurant in Wellington’s Oriental Bay, will be the venue for another Misha’s Vineyard Wine Dinner. With Executive Chef Chetan Pangam leading the team, One80 boasts stunning views across Oriental Bay with the restaurant receiving many culinary awards including Beef & Lamb Hallmark of Excellence every year since 2006.

Heading on a South East Asian tour in March, Misha and Andy’s schedule of wine dinners and events will start in Kuching (Malaysian state of Sarawak on Borneo), then Penang Island in North West Malaysia, followed by two events in Singapore including the five star Intercontinental Hotel and the Singapore Island Country Club.

Rees LogoThen back on home turf for the 1st of April, Misha’s Vineyard and The Rees Hotel in Queenstown will be teaming up to host the first True South Culinary Series Dinner for the year. Ben Batterbury, Executive Chef at The Rees Hotel who has been pairing food with Misha’s Vineyard wines for some years now, will bring his finely honed culinary skills to craft an eight course degustation menu from the best of Central Otago’s produce, to complement wines selected from eight vintages and featuring many of Misha’s Vineyard library wines in this special evening to mark the 10th vintage of the estate.

It sounds like an exhausting schedule of matches but promises to be lots of fun for all the players! So please book at your nearest venue as we’d love to see you there. Game on!

“Earn Your Lunch” at Misha’s Vineyard

Posted on October 29th, 2015

Sue teaches our guest how to shoot thin vines.

Sue teaches our guest how to shoot thin vines.

Aaron with his students

Aaron with his students

Misha’s Vineyard recently hosted visitors as part of the Down To Earth Central Otago wine experience providing an opportunity to earn lunch by doing a little vineyard work. After an overview tour of the vineyard to show the unique North West facing location on Lakefront Terraces and our terroir, our guests were provided expert instruction by our vineyard team on shoot thinning the new season’s growth on our vines. They then proceeded to practice their new-found skills for about 45 minutes under watchful eyes. It was a unique experience demonstrating just a little of the hard work and hand tending of vines that goes into producing premium wines.

Lunch at Ah Foo's House

Lunch at Ah Foo’s House

After the working session we took them up to our Lucky 8 vines and Ah Foos House – the re-created gold-miner ruins that helps to tell the story of the Chinese gold miners who worked on the land extracting gold over 150 years ago. With a log fire burning in Ah Foo’s fireplace as the backdrop, Misha took the group through a tasting of several Misha’s Vineyard wines describing the influences of the vineyard on the wine styles and specific flavours and textures that come from our spectacular vineyard site.

After choosing a glass of their favourite wine, the guests and our vineyard team settled into a magnificent lunch platter prepared by Moreish Kitchen owner Kimberly Jillings. Sitting in Ah Foo’s House and surrounded by the vines was a relaxing setting after the working session – helped by Ah Foo’s ghostly presence no doubt!

No-one was in a hurry to leave and all expressed their delight at the experience of seeing how a premium vineyard works, then tasting the result!

Just About to Spring into Another Season on Misha’s Vineyard!

Posted on September 22nd, 2015

The Spring Update from Michelle Dacombe – Vineyard Manager, Misha’s Vineyard

Michelle Vineyard Manager

Vineyard Manager

After a long cold and dry winter, spring is here — and so are the weeds! This year’s pruning went well with our small team of 3 (with additional help for a month from one casual employee) managing to knock out the almost 26 hectares – that’s 65,000 vines – each one carefully given personal attention!

This year, we’re doing a small trial in two different locations on the vineyard where we have converted the vines from spur pruning to cane pruning. Throughout the growing season we will be able to monitor the differences in reference to timing (budburst, flowering, veraison, etc), fruit set, fruit quality, and once we have ripened the fruit, we can see if there is any difference in the flavour profiles. With each clone of Pinot Noir offering its own viewpoint on the varietal characteristics it will be interesting to note any changes or differences that may arise from pruning.

