You know when you live somewhere amazing, but because you’re so close you mean to go to it but almost never actually go?
Case in point: When Matt and I lived across the road from Fryberg Pool, I could count the number of times we actually went on one hand. Sometimes if something is very close, it’s easy to ignore it (I’m sorry Te Papa, I’m so sorry).
While living in the Wairarapa this year, Matt and I haven’t been for any wine tastings in the area - despite only living 20 minutes away from some of New Zealand’s best.
So it was a real treat today to be invited for a wine tasting at a new-ish Martonborough vineyard whilst Matt and I are still in the Wairarapa.
The vineyard is called ‘On Giants’ Shoulders’, a homage to all those who have worked in Martinborough, raising the vines before current owners, Braden and Gabrielle Crosby (plus their adorable baby Constance and two year old Atticus). The quote they draw their name from is one by Isaac Newton : “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Braden and Gabrielle are winegrowers, gardeners, parents and lovers of wine. They’ve owned their vineyard since 2015. Passionate and articulate, they started their vineyard because they were driven to make textured white wine and perfumed Pinot Noir on their little four hectare vineyard in the heart of Martinborough.
The wine tasting was held in a gorgeous little pre-fab tasting room (which I’d be more than happy to move into). Set out to be very minimalist, you can feel the youthful energy from this couple and their desire to be part of a now well established industry in Wellington wine country. Out big french doors were the vines beyond, seemingly stretching towards infinity.
On arrival, Braden told us all about how Martinborough came to be and the history of the area that they occupy on rich soils of clay loam running over alluvial gravels set down by the Huangarua and Ruamahanga rivers (spoiler alert: the man who founded Martinborough was named Martin). Braden and Gabrielle’s vineyard was planted in 1982. Braden then further explained the work involved in growing and pruning the vines, fighting off frost and ensuring that they get the best grapes possible.
As we walked around, I felt the sun beating down on my neck and could imagine the hard work at harvest, bending down to pluck the grapes from the vines in March. A bad harvest can mean a whole year of work wiped out. No matter how skilled a winemaker is, winemaking truly is a game of Russian roulette - which makes the reward all the more sweeter.
We then went inside to start our wine tasting - and Gabrielle gave me Constance to hold (which was certainly a highlight) while she poured out their four wines - two Chardonnays, a Pinot Gris and a Pinot Noir.
The Chardonnay is from vines planted in 1999. It had a dry, bold texture and was very pleasant to drink.
Next came the Pinot Gris - a single-vineyard wine from vines planted in 1988 and 1999. This had a floral, aromatic taste and was something I’d reach for on a hot summer day.
Finally, the Pinot Noir - a single-vineyard wine from vines planted in 1982, 2000 and 2011. This had an elegant finish and was really beautiful. I could have drunk it all day, quite happily.
Using sound viticultural practices that sustainably draw the best from the soils in the area, Braden and Gabrielle are passionate about the wine they make and raising their family on the vineyard. Braden kindly answered all our questions, sitting down with us and explaining all the different wines we tasted. It was more like going into someones home than a cellar door sale. Our senses were ignited and we really enjoyed every moment.
If you’re in Martinborough, I can’t recommend visiting On Giants Shoulders more highly. You truly get the experience of meeting the winemakers themselves, unlike the bigger vineyards, which is so much of the fun of doing a winetasting.