New life is being injected into the 30-year-old CJ Pask brand with the addition of pinot noir from Martinborough and aromatics from Marlborough in a move that has made general manager and winemaker Kate Radburnd very happy. "I first met ex-top-dressing pilot Chris Pask when he supplied grapes to me during my time as winemaker at Vidal Estate in Hastings," Radburnd says.
"He literally started making wine as a hobby in the little shed on his vineyard, which was planted in 1981."
Pask's first wine, a 1985 cabernet sauvignon, was awarded a five-star rating in Cuisine magazine, as was his 1986. That's when he decided to get a bit more serious about the wine business and asked Radburnd to come on board. "It was a great way to start with what I thought was going to be this tiny company where I'd be able to manage the vineyard, the winemaking and the whole shebang."
The winery has grown dramatically. It's almost 10 times the size it was 21 years ago and if you pay a visit you'll find it's basically a factory.
"It was never designed to be doing the throughput we're doing now," Radburnd says. "We've added bits on over the years and we're in the throes of adding on again. So it's not pretty but it's functional.
"Our vineyards are five minutes from the winery at Gimblett Rd and, apart from our staff, our vineyards are our greatest assets. We are concentrating on chardonnay and then the reds, both bordeaux varieties and syrah."
Pask's first vintage of syrah was in 2000 "and even after 13 vintages I feel we're still newcomers to it".
"What I love about syrah is it has a gracefulness to its fruit and lovely length of flavour," Radburnd says.
She and her team also produce fantastic bubbles. The stunning 2007 CJ Pask methode traditionnelle has spent four years on yeast lees and it's light and toasty with some lovely acidity and texture. But you may never have come across it.
"We really just sell it direct from the winery, and it's a real labour of love because everything is done by hand," Radburnd says. "We only make about 150 cases a year and to be honest I think we drink more than we sell. We just like to have it, something on hand to celebrate with."
It is sealed not with the traditional cork, cage and foil, but with a crown seal. "We're not using cork at all now, which is good, but you don't get the same pop."
Treats under $25
New Zealand's most consumer-oriented wine competition has recently wrapped, the results are out, and I doubt if even Valerie Adams would have the upper body strength to haul away the record number of medals awarded.
In all, 1008 wines were entered in the New World Wine Awards, which dictate that each wine must retail for under $25 and have at least 500 cases available, making the winners both affordable and available. Thirteen of the top judges in the country then awarded a record 56 gold, 130 silver and 412 bronze medals - and those medals don't come easy, believe me.
The judging is as rigorous as any other show in the country.
This competition is open to wines worldwide.Three New Zealand wines took the top honours. They were: champion red went to Mud House Pinot Noir 2010; champion white to Wild Rock Pania Chardonnay 2010; and champion bubbles to Brancott Estate Sparkling Rose.
All the award winners are distributed and promoted in 141 New World supermarkets throughout the country and there is a booklet showcasing the top 50. The top award winners have sold out in as little as 10 days some years so my advice is to get in quick, particularly if you have spring weddings or Christmas functions coming up, because these wines represent fantastic value for money.
Craggy Range gets together with Rothschild
So moving about as far away from the bargain bin as you could possibly imagine, the Peabody family, owner of Craggy Range Winery has formed a strategic partnership with Benjamin de Rothschild and his family to create high-quality Marlborough sauvignon blanc and pinot noir under the brand Rimapere, meaning "five arrows' in Maori. The brand represents the five branches of the Rothschild family, arguably the most famous winemaking family in world.
Terry Peabody said of the partnership: "We are delighted to develop an association with such a revered wine family and look forward to a long and prosperous relationship.
"It is also a significant endorsement of the reputation of New Zealand, and the Marlborough region, to have attracted such a distinguished wine family.
"We look forward to Rimapere becoming one of the region's most prestigious wine brands in the years to come."
So how are they going to do it? Turns out Benjamin de Rothschild has bought a 26ha vineyard on Rapaura Rd in the heart of Marlborough's "golden mile", home to some of the regions greatest wines.
"This spectacular vineyard will become the home of the Rimapere brand, and represents my family's long-term commitment to our partnership and expanding our prestigious international wine portfolio."
Expect to see the first wine, the 2012 Rimapere Sauvignon Blanc around the traps in the next couple of weeks.