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Wairau River Wines
The Lincoln College (now University) diplomas and degrees in valuation and farm management were attractive qualifications for the next generation of South Island farming families in the 1960s and 1970s. Lincoln graduate Phil Rose admits to being ‘another one of those’:
I was born and bred in Marlborough. In fact just down the road. I had property which basically was a mixed cropping and dairy farm. So I came from very much different circumstances to what we’re in at the present time.
Diversifying into viticulture changed the life of Phil and his wife, Chris.
Following a three-year OE, he and Chris married in October 1972 and returned to New Zealand in December. With his two older brothers, Phil was running several family properties in the Spring Creek area, which as he points out, ‘is of course much heavier ground than out this way. It’s really good dairying and cropping country, although grapes are going in there now.’ The Rose brothers also ran ‘a contracting firm that included a maize harvesting and drying business – we were into all sorts of things’. With all three brothers married and with young families, they agreed to go their own ways.
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One of the properties bought by the Rose boys in 1973 was 257 acres on Giffords Road. When they distributed the family land among the three of them this stony property was growing lucerne (alfalfa) to be dehydrated, pelletised and sent to Japan as stock feed. His two older brothers were not interested in it. Phil contrasts this land with the soils at their Spring Creek property: ‘We didn’t have a stone on our property at Spring Creek. I’d never had anything to do with stones!’ In contrast, he describes the Giffords Road piece of land as ‘quite a light, gravelly property’. In the allocation of the different parcels of land among the three sons, Phil and Chris Rose ‘took this property on. We had seen grapes growing in similar soils in Europe and our buying it almost coincided with Montana’s first planting in the Brancott area.’
Their entry into grapes was hastened when the price of diesel more than doubled in the early 1970s. They were irrigating their lucerne crops using diesel-powered pumps
‘I’d never had anything to do with stones,’ recalls Phil Rose from Wairau River Wines. Jim Tannock Photography that they moved from well to well and the cost of pumping large quantities of water in this way severely reduced their profitability. When John Marris suggested that they might consider growing grapes for Montana, Phil and Chris grasped the opportunity and planted the single acre of grapes that they were permitted as of right before the Marlborough County Council made grape growing a restricted activity outside the Southern Valleys. Further plantings were delayed while the Roses and their legal team, with Montana’s support, argued their case before the Planning Tribunal. They were finally successful.
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