Wine with Wings

By Walt Dickson. First published in Wairarapa Lifestyle Magazine, Winter 2020.

New owner of Gladstone Vineyard Eddie McDougall, also known as the Flying Winemaker. PHOTO/EMMA BROWN
The new owner of Gladstone Vineyard Eddie McDougall, also known as the Flying Winemaker. PHOTO/EMMA BROWN

Contrary to what the name might suggest, The Flying Winemaker doesn’t own a plane, nor does he hold a pilot’s licence. But there is sincerity in Eddie McDougall’s moniker, yes, he does literally jet in to make the wine.

Born in Hong Kong, based in Australia, Eddie might be relatively new on the scene in Wairarapa, but he is an established name in other parts of the world; an award-winning winemaker, chairman of the Asian Wine Review, wine judge and TV personality behind one of Asia-Pacific’s most dynamic wine brands, The Flying Winemaker.

He swooped into the region in late 2018 buying the Gladstone Vineyard with lofty ambitions to make the best and most expensive wine in New Zealand.

Last year, his first vintage, he made two special wines at Gladstone that he says, will turn heads when they’re released: a field blend of three aromatic white varietals and an icon Pinot Noir that will be positioned as ‘New Zealand’s most expensive wine and best pinot’.

Eddie grew up in Brisbane and was studying for a business degree and working as a waiter in the early 2000s when he had a wine epiphany one night. Someone handed him a glass of Alsace pinot blanc and he was hooked. He enrolled in a winemaking degree and worked vintages across Australia and Italy. In 2009, he launched his wine label, making wine in the King Valley (Victoria), and later, Margaret River (Western Australia), buying fruit and leasing space in other people’s wineries.

His big break came in 2009, when he moved back to Hong Kong to set up the city’s first urban winery, shipping frozen grapes in from Europe and Australia. That’s when he earned his Flying Winemaker name, attracting the attention of television producers. Fast-track to 2018 and he was again looking for opportunities, initially in Australia, but when nothing caught his fancy, he looked across the Tasman.

‘I was happy to go wherever good wine is made, and Gladstone ticked all the right boxes

Making it such a great acquisition was that at Gladstone, all the ‘really hard work’ has been done, he says. ‘We believe that it is still the oldest white wine vineyard in the area – the first Sauvignon Blanc grapes were planted in 1986’.

Pinot Gris and Riesling have also since been planted, and instead of making three wines, Eddie makes a blend of all three.

‘Coming here we want to represent the region, and on a brand, level to represent what our true unique selling point is …we think we can make some serious, serious wines’.

In addition to the winery site, Gladstone Vineyard also owns considerably larger blocks of vines at nearby Dakin Road, as well as leasing crops from other growers. It is from the Dakins Road block that Eddie hopes to produce his icon Pinot Noir – to be called The Wairarapa – which he says will be the most definitive wine of the region, only made in the best possible years, 2019 is one of them.

The Flying Winemaker Team
The Flying Winemaker Team

With a global team based in Hong Kong and currently exporting throughout Asia, Australia, Norway, UK and USA, the sky is the limit. But he is not ignoring the domestic market and is determined to continue Gladstone Vineyard’s reputation for hosting terrific events.

Building on the success of the nearby Harvest Festive, Eddie aims to run up to four events a year at the winery. Exactly what they will be and when, wine lovers won’t want to miss out if his super cool Rose’ Revolutions, a mainstay on the calendar in Asia, are anything to go by.

Meanwhile, if you are in the neighbourhood, the cellar door is open daily from 11 am – 5 pm (except public holidays), but don’t expect to see Eddie, after all, when you have wings you gotta fly.

For more on Eddie, visit The Flying Winemaker.

For more on Wairarapa winemakers, visit www.wairarapalifestyle.com.

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Latest updates, dinner, Wairarapa trip, new editor & retiring editor

Latest updates

We hope all members are coming out of the hibernation that was COVID19 lockdown levels 4-3 and are looking forward to some normality re-energising their lives.  We are now allowed to meet and lots happening so let me set things out for you.  Firstly a major change is planned with Evelyn Dawson taking over the Editorship of your Newsletter.  Evelyn has other commitments and will not be joining the committee, we are however, very keen to seek a new member or two into the committee with both Steve and Robin withdrawing.  Think about it, please.

