Vineyard Visit – Easthope Family Winegrowers – Hawkes Bay

Dhall & Nash visit to Easthope Family Winegrowers, December 2015. Left to right – Rod Easthope, Puneet Dhall, Jean-Jacques Bourvis, Emma Easthope, Sweetha Shetty, Anthony Watt, Hannah Priestley

 

The Easthope Family Winegrowers story begins (as so many do) with romance. Rod Easthope (ex Craggy Range) and his wife Emma (ex Stoneyridge and Martinborough Vineyards) both grew up in the Hawkes Bay, involved in the wine industry from their youth. Unsurprisingly, the two had a lot in common, and romance blossomed.

Emma moved overseas to pursue a career as a winemaker in South Africa, while Rod attended the prestigious Roseworthy College in South Australia. Upon graduation, he soon found himself in the same winemaking region as Emma (Stellenbosch in Capetown), and the two were reunited. Fast forward several years (and vintages), and the couple are now happily married, with 3 young children.

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Rod and Emma Easthope with their concrete eggs – used for aging without oak influence

The Easthope Family Winegrowers label was born out of the Easthope’s desire to produce ultra-premium wines, from specific sites, to exacting standards. Two vintages young, the wines have be released to critical acclaim. The Dhall & Nash team recently visited the site chosen for their new vineyard and winery, perched on the volcanic soils surrounding the Ngaruroro river, to the west of Hastings. We spoke to Rod about his aspirations for the new site, and plans for the future.

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The team exploring the new vineyard – Rod Easthope among his newly planted Syrah vines

Rod, You’ve selected a unique piece of land for your new vineyard. What is it that makes this site so special?

It is a combination of factors; deep red metal gravel soils are ideal for drainage.  This combined with our top terrace being on gentle north facing slope maximises light interception and therefore heat (ideal for reds).  The site is also sheltered by an amphitheatre of hills to south which also makes this site warmer the neighbouring vineyards.  Lastly, being on a promontory over-looking the river means that the site is less frost prone and has spectacular views. 

The view from the new vineyard - The soil profile is visible in the cliff face, showing the drainage through the layers
The view from the new vineyard – The soil profile is visible in the cliff face, showing the drainage through the layers

 

What varietals have you planted here, and do you plan to plant more?

We have planted Syrah and Chardonnay thus far, and plan to plant Gamay Noir and Cabernet Franc next year.  

What does the future hold for Easthope Family Winegrowers?

It is all about sticking to our guns which means remaining small so that we can control every aspect of the viticulture.  To do that our new winery will be complete for the 2016 harvest so that we can do everything in house.  Once the vines are established we will employ organic techniques because the health of our soils, vines and family will be paramount.  We will always endeavour to make unique cuvees and carve out a reputation for truly individual wines.

Current vintages:

2013 Te Muna Pinot Noir – 95 points Bob Campbell MW

2014 Moteo Syrah – 4 1/2 stars – Michael Cooper’s Buyer’s Guide to New Zealand Wines

2014 Skeetfield Chardonnay – 4 stars – Michael Cooper’s Buyer’s Guide to New Zealand Wines

2015 Blackhawk dry Pinot Gris – 4 stars – Michael Cooper’s Buyer’s Guide to New Zealand Wines

http://www.easthope.co.nz