Spring Vines ready for the new season

Spring Vines ready for the new season

In early spring, the weather can be somewhat erratic and we’re having the occasional day where we have southerlies screaming down the valley which can really chill things down, but the soil temperature is up to 10 degrees which is a bit of a light switch for plants. It’s time to start growing. While the weeds are poking their heads out the vines aren’t quite convinced yet. It looks like it will be another week or two before they make an appearance.

In the meantime, there is plenty to get on with. Commissioning the irrigation in the vineyard is always a big spring job. Every vineyard row has lateral tubing which delivers the irrigation water. Every row must be checked to ensure it’s performing to its potential. Any issues that are found must be fixed and maintenance kept up to ensure optimal performance throughout the summer when irrigation demand reaches its peak. The weatherman seems to think we are in for another very dry summer, so we need the irrigation in tip top shape! The rest of the spring will be filled in with trellis and equipment maintenance – there are tractors to be serviced and cleaned and the sprayer calibrated to make sure we are ready when the vines give the signal.

It won’t be long now.

Misha’s Vineyard on Tour in Australia

Posted on September 4th, 2015

Misha reports on the recent trip to Australia as part of the Central Otago Wineries tour.

Ready! Prince Wine Store - Sydney

Ready! Prince Wine Store – Sydney

We’ve been touring with 10 fellow Central Otago wineries for a series of consumer tasting events in Melbourne and Sydney, did some training with some of the new staff at our distributor (Fesq & Co.), and squeezed in a few trade visits to customers in Sydney, Melbourne as well as a day in Brisbane. It was 8 days exhausting days but we met a lot of folks and shared a lot of wine with people!

Our first stop was in Sydney where we went to the new(ish) Prince Wine Store in Zetland which is a great addition to the fine wine retailing scene in Sydney. The Prince Wine Shop in Melbourne is a destination shop so we’re sure this one will be the same.

New friends! The Winery

New friends! The Winery

With an ‘only Pinot Noir’ theme, visitors to the store had a chance to try over 30 Central Otago Pinots and we had a great turn out. Our next tasting was at The Winery at Surry Hills which was a great venue for some informal tasting with a much younger group of consumers who were keen to explore what Central Otago had to offer, so all the wineries showcased white wines as well as Pinot Noir. Our final Sydney tasting was at the Royal Automobile Club run by The Pinot Shop, which provided an added benefit by giving consumers the opportunity of trying wines with the new Riedel Central Otago Pinot Noir Glass. The glass made such a difference, and not only for the Pinot Noir but the examples of Pinot Gris and Riesling that were available for tasting also performed well in the new glass which really emphasized the gorgeous aromas of these cool climate beauties.

Great turn-out of customers at Tom's Cellars

Great turn-out of customers at Tom’s Cellars

We were also were pleased to be able to host a tasting evening with one of our big retail supporters, Tom’s Cellars in West Pymble on the North Shore of Sydney. We presented some back vintages of our dry Lyric Riesling to an enthusiastic group in his cellar space under the shop, along with the full range of the Misha’s Vineyard wines we offer in Australia. The customers at Tom’s were genuinely interested in the wines, Central Otago region and the stories of Misha’s Vineyard. It was a really fun night and we had a very enthusiastic audience.

Brent from Wine Emporuim

Brent, Wine Emporuim

I dashed up to Brisbane for a very busy day visiting some of our favourite restaurant customers and retailers – -it’s always good to see Brent at Wine Emporium.
Tyson with Misha

Tyson with Misha

During the day there I finally caught up with the multi-award winning writer Tyson Stelzer. Gosh – what a great guy. When you’re talking to Tyson you have his full attention and he sure doesn’t appear to have any ego. It’s quite refreshing to meet an Australian wine journalist that’s as down-to-earth and such a nice guy! I finished the day in Brisbane with an evening tasting at Stewarts at the Barracks where we enjoyed meeting some new Misha’s Vineyard converts and where a gentleman happily walked home carrying a case of The High Note Pinot Noir with his complimentary pack of Riedel Central Otago Pinot Noir glasses that I had bought with me as a giveaway!

