2014 Spring Newsletter – October 2014  Flower days, lunar eclipse & the first release of “Best End” 

Best End Final Front Label

The First Release of “Best End” Sauvignon Blanc

To quote Viv Stanshall’s infamous antihero, Sir Henry Rawlinson, a notorious drunk, who slurred “If I had all the money I‘d spent on drink; I’d spend it on drink”  

Wine and winemaking lives by that! We started planting our vineyard 15 years ago. It’s literally led to years of blood, sweat, and tears (think of losing 50% of your crop in one hailstorm). But the rewards are substantial. After all those years we are, at last, happy to release our single block Sauvignon Blanc: Churton Best End Sauvignon Blanc 2013.  This is the ultimate expression of Churton Sauvignon Blanc and Churton’s unique terroir. 

Sauvignon Blanc vines if treated with the same respect as say Pinot Noir: planted in a great site, looked after meticulously, cropped at low yields, picked by hand, etc; will produce wines with great character and authenticity: truly fine wines.

Don’t expect the usual, if you are a Churton fan you’ll already know that’s not what we do.  But do expect a wine that has real depth and definition, length intensity and ageability.

And as Sir Henry might say, if I had all the money I’d spent on wine I’d spend it on wine. It’s worth every penny for the satisfaction we’ve gained in making a simply quite outstanding wine. If all else fails I’ll be drinking this wine over the next 10 to 15 years myself!   Sam Weaver


Churton’s ‘Best End” Sauvignon Blanc comes from a tiny yield of fantastic fruit from a small, 1.2 ha, corner of the vineyard.

Cropped at 26hl/ha (regional average in 2013 90hl/ha!) and of course hand harvested, it is barrel fermented for12 months in 40% new french oak puncheons. It typifies an exceptional year for Sauvignon Blanc at Churton.

“Wow Sam, Didier Dagueneau would have been proud of that wine. Really very good!” Stephen Browett, Farr Vintners

For more info and a tasting note go to :  http://www.churtonwines.co.nz/tasting-notes/best-end-sauvignon-blanc/


In the VineyardIMG_5638

This year has flown by. After the trauma of the hailstorm before vintage it’s been great to settle back into a normal routine with the vineyard. 

We had a fantastic fun loving and hardworking pruning crew this year. Pruning was finished spot on time on Monday 15th September. It wasn’t long after that that we started seeing bud burst. The first green tips were showing in Shoulder and Bowl on 25th September. Thank you again to our polyglot team for doing such a great job:  Alejandra, Maria, Andreas and Natalia all from Chile, Eden from Israel, Felipe from Italy, Milly from Tasmania and Laura, Ben and Jack Weaver from New Zealand!

Now that we are past bud burst the season is well underway. The vineyard is looking fantastic. Though it’s pretty verdant at the moment we are having a dry spring. We’ve been able to do a lot of preparatory work, under vine cultivating, preparing and drilling our inter rows etc. This is ahead of last spring where we were very wet. The dry spring is a prelude to what is likely to be a spring dominated by the equinoctial winds: the norwesters. We’ve already had some hooligan winds. One particularly noxious one knocked over 8 of our big pine trees; one across the first three rows of Sauvignon Blanc in Brisket. 

We’ve had a few important days from the Biodynamic perspective. We applied our first round of preparation 500 on 10th and 11th September. Both days ended with a bit of rain which is perfect. We then did a stir on the national day 10th October with help with some friends from the Biodynamic association council.  Interesting that they chose to do the national day this year on a flower day. To mark the appropriateness we put on the 500 by hand to our especially needy blocks using switches of broom which is currently in full flower.

To cap it all last week we had the magnificent total lunar eclipse shining down as a blood red moon across the vineyard.  Looking forward to another interesting growing season ahead, Salute!



Churton PeopleIMG_0977


Back from Buenos Aires, Argentina for Summer and vintage it is great to have Jack Weaver back at Churton. Spending most of his time on the tractor at the moment, with undervine cultivation and preparing the inter-rows for companion planting, Jack has the vineyard looking fantastic! 


Ben Weaver has headed over to France to work vintage at Maison M.Chapoutier’s winery at Tain-l’Hermitage in the Rhône region in France. Ben will be making his way back to NZ at the end of November  via Burgundy and the UK where he will continue to seek, explore and learn.


Reviews and New Listings

- Michael Cooper has reviewed our new release wines and we are delighted to report the 2012 Pinot Noir was awarded 4 1/2 stars and the Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Viognier 2013 and Petit Manseng 2013  were awarded 5 Stars.

- Churton Petit Manseng was featured in the New Zealand Herald’s Canvas Magazine on 27 September. You can find the full review here.

- Our hard working distributors have gained new listings at the Mandarin Oriental in Singapore, Montague Arms in New Forest, Sketch London and The Shangri-La at the Shard in London.

