All posts by Melisa

Sauvignon 2016 – WOW what a week!

The Sauvignon 2016 International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration held in Marlborough last week was a wild success!

There was something for everyone, with informative seminars, speakers from all over the world, tastings highlighting the different styles of NZ Sauvignon Blanc and regional and sub-regional expressions, international Sauvignon Blancs, flights of ‘The Classics’, alternative styles and world class dinners – a Garden Party at Timara Lodge, the Kiwiana Beach Party at The Store (with a train ride and beer tasting to boot) and the Gala Dinner at Brancott Estate, complete with glamazons modelling pieces from the World of Wearable Art …and enough award-winning Sauvignon Blanc to flood Marlborough!

Sauvignon 2016 2

At Whitehaven we hosted ‘The Wild Bunch’ alternative Sauvignon Blanc tasting and lunch last Wednesday.  Guests included wine writers and critics, international media and oenophiles from the world over.   Nine wineries hosted this particular event and each guest had four Plumm wine glasses (a modest number compared with other events!), so you can imagine the number of glasses that were polished – and subsequently raised – in Marlborough last week! And the number of sore heads!

Whitehaven Lunch

The Wild Bunch tasting included 100 alternative Sauvignon Blancs in five categories – sparkling, aged, lower alc, late harvest and ‘The Wild Bunch’ (my flavourite).  It was a whirlwind tasting, with so many wonderful wines to try, including some stunning aged Sancerre from the Loire Valley and buttery Californian Sauvignon/Semillion blends from the Napa Valley.

The tasting was followed by a three course lunch in our barrel hall.  And it wasn’t just Sauv’s on the menu, in case you were wondering.  There was also a stunning array of Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir and Syrah…

Sam Young from Wine Marlborough and Sarah Booker did a wonderful job of organising the entire three day celebration, including project-managing the delivery of all the wines and all the glassware for every single event.

It was definitely a week to remember and one to firmly re-establish Marlborough as the home of Sauvignon Blanc.

Cheers!! It might just be time to pour one myself!

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Meet John Dunleavy from Te Motu

Meet John Dunleavy, co-founder, chief viticulturist and winemaker at Te Motu, which overlooks the beautiful Onetangi Valley on Waiheke (my spiritual home). Te Motu is renowned for its stunning, award winning reds.

Vineyard Manager & Winemaker, and general fixer of broken things.

Run the vineyard team and oversee the winemaking.

Number of years in the wine industry
25 years at TeMotu vineyard.

As a young man I used to transport the wine selected for the Air NZ wine competition to ‘The Chateau at Ruapehu’; on my own with a truck full of wine – tempting!!

My father, Terry was the Chief Executive of the NZ Wine Institute in those days.

First Job
Paper boy in Wellington; delivering from the start of the Terrace up to Salamanca Road. By the time I finished I would be lining up for the bus with the aftermath of the 6 o’clock swill – not a pretty sight for a young boy.

If you were a wine, what wine would you be?
I would have to go for a Pinot Noir from Burgundy, Cote de Nuits, Romanee- Conti.

What would you do if you weren’t a winemaker?
A designer and builder of furniture.

Why did you decide to work in the wine industry?
To help develop the family business – fate had a hand in it. While awaiting surgery to reconnect three fingers on my left hand, my father and brother made the decision to proceed with the establishment of the vineyard on Waiheke, and I was to oversee it.

te motu 1

Wine & dine, what’s your favourite match?
It’s a toss-up between Rack of Lamb with Cabernet based Bordeaux and ‘Maka Crabs’; succulent crayfish off the coast of Makorori, Gisborne with a gutsy Gizzy Chardonnay.

Share a fact about you that only a few know
I was born in Samoa and arrived in NZ aboard a TEAL flying boat.

Hidden gems and favourite spots in your region
Sitting off Owhiti Bay in a boat fishing with my mates.

Things you still want to do
Finish painting the house, and more travelling – the South Island, Spain, Portugal, Italy for a start.

Last book read
Ken Follett – the Century Trilogy. If these were texts when I was at school I would have enjoyed History. Studying the ‘Origins of the First World War’ etc… was so boring then.
Hmmm then again, the sex scenes would have been a distraction for adolescent boys.

Advice on buying wine
Don’t be afraid to try something new, and every once in a while splash out, blow the budget, memories last a long time.

Dead or alive, who would you like to share a glass of vino with
Billy Connolly, what a laugh that would be.

Find our more about Te Motu: Website | Facebook | Twitter


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The Aidan Kelly Project

I want to introduce you to Aidan Kelly. Aidan’s only 23 and he’s ridiculously talented. He’s also genuinely inspiring.

A Marlborough orphan like myself, until recently Aidan was a full-time musician on the streets of our capital city. Saturday mornings you will find him busking on Blenheim’s Market Street.

And he has a semi-regular gig Friday/Saturday nights at Yard Bar, Ritual and Scotch – a recent development after winning a local talent contest.

