The pinot noir treasure hunt
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.’’
Felton Road owner Nigel Greening who bought the company in 2000.