With best wishes from Sam, Mandy, Jack, Ben, Julie and the Churton team

Churton Newsletter Spring 2014








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2014 Winter Solstice Newsletter – June 2014



It’s a truism to say that wine makers never experience the same vintage conditions twice. After the 2014 vintage we have to say thank goodness for that!


Clod Pinot Noir 20142014 started off brilliantly. A very mild spring led to early flowering and consequently good fruit set. The rest of the season was almost perfect…except, of course, for the massive hailstorm we had on the 3rd of March. After all the hard work we had put in and the great potential of the vintage this was quite devastating.  Fortunately the weather returned to normal after the hail event and the dry days combined with our hard working bees cleaned up most of the damaged bunches. The result was that we picked some excellent fruit, albeit in reduced quantities. We have a small but exceedingly good-looking harvest of Sauvignon Blanc, some lovely Viognier and some very good Pinot Noir. Throughout everything we have had to be very selective. The Abyss Pinot Noir block as usual shows depth, finesse and elegance. Sadly the Petit Manseng did not survive the hail damage. Yet again most of the vineyard has proved resilient to adverse farming conditions. In our mind this is in no small part due to our biodynamic philosophy. The overall health and aura of the vineyard has prevailed!



Winter Solstice is traditionally a time to celebrate and reconnect with friends, family and nature. Here at Churton we embrace this philosophy and choose Winter Solstice to release our new vintage wines. We are pleased to present Churton Sauvignon Blanc 2013Viognier 2013Petit Manseng 2013 and Pinot Noir 2012



Singapore, Hong Kong, London and Chicago

2014-05-29 18.44.01The best, most positive market visit I’ve had in 5 years. Fantastic! What is so pleasing is that people are really understanding the quality and style difference that Churton presents.  

The theme of my tour was to discuss how biodynamics really underlines the Churton terroir and hence the individuality and style of the wines.

Perhaps the one key highlight was a tutored tasting that I gave at the cellars of Berry Brothers and Rudd in St James’s in London. Berry’s is one of the oldest wine merchants in the world and are still highly respected and a leader not just in London but Asia too (We sell through BBR in London, Singapore and Japan).  Jasper Morris MW kindly hosted the evening with me. It was great to have the guiding hand of Jasper during the tasting. Not only have we known each other for a long time, (he could keep me from wandering into too many tangential discussions) but also he has witnessed the establishment and evolution of Churton in New Zealand.  It was a great evening. The wines showed really well and we discussed biodynamics “from bottom to top” including soil microbiology through macro-biology to cosmic and spiritual biology! Something pretty cool that I learnt was that the English philosopher John Locke had described how peasants in the South of France buried cows horns with cow dung in them and then used the contents to enhance their soil.  It just goes to reinforce that much of what Rudolph Steiner suggested in his agriculture lectures in 1924 was based on describing peasant agriculture from earlier times.

I was shown great hospitality and enthusiasm for Churton wherever I went. A very rewarding experience after the travails of a difficult vintage when at times we really wondered what we had done to deserve such a tough year.


Introducing Guillaume Harel  - Churton Market Manager UK/Europe

guillaume photoGuillaume Harel has over 20 years experience in the food and wine trade.

Originally from France, Guillaume spent over 10 years working in London’s finest hotels in food and beverage before he was headhunted to Hong Kong in 2007.

During his time in Hong Kong he quickly rose to the position of General Sales Manager for Altaya Wines, one of the most renowned agency’s in Asia and the distributor for Churton in Hong Kong. 

Guillaume relocated his family back to London at the end of 2013 where he started his own business in wine.  

Guillaume is passionate about bio-dynamicity and has an expert knowledge of wine and sales. Guillaume now represents Churton in the UK where he manages sales and brand development. 

Guillaume can be contacted on email at moc.liamgnull@1lerahiug.



Churton-vineyardWith the winter crop of oats now in and replenishing the soil, the vineyard awaits pruning. This year we have another culturally diverse crew of pruners ready to go. So far we have an Australian a Chilean an Italian and an Israeli, plus Ben and Laura the token Kiwis. It’s always great bringing in people from differing nationalities and makes for some fascinating lunch time discussions. 

The annual Churton compost collection has begun, with Ben and friend Arthur making the most of a quiet time in the vineyard. They have been thinning out some trees along the boundary. These trees (ngaios) will be chipped into small pieces and used as carbon matter for the compost. At night we have been isolating the cattle in the yards with a bed of hay. The idea being that we get a nicely concentrated area of pooey hay, great for the compost. The last thing we now need is a trip to the beach for seaweed collection. This involves hard work, luck from the weather and expert timing to avoid getting stuck by the incoming tide.

The vineyard is looking good and we are sure this year’s compost will be another cracker.