But music’s an expensive habit. By day, Aidan’s a viticulturist for Cloudy Bay Vineyards, hence the recent move to Blenheim (not the most obvious choice for an aspiring musician!). It was an opportunity too good to pass up and one that feeds his insatiable thirst as an ecologist.

Despite being the best live act I’ve seen anywhere in years (and yes, I do get out!) and a talented song writer, this is his true passion. Aidan wants more than anything to own a modest piece of land, to grow food and to teach people about holistic living. Whilst his ideals may be more modest than my own (I’m a Taurus what can I say?!) he’s a thought leader. And he doesn’t preach. But watch his eyes light up when he talks about food forestry (at its simplest, this is the application of ecosystem principles to food and resource production, utilising multiple layers of production – think of the different layers of the forest, the soil, shrub layer, canopy etc. – to maximise productivity). He’s also an aspiring winemaker.

He’s one to watch, literally – check out his Facebook page. I think he’d give Ed Sheeran a run for his money. ‘Understanding in a Car Crash’ is crazy beautiful. Star struck? Not much.


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Joelle Thomson – wine writer, author & tutor

Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing renowned wine writer and author, Joelle Thomson.

Wine writer, author and tutor at the NZ School of Food & Wine, Auckland (have written 14 books now and a 15th coming; working slowly on a 16th – I keep saying ‘never again’ to writing a book and losing my social life).

It’s a tough job but you know what they say.

Number of years in the wine industry:

First Job:
Arts journo at Capital Times in Wellington where I began a wine column in 1994…. well, actually, that was the first job I want to mention (I was a flambe waitress in the Shetland Islands and also worked as a copywriter in TV and as a journo in Dunedin, prior to all that.)

If you were a wine, what wine would you be?
Most people who know me might expect me to say a German Riesling, but I’d like to be a great Barolo.

What would you do if you weren’t a wine writer?
I would like to be able to be a musician; a singer, songwriter and guitar player. Failing that, then I’d love to garden – or grow vines – for a living.

Why did you decide to work in the wine industry?
It sort of happened when I realised it wasn’t going to work just dabbling in wine writing as a hobby; it was far far far too interesting and far too much to learn, so I slipped deeper into the fermentation tank of wine writing, reading, tasting and all that jazz…

Wine & dine, what’s your favourite match?
A great cheese with a great red; ultimate would be Parmagiano-Reggiano with Barolo… but then again, a gorgeous dry Rheingau Riesling with fresh salmon is incredibly hard to beat; so is pizza with Sangiovese.

Share a fact about you that only a few know:
That would be telling. The first serious partner I had wooed me with Pescovino.

Hidden gems and favourite spots in your region:
Humbug Cafe in New Lynn; reminds me of Wellington, which I miss every day that I live in Auckland.

Things you still want to do:
Own a hot tub, live in Italy for a stint, write more diversely, run half a marathon and maybe even make some sort of vino one day…. that’s a good start.

Last book read:
Still reading it: The Oxford Companion to Wine. Am mired in wine study (WSET Diploma; that’s code for a degree course, and yes, it feels like a degree – on top of working full time…. ouch!).

Advice on buying wine:
Find someone who understands your palate and spend time with them so that you can learn how to discover great wines for yourself; we all need at least one mentor in all of our hobbies. I have several. They never let me down. It can be humbling but it’s so rewarding tasting wine with people who know more or have tried more than you have; can only think of one or two other things that are as fascinating…

Dead or alive, who would you like to share a glass of vino with?
Oscar Wilde.

Joelle Thomson’s website:
(Read my site; it’s growing, changing, adapting and it doesn’t espouse rules about wine; rules are made to be….)


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Meet the Maker: Dermot McCollum of Stonecroft in the Hawke’s Bay

Last week I interviewed Dermot McCollum of Stonecroft Wines in the Hawke’s Bay. This man knows how to make great Syrah!

Co-owner, viticulturist & winemaker at Stonecroft Wines Hawke’s Bay.

Number of years in the wine industry:

First wine related job:
Cellar hand at Domaine Matrot, Mersault.

If you were a wine, what wine would you be?
Domaine Matrot Mersault-Charmes 1er Cru 1999.

What would you do if you weren’t a winemaker?
Retire in Penury.

Why did you decide to work in the wine industry/become a winemaker?
Initially a very keen interest in drinking it. Then developing more interest in the industry with a bit of wine education. City life with young children drove us to making the jump.

Wine & dine, what’s your favourite match?
Oysters & Chardonnay.

Share a fact about your winery that only a few know:
Stonecroft built the first winery in the Gimblett Gravels.


Hidden gems and favourite spots in your region:
Roosters Brewery. The beer is brewed on site, with flagons for take-away.

Things you still want to do:
Make some wine without additives.

Last book read:
The Cellist of Sarajevo

Advice on buying wine:
Spend as much as you can.

Dead or alive, who would you like to share a glass of vino with?
Paddy Mayne.

Thanks a lot for your time Dermot!

Find out more about Stonecroft here.


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