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.”
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!
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.