Evelyn Dawson (New editor)

The Minister of Wine and Cheese
Fletcher, David, 1952: I’ve been told to stop trivialising the work of politicians…

As everyone will realise we have been through strange and challenging times in recent weeks with the Cellar Club being in suspension.  As people have sat in isolation and reviewed the meaning of life I have had an epiphany.  I want to be the Editor of the Club’s Newsletter.  The following are a couple of Club issues we need to deal with.

No mid-year dinner

There will be no July Dinner but instead, the AGM has been deferred until July. See “Looking Forward” for detail.  Organising a dinner in the current somewhat fluid “Level” system is just too difficult.  We do have planning well in hand for our celebration dinner in November which will be special and should compensate.  More later on that.

Wairarapa trip & alternatives

We were all a bit sad that Covid19 meant that the planned Wairarapa trip in March could not proceed. We have been looking at alternatives and we are currently working on a deferment until February 2021.  We will continue to work on this alternative and will keep you all informed.

Robin (retiring editor)

Robin, Pat and grandkids. 2015
Robin, Pat and grandkids. 2015

You will note that I am relinquishing my role as your Newsletter Editor.  I am also looking to stand down as a committee member and would love it if someone else would put up their hand for a turn.  I have always believed that a little “churn” in committee membership allows for the introduction of variety and new ideas. I have been on the committee for 20 years and Editor for 9.  Time for a change.  I will continue to be a member of the club.  Far too much good wine yet to be tasted to give up that privilege.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time on the committee and very much appreciate the support I have received over the years.  Best wishes for the continued success of the Club.

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March & future events

Clearly, as we had no Club activity during March looking back has little value. As it happens it is equally difficult to look forward in our current environment. Suffice it to say that your committee will keep abreast of developments and will make appropriate plans when things become clearer. The Wairarapa trip and The Crater Rim will be foremost in our future arrangements.

Palliser Estate Wines
grava Martinborough
Alana Wines
Coney Wines

The Crater Rim

Clearly COVID-19 has forgotten to consider our club’s 40th-anniversary celebrations.  Your committee is still focused on holding these events as we can and planning is well underway for a dinner at a pretty special venue in November.  So let’s hope the lockdown is a distant memory by then and we can all make up for lost time with a great night out.  In the meantime, we trust all of us are doing our bit to help wineries stay financially afloat.

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Celebratory activities, Important things, Maison Noire

Celebratory activities

It’s the first of our celebratory activities for the year this month. The day trip to the Wairarapa promises to be a real highlight. A great deal of work has been put into the organisation of the day and I know we would all like to thank those on the committee who have been deeply involved.

Important things

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A list of the two tasting groups can be found in your email from Robin.

Maison Noire

There has been a bit of fun over the Maison Noire deliveries. When they arrived at my place, in numbered cartons, there was a notable omission in that carton No.1 was missing. No message or contact from the courier about this so I contacted Esther at Maison Noire. With some difficulty, she was finally able to ascertain that some breakage had occurred in this carton. The carton contained mainly Chenin Blanc. Unfortunately, the order had exhausted their reserves of the 2019 vintage and they will be replacing these orders with 2020 wine. Very poor service from the courier PBT.

Cheers
Robin Semmens
Editor

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Haythornthwaite Wines – March 2018

What a great evening with Mark and Susan. A nice blend of where they have come from and an outline of where the business is going now. Their business in Martinborough has taken an upturn with the introduction of platters at their tasting room. This has guided them into the tourism area and is looking very promising for them.

To recoup on the wines we started with the Rose 2017 as the quaffer. It is a dry style rose but with huge fruit sweetness and flavours of strawberries and raspberries. That was followed by the dry Pinot Gris and the two drier Gewurtztraminer’s. After a break we tasted the 2012 Pinot Noir, followed by the Reserve Pinot from 2013, which was a superb wine. It won a gold medal from the Air NZ Wine Awards. We then finished with the sweet Auslese Gewurztraminer 2013 (Pamela) that is a luscious wine.

