North Island Principals Tour 2016

North Island Principals Tour 2016

Left Conatiner

The objective of this trip in September this year was to combine a sales meeting at Palliser Estate Wines in Martinborough with the purpose of also visiting a majority of our North Island winery principals and updating ourselves on new releases, spending time with the winery crews and also some team building along the way.

Day 1

For all of us, it was a very early start on the Monday morning to get into Wellington by 8.00am to travel by bus over the Rimutaka hills to Martinborough. We had staff coming from all regions of NZ, so there was always the risk of a delayed flight and sure enough, one sick pilot meant our gal from the Hawkes Bay was going to arrive late, meaning we had to sit in the bus in the rain at the airport for a while. Further delaying our arrival at Dry River wines was a terrible accident on the Hutt motorway but eventually we made it and it was cold and windy, so we were ushered inside to a dry and warm office and a very nice cup of tea/coffee and some morning tea goodies while Wilco Lam, General Manager and Winemaker for Dry River wines introduced us to his crew – Sue who is the Administrator in the office, Sarah who looks after marketing and Tom who is Assistant Winemaker. After we had filled our tums (we were hungry as most of us had not had breakfast), we commenced tasting wines; 2016 Riesling, 2015 Chardonnay, 2013 Tempranillo, 2014 Pinot Noir (not yet bottled). We then took a short tour of the winery – short of course because the winery is absolutely tiny! Everything is done by hand at Dry River, including bottling and labelling.

After Dry River, we headed to our digs for the next two nights, Peppers Parehua hotel. The rooms were beautifully appointed and enjoyed by everyone in our group, particularly the sensible ones that went to bed at a reasonable time.

After lunch at the hotel, we walked through the vineyards to Palliser Estate where we were holding a sales meeting. We started with reports from our sales management team and had a demonstration on how to use a Coravin and we ended with a masterclass tasting presented by Wilco Lam, Winemaker for Dry River, Guy McMaster, Winemaker for Palliser Estate and Carol Bunn, Winemaker for Urlar Wines.

We tasted three flights of wines:

  • Flight 1 was Urlar wines – 2008 Pinot Gris, 2009 Pinot Gris, 2010 Pinot Gris, 2011 Pinot Gris
  • Flight 2 was Palliser wines – 2001 Chardonnay, 2002 Pencarrow Chardonnay, 2006 Chardonnay, 2011 Chardonnay
  • Flight 3 was Dry River wines – 1997 Syrah, 2004 Syrah, 2008 Syrah, 2013 Syrah

It was a fascinating tasting and such a pleasure to look at some of the older vintages which looked terrific and offered so many different and sometimes unexpected flavours in the glass.

After the tasting, we all headed back to the hotel for dinner with our guests, Wilco Lam from Dry River, Guy McMaster and Pip Goodwin from Palliser and Carol Bunn and Angus Thomson from Urlar. It had been a long day, so for most of the team it was a relatively early night.


Day 2

Day 2 saw an early start to the sales meeting with a European wines update including another great tasting; Ayala Brut Rose Majeur NV, Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Riesling QBA 2014 (my personal favourite with some tropical notes and well balanced acidity and a long finish), Hugel Pinot Gris Classic 2013, Chateau Musar Hochar Red 2011, Antinori Marchese Chianti Classico 2013, Guigal Hermitage Rouge 2010. What a great way to start the day!

After lunch it was a blind tasting of the 12 Rosé wines listed in our portfolio. With Summer on its way this was a timely tasting to get our whole team familiar with the different styles and offerings we have for this wine trend which is going from strength to strength each summer. See the list of wines here.

Straight after the Rosé tasting, we were on the bus and heading out to Cape Palliser with Sandy Moore, Sales Manager for Palliser and Guy McMaster, Winemaker for Palliser. The drive out to the Cape would be around an hour and a bus quiz had been organised by Sandy, along with Palliser Estate Methode Traditionnelle and some lovely gougères (french cheesy pastries) which were a perfect match for the sparkling wine. The views around the Cape are absolutely spectacular and this is where the inspiration for the Palliser Estate and Pencarrow imagery comes from. We had a very mild day but unfortunately part of the road had washed out, so our bus couldn’t make it all the way to the point where we were all keen to climb up to the lighthouse. We did get to stretch our legs though and toast a few seals lying in the grass at the edge of the road.

We then headed to the Lake Ferry Hotel for a pub dinner and a few games of pool and lots of laughter – a wonderful end to the day.


Day 3

On the bus early for travel to Urlar Vineyards where we were having breakfast and yum I had freshly caught whitebait in an omelette on a bun. We took in the wonderful views from the Urlar house over the vineyards and then headed down to the winery for barrel tasting of the new wines. Carol Bunn, Winemaker for Urlar talked us through vintage conditions and winemaking techniques for each wine and Angus Thompson, Owner and Marketing for Urlar spoke about the history of Urlar and bio-dynamics in the vineyard. We can definitely say that the new wines are looking excellent.

We departed Urlar for the long three hour drive to the Havelock North. After the past few days activities and a hearty breakfast and wine tasting, there was quite a bit of shut-eye on the journey.
On arrival in Havelock North, we checked into our hotel and then headed to Black Barn Cellar door to meet Francis de Jagar, Cellar Door & Events Manager for a tasting of Black Barn wines. We then headed to the River Room, a venue that is part of the Black Barn retreats portfolio of luxury guest houses. The River Room has spectacular views over the Tuki Tuki River and we truly felt spoiled to be able to have our group dinner there with a delicious three course menu, matched perfectly to Black Barn wines. We also got to try the new and very different Black Barn "Orange" wine.

Day 4

Our last day on tour and we were heading to Alpha Domus for breakfast. We had a delightful selection of traditional dutch food – think cheese, cold meats, pork rillette and fresh bread. Paul Ham, Owner & Managing Director explained that this would be the food that the vineyard workers would eat for their meal during harvest. We were introduced to the Alpha Domus team and we then commenced a tasting of a selection of the Alpha Domus wines presented by Barry Riwai, Winemaker. It was at this tasting that Paul also announced the renaming of the “First Solo” Chardonnay to “Skybolt” Chardonnay and we look forward to seeing this label in the market soon.

After Alpha Domus, we headed to Gimblett Gravels area to visit the Saint Clair vineyard. Murray Hill, Viticulturalist met us and we hopped off the bus to try a couple of the wines that were made from grapes sourced from this vineyard.

We then headed to The Manse for lunch. After a delicious lunch and a couple of glasses of Col de’ Salici Prosecco, it was time to end the tour with some team building activities. We were split into three groups and started with some archery and frizbee golf and then a couple of puzzle activities where you had to work together to achieve the outcome. It was a lot of fun and a good energetic and buzzy way to end an inspiring four days together.

Thanks to our wonderful principals for hosting us so well.

Tina Rutherford – Executive Assistant for Negociants NZ