A decade ago Tony and his daughter Kate stumbled upon an abandoned vineyard at the foothills of Mount Brown, in the western side of the Waipara Valley. The stony ground with waist high weeds presented an irresistible challenge. The small, sheltered site has since proved perfectly suited to Pinot Noir, producing award-winning wines after only three vintages.
After that the hunt was on to find an equally good site for our whites which we did in 2006. The flat, stony Limeloader block was planted with mostly Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris, along with Riesling and Tempranillo.
Great wines have great people behind them. At Mount Brown we’re lucky to have Andrew, Dean and Will working hard on our vineyards as well as Sally who helps out catching the odd rabbit. Tony and Kate are very hands-on owners: Tony is most likely to be found driving a tractor and Kate handles sales and marketing. And we’re delighted that Frank Manifold has joined our team as Winemaker and is setting up our new winery.
The smaller Mount Brown block (where the vineyard was first established) is planted with Pinot Noir and Riesling. Down the road, the Limeloader block (28 hectares) contains mostly Sauvignon Blanc, with small amounts of Riesling, Pinot Gris and Tempranillo (the red grape used in Rioja). Both sites have well-drained, sandy gravel soils. The Mount Brown block is more sheltered and less frost prone, whilst the Limeloader block is protected by wind machines.
The vines are planted at high density plantings (up to 4,200 per hectare for Pinot Noir) and are trained on a two cane system (VSP). Our vines never have insecticides applied and during the growing season the foliage is regularly thinned out to increase light penetration and air circulation around the bunches. This greatly diminishes the risk of disease, allowing the predominate use of recognised organic products for vine health.
Our focus is firmly on the vineyard – quality grapes are the foundation of any outstanding wine. We aim for excellence in everything we do and because we’re hardworking ourselves we expect and get a lot from our vineyard team and our winemakers. Multiple awards are proving the effort is worth it.
We also believe great wines needn’t be expensive – we manage costs tightly so we can make award-winning wines at affordable prices. Recognition came this year when our 2009 Pinot Noir was awarded ‘Top Pinot Noir under $30′ by WineNZ.
Mount Brown makes wines that are very typical of the Waipara Valley terroir; spicy, fruity Pinot Noirs; tropical Sauvignon Blancs; intense and luscious Pinot Gris and crisp, citrus driven Rieslings. We are one of a handful of vineyards in New Zealand making Tempranillo and it looks like Tony’s gamble has paid off and produced an exceptional wine.