With warm regards as our days get longer; Sam, Mandy, Julie and the Churton team

 Churton Newsletter Winter Solstice 2014





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Petit Manseng Label

Celebrating the Inaugural launch of Churton Petit Manseng


Many of our followers will know that Sam has been working on NZ’s first plantings of Petit Manseng. We think this is a truly exciting grape variety. It is fun to grow and has plenty of challenges in the vineyard and winery…But it has huge potential for quality and individuality.

Now we are pleased to announce the inaugural release of the long awaited Churton Petit Manseng 2012.

This is New Zealand’s first commercial release of this variety and the first to be exported. As only 700 (500ml) bottles are available it will be sold on an allocation basis only. This is a glorious wine with great intensity, a complex palate and wonderful precise acidity giving excellent direction and tension.

You can find the full information sheet on this exciting new wine here.



Spring has Sprung! Over the past month or so we have been working hard in the vineyard. The compost pile has been built, pruning is now complete and it won’t be long before bud burst. We have had 100 or so ewes each with twin lambs grazing in the Abyss and Topside blocks and our Red Devon cattle are grazing in the Shoulder block. Meanwhile, we have made some changes to our soil management . Up until recently the majority of vineyard has been under permanent sward (inter-row) plantings.  With two difficult seasons in a row this has taken its toll on vine vigour. This season we have decided to cultivate every second row to reduce competition and give more strength back to the vines. This inter-row cultivation also helps incorporate organic matter into the soil and gives a nutrient burst just as the vines are about to start growing for the season. In addition, the cultivation helps force the surface roots of the vines to deeper depths, allowing them to access a better water supply and more micro-nutrients.  Kevin our tractor driver has been doing this work. He has a big satisfied grin on his face as he sees the quality and texture of the soil that is being cultivated.



We are pleased to announce that Churton is now available in China through two new distributors: Vats Liquor Chain Stores based in Beijing and Abbies Wine in Shanghai.

This means you can now find Churton wines in ten countries around the world.

New distributors in existing markets include:

Singapore – Berry Bros. & Rudd.

Victoria, Australia – Footprint Wines

For more details of our agents & distributors worldwide please go to http://www.churtonwines.co.nz/churton-wines-distributors/



“Churton’s terroir has specific yeast populations: Biodynamics at Churton leads to greater yeast diversity. Yes!!!

Churton’s biodynamic vineyard management has resulted in an increased diversity and increased numbers of yeasts species in the vineyard and winery.

Over the past few years we have been working with a research group at Auckland University and have just received the report of their initial findings. It makes really exciting reading. The research is based on looking at the microbial ecology of different vineyards throughout New Zealand. It focuses on the populations of wild yeasts (both Sachharomyces and non Sacchoromyces yeasts) found in the vineyards and then in the resulting indigenous ferments from the grapes of those vineyards. At Churton we looked at two of our Sauvignon Blanc blocks: Loin and Saddle. What the research group have found is that we have higher numbers of species of yeasts than both conventional and organic vineyards. What’s more we have a number of species that are only found in our vineyard!

This is great news and really reinforces our understanding of terroir. Not only is Churton’s terroir due to the geographic particulars of our site, but also the site expression is uniquely influenced by our unique microbiology. As biodynamic practitioners we’ve always believed that we are creating healthy microbiology and now we have evidence. This shows that biodynamics really does improve the expression of terroir.



- Ontario, Canada: Sam is just about to head off to Canada for a market visit that will include seminars for LCBO product consultants in Ottawa and Mississauga. Our Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are now both available through LCBO stores.

- Tanners Wines, UK: Awarded MidlandsWineMerchant of the year at the International Wine Challenge in London. Congratulations from all of us at Churton!!

- Food and Wine Matching: Jean Shears was the clear winner of the recent Tanners Wines/Churton Food and Wine Matching Competition. For her delicious recipe of Pan Fried Scallops wrapped in Pancetta with pea/mint puree matched with the Churton Viognier 2011 go to the blog page on our website.




Everything is quiet in the winery. All the 2013 wines are safely tucked away in barrels and tanks. and we won’t be doing much with them until late Spring/early Summer. We had a lot of fun in July hand bottling the 2012 Petit Manseng which has now been labelled and is ready for release. Our next job is bottling the lovely 2012 Churton Pinot Noir: a tightly poised wine that has softness and aromatics, great savoury structure and length.



We have had a wonderful team of willing casual workers over the winter including, Lucie from France, Felipe from Chile, Carlos from Spain & Anna from Blenheim, as well as our loyal team of Chris, Kevin and Kelly. Overseeing the vineyard operations (in Ben’s absence) and doing a great job, is Logie MacKenzie. Thanks team!!



