Sunny north produces early grape crop
It may be small, but Mike Endean's micro-vineyard in the Far North has tonnes of vintners luck.
Endean's wine grapes are thought to be amongst the first to be picked in New Zealand this year, as the wine making season gets off to a good start in Northland.
Endean and his wife Shirley, who own Kerikeri River Vineyards on Pa Rd, Kerikeri, have more than 400 pinot gris and sauvignon blanc vines on their eight hectare property.
The pinot gris grapes were picked last Friday and will be processed by Marsden Estate.
Marsden Estate winemaker Rod MacIvor said the only grapes likely to be picked earlier than Endean's would be for sparkling wine.
"Northland tends to be earlier," he said.
"It gets warmer earlier up here and we don't tend to get frosts, so we usually get off to a good start.
"It's been as good a season as you can get so far."
Endean puts his success down to his vineyard's location, on a slope facing north.
"Therefore it gets the maximum amount of sun," Endean said.
Having a section of Kerikeri river nearby also helps, he reckons, as extra sun is reflected off the water.
Endean planted the vineyard four years ago.
This year is his second vintage and his first pinot gris crop.
"Everybody was very complementary of the sauvignon blanc last year."
Originally from Berkshire, England, Endean is a former mechanical engineer who made gear boxes for racing cars.
Now semi-retired, he has owned a house in Kerikeri for 12 years and bought the Pa Rd land four years ago to save it from developers.
"This place came up for sale; they wanted to build 14 houses on it and we decided to buy the land to stop development.
"...A friend said do you realise this slope would be fantastic for a vineyard, so we decided to put one there."
Endean got 470 sauvignon blanc bottles off the current block last year and would like to get 600 bottles this year, along with 400 bottles of pinot gris.
He isn't running a commercial venture, preferring to give the wine to family and friends.
MacIvor said the grapes would be pressed to squeeze the juice out, put in a tank then left to settle and ferment.
"In two weeks it will be turned from grape juice to wine."