It will probably be no surprise at all to you but this week I visited a winery, Kina Cliffs to be precise. The gently sloping 3.5 Ha vineyard, office, tasting room and home are located on the Cliff Road on the Kina Peninsula heading towards the golf course and has stunning views over Tasman Bay.
The location is also perfect for growing grapes; the soils are clay with gravels running through it so it retains moisture and along with the gentle slope helps excess water drain away. Being on the coast a nice gentle coastal breeze drops in around 11am each day helping keep the vines dry and making the vineyard frost-free. The North facing aspect means the vines get to make the most of the warm Nelson sunshine. So I think Al and Julie Ashcroft have chosen the perfect piece of land to establish their own boutique winery, Kina Cliffs.
You may think planting a vineyard is a huge challenge for people who work in software development and human resource management but they both come from rural backgrounds. Julie grew up on a kiwi fruit orchard and Al on a sheep farm so the fencing and vine pruning skills they brought to establishing their vineyard have been invaluable.
When they decided to start making their own wine Al and Julie had a clear idea of both the style of wine they wanted to make and the market they wanted to supply wine to. The small vineyard size means they can do everything by hand and they make just enough wine to sell in the Nelson region through restaurants, wine shops and at their beautiful cellar door outlet. Having twin boys at about the time they planted their first vines in 2004 was a factor in deciding to keep the wine production small and manageable without having to travel around the country selling wine.
Kina Cliffs produce three varieties of wine, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir with the Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir being bottle aged before being released. The Sauvignon Blanc they produce is made in a ripe, easy drinking style and is just delicious drinking in the year it is made. The 2104 version is packed with flavour and rather than being bone dry has a little residual sugar to add some nice texture to the wine and balance the natural acidity of the variety. Another factor that reduces the astringency is the use of only free-run juice when making the wine. This is the juice that first comes from the press when being processed and excludes the final juice squeezed from the fruit that can have green herbaceous characters.
Some of the wine that makes up the final blend for the Kina Cliffs Pinot Gris has been aged in old oak barrels for a few months to help add a nice mouth-filling texture to the wine while the time spent on yeast lees contributes a lovely soft brioche character to the ripe pears flavours.
The wines produced by Al and Julie Ashcroft at Kina Cliffs are handcrafted treats that are worth searching for and you simply have to visit their cellar door at Kina to enjoy the magnificent views across Tasman Bay on a fine sunny day. Check out www.kinacliffs.co.nz for opening hours.