Ben Weaver, (Sam and Mandy’s oldest son)who has been working with the vineyard crew and in the winery over Vintage for the last 2 years, has just taken off to the USA to work Vintage at Bonny Doon in California . Keep an eye on our website for a “Letter from Bonny Doon”…

Jack Weaver (Ben’s younger brother) has followed his heart to Buenos Aires and his plan is to make the move to Australia in 2014 to commence his studies in Oenology at the University of Adelaide.


With warm regards as our days get longer; Sam, Mandy, Julie and the Churton team


Churton Spring Equinox Newsletter 2013

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Winter Solstice Celebration – New Releases Newsletter 2013


On this, the shortest day of the year we look back to the vintage that was and look forward to longer days.

 Winter Solstice was traditionally a time to celebrate and reconnect with friends, family and nature. Here at Churton we embrace this philosophy and choose Winter Solstice to release our new vintage wines.



The majority of the fruit was hand picked and whole bunch pressed then fermented with slightly higher levels of solids than normal. The machine harvested portion was clarified and fermented cool with neutral yeast. About 15%of the juice was fermented in large 500-600 litre French oak puncheons and demi muids. Blending was done in early January after 9 months of lees ageing and the wine was filtered and bottled in early March 2013

TASTING NOTE: Bright and aromatic with hints of white currant and elder flower. On the palate the wine is concentrated and complex with smooth silky textures, creaminess and an underlying melon and white rose jam fruitiness. The Churton Sauvignon Blanc 2012 finishes with a long citrusy crispness and great length.



Hand picked, sorted then de-stemmed. The whole berries (no stems) went to tank where the fruit underwent a cool maceration for 5-10 days before the onset of a natural indigenous ferment.Warm fast fermentation with gentle plunging twice a day was followed by a long warm maceration. Total cuvaison was around one lunar month. The wine was pressed to barrel, all French oak (piece de Bourgogne), 15% of which was new. Total maturation in barrel was 16 months. The wine went through natural malolactic fermentation in spring/early summer. It was then racked, blended and back to barrel before being bottled without filtration in September 2012.

TASTING NOTE: Bright deep ruby coloured, this wine has the aroma of old fashioned musk roses with underlying red plum and cerise. The palate is dry, complex and earthy with a silky texture and subtle fruit running through it. The Churton Pinot Noir 2011 is delicate and fine with a long finish.



2013 could be the best vintage we’ve ever seen. Superb Sauvignon Blanc with wonderful intensity and balance and really intense yet elegant Pinot Noir with great tannin structure layers of flavour and length. The season started with a wet winter. Pruning was finished in mid September. We deliberately pruned the vineyard with shorter canes than normal to help combat the lack of vigour from the previous season. Shorter canes mean less buds, which in turn means lower yields. Bud burst was a little late, not starting until late September for Pinot Noir and early October for Sauvignon Blanc. We then had a very dry spring with good flowering across all varieties at about normal time early to mid December. Even though we had a successful flowering the bunch numbers were down as a result of the cold weather in 2012. We then had a fantastic long dry summer. Some good and much needed rain arrived at the end of January and we then reverted to warm dry weather with cool nights right through until harvest. The lead up to harvest was perfect. We started picking Pinot Noir on 28th March (3 days later than average) and Sauvignon Blanc on 1st April. We harvested wonderful, clean fruit in all varieties finishing harvest with Petit Manseng on 1st May. Though the yields were very low the quality is absolutely exceptional.



As we head into mid winter, vintage seems ages ago already. The vines are now dormant and the hillsides are peaceful except for the sound of the secateurs and quiet voices as pruning gets underway. The fantails are playing amongst the vine cuttings and the rows of vines are being transformed from tall brown fans waving in the wind to neatly wrapped plants following the contours of the wire.

 Our fabulous compost has been made and is quietly steaming, the Cow Pat Pits have been turned and Biodynamic Preparation 500 has been applied to the land. There is a peaceful, calm atmosphere in the vineyard with winter tasks being accomplished as the land relaxes and the hibernating stages of plant life are storing energy for Spring.



Marlborough Pinot Noir 2010 and ‘The Abyss’ Pinot Noir featured in Hospitality/Thirst Magazine June 2013

 Churton featured in Alder Yarrow’s Vinography: awine blog. 9-9.5 score for both Pinot’s and 9 for the Sauvignon Blanc.

Churton featured on Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews. 5 Stars for ‘The Abyss’ and 4 stars for Churton Marlborough Pinot Noir.

Churton Pinot Noir 2010 reviewed in the New Zealand Herald by Jo Burzynska – “A svelte biodynamic beauty with beguiling notes for rose, cherry and earth”.


With best wishes for your Winter Solstice (or Summer for those of you in the Northern Hemisphere),

Sam, Mandy, Ben, Julie and the Churton team


Churton Winter Solstice Newsletter 2013 (pdf)



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Happy Easter everyone and welcome to the first newsletter for 2013. It has been a busy few months with lots of interesting things to report as we roll on in to Vintage 2013.




