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General Blog

A Visit to William Grace in Martinborough


I happened to be in Martinborough and had the opportunity to visit Mark St Clair and Debbie Bowie who operate William Grace Vin from their property on New York Street at ‘Waihinga Gardens’. Their claim to fame must be that it is the smallest vineyard in the district at 0.1 ha. But the vineyard is close-planted to 75% Abel and 25% clone 115. The 942 plants are thus at a density equivalence to 10,000 vines per hectare. The vines were planted in 2009, and to put not too fine a point on it, have suffered the fortunes of a micro-boutique vineyard, the plants being more susceptible to the vagaries of the growing season. That being said, Mark and Debbie’s determination have seen them release a series of creditable wines from the 2012 vintage. The wines are made with Paul Mason at Martinborough Vineyard, and I see the wines in the Cote de Beaune style, which would please Mark, who is a burgundy wine enthusiast. The style has been undergoing a tweaking of style, especially with oaking to allow greater fruit purity and clarity. My reviews on all the wines made to date can be seen by searching this website.

The Visit
The William Grace production is minuscule, aiming for an eventual production of 2 barrels, but they have achieved around one barrel of wine equating to 25 dozen to date. Some vintages have seen half that production. 2018 looks to be another small vintage, a follow on from the poor 2017 growing season. Mark was pleased to show me his new spray trolley, which allows him to reduce the time taken to spray the vineyard from around 3 hours by backpack, to under half an hour. Mark and Debbie tend their vines organically and biodynamically. I haven’t visited for over four years (though I have tasted all the wines made to date), and was pleasantly surprised to see the thickness of the trunks an relatively large bunches of grapes. Mark reports there has been disease pressure, but he and Debbie have been very vigilant on this. He expects picking will be around mid-March. The wines from this growing season are surmised to be softer and more approachable than other vintages.

Debbie Bowie & a determined Mark St Clair

A Preview of the 2016 William Grace Pinot Noir
As a treat, Mark and Debbie gave me a preview tasting of the 2016 wine. It won’t be released until next year to cover for a lack of a 2017 wine. Here are my brief impressions:

William Grace Martinborough Pinot Noir 2016
Light ruby-red colour with some depth, lighter on the rim. On the nose, very soft and gentle with an array of red berry and red floral fruits, the oaking very harmonious. This is classical Pinot Noir varietal expression in a feminine sense. Medium-bodied, this has good fruit richness with excellent sweetness and succulence. Some spicy elements add detail. The oaking is hardly perceptible, a real positive. The tannins are soft but provide a positive line, and the acid balance lends good vibrancy. A soft and elegant wine but with a core to see it develop well for 5+ years. Possibly the best vintage of William Grace to date. The wine aged 8 months in 1 y.o. oak followed by a further 8 months in 3 y.o. oak. Only 270 bottles made. To be released in 2019. 18.0+/20 Feb 2018 RRP $TBA
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