MP sells interest in vineyard estate

Marlburians Colin Hill, left, his wife Paula Hill, their daughter Charlotte Bray, and
her husband Brendon Bray are the ...

Marlburians Colin Hill, left, his wife Paula Hill, their daughter Charlotte Bray, and her husband Brendon Bray are the new owners of Fairhall Downs Estate Vineyard.

Kaikoura MP Stuart Smith and his family have sold their 25-hectare vineyard estate in Marlborough.

The National MP, who owned the property with wife Julie and her parents Ken and Jill Small, sold their Wrekin Rd property to Colin and Paula Hill, Hill's daughter Charlotte Bray, and her husband Brendon Bray, who took over early last month.

Smith said the decision to sell the property was made because of work commitments.

"I had other commitments with work, so [selling] just worked out and it all sort of fell into place," he said.

"I really enjoyed the wine industry and I'd like to keep in touch because it's a great industry. I left it because I can't do everything and I didn't think I could do it all."

The purchase marks a first for the Hills and the Brays.

"This is the first vineyard purchase for my wife and I and my wife's parents," Brendon Bray said.

"For us, it all came down to Marlborough sauvignon blanc. Nowhere has got the same flavours as Marlborough.

The vineyards are planted predominantly in sauvignon blanc and pinot noir, with a small amount of pinot gris and chardonnay.

The Smith and Small families have been producing wines under two labels - Fairhall Downs and Torea - since 1996.

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Last year, they did not make any wine, instead contracting their fruit to different wineries, and the same would happen this year.

"What we've decided to do over the next year isn't a lot," Bray said.

"We just want to get established and focus on growing the vines in the vineyard. So the label is on hold at the moment."

Both he and his wife had little experience in owning and running a vineyard, he said. However, he was the vineyard manager for Meadowbank Vineyard for seven years and his wife had experience working at a cellar door, Bray said.

"It will be a bit of a learning curve for us but we will do it. It's already been a learning curve just buying into the industry," he said.

"We always planned on owning a vineyard, so it's nice."

He hoped to grow the business once they had settled in, he said.

"In a perfect world, we would like to expand but it depends on the opportunities around.

"We will also contract a winemaker and get a viticulturist in."

The Hills and the Brays both live on the estate in separate houses.

 - The Marlborough Express

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