Earlier this month we bottled the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc and it is now gracefully relaxing in bottle before the annual Winter Solstice release date of June 21 where it will be released along with the Pinot Noir 2011 (which has been safely tucked away ageing in bottle since September last year) . The new barrels are ordered and about to be delivered. The 2012 Pinot has had its first racking. It’s looking very lovely, soft and silky with beautiful tannins and fruit. The 2012 Abyss is showing impressive depth and integration. The 2012 pinots now wait peacefully through the winter months in older barrels before bottling early spring.



The nets are on, ‘Hamilton” the scarecrow is up, bird scaring is in full swing and the grapes are ripening nicely. As in all years, we are aiming to pick as much as possible on Fruit and Flower Days in the biodynamic calendar.

For a full vineyard report from Ben – see his latest blog.



• Sam’s letter published in World of Fine Wine Magazine March Edition

• Churton mentioned in Curtis Marsh’s “Wandering Palate” blog

• Churton ‘The Abyss’ Pinot Noir in Tim Atkins top 50 New Zealand Pinot Noirs and being showcased at Prowein.

• Churton Pinot Noir 2010 and Sauvignon Blanc 2011 featured in Metro Magazine – Top 100 Wines for Summer with both wines in the Top Ten!

• Bill Zacharkiw – The Montreal Gazette – Churton Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011



Sam visited Tokyo and Osaka where he participated in the New Zealand annual shows. He also worked with our agent Berry Brothers & Rudd in the local trade.

He finished his visit at a traditional Onsen – Japanese Hot Baths – no photos available….

In Hong Kong Sam presented a Biodynamic Seminar as well as working in the trade. Churton is now the first New World wine to be poured by the glass at Petrus at the Shangri La in Hong Kong.



From January 28-31 Churton participated in the third, tri annual Pinot Noir 2013 conference in Wellington.

110 Pinot Noir producers (showing 300 wines from 8 regions around New Zealand) gathered with hundreds of delegates from New Zealand and overseas alongside the Wellington Waterfront for an action packed and informative three days.

Delegates included media, trade, sommeliers, international influencers /gatekeepers, all eager to immerse themselves in all things Pinot Noir.

The weather during the week at Pinot 2013 at the Wellington Waterfront was absolutely beautiful, so much so that several brave winemakers and journalists threw themselves off the diving platform into Wellington Harbour for the “International Dive Bomb Competition”.

Some wonderful food and quite a bit of very fine Pinot Noir were consumed by all. We met lots of very nice people from all around the World and New Zealand. A great chance to network and build the whisper about how good the Churton Pinot Noirs are. One of the great things that this Pinot Noir conference showed was how good in general the Marlborough wines are. Consistent in quality and the really good ones have great tannin balance and length.



On Saturday 2 February 30 hardy souls (including 4MW’s and a Master Sommelier) took part in the Pinot Noir Safari.

This is an off-road, four wheel drive tour through the high country Pinot Noir vineyards in Marlborough, with two river crossings and plenty of tastings along the way… Starting in the Awatere Valley, the intrepid team made their way along the hillsides of the Awatere fording rivers and streams and ending up at Churton in the hills above the Waihopai Valley. The objective was to demonstrate those hillside vineyards and terroirs that are turning out great wines and which are not normally accessible to visitors. This will be the first of many such events.



Mandy showed Churton at the New Zealand Annual Trade Tasting in London at Lords Cricket Ground just as the English Cricket Team kicked off in New Zealand. Oh – the cricket!

Sam shared his insights into farming the Churton property biodynamically and showed Churton alongside some very fine old world examples at a Biodynamic Seminar at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington

He led a similar seminar at the Grand Hyatt’s Grissini restaurant in Hong Kong. This was a great opportunity to present both Churton wines and biodynamics to both journalists and key sommeliers. There was keen interest and underlines the authenticity and real terroir differences of our wines.



Sea Change – Andrea Kerwin has moved on after 6 years in the Administration Manager role at Churton. Andrea and her husband and three children have moved to Nelson and are now operating a Sea Kayaking adventure company in the Abel Tasman National Park. Julie Taylor joined us earlier on this year as Marketing and Communications Manager. Julie is responsible for the website, this newsletter, sales support and point of sale, Facebook and twitter among other things. Julie has over fifteen years’ experience in the wine industry in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom. Julie lives in Renwick with her husband Bruce. For all your sales support material or stockist information feel free to send Julie a message to zn.oc.seniw-notruhcnull@eiluJ


 With Best Wishes to you all as we leap into Vintage 2013 Sam, Mandy, Ben, Julie and the Churton team



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Bob Campbell compost photo: “Not a lot of people look as happy as this when they sniff a handful of compost that’s predominantly cow shit. Sam loves it. His vineyard is farmed using biodynamic principles, an extreme form of organic viticulture based on the teachings of Rudolph Steiner.

