The Glazebrooks brought to the enterprise the distinctive racing stables that had been started by Gary’s father and 40 acres of their land in what became known as the Ngatarawa Triangle. From the early 1980s, the ‘red metal’ soils that cover part of this area became among the most sought after localities for vines. These distinctive soils were also the result of the Ngaruroro changing its course.
Here, in contrast to Gimblett Gravels, a better-developed topsoil overlies the deep and layered gravels of the former riverbed although it is also prone to wind erosion. The Glazebrook family planted another 20 acres of grapes on their adjoining land and leased it back to the company for a set period.
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The stables became the facade and administration block for the winery, an immediately recognisable symbol.
Alwyn Corban brought his scientific knowledge, winemaking skills and experience to the venture. He is definite about the value of his education, especially the topping off at Davis where his strong scientific background allowed him to give his full attention to the oenological theory and practice:
It was an understanding of wine which I wouldn’t have had, had I been in New Zealand.
You know – what you did with your mates and the tastings you had – that really developed your views on the wines you wanted to make, and quality levels and all that sort of stuff.
Alwyn is also forthright about the learning that was required to get the enterprise operating smoothly. From the beginning their wine was well received. Their original intent was to produce all of their own grapes on their own estate, but their decision to increase production coincided with some difficult viticultural years, especially the hailstorms of 1994 that followed a cool growing season in 1993. Both events reduced their yield. They began buying in grapes, but with supply short and prices high it proved difficult. Colleagues in the industry (James Millton, Peter Hubscher) helped by directing small quantities of grapes their way.
Ngatarawa's soil (far left) is a contrast to the Gimblett Gravels only a few kilometres away.