You may remember Gravity Winery as the former Woollaston Estates and Mahana Winery near Upper Moutere; about two years ago the winery changed hands when New Zealand investment company Booster added the site to their Booster Wine Group operation and rebranded it as Gravity Winery. Booster has made a significant commitment to investing in primary production in New Zealand, especially the wine sector.
In this region Booster Wine Group also includes Waimea Estates, however it was the fantastic winery facility that drove their decision to purchase the former Mahana property and turn it into a red wine making facility, the place they make red wines with fruit sourced from other vineyards they own around the country.
A couple of weeks ago I visited them at the recently reopened Cellar Door and met with Cellar Door Manager Kirsten Ammann, Winemaker Brett Bermingham and National Winemaker Hamish Kempthorne to see what they are doing and, of course, to taste some wines.
After spending an hour in the multi-level winery where gravity moves the juice down different levels and through various winemaking processes, rather than being pumped, and tasting a range of wines from tanks and barrels we headed back up to the tasting room and restaurant for some more focussed tasting.
Down in the winery we tasted different batches of wines at varying stages in the winemaking process, some were still going through final winemaking processes while others are resting quietly in barrels waiting to be blended into the final wines you and I will get to buy. These wines are made from fruit grown in Nelson, Marlborough and Central Otago.
With a focus on red wines (primarily Pinot Noir) Brett says “we are able to extract the very best from each vineyard and harvest, both by hand picking and machine harvesting, and then fermenting the parcels of fruit differently. Some are fermented in stainless steel open-top fermenters, others are barrel fermented and then we blend the individual ferments of various clones to make the best wine we can.”
“This is a unique gravity fed winery (no pumps) with sub-terranean barrel maturation. This unique and invigorating winemaking R&D space helps create memorable small batch wines that are both honest and authentic with a strong sense of place or Turangawaewae” says Hamish.
Even though they don’t make Hawke’s Bay reds at the winery they do have some available at the tasting room (Sileni is also part of the Booster Wine Group) so when you visit the tasting room at Gravity you can have a mini tour of New Zealand wine regions and sub-regions at one place.
Brett, who came to Gravity after 14 years as a Winemaker at Nautilus Wines in Marlborough, says “we don’t just want to make a generic Pinot Noir blend, we want these single vineyard, regional wines to show how regional land and climate conditions impact the finished product. Being able to make the wines in one place we get to nurture each parcel of wine, it’s not very often a winemaker gets to work with such a variety of fruit. For a winemaker it’s a bit like being a kid in a lolly shop and I just love taking groups through the facility and showing off what we can do here.”
It also means visitors get to taste the wide range of wines produced in the stunning facility at the tasting room, a tasting room that is the showcase venue for the group. At Gravity they are also engaging with the local community, Hamish told me that since its inception the winery has had a strong link with the arts in the region and they are keen to continue that.
Cellar Door manager Kirsten Ammann showed me the former office building they have converted to an art gallery run by local artists, “we have made the space available for them to use, the artists manage the space, the exhibitions and manning the gallery, our contribution is not charging them for the space.
“We really do want this to become a place for the local community, a destination, where you can spend an afternoon relaxing. From wandering through the Gallery, to our Winery tours, flight tastings, an extensive local platter menu filled with delicious local produce to enjoy while you sit and relax, with your favourite wine in hand and taking in the stunning vista from our deck”.
This Winery and Cellar Door has always been a special place for me, I have huge respect for Philip Woollaston whose passion drove the initial vision, and for the immense construction job that took place to create a beautiful winery facility, not just another industrial building, and I am delighted to see new life being breathed into Gravity. Open seven days 11 – 5pm. www.gravitywinery.co.nz
Here’s two Pinot Noirs produced by Booster Wine Group that are from the same vintage but from different regions, one in the well known Central Otago region and the other from a region not overly well-know of producing Pinot Noir
Bannock Brae Goldfields Pinot Noir 2017 – RRP $45 – 4 stars
Black cheery juice colour with lovely sweet fruit on the nose this is a nice expression of riper Central Otago Pinot Noir. Layered and complex with liquorice notes in the finish, the sweet fruit nicely balanced with ultra-fine tannins,
Sileni Plateau Pinot Noir 2017 – RRP $35 – 4 stars
Made from fruit grown on a hillside vineyard in the elevated Bridge Pa Triangle the wine is unfiltered making it slightly dusty in the glass. The sweet fruit aromas have a cherry focus but the surprise comes on the lively palate with an unexpected but very tasty black pepper hit with a horopito and star anise character. Again the flavours are layered and complex, an outstanding value Pinot Noir from a region known for its heavier style reds.