Sam has a herd of cows to supply him with the necessary volume of dung as well as the odd steak. He’s not a hippy-dippy alternative lifestyler but a down to earth, intelligent man with a degree in microbiology and a desire to make the best wine possible from his well-sited Marlborough vineyard.

Sam is an alchemist. He turns cow shit into brilliant Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Viognier and (not yet released) New Zealand’s first Petit Manseng.”

For Bob Campbell’s full article click here

A wine makers lot

As a wine maker the one thing I’ve learnt is not too take anything for granted.

Over the past 5 season’s I was lulled into believing that I had a good grasp of our vineyard; how to manage the vines and the winemaking. I was confident that, though our vineyard is at a high altitude (200m above sea level) the very favourable North East aspect meant that we would always ripen fruit early. I was wrong!

2012 vintage really taught me a lesson or two. Firstly that North East aspect is very important to capture early morning sun. Early morning sun allows the vines to warm up early and kick their metabolism into gear. That’s all well and good, but when you have a season like 2012 when the majority of mornings were overcast between December and early March. The sun doesn’t work so well. And the high altitude is important.

The result: a very late, very stressful vintage. In fact we picked both Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc about four weeks later than normal The Petit Manseng was 3weeks later than last year.

It’s a fascinating vintage for an academic study. But it challenged us in the vineyard and winery. In the end we have some fabulous wines with very interesting structures. Pinot Noir has great fruit length and intensity, wonderful, soft, supple tannins and low alcohol. Sauvignon Blanc is similar with good fruit and aromatics excellent acid structure and low alcohol. Viognier hmmm, well we’ll see! Petit Manseng wonderful sweet aromatic and intense! Maybe we picked it 4 weeks too early…so far we’ve no idea what normal is with Petit Manseng

And More Again the season came to an abrupt end with a cold frosty May then on June 7th a blizzard and serious snow in the vineyard (real snow unlike the previous years skittering) Another myth exploded…we can get snow in Marlborough.




A taste of Churton Terroir

Over the past 6 weeks we’ve been doing our new vintage launch. The highlight was our Taste of Churton Terroir lunch held on the winter solstice with guests: Bob Campbell, Yvonne Lorkin, Belinda Jackson and John Saker. After an extensive tour of the vineyard and compost pits (see Bob’s photo of Sam plus comments below) we settled down for a tasting of the new release wines alongside some mature vintages. The 2008 Sauvignon Blanc as always was looking wonderful round, mature and with a great silky texture and good length, great on its own. In comparison the newly released 2011 Sauvignon Blanc with its fine mineral focus, linearity and concentration was a great partner to fresh Tio Point oysters in their half shell.

The rest of the menu featured ingredients from the Churton terroir: a wonderful medley of local mushrooms including the last of the seasons cepes des pins ( boletus) from our pine tree plantation, paired with the 2011 Viognier( much more restrained and drier than the 2010, more like a Churton wine!) . A slow cooked Daube de beouf made from the shin of our home reared grass fed home slaughtered beef cattle. This dish had wonderful nutty and intense savoury character that leant itself well to the robust and savoury 2010 Churton Pinot Noir. The final course was a Cheese platter accompanied with Churton honey and Churton quince relish. The wine match was the 2010 Churton, The Abyss Pinot Noir. This is the first release since the inaugural 2008 vintage. Intense, ripe and supple this wine is so well integrated already and such a baby!

Yvonne Lorkin Hawkes Bay Today July 2012

Other Reviews since we launched the new vintages see Michael Cooper review of 2010 Churton Pinot Noir: 5 stars: Michael describes the 2011 Viognier as “One of the best Marlborough Viogniers yet.”

We are delighted that Ben Weaver has graduated from Victoria University in May with a BA in media studies and a BSc in Chemistry. He now works for us full-time. He leads the vineyard team and has been instrumental in bringing Churton into 21st century by joining us to facebook. (link). Ben will be available on zn.oc.seniw-notruhcnull@neb

On the market front we are delighted to welcome 3 new export customers: Le Sommelier has taken up our batten for distribution in Toronto and Ontario; David Bowler Wines in New York, USA: and Hennings Wines in West Sussex, England. We look forward to a long a fruitful relationship with all three.

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Classy Wines

“Consistently Classy Highly Drinkable wines”, Michael Cooper
Working in agriculture has its own pace. The seasons never stop advancing. The rhythm is always the same but different. Here we are again: Spring. Was it that long since we had harvest? This is not a cycle we can either stop or get off, we just keep pedalling.