Prince Wine Store - Melbourne

Prince Wine Store – Melbourne

Our time in Melbourne, despite the grey and dampness, was busy and we managed to fit in some training with our distributor team before hitting the road for some trade calls. One of our schedule Melbourne events was a tasting evening at Armadale Cellars who pride themselves on their focus and selection of fine wines and their loyal customers certainly proved how knowledgeable they were during our evening tasting. This year the two events we did with Prince Wine Shop included a dinner at their associated restaurant Bellota, which featured a Misha’s Vineyard Verismo Pinot Noir 2009 which Philip Rich (owner of Prince Wine Store) highlighted as a standout wine on the evening, and the big Saturday tasting event which had shop staff saying they hardly ever get that sort of turnout to a Saturday tasting! Well when you have nearly a dozen of Central Otago wine producers pouring their best – it’s sure to bring out the biggest crowd, right?

Huka Lodge Invites Misha’s Vineyard for an Opera Weekend

Posted on August 4th, 2015

Misha and Andy were invited to one of New Zealand’s – and the world’s – most iconic luxury lodges!

Well it wasn’t just Misha’s Vineyard who were invited to be part of the Italian Opera Weekend in June of this year – we were in fact part of an amazing group that included celebrity chef Stefano Manfredi, who flew over from Sydney, Jonathan Alver (artistic director of the New Zealand Opera) and five up and coming stars from the New Zealand Opera School! This special weekend was billed as an opportunity for guests to be “enriched and inspired by beautiful voices, fine cuisine and stunning wines”.

Chef Stefano cooking class

Chef Stefano cooking class

After joining in to watch the cooking demonstration for Huka Lodge guests by Stefano Manfredi on the perfect risotto, Andy and I then hosted guests in the Main Lodge Room and introduced Misha’s Vineyard and shared with them the story of how a background in opera and ballet became an inspiration for our brand. We finished just in time for pre-dinner cocktails where guests were able to try our first 2 wines – ‘The Starlet’ Sauvignon Blanc and our ‘Impromptu’ Pinot Noir.

NZ Opera Singers entertain between courses.

NZ Opera Singers entertain between courses.

Our degustation dinner commenced at 8pm in the main dining room which was full and in fact over-flowing – with in fact a few guests on an additional table in the library room. We were all still sitting at tables at nearly midnight after our four-hour (5-course) feast! The evening was broken up into segments of amazing food, performances by the opera stars, explanations of each course by Chef Manfredi and of course introductions to each wine by yours truly! Given that our wines all have names inspired by the opera or the theatre, it seemed only right that we were introducing wines like ‘The High Note’ at this opera-inspired dinner. After a sumptuous meal, everyone retired back into the Lodge Room for drinks, petit-fours and coffee.

The next morning at 10am, I utilized my training as a musicologist and hosted a casual session we called ‘Divas and Doughnuts’ in The Trophy Room for those guests keen on hearing and understanding a bit more abaut opera. I presented a couple of short excerpts from Lucia di Lammermoor – one of the great tragic operas by Gaetano Donizetti – which featured Dame Joan Sutherland. This particular opera inspired the name of some of our wines and also it was an opera I had performed in (as a dancer) whilst my mother was singing as part of the Australian Opera. And this was at the time that Dame Joan herself was singing the lead role of Lucia.

Divas and Doughnuts session

Divas and Doughnuts session

The excerpts presented included ‘The Mad Scene’ which has one of opera’s most famous Cadenzas (in fact a double cadenza for voice and flute) which seemed appropriate given ‘The Cadenza’ is the name of our newly-released dessert wine. Then as one of the examples of “The High Note’ (the name of our main estate Pinot Noir), I played the sextet from the end of the second act of Lucia di Lammermoor, “Chi mi frena in tal momento” which has Dame Joan hit one of the most stunning high notes I ever heard! Other opera segments I presented demonstrated different aspects of opera that relate to our sub-brand naming including some particularly poignant opera arias from the ‘Verismo’ period – the name of our reserve Pinot Noir.

By the way, we absolutely adored everything about Huka Lodge and are fortunate to be spending a couple of days back there in November – but purely for relaxation purposes!