Kirk Bray is a singular man who knows what he wants – to make fine Waipara wine according to his quality aspirations and without compromise. However, he is very aware of the limitations of what he can achieve in the market. That’s why Georges Road Wines is a small, one-man operation. Everything that needs doing, can be done by himself, without relying on anyone else. He knows the standard of his work and what he can accomplish. Yet Kirk’s aims are very high, as can be seen in the quality of the wines he has released to date. I’ve thought highly of his 2010 Riesling and 2011 Pinot Gris wines (click here to see my review). But incredibly, the wines are priced very affordably – he knows he must sell them in this quiet market. I consider the wines bargains.
The basis of the Georges Road wines is his 8 ha rectangular vineyard, divided neatly into four blocks each 2 ha in size, the vines planted closer than the norm with 6,000 vines. Syrah and Pinot Gris are planted in one block each, and the two blocks that slope gently down to the next terrace towards the Waipara river are planted to Riesling. Kirk had a wry smile as we walked around the perimeter in about 10 minutes, when I remarked it was about the time it takes to walk around Romanee-Conti (which is about one-quarter the area). The Pinot Noir for Georges Road is sourced from Gwynn Williams’ vineyard next to Black Estate. Kirk is considering planting Pinot Noir over some of his Riesling, which will keep it all tidy!
The vines are young. At the end of their training at Lincoln, Kirk, with friend Paul Pujol, now winemaker at Prophet’s Rock in Central Otago, scouted around in 1998 and 1999 to find suitable land for vines. The Georges Road area was deemed suitable, with some significant planting already. The vineyard site, set in from Mount Brown Road, off Georges Road was purchased from land designated for planting by Mud House, in 2003, and Kirk began planting in 2004. To ensure quality, especially younger plants, cropping is targeted at 1.5 kg per plant, with 1 kg per plant with Syrah. The yield is around 8 tonnes per block off 6,000 vines.
Kirk is the winemaker at True and Daring, the former Sandihurst winery at West Melton, owned by Hennie and Celia Bosman. The Georges Road wines are made by arrangement at the modern True and Daring facilities, the 200 tonne capacity easily accommodating the 22 tonnes harvested from Georges Road this year. To see even more control, Kirk envisages building rudimentary crushing and fermentation facilities on site at Georges Road in the future. There’s just enough room on the property, and the fruit only has metres to travel. And Kirk can be totally in charge of what he’s making. And that’s the mantra Kirk Bray lives by, to personally make his wines, ensuring that everything is done right, if not perfectly.