Organic Biogro

We are now certified organic (BioGro) in 9.5 ha of the vineyard, the balance (13 ha) is in its second year of conversion. Though it’s creating a lot of work we are thrilled to see the amount of life entering the soil in the more recently converted area. It’s as though this part of the vineyard is sighing with relief. Meanwhile compost has been made and spread. Everything is becoming verdant.

Latest Vintages

On the wine front we released our latest vintages at the winter solstice. An auspicious time for us as one growing season moves into the next. The wines were really well received, The Churton 2010 Sauvignon Blanc continues along the path of a bone dry, tightly wound style with texture and length and not merely aromatics. The Churton 2009 Pinot Noir is in, Sam’s view, our best yet: very structured and savoury but with great fruit complexity, layers and length. Then there is the first release Churton Voignier, 2010 it was barrel fermented in large 600L Demi Muids. It’s produced a weighty, textured wine with wonderful intensity of dried apricots and white flowers.

Michael Cooper’s Review

Michael Cooper the top NZ wine journalist recently wrote in The Listener: “Sam Weaver’s Churton…produces consistently classy highly drinkable wines See the full interview and review here And Bob Campbell and Huon Hooke gave the 2010 Churton Sauvignon Blanc 5 stars and 94 points “concentrated weighty Sauvignon Blanc…long and linear”

Our latest family members Constance and Florence (Red Devon heifers) calved under the gentle supervision of Kevin from the vineyard.

Their offspring Bonnie and Horace are growing like weeds and frolicking around the home block with their attentive mum’s. Their elder siblings, last years steers have been grazing happily in the rows in the vineyard. They are doing so well on our interrow herbage that they are verging on the obese.

Sam at Taruna College

Sam has been studying the Taruna College course in Organic and Biodynamic agricultural, in between numerous market visits. Apart from learning to sing in harmony (he now goes round the vineyard humming to the vines) it’s led to a few interesting experiments and trials. There is the experimental compost heap or loaf of bread (Hovis, for those brought up in England) that was put together with a variety of wild and woolly ingredients. (Grape marc, sea weed, leaf litter, Chook manure, cow dung, hay and various bits of garden waste). Then the vines that appear with tags on them that are being closely monitored with observations recorded on a regular basis.

It wasn’t that long ago that we were all complaining about the coldest winter we’ve ever had. Snow in the vineyard for the first time. It’s unheard of to have snow lying in Marlborough, certainly not for 40 years or more.

The snow’s now a distant memory; we are well into spring and all our spring routines, soil applications cultivating and drilling in readiness for the new season. The cycle keeps on turning.

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Merry Christmas everyone and welcome to the last newsletter for 2010. It has been a busy few months with lots of interesting things to report just before we roll on in to Christmas.

On the wine side of things:

Recent Reviews: – We continue to receive great press from around the globe. Lisa Perrotti-Brown, who is Robert Parker’s person on the ground in this part of the world, visited the vineyard recently. She reviewed a couple of vintages of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir as well as the Abyss Pinot Noir. Click here for Lisa Perrotti-Brown’s Churton Sauvignon Blanc review
Churton Pinot Noir review
The Abyss Pinot Noir review

Michael Cooper’s Buyers Guide 2011 is also out with reviews of The Abyss, the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc and the 2008 Pinot Noir. For the full write-ups please see the adjacent column. Click here for Michael Cooper’s Churton Sauvignon Blanc review
Churton Pinot Noir review
The Abyss Pinot Noir review

Cow Pat Pits:
– These are a new addition to the Biodynamic regime at Churton for 2010. Along with Preparations 500 & 501, composting, companion planting and making use of natural growth rhythms the cow pat pits take us further in the journey of growing grapes “purely and simply”. It doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to work out the main ingredient here, which alongside a mix of powdered egg shell and basalt dust amongst other things, is stored in the ground for 6 months. The end result is a compost full of microbial goodness with wide ranging uses around the vineyard from foliar feed to soil inocculant. Here we are making our first ever pits:

Auckland University collaboration:-:
We are excited to be part of a research project run by Auckland University. Dr Mat Goddard, a microbial ecologist is looking at indigenous yeast populations in the Churton vineyard and subsequently in the grape juice from the vineyard. His hypothesis is that individual sites have a widely varying natural yeast flora and this variation between site and indeed country can be a significant factor that influences wine quality. In other words terroir; the French concept of site expression in wine, (and other foodstuffs) can partly be explained by these different yeast populations. Fascinating stuff if you are a microbiologist (like Sam!). We’ll be sampling two of our Sauvignon Blanc blocks: Saddle and Loin.

