Vintage Notes - 2010 Gisborne, New Zealand

All Done

Posted on May 20, 2010

Well, my first vintage of 2010 is officially finishing today and I'm not really sure how to feel about it either. During consecutive days of over twelves hours during mid-vintage, today seemed much further away. Looking back now, it's hard to believe its all coming to a close and I find myself wishing I could stay on longer. 

My 2010 vintage experience here in Gisborne has been much different than 2009. We had a much smaller team, particularly in the winemaking office where we had only one vintage winemaker (me) instead of three. This was primarily due to the decreased tonnage (our winery received just over 9,000 tonnes, approximately 70% of last year's tonnage).

Nonetheless, my workload was significantly larger, more time consuming, and more rewarding. I'm not sure if I can say the wines this year are better than last, though they are all looking stunning. There are still a few ferments still slowly ticking away, though most of the wines have already been sulphured and placed throughout the winery.

Nothing Left

Posted on May 4, 2010

We finally received our last few tonnes for the 2010 vintage last week, giving us the chance to cold settle the juice over the weekend until Monday. A quiet weekend was the perfect cap on our casual employees' last week, which included a party Friday afternoon and a 'winery field trip' to the vineyard on Thursday. The field trip consisted of harvesting grapes in teams, compete to see which group could pick the most fruit in the time allotted. Everyone seemed to enjoy having a nice sunny day away from the winery, plus it was a good way to get our last grapes off the vines.

Our primary focus now is ensuring all our wines are maturing properly and pushing through fermentation. It's a bit like building a house; the materials are created during vintage, fitted together afterward, and then cleaned up for sale. We are already racking, centrifuging, and trialing blends on several wines, primarily those destined for early to market products. On the other end of the spectrum, several lots are being slowly coaxed through ferment in barrel with weeks of gentle lees stirring to come.

Nothing Left

Posted on April 18, 2010

We brought in eleven tonnes of Syrah on Friday, which will be co-fermented with one tonne of Viognier (an addition of 5-10% Viognier helps stabilise red wine colour via co-pigmentation). Still, I can't say our winery has concluded vintage since we still have our late harvest Semillon left to harvest. The winemakers are still putting in plenty of time at the winery, preparing some of last year's wines for bottling and finishing off wines from this year.

Back to Days

Posted on April 8, 2010

The winery seemed rather quiet this week as the staff returned from the long Easter weekend. The holiday gave everyone a much needed break. Though we've returned still running 24 hours a day, we only received 150 tonnes of grapes before a large storm settled in and dropped over 20 millimeters of rain. Nonetheless, we only have a handful of grapes left to harvest consisting primarily of Syrah, Viognier, and Semillon. The winemakers are excited about the quality of this vintage and how well our wines are progressing; we've already begun racking and sulphuring a good deal of finished ferments, though we still have over forty tanks and fifty barrel lots to look after. 

Pushing Through

Posted on March 28, 2010

Our winery will be pushing through a couple hundred tonnes a day through Wednesday. With most casual employees finishing Thursday and the long Easter Weekend starting Friday, we're aiming to have just a few blocks remaining to harvest in April. This will leave only a few blocks of reds and late harvest fruit. This week's take will primarily be Muscat, though we also have some nice Viognier and Gewurztraminer arriving, some of which will find a home in these lovely French oak cuves.

This past week was relatively relaxed at the winery and provided the staff some much needed time to catch up on everything. I've already started the racking program for our finish ferments, nearly a month earlier than previous vintage. There's over 1.5 million litres of sulphured wine off lees for our 2010 vintage.

Already Halfway

Posted on March 8, 2010

After working through the weekend with the threat of rain, a high pressure system moved east over New Zealand and pushed back the majority of the storm. Our winery pushed through several 500+ ton days and have passed the halfway mark of 4,500 tons just yesterday. I can't believe how quickly the season has been moving, but I expect the pace to slow down as we begin to finish the larger blocks of Chardonnay and move into other varietals such as Gewurztraminer, Viognier, and Semillon.

With everything running smoothly, the winemakers and I were able to sneak off yesterday afternoon for a quick look around in Patutahi at a few blocks of Gewurztraminer. The fruit was all looking pretty good with minimal rot damage; a bit surprising due to the recent humidity and wetness. We expect to bring these blocks into the winery over the next couple weeks. We quickly walked around the Arneis block, which seemed to be a bit further from harvest. The acid was still rather tight and the sugar still low. After just a half hour away, we hurried back to the winery.

Working Out the Kinks

Posted on March 2, 2010

Our first week of fruit processing was not without issues. Luckily, we only had three days of grape reception (Tuesday-Thursday), which gave the staff a chance to work out any kinks our machinery has after the the long off-season. We inoculated our first couple lots of juice just before the weekend and several over the past two days; we already have  over 350,000 litres (92,000 gallons) fermenting already. 

Vintage truly began this Monday with the receival of 650 tonnes of grapes by the end of Tuesday. The first several weeks represent the bulk of vintage as the winery stays operational 24/7 to intake several thousand tonnes of grapes, primarily Chardonnay destined for MC base (methode champenoise, or sparkling wine).  Late season rains have the vineyard crew worried about rot and mold, though the fruit we've received thus far has not been particularly damaged.

Make It Happen

Posted on February 28, 2010

Gisborne's wine industry is gearing up for another vintage as grapes begin pushing through the last stages of ripening. I was quickly back into the swing of things on Monday when I started back at the winery, though I don't think I had much of a choice given my extended job duties. As usual, none of the equipment seems ready to process fruit yet and just about everything needs a thorough cleaning. I find it interesting that wineries are always running behind as harvest looms around the corner, but everything always comes together in time. I spent a good portion of my week working on our flotation unit with the company's representative, who was quite a nice fellow and taught me a few new things about this intriguing piece of machinery.

The vineyard team told me that most of our vineyards are ripening quickly, suggesting that we could have a rather fast harvest this year. Our first load of grapes will be arriving on Tuesday, so we'll have a chance to work out any problems in production before the trucks really start lining up on Wednesday. We're expecting to process nearly 800 tonnes by the end of next week, so hopefully everything goes smoothly.

Back to Work

Posted on February 16, 2010

My three-flight journey to New Zealand seemed to go by rather quickly; I guess I've just grown accustomed to 26 hours of sitting in cramped seats and waiting in airports. I arrived in Gisborne at 8 AM last Wednesday (11 AM Tuesday in California), and met up with my old flatmates Mark and Peter. I spent the rest of the week settling into my old house and surfing my brains out (yes, I am wearing boardshorts). After a bit of partying over the weekend, I hitch-hiked my way into town Monday to start work at the winery (I'm still working on getting a car). 

Oddly, my return to Gisborne has felt like a homecoming. Gisborne is a lovely place, filled with good people who have welcomed me back with open arms. I'm looking forward to the next few months as I settle into my new, old life.

Copyright © 2022 :: Michael Horton
Copyright © 2022 :: Michael Horton