The pinot noir trea­sure hunt

Central Otago Mirror - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - JO MCKEN­ZIE-MCLEAN

Nearly 20 years ago, Fel­ton Road Wines owner Nigel Green­ing went on a trea­sure hunt. He struck gold.

Green­ing cel­e­brated Fel­ton Road’s 20th vin­tage at the week­end with hoards of in­vited guests, long-time cus­tomers, friends, work­ers and fam­ily.

‘‘Pinot noir is about place ... Place is ev­ery­thing. It’s like a trea­sure map where a grape res­onates...The one thing was clear back then - there was only a 20th of what’s here now - the trick would be to try and fig­ure out where the trea­sure is.’’

For­tu­nately, along­side do­ing re­search on wine soil, the Cromwell basin had been soil mapped when the Cromwell Gorge was flooded to form Lake Dun­stan, he said.

‘‘There was a blank trea­sure map al­ready drawn.’’

Green­ing had al­ready pur­chased an apri­cot or­chard at Cor­nish Point dur­ing a visit to New Zealand from Eng­land in 1998, be­fore he pur­chased the Fel­ton Road Win­ery off Ste­wart Elms in 2000.

‘‘I al­ready knew about Fel­ton Road. I was here when they re­leased the first wine - I was al­ready buy­ing their wine.

The land rose from the end of Fel­ton Road up to the old gold­min­ing ghost town of Ste­wart Town. Plant­ing started in 1992 and the first grapes were har­vested in 1995. But it was not un­til 1997 that a small win­ery was built and Blair Wal­ter was hired as wine­maker for the first vin­tage.

To­day, the win­ery had grown to en­com­pass four vine­yards in Ban­nock­burn, with 32 hectares of grapes as well as a sim­i­lar amount of hill coun­try ded­i­cated to farm­ing, he said.

The small win­ery had ’’grown be­yond recog­ni­tion’’, with con­tin­u­ous in­vest­ment to cre­ate a fa­cil­ity to grow grapes and make wine with­out com­pro­mise. In the last cou­ple of years nearly $2 mil­lion had been spent on projects in­clud­ing ex­pand­ing the un­der­ground bar­rel cel­lars and ex­tend­ing the tast­ing fa­cil­i­ties.

‘‘We don’t see 20 years of mak- ing wine as an achieve­ment, just a land­mark in what we hope will be a long jour­ney ahead. We are still stu­dents in a fas­ci­nat­ing learn­ing process; each year we add a few pieces to the puz­zle of what makes a great wine, but the big pic­ture will take some con­sid­er­able time yet.

‘‘The longer you do it, the more you re­alise you can’t do it in a life­time ... It’s a long game this.’’

JO MCKEN­ZIE-MCLEAN

Fel­ton Road owner Nigel Green­ing who bought the com­pany in 2000.

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