• Harvesting – Is it the best time of the season? 6 May, 2024 Posted in: Blue Earth Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Rosé

    Usually the answer is yes, but sometimes it has been challenging.

    There are a few harvests that really stand out in our memory.  One of them was our first harvest.  We were still at the naive and inexperienced stage.  We had been walking up and down admiring this beautiful fruit for weeks.  Then the harvesting crew came in with a professional eye.  Fruit that wasn’t good enough was dropped.  Fruit that showed any sign of not being ripe enough was ignored.  Shoulders on bunches were cut off, as they weren’t ripe enough to go into the wine.  Berries which the birds had pecked through the nets were flicked off.  It felt to us that half our precious fruit was being left behind.  It was our rude introduction of what quality fruit for quality wine actually means.  Since then, we have learnt to do most of these things as we go through the season, so it has never been as devastating since.

    The next one was the first time we were actively involved in the picking.  The rest of the crew was fast and efficient.  We weren’t.  Picking snips are sharp, so by the end of the day Margaret had a sticking plaster on almost every finger as a result of trying to go faster.  Now we always have a pack of plasters with us, but we don’t have to use them too often.

    Blue Earth Estate, Mike harvesting pinot noir.

    Probably the hardest harvest, was in 2022.  It had been a wet, cool season.  The grass never stopped growing, and we were regularly mowing under the nets to reduce the humidity in the vineyard.  At that stage we had an abandoned vineyard next door, which contributed to us having more disease than we had ever seen.  Normally we can manage the vineyard in a way that we get very little disease, but not that year.  Powdery mildew had struck early, and botrytis was starting.  We had already been through the vineyard several times taking out diseased fruit to try and stop it spreading.  When we decided it was time to harvest, we had to inspect every bunch of fruit – either to flick out diseased berries, or to drop the whole bunch. Coincidentally, our sons and one of their wives had planned a visit from Taiwan that year.  So the day after they arrived, shifting from temperatures in the 30s to temperatures in the low teens, they were out there helping us harvest.  The things you do for family.  This was also the year that Country Calendar decided to do a show on us.  Not exactly the best year of showing off our vineyard.  But the resulting wine, our current release of Pinot Gris, was lovely.  You can judge it for yourself.

    Perhaps the most memorable was the harvest in the first COVID lock down in 2019.  When the lock down was announced, we were still a couple of weeks away from harvest.  Our initial thought was that we would not be allowed to harvest, and we would have to watch the grapes rot on the vines.  A week later it was clarified that we could proceed so long as we could show we would do it safely.  Much paperwork and planning later, we were ready.  We have often had friends, neighbours and staff from restaurants who sell our wine come and help with harvest.  This year they were incredible.  The staff from Wellington restaurants who were locked in small apartments, were particularly keen to have a legitimate excuse to come over the hill to Martinborough to help.  Briefings were done with everyone standing two metres apart from each other.  Everyone was given numbered gloves and snips so that they could keep track of what gear they were using and not touch anyone else’s.  People were sent into separate rows, to keep their distance.  The weather cooperated by being warm, sunny and still so lunch was with everyone sitting at a distance from each other on the lawn.  It was not our most efficient harvest, but it was possibly our most fun.  The Pinot Noir we harvested that year made beautiful wine.  There is still some left if you want to try it.

    Harvesting at Blue Earth Estate vineyard. New Zealand fine wine.
  • “If you really want to make good wine…” 10 April, 2024 Posted in: Blue Earth Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Rosé

    I learnt to dread, and welcome, these words.  They came from Paul Mason, our wonderful winemaker.  Over the years, Paul has walked through our vineyard many times with us and been an important teacher.  He emphasized that good fruit was essential to making good Pinot Noir, and each time he would point out something else that might make a difference. He would say “If you really want to make good wine then you need to …”  I’d respond “Really?  People actually do that?”  But once you know, and you are a little obsessive like I am, then how do you not do it?

    Pinot grape green fruit pruning at Blue Earth Estate vineyard.

    So we learnt to straighten canes and clip them in place to ensure we had an even canopy that would allow air to move freely to prevent disease.  We learnt to take out laterals so the canopy did not get too thick and we got the optimal balance between leaves and fruit.  Anyone who has grown tomatoes will know how tedious that can be.  We learnt to do a second or even a third leaf pluck on the cool damp years to expose the fruit to sunshine.  We learnt to be ruthless about dropping green fruit.  Cutting out bunches and shoulders that were behind so that the fruit that eventually went into the wine was of an even ripeness.  This was especially hard in the years we had small crops and it was disappointing to have to make it even smaller.  We learnt to look for early signs of disease and cut that fruit out and carry it out of the vineyard so it did not spread.  Some years every bunch had to be inspected closely.

