Jurassic Ridge is a small 1.6 hectare family vineyard situated in historic Church Bay (Hangaura) on the West end of Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf.
This was the site of one of the earliest missionary churches in Auckland, and doubled as an early sports ground for Auckland. Our vineyard enjoys views over the Bay, the Hauraki Gulf islands and the Auckland city skyline, just 35 minutes away by fast catamaran ferry.
The original meaning of the name Hangaura seems to have been lost for ever, but it is of course no coincidence at all that the literal translation of hanga is ‘to make’ , while ura – right across Polynesia – is ‘red’. The perfect place to make red wine!
Our site was carefully selected for its aspect – the vineyard position and slopes maximise exposure of the vines to the sun, being North and West-facing into Church Bay, and sloping gently down to the North. It sits on the ‘rise’ approximately mid-way between sea level about 60m below, and the highest land on Croll Ridge to the East, at 108m.
The South side is protected by 7 acres of regenerating forest reserve over ridge and valley. It is perfectly placed for maximum sunshine hours and optimal ripening and maturity of the fruit. Nevertheless our vines must struggle in the exposed and raw marine environment frequently lashed by prevailing south west salt-laden winds (or hail) which scorch leaves and tendrils, set the bunches swinging (!) and test the integrity of posts, trellises and shelter-belts alike.
The elements of our unique maritime terroir are described in a poem, ‘Terroir at Hangaura’, the last verse of which is below……..
Lance Blumhardt is the self-appointed viticulturist, winemaker, cellar door hand and odd-job man. In the 6 o’clock swill of the beer age he was a geology student at Victoria University drinking as much as possible in the George Hotel before staggering back up the Terrace steps for the evening lecture at 6pm! The remnants of his geological training (which would have banished him to the dry valleys of Antarctica for several years if he had not switched just in time to medicine) have come in handy in studies of the Waiheke terroir.
He has been heavily influenced by that marvellous publication ‘The Winemaker’s Dance’ in which two Californian professors of geology (one of whom is a winemaker at the Lava Cap Vineyard, Napa Valley) argue persuasively from extensive studies of the Napa Valley geology, that the underlying rock has a major influence on the vines and the wines that are made from them.
His interest in wine developed during his House surgeon years when he became the manager of the wine bar and club in the House Surgeon’s quarters in Mein Street, Newtown, selling such atmospheric products as Mateus Rose and Bakano Red! Remember when? Those were not the days! Much, much later in between neurology clinics and teaching students in London, Oxford, Liverpool and Nottingham Universities, he lost far too much time in the chateaux of the Medoc and St Emilion, studying the vineyards and the wines. Early retirement was essential for the dream to be realised!
Luciana, who hails originally from one of the most famous DOC”s in Italy, namely Taurasi, is the reluctant viticulturist, cellar hand and cellar door supervisor (‘I imagined one or two rows of grapes when we retired!’ ) who is still deeply invested in and practising neurophysiology, if not on the web then away on locums in Nottingham or Lincoln. Now registered in New Zealand I will see even less of her during bud-rubbing and leaf plucking times – but what the heck - she is the chief taster and tester of the wines during pre-bottling decision making – and that can be done after commuting back from Wellingon or Italy anyway!
And that is everyone in the ‘team’ apart from Neko the vineyard cat from dubious back alleys in Nottingham who is known to all cellar door visitors (‘scratch my belly please’) and keeps me company up every row of the 5k trellis in the vineyard where she is the boss.
‘Terroir at Hangaura’, the last verse……..
In the end,
the essence of the terroir here,
once 3000 metres high or more,
was rock – Jurassic rock -
upon whose tilted, fractured, sedimentary sheets
hills and bush,
native grass and forest
posts and wires
wind and surf and salt
the heat the cold the sun and water vapour
vines themselves with roses white and red
the syrah, the pinot gris and cabbage tree,
montepulciano, kowhai and the cabernet,
on poor soil and yellow clay twelve metres thick upon the base,
with ash, volcanic ash, not far from whence it came….
Its all of these….but much more – no less,
as only vines entwined in rock can truly know
- the essence of eroded core,
from which an ancient mountain ridge has worn away -
gives up those atoms, crystal ghosts and dust of stars unknown
- that fuse into a miracle of fragrant purple bliss -
and dance – for just a time so brief -
- round and round inside your glass…
from – ‘Terroir at Hangaura’
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