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Their original application had been to plant 60 acres in three lots of 20 acres. Phil Rose was not one to convert their farm to grape growing without further investigation.
He knew the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries scientist Paul Pollack who was now stationed at Gisborne and specialising in vineyard management so they went to see him. Whereas Pollack was very supportive of their winegrowing plans, the Gisborne growers they visited were saying:
‘What are you going to grow grapes in Marlborough for? It’s too cold down there. What are you putting in?’ And I said, ‘Well, I don’t know yet. We’ve applied to establish a 60-acre vineyard.’
I remember the looks we got. And then they said if we’d been from Canterbury we probably would have said we were planting 500 acres!
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Phil and Chris Rose first planted 20 acres of Muller Thurgau followed the next year by 20 of Palomino, and in the third year another 20 acres of Muller Thurgau. Their cuttings, only some of them rooted, came from Montana and they were planted in rows 3 metres apart with 1.6 metres between the vines. Their choice of Palomino, the variety from which sherry is made, was surprising given that the grape varieties for table wines were by now asserting their superiority, but some of the major companies originating in Auckland, including Montana, were still making quantities of fortified wine. From the beginning, they irrigated their vineyard, but the only extruded pipe they could buy locally varied in diameter from 15 to 17 or even 18 millimetres:
Even fittings were non-existent. There was very little knowledge about what to do and how to do it. We’d meet at Henk Ruesink’s, at Merrill Hadfield’s or at Neal Ibbotson’s place and you’d have a look and see what was going on, and you know, who’d made a cock-up doing this or whatever. That was the way we learned.
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