    In our early years, when we were growers for Martinborough Vineyard, we aspired to grow fruit that would be good enough to go into their top level Pinot Noir.  And we eventually achieved it.  With Paul’s advice in the vineyard and his wine making skills, when we started making our own wine, we managed to consistently produce highly rated wines.  And out 2019 Pinot Noir, our current release of Pinot Noir, is one of the best.  We hope you enjoy drinking it as much as we have had satisfaction in producing it.

  • Celebrating 25 Years – March 2024 5 March, 2024 Posted in: Blue Earth Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Blue Earth Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Rosé

    It is 25 years since we started planting our vineyard. Each month we are reflecting on our journey and sharing some of our stories and our older wines. This month we are recalling some of the trials and tribulations of our early harvests.

    Blue Earth Estate vineyard from the hill behind.  Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris grapes and olives

    Finally, a harvest

    We got there eventually, but it was rocky road.

    For our first harvest, we battled wasps. We only had nine rows producing that first year, so every grape was precious. The nets were on to protect the grapes from birds. The weather forecast was looking promising. And then the wasps arrived. Whole bunches of grapes were smothered in wasps who managed to pierce holes in the ripe fruit and then hollow out the berries so only the skin remained. The wasps were not tempted by the jam we used to try and lure them to the traps or the poison. Our next attempt was to knock them off the bunches. The wasps being drunk on the ripe fruit would fall to the group and lie there while we stamped on them. But there were too many. In the end we resorted to going out with small paint brushes and painting poison on the back of wasps hoping they would take it back to their nests. It must have worked as we did not have it ever happen quite like that again, but it was a very reduced first crop.

    The next year, it was again looking promising, but as the bunches ripened, we noticed that some of the berries started to shrivel and were falling off. We were assured by experienced viticulturalists that “shatter” would sometimes happen due to a nutritional issue, but we were unlikely to lose more than ten percent. But that ten percent expanded to much more like fifty percent. A glum harvest was followed by soil and leaf testing and the application of trace minerals so we could rectify the issue for the future.

    In the following years, the trouble started earlier in spring. Wind. Wind strong enough to snap canes off the vines during the early months of the season. Strong enough to strip leaves off the canes later in the season.

    Through these years, Mike regularly muttered that we should just pull the vineyard out. Margaret would resist saying we have invested too much time and effort to do that.

    And finally it all settled down. We got the soils in balance so the plants were healthier and stronger. We found techniques to manage the climate challenges. We started putting up wind net every five rows in the vineyard to protect the plants. And would then have to take them down again in January, so the fruit would not be shaded and could ripen evenly. We learnt to spot trouble early and then deal to it. All through this time the Martinborough Vineyard crew were helping us. They were almost as excited as we were when we got our first harvest.

    Every season has hiccups. You start each year with full promise, and then wait to see what goes wrong. But the plants have got older, stronger and healthier. We have got wiser, and more fatalistic. And we get to drink beautiful wines even from those challenging years.

  • Celebrating 25 Years – February 2024 5 February, 2024 Posted in: Blue Earth Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Blue Earth Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Rosé

    It is 25 years since we started planting our vineyard. Each month we are reflecting on our journey and sharing some of our stories and our older wines. Last month we wrote about how we got started. This month is about what we did after Bill Brink, the wine maker who talked us into having a vineyard, died.

    Planting pinot noir grapes for Blue Earth Estate

    What do novices do when they are left a vineyard?

    They take a deep breath, then go and ask for help. Our first step was to identify a winery whose wine we liked, that was big enough to want more grapes, but small enough that we wouldn’t get lost in a crowd. Martinborough Vineyard fitted that bill. Luckily, they could also see the potential in our site, and were happy to tuck us under their wing. They taught us. They sent their crews out to help us look after the vineyard. They encouraged us when things went wrong, and in those next few years, things did. They celebrated with us when things went right.

    It wasn’t just them who helped us. We discovered a supportive wine making community in Martinborough. People who shared their experiences, their equipment and their hard won knowledge. And taught us so much about the fine wine this region produces.