Some good orders which was very pleasing for Susan and Mark. There were two things following from the evening. With harvest fast approaching there is often a need for pickers. If you are interested please let them know. Secondly, Haythornthwaite will give Club members a 10% discount at the tasting room. Give it a try, a trip to the Wairarapa, a platter and a tasting of some really nice wines. What more could you want?

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Oldest wine opened in NZ still ‘amazing’ after 113 years in a Wairarapa cellar

Caleb Harris/Fairfax NZ | Last updated February 10, 2016.

After 113 years in a farmhouse cellar, a bottle of wine believed to be the oldest ever opened in New Zealand has astonished critics by still tasting great.

“It’s superb. Amazing, really … It’s still hanging on, shaking its fist at you out of the glass,” was how wine writer John Saker summed up the 1903 Landsdowne Claret opened in Wairarapa on Wednesday.

Early Wairarapa settler William Beetham made the wine on land the family owned in Masterton, after his homesick French wife Hermance planted vines.

The 1903 blend of pinot noir, pinot meunier and syrah is poured at Brancepeth Station in Wairarapa.

The vineyard stopped producing around 1908, but some bottles have been cellared ever since in the Edwardian homestead at Brancepeth Station, east of Masterton, which Beetham’s descendants still own.

On Wednesday, Saker convened a panel of 12 other local and international wine writers at Brancepeth to sample the valuable vintage, a bottle of which once sold for $14,000.

The 1903 blend of pinot noir, pinot meunier and syrah is poured at Brancepeth Station in Wairarapa.

Beetham’s Masterton vineyard was revived under new owner Derek Hagar in 2009 and won an international pinot noir award, so the tasters compared Beetham’s 1903 wine with a contemporary bottle produced by Hagar on the same land.

Brancepeth’s current custodian, Edward Beetham, said seeing his forebear’s pioneering role in Wairarapa winemaking acknowledged was “a great occasion”. “We’ve always sort of dreamt of doing this.”

Although called a claret, the wine is actually a blend of pinot noir, pinot meunier and syrah.

Breaths were bated as the crumbling cork was pulled, but once the venerable wine was swished, sniffed and sipped, the consensus was that age had not wearied it.

“This wine is like … a 100-year-old human which is still not ready to die,” German sommelier Markus Berlinghof said.

“There was this sort of dried citrus-peel acidity that just made it feel alive, still, and that completely shocked me,” American wine writer Sara Schneider said.

American wine writer Sara Schneider at the tasting.
American wine writer Sara Schneider at the tasting.

Saker found the wine not only surprisingly fault-free for its age, but also redolent of an “Edwardian summer” at the dawn of New Zealand’s wine industry. “That’s what makes it wonderful.”

BETTER WITH AGE?

1. John Saker, Wine editor Cuisine magazine

Tasting notes: “Slight faded rose, a hint of reduction … that lovely elegant passage across the palate, just a suggestion of sweetness. This is a Wairarapa pinot to be proud of.”

What about compared with the 2009 Landsdowne wine? “I thought there was a family resemblance … both have a finer, lighter, red fruit notes and a steely acidity.”

Rating (1903): 5 out of 5

2. German sommelier Markus Berlinghof

German sommelier Markus Berlinghof and American wine writer Sara Schneider get to work on their tasting notes.

Tasting notes: “A lot of dried fruit character, dried orange zest. Elegant, a very feminine mouth feel. The colour is still in very good condition, a deep garnet, very fresh.”

What about compared with the 2009 Landsdowne wine? “I wasn’t a friend of drinking the other wine afterward, I don’t want to compare them.”

Rating: Doesn’t believe in ratings, but in a word: “Superb”.

3. American wine writer Sara Schneider

Tasting notes: “That first red fruit is really gone by now, but has sort of turned into a dried fig character, kind of an earthy tang, with the tannin texture … dried rose petals … a terrific wine.”

What about compared with the 2009 Landsdowne wine? “There’s a wet loam, forest floor, mushroomy, savoury character in both wines.”

Rating: High 19 out of 20 (1903); low 19 out of 20 (2009).

