A Budding Prerequisite.

Posted on October 30, 2012

The Bud- It all comes from this small but very significant gesture from the Central Otago Vines here in Wanaka. The wine we match to your meal has a story behind it just like everything we use at Whare Kea Lodge. No wine comes from a shop’s shelf or someone’s cellar, it comes from the vine, the people behind that vine and the talent & experience driven by it’s adaptation to it’s surroundings year-in, year-out.

In October I took a little tour of some of the vineyards and wineries we stock here at the Lodge. The timing was ideal for the first sight of this year’s buds which will in turn produce the wine we pour at the table with that beautiful Cardrona Merino Lamb Loin or Wild Fiordland Venison to name a mere couple of hero components from James’ ever-changing menus.

First stop was Lowburn Ferry Vineyard run by the owners Jean & Roger Gibson & of course the kids. A family affair where everyone has their hands dirty and a show of just good Kiwi “Do It” attitude. Artisan, passionate, appreciative of risk, yet producers of one of our best selling Pinots and  Pinot Rose at the lodge. This family carry a tradition and make a New Zealand story that I could only appreciate to the point of admiration.

 The original Lowburn cottage that Jean’s family call home. A warm spring day made this the picture perfect setting in a valley ripe with history.

The Lowburn Cottage at Lowburn Ferry Winery

The original Lowburn cottage that Jean’s family call home. A warm spring day made this the picture perfect setting in a valley ripe with history.


The Lowburn Stream


The Lowburn stream deep with history of Gold, farming and now wine.



Next stop, Misha’s Vineyard in Cromwell.

Misha’s Vineyard looking North West – they call this the “Ski Slope” for obvious reasons, but ultimately a setting that frost falls away from and the sun blankets. To my back the “Fruit Bowl” for the aromatics.


Misha & Andy Wilkinson. Owners of Misha's Vineyard

Here are my kind hosts & owners of the vineyard - Misha & Andy Wilkinson.


What seemed an impossible task, they now grow the new Central Otago Gold from the arid and windswept dirt once studded with gold miners.


A shadow in the past.

Rocks, rabbit netting and the shadow of the vineyard’s owner. A metaphor for Otago’s vineyards.



My next stop and search for a story behind the wine was Felton Road, another label known the world over.


Looking South East towards Lake Dunstan over the brow.

Bubbly and enthusiastic Tracy Thomson greeted me and managed time to sneak me a few tasters of the new vintages before release, and as ever, Felton Road has produced again with remarkable results. Blair Walter then appeared from back-stage dusting off from his hands-on duties.

Blair invited me around into the guts of the operation, where I was met with the sight below:

As industrial and cold as it looks this is all heart and experience. So much thought and faultless systems not just here where grapes turn to wine but from bud to bottle, Felton Road revealed it’s complete independence even down to a bottling machine on wheels and the labels stacked up next to palettes awaiting filling. Through that void in the middle of the above image was where industry met tradition.

From stainless Steel to French Oak - Barrels and barrels of Felton Road maturing to perfection.

My last stop for the day was up the Kawarau River to Gibbston Valley’s Brennan Winery.

Sean Brennan, an artist and confident experimentalist, showed off his new vintages and reminded me of some of the 08 Pinot, a real food match for our kitchen and a wine we use often. But equally as important to my visit, I was intrigued about his Pinot Grigio. Citrus and light, seafood, a picnic lunch, or a perfect light entree match the pinot grigio hit many notes New Zealand struggles to reach. Grown with double the amount of canopy and probably double the skill, these Pinot Gris grapes get less chance to sun ripen and therefore less sugars. The process is called 'Four cordon, spur pruning' and this is what makes a Pinot gris vine produce Pinot Grigio.

Pinot Grigio Vine at Brennan Vineyard, Gibbston

Here’s the Pinot Grigio vine, notice four horizontal branches (aka Cordons) instead of your typical two for extra canopy. The spurs along the cordons grow the canes vertically forming a canopy.

Sean Brennan of Brennan Wines, Gibbston Valley


Sean Brennan with his full range out for the other tasters of the day. Left to right white to red, young to cellared.


A tour around the Brennan vineyard revealed some stunning topography and a few clichéd scenes with lambs, barrels, dirt track roads and layers of vines, all rounded off nicely with a mountainous backdrop.


 Gibbston Valley at it’s finest on a warm spring evening.

I will wait for the next significant event in the annual wine calendar to introduce you to some more of the local people and vines behind the labels in our cellar.

See you for harvest! And click here to enquire about wine tours in the Wanaka region accessible from Whare Kea Lodge.