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Greystone – A Significant Impact on Waipara

By May 22, 2012No Comments

Establishing Greystone Wines in 2004, Bruce and Peter Thomas made a significant impact on the Waipara wine scene. The Greystone Wines property is a sizeable one at 120 ha, and from the very first releases, recognition and top awards have been bestowed on the wines, showing that this producer is doing everything right, not only for themselves, but also for the Waipara region.

In times when most people are tightening their belts and curbing spending, Greystone Wines is expanding. The growth in exports, especially to Australia, and the Melbourne market where Peter is based, is a major factor. Originally, Pinot Noir made up around 60% of the 39 ha planted, but this has changed, the demand for Sauvignon Blanc requiring more plantings. Pinot Noir accounts for 45% of the vines now, with roughly equal plantings of Riesling, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc following. There are small plantings of Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay and Syrah, that complete the varieties on the property. Some Sauvignon Blanc is contract sourced as well.

There are 13 blocks over which the vineyard is established, and great care has been taken with the suitability of clones, rootstocks, varieties and sites to each other. What is remarkable is that approximately 85% of the plantings are on hillsides. Winemaker Dom Maxwell took us for a drive around the Greystone property showing us various blocks with their generally north-facing orientation, and their siting to maximise the sunshine while minimising the exposure to wind. Chardonnay was matched to limestone soils, and Syrah along with some Pinot Noir, planted at the upper reaches to bask in the sun as long as possible. It is clear that the importance given to growing the highest quality fruit has resulted in outstanding wines.
The Muddy Water Purchase and Future
In March 2011, Greystone Wines purchased the neighbouring Muddy Water operation established by Michael and Jane East. The acquisition of the vineyard and winery allowed access to a further 15 ha of well-established vines, including Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Pinotage. The vines are close-planted and tended by the meticulous Miranda Brown. The vineyards and winery at Muddy Water were AsureQuality certified organic from the 2011 vintage, and this is a major difference to the output of Greystone.

From the time of the purchase, there has been speculation as to the longevity of the Muddy Water brand. Recent specialling of older vintage Muddy Water wine has fuelled the impression that Muddy Water may disappear as an entity. In discussion with Dom Maxwell, he made it clear that Greystone had “grand plans” for Muddy Water. The quality of the fruit and its organic status demanded that it be treated with respect. A smaller amount of Muddy Water will be made from now on, but at ‘reserve level’, and at prices that will be on par with the Greystone wines, and not as a ‘second tier’. Specialties in the Muddy Water range will include Chardonnay, utilising 20 y.o. Mendoza clone fruit, and Pinotage, the rarely seen unique red variety which had a cult following. This will be very pleasing for the many fans that followed Muddy Water wines.

The Muddy Water winery has now become the production site for Greystone. Previously Dom Maxwell used the Waipara Downs facility, and he will no doubt enjoy the full ownership, control and proximity. The straw-bale walls are ideal for constant temperature storage and the winery has been extended further by 240 square meters, so easily accommodating the near 300 tonne crush. A new bottling line has also been installed, adding yet another operation that is under direct control. Although Dom’s assistant winemakers Gavin Tait and Sylvain Taupenas have responsibilities for Greystone and Muddy Water Wines respectively, they work together for the greater cause. It is a reflection of the coming together of the two businesses. www.greystonewines.co.nz  www.muddywater.co.nz

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