 – Stuff

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Tasting review – Gladstone Vineyard

Being the first vineyard in Gladstone in 1986, Christine and David Kernohan took over the vineyard in 1996. Only 20km from Martinborough, GV soils exhibit similar properties probably due to its proximity to the old terrace riverbed of the Ruamahanga River.

With ideal soil conditions, free draining stony silt loam for growing vines, production has steadily stepped up over the past 20 years. Christine mentioned the wine growing area in Gladstone is in the process of identifying its own sub-region characteristics.

The wines from first impressions seemed to be a little flat. First impressions can be deceiving as they were in this case. The bouquet for most wines were on the light side but still clean and fresh.

The 2014 Viognier gave a hint on lemon peel and spice with a dry, ripe apricot finish. The GC Sauv. Blanc hinted at young pineapple and again a dry, crisp lingering (for more) finish. The Pinot Gris offered up fresh melons with off-dry ripe stonefruit to finish and the Rosé, made from Bordeaux-style grapes. strawberries and cream, beautiful and elegant.

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Click image to view the gallery

Into the reds. The tasting notes were not wrong. What they don’t mention is their elegant subtle perfume and rich long finish. 12.000 Pinot Noir offered hints of blackberry and liquorice with a savoury finish.

Despite a wet few months before picking, the 2011 GV Pinot Noir displayed a warmth from the extra time on the vine allowing the tannins to build. This would go perfectly with lamb or pork infused with Asian-inspired flavours; star anise, dark soy, sugar and salt.

The club appreciates Christine’s time and wonderfully crafted wines. Now looking forward to how 2014 Pinot’s stack up.

Cheers, Steve

Event details

Venue: Johnsonville Community Centre Hall, 30 Moorefield Rd, Johnsonville, Wellington 6037 – Directions

Cost: Members $12, Guests $16

Presenter: Christine Kernohan – Chef winemaker, Gladstone Vineyard

gladstone_vineyardBackground:

Christine is the chief winemaker at Gladstone, involved in all stages of winemaking and manages the business. One of only three Scottish women winemakers in the world (not being a common career aspiration where or when she grew up). Christine ‘fell’ into the wine industry after a happenstance visit to Gladstone Vineyard with David one spring weekend in 1995.

She previously worked in the computer industry in business analysis and project management and was also involved in social research and agriculture industry research. She has an MBA from Massey University and farming experience from involvement in a goat, sheep and beef farm at Hunterville.

Gladstone Vineyard was the opportunity to run her own business, bring together the rural life with business, and apply her scientific bent from way back.

David Kernohan is owner/taster, architect and former Associate Professor at the School of Architecture at Wellington’s Victoria University. He has been operating his own research and building heritage consultancy, Architecture Diagnostics, from the vineyard for the past eight years.

He is the author of five books on architecture including Wairarapa Buildings published in 2003. David is a Deputy Environment Commissioner, was co-author of the Hunn Report on the weather tightness of buildings that precipitated the Building Act 2004, and is a former Director of Wellington Waterfront Limited.

  • ‘Quaffing wine’ – 12,000 Miles Sauvignon Blanc 2014
    Move over Marlborough… try the ‘more grown up’, easy drinking summer Wairarapa SB. The wine shows excellent fruit purity and finishes long and attractive. At its best: now to 2017.” 4.5 Stars, Wine Orbit, Jan 2015
  • Gladstone Vineyard Viognier 2014
    White peach and mandarin on the nose, echoed by orange blossom and subtle clove spice. An elegant, cool climate Viognier. 5 Stars 93/100. Wine Orbit; 4 Stars” Cameron Douglas MS
  • Gladstone Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2013
    More serious, wonderful food wine. Careful batch selection and winemaking produce this textural elegant Sauvignon Blanc. Silver Medals, San Francisco and Canada, 91/100 Sam Kim.
  • 12,000 Miles Pinot Gris 2014
    A lovely bouquet of yellow peach, loquat and nectarine opens up to a musky floral and cinnamon spice nose. The palate is rich and rounded with a soft, mealy character from the extended lees contact. Silver Medal NZ International Wine Show 2014
  • Gladstone Vineyard Rose 2014
    THINK PINK! A perfect ‘all year round’ rose. The nose is all summery desserts with strawberry, raspberry and pannacotta with hints of spice. Creamy and generous entry with a juicy fruit core and a clean finish. Made from Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes.
  • 12,000 Miles Pinot Noir 2013
    New release, dark berry flavours are balanced with subtle spice, chocolate, earth and savoury characteristics that enhance and lengthen the palate. Pure Gold Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2014, Gold Melbourne International Wine Competition 2014
  • Gladstone Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011
    “Light ruby-red with purple hues, fresh and fragrant with lifted red cherry and berry fruit aromas and a little savoury interest. Attractively elegant”. Silver Medal International Wine Challenge 2013, & Decanter World Wine Awards 2013, International Wine Challenge 2013

