A very fine vintage

Rock Ferry

Last updated 14:26 24/08/2012

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With a fire crackling in the hearth, a dog digging in the garden and a couple of cattle grazing beyond, it's possible to envisage the time this was a 1930s farmhouse.

With its vintage Scandinavian chairs, gleaming beaten copper lampshades, steel stools and simple midcentury lines, you can imagine yourself in a designer 1950s pad.

But with its polished concrete floors, cedar bi-folding doors, state of the art coffee machine and outlook over long vineyards, Marlborough's Rock Ferry cellar door is contemporary in all the right ways.

“We just wanted to reflect ourselves and the way we like to live,” says Tom Hutchison, who developed the cellar door and restaurant with his chef wife Fiona Harvey a year ago.

The first step to doing that was to literally give up the place they lived in, transforming their home of eight years into a home for their wine label instead.

“While we lived here we thought if we created a wine brand this would be a great place for a cellar door,” he says.

Tom moved to Marlborough to grow grapes in the early 1990s, after working in wine retail in Wellington, then in wineries and vineyards overseas for several years, before studying viticulture in California. He bought this Hammerichs Rd property in 1995 and he and Fiona began the progressive task of replanting the old vineyard and making the home their own, always aware of its future potential as a public space.

Tom says as far as they know, the original house was built on farmland in the 1930s and has been extended and remodelled several times.

When it became Rock Ferry's home, carpet was pulled up to reveal concrete floors, which were then polished to an aggregate stone far more beautiful and consistent than the couple had dared hope for.

The gleaming concrete lies alongside the reclaimed timber floors of the hallway and below beautiful wooden furniture that has either been sourced or made for the cellar door.

A few walls were removed to create the open plan, and the laundry and bathroom relocated to make space for a commercial kitchen, but much of the structure is the same, including the location of the kitchen island bench, now a tasting room bar.

Behind that, just visible through a slatted rimu wall, Fiona and her staff

create beautiful dishes, based on her ethos of fresh, “friendly” food, sourced locally and seasonally from organic and free range producers.

Wherever possible, produce comes from the property itself, with 50-year-old walnut trees sharing their harvest with guests, along with old lemon, plum, orange, olive and heritage apple trees.

Flowers from the garden adorn cellar door tables, and Fiona's greatest pleasure comes from seeing guests wandering out among the trees.

It's an abundant spot, but the kitchen's best apples come from the couple's renovated farm cottage on the Northbank, where Fiona's father grafted a heritage Hopewell Apple passed down from her ancestors in the Pelorus.

The beloved cottage sits at the site early settlers safely crossed the Wairau River by horse and cart, and in 2005 lent its name to the Rock Ferry wine label.

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After replanting the Hammerichs Rd vineyard, the couple developed a Central Otago vineyard in 2003, then redeveloped a Jeffries Rd orchard into a vineyard in 2007, wanting to maintain control of their product from vine to wine.

Creating their own brand was the next step, and in 2009 they took another, converting a fruit packhouse on Jeffries Rd into a winery, in time for the vintage.

On the outside it's a tin shed, carrying all the utilitarian essence of its former life, but on the inside it gleams with modern winemaking equipment.

Like the farmhouse-cum-cellar door, the conversion of packhouse into winery fit with the company's organic philosophy, while providing an aesthetic the couple love.

Tom says in developing their three vineyards, which have been converted to organic, they wanted to reflect the land's terroir, and also make use of the existing features of each site.

He says most cellar doors are located by the winery, where visitors get some insight into the winemaking process.

However, good wine always comes from good vines, and he loves that the Rock Ferry cellar door gives visitors a peek at the viticulture instead.

With a move towards Bio Dynamics, the belted galloway grazing among the vines provide fuel for the “cow pat pit”, which is all part of that practice.

The couple hope people will take a look at that, as well as vines pruned, plucked and picked, and learn about how great wine is grown.

Tom says the cellar door was the perfect home for them, and now the perfect home for their wine label.




Rock Ferry have a tasty treat for a reader this week, created with care from fresh, seasonal ingredients.

To win a lunch for two at the lovely cellar door and restaurant, valued at $60, clip this item from the Marlborough Express and send it to Rock Ferry competition, c/- PO Box 242, Blenheim 7240 by 5pm Thursday, August 30.

Remember to write your name, address and daytime phone number on the back of the envelope.

- The Marlborough Express


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