He was interested to have a look at some of our soil types and so we took him to some soil pits between some rows on Paul Tietjen’s vineyard. And he walked up to the soil pit and he said he couldn’t believe that we would even plant this ground – he said that this is just such lovely country that they wouldn’t entertain the idea. And we went to another grower who Corbans had asked to plant this particular area and had a soil that they thought was yielding good flavours, and even before he went to the hole he said they were mad, that he shouldn’t even entertain the idea of planting here – for goodness’ sake get some sites on the hill or something, get it out of this ground because it was like a swamp. A week after he left, the London Wine Awards were released where Gisborne’s Saints Chardonnay got the best white wine in the world. So we did have the cheek to email Daniel with the results and say well, hey, there might be something we’re doing right here!
Many of Kendall-Jackson’s vineyards are perched on the coastal hills of Central California. Sprawled across these hills on thin and stony soils that are separated by patches of remnant forest, where deer are hunted, and interconnected by steep tracks, they are some of the most difficult slopes to cultivate and tend of the winegrowing localities of California. Under that state’s environmental legislation, it is unlikely that cultivation would be permitted there today.
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The same week I visited these Kendall-Jackson vineyards the conference field excursion included a visit to the renowned Franciscan vineyards of the former Robert Mondavi enterprise, now owned by Constellation Brands. The viticulturist had done us proud. A rectangular soil profile 2 metres deep had been dug alongside the Cabernet Sauvignon vines on the flat floor of the Napa Valley. The dark brown, friable topsoil was at least a metre and a half deep with very little change in colour. The roots of the vines penetrated the full depth and more. Here was a soil profile much more like those on the Poverty Bay flats than those of Kendall-Jackson’s coastal vineyards. These vines on the floor of the Napa Valley were pruned and tended to suppress their vigour.
A five-year-old Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon from this Napa vineyard was served with lunch. In the sales outlet it retailed for US$128 and its quality justified its price. One of my colleagues at the conference, who considers terroir begins and ends with geology, flatly refused to believe that the wine drunk with lunch could possibly have come from the flat and fertile Franciscan vineyard we had seen in the morning. Yet, as the Gisborne winegrowing region has proven, friable, fertile soils need not necessarily be anathema to making fine wines provided the vines are managed wisely and yields are restricted through canopy management so that their fruit develop the rich and multi-layered flavours that carry over to the final wines.
Montana invested over $15 million as it gradually extended and converted it into an important centre of red-wine production, notably for the Bordeaux blends.
Between 1975 and 1985 much of the rapid increase in the area in vines in Hawke’s Bay came from existing landowners, especially orchardists and growers of vegetables for processing, who decided to plant grapes, under informal or formal contracts, mainly with Auckland companies such as Babich, Corbans, Delegat’s, Matua Valley, Montana, Nobilo, Penfolds and Villa Maria, as well as local enterprises, especially McWilliam’s. A few pastoral farmers, including some former town-supply dairy farmers, also planted grapes, while other landowners began to consider ways to enter the industry.
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