Note: Every case purchased goes into the draw to win a magnum of Gladstone Vineyard Reserve Pinot Noir 09.

Little-known Kiwi wine labels worth seeking out

Easthope Family Winegrowers Pinot Noir Te Muna Road 2013 and Mangaorapa Estate Southern Hawke’s Bay Pinot Gris 2011.

We know for sure that there are about 700 wineries in New Zealand, but no-one would have a clue as to how many different brands there are out there. Thousands probably, many completely unknown to you and me.

Not that it really matters. Labels are sometimes nothing more than commercial punts with a butterfly’s life span. Big companies will create a new brand at the merest whiff of a new market segment, then just as quickly snuff it out if expectations aren’t met.

Those New Zealand brands you discover for the first time when you visit an Aussie supermarket are another example of pop-up labels. They are usually the result of bulk wine purchases that are bottled across the ditch.

Then there are the personal, limited-release labels you’ll never see in shops and only at the right parties – the Prime Minister’s annual ‘JK’ Central Otago pinot noir comes to mind.

But also hovering under the radar are some wonderful surprises – off-off-Broadway labels with wines that are lovingly made and every bit as authentic as the best of their mainstream cousins.

Often they’re from tiny estates that haven’t tried very hard to broaden distribution. Or maybe they’re just starting out. Here are three whose wines are worth tracking down:

Lansdowne Estate

Despite the fact it came from nowhere to win the coveted Bouchard Finlayson Trophy for its 2010 pinot noir at last year’s IWSC (International Wine and Spirit Competition) in London, this Wairarapa label has remained enigmatically incognito.

The grapes are grown near Masterton on the site of the region’s very first vineyard, planted by William Beetham in the late 19th century. The vineyard is not irrigated, yields are kept low and a non-interventionist winemaking approach is taken.

The 2010 pinot noir is no longer available but the 2011 pinot noir is delightful and fine-boned, while the panna-cotta-infused 2011 pinot gris has real depth and sophistication.

Lansdowne Estate | Wairarapa

Easthope Family Winegrowers

After leaving Craggy Range, talented winemaker Rod Easthope embarked on a solo career that has seen him make wines for a UK-based online retailer as well as establish his own local label with his wife Emma.

The first wine they produced is an outstanding Wairarapa-made pinot (see below), but also look out for a soon-to-be released 2014 Hawke’s Bay syrah.

Easthope Family Winegrowers | Wairarapa

Mangaorapa Estate

The Mouat family founded the magnificent Mangaorapa Station in southern Hawke’s Bay in the mid-20th century. The recent decision to grow grapes has paid off.

Conditions more often identified with the Wairarapa than Hawke’s Bay have helped produce beautifully scented pinot noir, wild honey-laced sauvignons and enticing pinot gris. The wines are all made off-site by Warren Gibson at Trinity Hill. 

Mangaorapa Estate | Wairarapa

Try these:

  • Easthope Family Winegrowers Pinot Noir Te Muna Road 2013, $65
    Pure sweet berry flavours harmonise with brown tea and minerally savoury elements, against a fine, taut structure. Lovely, lengthy pinot worth cellaring. Buy at easthope.co.nz
  • Mangaorapa Estate Southern Hawke’s Bay Pinot Gris 2011, $30
    The central triumph of this pinot gris is its mouth-coating, caressing texture. Off-dry in style, with mellowing apple and pear notes, it is aging beautifully. Buy at mangaorapa.co.nz

John Saker, stuff.co.nz, March 5 2015

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