Well suited with wine

Central Otago Mirror - - CLASSIFIEDS - JILL HER­RON

‘‘Har­vest time is messy, sticky and tir­ing but it's great, The busier the bet­ter for me.’’

Some­times things don’t al­ways go to plan.

For Cromwell vine­yard man­ager and wine­maker De­bra Cruick­shank, it is a shift from mak­ing wine to keeping up with de­mand for a new prod­uct on the shelf - her Duck Shoot­ers Port.

The 37-year-old for­mer South­land farm girl is flat out in her unas­sum­ing lit­tle win­ery in the Cromwell in­dus­trial area where she also takes on the roles of bot­tler, la­beller, of­fice man­ager and mar­ket­ing per­son. Not quite a one-woman-band, she does have Jade the labrador - a great lis­tener but not much help with haul­ing heavy con­tain­ers around, fix­ing ma­chin­ery or an­swer­ing the phone.

Pro­duc­tion is grow­ing at the DC Win­ery with triple the ton­nage of fruit at har­vest now, com­pared with a few years ago. Mak­ing wine was the plan but it’s the pinot noir ports that are catch­ing the at­ten­tion of the drink­ing pub­lic and are now be­com­ing the main fo­cus of pro­duc­tion.

Jade’s had a paw in help­ing with that process…when Cromwell artist Tui John­son sketched her and Cruick­shank’s fa­ther, Bob, for the la­bel on the Duck Shoot­ers Port, its pop­u­lar­ity soared. It was the be­gin­ning of some­thing of a new era for the busi­ness, she says.

‘‘Peo­ple just loved that la­bel and it’s also re­ally good port. It just kept sell­ing out and it’s taken over now re­ally. Port is mainly what I make and I’ve added a Red Stag ver­sion for hunters.’’

Cruick­shank thrives on the phys­i­cal work and has done it all her life. It’s a hands-on win­ery with no fork­lifts or con­vey­ors and some of the crop is pressed the old fash­ioned way, by foot.

‘‘I like the phys­i­cal side of the work. Har­vest time is messy, sticky and tir­ing but it’s great, the busier the bet­ter for me. It’s a good work out and it means I don’t need a gym mem­ber­ship.’’

She grew up on sheep farms in the Catlins and Wai­w­era South. Her par­ents were never ‘‘wine peo­ple’’, she says, but farm­ing life was all about rolling up your sleeves and get­ting on with it, stand­ing her in good stead for the de­mands of the vines.

‘‘My par­ents cer­tainly weren’t into wine in fact I’ve only just been able to stop them drink­ing cask wine in the past few years.‘‘

For a cou­ple of months at har­vest it is a seven-day-a-week job as pick­ing and wine­mak­ing get into full swing. She now pro­duces about 30 dif­fer­ent vin­tages for small scale and hobby vine­yards and for her own Tan­nacrieff la­bel.

She came to Cromwell af­ter high school, un­sure of a ca­reer path aside from some fairly vague ideas about get­ting in­volved in the arts.

‘‘I went fruit pick­ing, did a tourism job then ended up at Akarua work­ing on the vine­yard. I just loved it there, be­ing out on the vine­yard and learn­ing so much ev­ery day. I man­aged to find my way into the win­ery and started out do­ing the don­key-work jobs.’’

She moved on to plung­ing tanks and it soon dawned that the wine busi­ness and Cruick­shank were well suited to each other.

‘‘Akarua put me through all my stud­ies then I be­came the as­sis­tant wine­maker and was there for eight years.’’

She then spent a year at Mar­garet River in Western Aus­tralia run­ning a wine lab then re­turned to Cromwell and set up a fa­cil­ity for mak­ing small batch wines.

‘‘I can make any­thing from 100 litres to 5000 litres for a grower and I’ve got cus­tomers now in Alexan­dra, Clyde, Wanaka, Bendigo, Gibb­ston Val­ley and Cromwell.’’

She helps hobby grow­ers through the whole process in­clud­ing car­ing for the vines from bud burst to pick­ing and ad­vis­ing on grow­ing meth­ods.

‘‘A lot of peo­ple don’t re­alise the amount of work and the cost of hav­ing vines. It’s very labour in­ten­sive and you can’t just go on holiday if there’s work that needs done or grapes that need picked.’’

Three years ago she ac­quired a sort of ‘‘unofficial lease’’ on a one­hectare block of pinot noir vines and be­came a small batch pro­ducer her­self. PHONE OUR FRIENDLY STAFF TO­DAY FOR ALL



Tak­ing a quick break be­tween press­ing grapes, wine­maker De­bra Cruick­shank and her good mate Jade.


Jade and De­bra Cruick­shank’s fa­ther, Bob, on the Duck Shoot­ers Port la­bel.

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