    Margaret filled in the gaps by completing a diploma in viticulture. We read, we researched, we asked lots of questions. But most important of all was trial and error. Like the time we took absolutely literally the standard advice about taking out shoots to space them evenly, without realising that when we applied that to the head or centre of the plant, we were taking out the very shoots we needed for the next year. But two years later we were back on track.

    And slowly we fell in love with having our own vineyard. We admit there were a few times when Mike threatened to pull the whole thing out. But as our roots, and the vines’ roots, grew deeper, that disappeared.

  • Celebrating 25 Years – January 2024 5 January, 2024 Posted in: Blue Earth Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Blue Earth Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Rosé

    It is 25 years since we started planting our vineyard.  This year we will reflect each month on our journey and share some of our stories with you, both trials and triumphs.  Alongside this, we will be opening up our cellar and making some of our library stock available.  So keep an eye out for your favourite vintages, varietals or bottle sizes.  

    Digging holes for first vineyard planting for Blue Earth Estate

    So how did we get started?

    Mike fell in love with Martinborough many years ago when we took our children camping in the Wairarapa.  He started a long campaign to get us to buy a small block of land where we could plant some native trees and relax.  Margaret, who believed she was a city person, wasn’t particularly interested.  But Mike is both persistent and persuasive.  Eventually Margaret agreed, so long as it had a view, bush and a river.  In  1996 we found the perfect piece of land with all three, but it was 30 acres not the 5 we were looking for.  And with 30 acres, you really need to do something with it.  

    We were clear that we didn’t want a vineyard.  Too much work – and we were right.  So we started by planting an olive grove on our bare sheep paddock.  Then we met Bill Brink, one of Martinborough’s pioneer winemakers. When he saw our land he said it was a crime we had planted olives, that it should only be growing grapes.  As Bill needed more grapes for his beautiful Walnut Ridge wines, we eventually said yes.  If it was a nice day, and we were in the mood, we would help.  But it was going to be his responsibility.  In 1999 Bill started planting.  

    So we became vineyard owners.  Unfortunately three years later, on the day of our first olive harvest, Bill died from a return of cancer.  We were left with a vineyard, and with more poles and plants ordered intended for an expansion.  We took a deep breath and decided to continue.  

    We must admit, there were a few times over the years when we cursed Bill for getting us into this.  Mike would threaten to pull the whole thing out.  But mostly we have been very grateful.  He may not have been right about the land only being right for grapes, we are very happy to have continued and expanded our olive grove.  But he was right that this piece of land would make beautiful wines.  

  • Medals for all three of Blue Earth Olive oils 12 October, 2022 Posted in: Blue Earth Extra Virgin Olive Oil

    We were delighted to get medals for all three of Blue Earth Olive oils at the New Zealand olive oil awards.  The Tuscan blend got a gold, and the Classic and Intense blends won silver.  The judges described the Tuscan blend as “Vibrant aromas of black pepper, almond and rocket that transfer well to the palate.  Lovely in the mouth with a long lingering finish”.

    Purchase Blue Earth Olive Oil

    Gold Award at New Zealand Extra Virgin Olive Oil Awards (2022) for Blue Earth Tuscan Blend Olive Oil

  • Check out our story on Country Calendar 12 October, 2022 Posted in: Blue Earth Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Blue Earth Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Rosé

    Too far away to visit?  Check out our story aired by Country Calendar on TV1+ at  (New Zealand viewers only)

    The Blue Earth Estate & Blue Earth Olive Oil “Our Story” aired by Country Calendar TV
  • Gold Award 7 April, 2022 Posted in: Blue Earth Extra Virgin Olive Oil

    Blue Earth Intense Blend Olive Oil won a gold medal in the New York International Olive Oil awards by the Judging Panel of the NYIOOC | World Olive Oil Competition 2022Blue Earth Intense Blend Olive Oil won a gold award in the New York International Olive Oil 2022 competition.

    Blue Earth Intense Blend Olive Oil won a gold medal in the New York International Olive Oil awards by the Judging Panel of the NYIOOC | World Olive Oil Competition 2022
  • Good advice for visiting the Wairarapa 9 March, 2022 Posted in: Blue Earth Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Rosé

    Cameron Douglas’s good advice for visiting the Wairarapa.

    “I recommend two-three full days are needed to explore the region properly. With huge smiles and welcoming hospitality in so many places, great wine, in fact, fine wine alongside some excellent dining options, a trip to the Wairarapa should be a destination goal for 2022.”