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The 2010 vintage saw the first fruit being taken off the Viognier vines that were planted in 2007. We have kept this little surprise reasonably under wraps as Sam has been unsure exactly what was going to happen with the resulting wine. Would it be sold off? Would there be some sort of ‘proprietary white blend’ created to encompass the Petit Manseng that will have its first vintage in 2011? Or would there be a third varietal to join the current Churton pairing; Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir? The answer pretty much rested on the quality of the fruit which as it happened came in beautifully ripe; showing excellent apricot and floral characters that are indicators of good ripeness in Viognier. 100% fermented in barrel it is a weighty wine with the Churton hallmarks of texture, length and minerality. The 2010 Churton Viognier will be released in June 2011. 

At the end of August Sam presented his views on organics and biodynamics on a panel at the Romeo Bragato conference. The essence of his presentation was that running Churton using a biodynamic approach is to obtain more individual and character full wines of higher quality. Sam said, “In Marlborough we are blessed with a growing environment that is easy; the season tends to be dry and windy, disease pressure is limited as are vine pests. So why wouldn’t you run the vineyard organically?” At Churton wine quality is everything. The continual slow evolution of our biodynamic practices has led to more stable wines that are easier to ferment with much better balance and structure. If you want to know more about the technical issues that Sam believe result from an organic approach please contact Sam directly …

In the market:-
We have a new UK customer Berry Brothers and Rudd (BBR). Sam has had a long standing association with BBR; his first ever full time wine trade job was in their cellars in Basingstoke more than 30 years ago (yes 30!). In those dim, distant days the working day was as follows: 8am, start work; 10.30 am, tea break; 12.00 noon, Beer Break; 12.30 lunch; 3.00pm tea break, 4pm Beer Break; 5pm home! A fine start to Sam’s wine trade career. It is with much pleasure that Churton has obtained its first order from the venerable, old company and from early next year they will be stocking the 2009 Churton Sauvignon Blanc, and 2008 Churton Pinot Noir.

Thank you all for your wonderful support for Churton during the year. We all know how tough the year has been so it’s with great appreciation that we wish you a very Happy Christmas and a Healthy and Happy New Year.

With Best wishes, Sam, Mandy, James, Andrea and the Churton team.


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Newletter May 2011

Vintage 2011 has come and gone. What a fantastic vintage too.

We had another cracker of an autumn with a long Indian summer. It allowed us to harvest great fruit just when we wanted. With clean fruit at optimum conditions winemaking was really easy. The Pinot Noirs did what pinots should do. The Sauvignon Blanc did what Sauvignons should too!

Seriously the wines seem to be getting easier to make as we have moved further into biodynamics. The natural balance is far better. This means our winemaking is more guiding than intervention. The resulting wines just seem to be comfortable the way they are!

New Zealand’s first commercial crop of Petit Manseng. On 28th April we picked our first crop of Petit Manseng. Though tiny in quantity we are thrilled to have the first commercial crop of this slightly obscure Southern French variety. Originating from Jurançon in the Pyrénées Atlantique it produces some interesting dry wines and great sweet white wines. We’ll be making a sweet style Andrea having picked some very ripe bunches…Click here for the full Marlborough Express Article

News and Reviews Over the past 6 months we’ve had some great coverage check out the rave review given to The Abyss by Curtis Marsh, “ Weaver has certainly hit on grand cru territory here and the wine is most certainly in the league of the upper echelons of Vosne Romanee”.
Click here to read the full article

Rosemary George MW who has known our wines for a long time gave the 2009 Churton Sauvignon Blanc 5 stars and 18.5 points in Decanter. She has really understood what we are doing with our concentration on vineyard and fruit expression …”Wonderfully textured Sauvignon Blanc with layers of flavour. Quite fresh and rich with a very satisfying finish. Drink 2011-2014.”

Meanwhile locally Sophie Preece wrote a very good article for the Marlborough Express, “Answer really lies in the soil” . It describes Churton’s approach to the environment, working with the landscape and soil to bring out the best expression of our terroir in our wines. “It’s all about terroir”

Jack Weaver has now done his second vintage for Churton working with his father. It’s pretty cool having a second generation working on the vineyard and with our wines. He brought a bit of attitude to the winemaking and a great deal of care. See Jack unloading Pinot Noir at the Winery.

Churton dinner and new release:
“We like the idea of showing and releasing our wines at the winter solstice.” says Sam. “It seems a natural pause in the rhythm of the year; one growing season passes to the next. The land has drawn a deep breath; it’s pausing before exhaling into the new season. Our wines have rested in bottle for six months and more; they too exhale, relax and express themselves.”

Churton dinner at Toto’s Restaurant in Auckland will feature the first release of Viognier alongside the new release 2010 Sauvignon Blanc and the 2009 Pinot Noir. There will also be a chance to try Churton, The Abyss 2008 with Chef Sergio Maglione’s great food 23rd June.

Lastly we’re pleased to welcome Victor Hoi of Macau Bazaar Co Ltd as our latest agent. Victor will be supplying to the Macau market and into mainland China. We look forward to working with Victor and developing a new and exciting market.

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