It was love at first sight when we first came to an old river terrace overlooking Te Muna Valley in 1996. We initially encountered bare grazing land outside of Martinborough in the Wairarapa. But with its stony soils, gentle north-facing slope, and crystal-clear water of the Ruakokoputuna River, we were instantly struck by its potential.
We began planting olive trees — 550 of them at first — but were persuaded by pioneering Martinborough winemaker Bill Brink of Walnut Ridge to also plant a vineyard. Sadly, Bill passed away three years later, but the vision for the vineyard lives on.
Season by season and through back-breaking work, both the vineyard and olive grove gradually grew and began to flourish. We progressively planted the vineyard and now have seven acres of vines, mostly Pinot Noir with the rest Pinot Gris. Initially we sold our grapes to Martinborough Vineyard. From 2010, they made The Elder Pinot wines. Now we can share them with you as Blue Earth Estate wines.
The olive grove now comprises more than 1100 trees. By blending their fruits into different and unique combinations, we create distinctive styles of olive oil to suit a variety of palates and foods.
It was, in the beginning, a labour of love. In those early years, we harvested with the help of family and friends. The expense of wine and food we provided on those festive occasions eclipsed any revenue gained from selling oil. Now, we regularly crop more than twenty tons of olives a year.
The name “Blue Earth” is an affectionate nod to Mike’s hometown in southern Minnesota and the farm he grew up on. The soil there is so rich and dark that it appears blue when turned by a plow. Our soil is the opposite. Stony, dry, and healthy but not fertile, it is perfect for producing our premium olive oils that have won numerous national and international awards.
In 2022, our olive grove and vineyard were the subject of an episode of New Zealand’s long-running iconic television program Country Calendar. You can watch the episode here to gain a more intimate sense of our operation.
Come and visit our vineyard and olive grove. We would love to share our evolving story and our wines and olive oils with you.
Too far away to visit? Check out our story aired by Country Calendar on TV1+ at https://www.tvnz.co.nz/shows/country-calendar/episodes/s2022-e31 (New Zealand viewers only)