3: New Zealand's Central Otago region
The Black Poplar the vineyard is named after
next visit was with Jenny Hawker at Pisa Range.
Jenny and her husband Warwick were working in the diplomatic
service, and at the time they planted their first vines at Pisa
Range, in 1995, they were on a posting in Beijing. Among other jobs,
Warwick was New Zealand ambassador to Iran, and their last posting
was in Tonga. Now he is theoretically retired, but he is still doing
some work. ‘We’ve had a very interesting life,’ says Jenny.
‘We had seven postings altogether, mainly in Asia, spanning 35
years.’ They have a son and a daughter.
Pisa Range from the air (to the
right of the trees - Kawarau Estate is to the left)
came back from a posting in Kuala Lumpa and we needed to think about
life after foreign affairs,’ recalls Jenny. ‘We wrote down a
list of things we’d like to do, and this included growing things,
eating and travelling: a vineyard allowed us to do all these things.’
one day, serendipity intervened. They had Charles Finney of Kawarau
Estate over for dinner, and in a throw-away line over coffee he said
he needed to sell some land to finance vineyard development. So the
Hawkers made him an offer, and are now his neighbours. A few months
later, serendipity intervened again. They heard that a farmer was
selling off some land suitable for a house site at the end of their
vineyard plot. ‘We were about to return to China, so Warwick raced
up to see the farmer who wasn’t sure, but a few weeks later we had
some new land,’ says Jenny.
Central Otago winemaker Mike Wolter helped them establish their
vineyard, but he tragically died in a winemaking accident in 1997.
This is when they met Rudi Bauer, who at the time was just
establishing his own venture, Quartz Reef. Rudi now makes the Pisa
Range wines. The first harvest from Pisa Range’s vineyards was in
1998, but for the first couple of vintages all the grapes were used
to make Rudi’s Quartz Reef wines. The 1998 and 1999 Quartz reef
wines were 100% Pisa Range fruit, but with the 2000 vintage the Pisa
Range label was born, and gradually more and more estate fruit was
used for the Pisa Range wines. Now the two are completely separate
The vineyard, and beyond this the Pisa Range
Pisa subregion is part of the Cromwell Basin, and it’s quite a
warm spot on the shores of Lake Dunstan, on the road running out to
Wanaka, and hemmed in the other side by the Pisa Range of hills.
After the first world war, the Pisa flats were divided up by the
government for returning soldiers, and became mixed farming or
orchards. Kawarau Estate were the first to plant vineyards here, but
in recent years the flats have gradually filled out with vineyards,
a stretch of about 20 km.
Sheep dags being trialled for under-row weed control
here is pretty much organic, with the only issue preventing full
conversion being the undervine weed control (two glyphosate sprays
are used each season). A permanent sward is left between the rows,
including dandelion and yarrow. The vines are now almost completely
in balance, with the right number of shoots and two bunches per
cane. Pisa Range joined the biodynamic association three years ago
and have been implementing certain aspects. ‘We’re also keen on
biodynamics because many cultures we have lived in use it as well,’
says Jenny. Five clones of Pinot Noir are planted: 113, 777, 115,
114 and 10/5.
single wine is made each year, the Black Poplar Block Pinot Noir. In
addition, a tiny amount of Pinot Gris is produced from bought in
grapes, and some Riesling vines have recently been planted.
Altogether the property is 33 hectares, with 4 hectares of Pinot
Noir and 0.5 hectares of Riesling.
Range Pinot Noir 2008
This was more of a vineyard vintage, where growers had to be
careful about canopy management. Shy nose with some mineral notes.
The palate shows richness with lovely smooth elegant fruit and a
nice minerality. Ripe and full, yet smooth with lovely cherryish
fruit. Smooth texture. 93/100
Range Pinot Noir 2007
A uniformly good vintage. Lovely smooth, elegant dark cherry
nose with some subtle minerality. The palate is beautifully focused
with dark fruits and spice. Elegantly meaty with nice minerality and
hints of earth. Smooth, sweet and elegant with lovely focus. 94/100
Range Pinot Noir 2006
A textbook vintage after two frost-hit years. Strikingly elegant
nose with a sweet, lush liqueur-like edge, and pure cherry fruit
with some warm spiciness. The palate has lushness as well as warm
spicy characters. Quite elegant with some minerality and non-fruit
complexity, as well as some soy/spice notes. Very stylish. 93/100
Range Pinot Noir 2004
Very pure and elegant on the nose with nice spiciness. Beginning
to show some evolution. The palate is open, elegant and spicy with
warm herby notes. Stylish. 93/100
Find these wines with wine-searcher.com