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The Blind River Vineyard, Awatere Valley, Marlborough

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The Blind River vineyard is located in the Awatere Valley, a sub-region of Marlborough, the world famous wine region that put New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc on the map. 


History

Only planted in the mid 1980’s by pioneers who recognised the potential, the area used to form part of giant farming stations such as Molesworth, Flaxbourne and Starborough. Today however, the Awatere name has become synonymous with growing exceptional grapes and creating outstanding wines with intense aromas and flavours that also embrace the region’s distinctive mineral characters.

The Maori word Awatere means ‘fast flowing stream’. The river itself runs from semi high-country to the sea under the watchful gaze of Marlborough’s tallest peak, Mount Tapue-o-Uenuku (2,880m or 9,450 feet).


Climate

Being south-east of Marlborough’s Wairau Valley and closer to the coast, the vineyards of the narrow Awatere Valley experience an altogether more extreme growing season. The area tends to be more exposed to weather from the south resulting in drier, cooler and windier conditions which usually leads to a longer growing season. This contributes to more intense aromas and flavours as the grapes experience extended time on the vine.


Soils

The soils are typically free-draining, glacial gravel on wind-borne loess, often with a diverse composition of stone materials. Add to this a lack of underground water and the vine is naturally limited in both vigour and yield. This encourages ‘balance’ and helps the vine to concentrate its energy on the grapes, resulting in ripe, concentrated fruit.


The vineyard

As with all serious wines, the vineyard is the single most important element of Blind River.  The unique combination of soil and micro climate – ‘terroir’ – cannot be replicated elsewhere.  It defines the flavour profile giving a unique ‘footprint’ to the wines, ensuring they are memorable.

The 20 hectare (50 acre) Blind River site is predominantly Sauvignon Blanc with just under two hectares (five acres) of Pinot Noir. The vineyard is split into blocks from A to E based on the contours of the land with each treated separately and the wines fermented and made individually.

If you would like more technical viticultural information on the vineyard, please download the vineyard spec sheet.
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Falcons Story

Written by Nigel on October 3rd, 2017.      0 comments

lind River employs some rather unique practices to help create their range of hand-crafted and quite distinctive wines. Yet there are two vineyard workers who may be something of a surprise to even the more knowledgeable wine enthusiasts. A little over ten years ago, a couple of NZ falcons were released onto the Blind River vineyard, to find a home and breed as part of a conservation program to help one of our endangered native birds. NZ falcons or 'Karearea' are the only bird of prey native to New Zealand and today are in smaller numbers than even our precious kiwi. So anything we can do to help preserve the population of our native bird and animal life is a good thing for the ecological balance of the country.
Barry Feikhert and his wife were the original owners of Blind River in the Awatere Valley. In 2005 they teamed up with Wingspan, the National Bird of Prey Centre in Rotorua, to give a male and female falcon a home at the vineyard. 'Arthur' and 'Martha' (as Barry named them) were the original two falcons who were released at Blind River and they soon found a home nesting amongst the pine trees alongside the vineyard. These birds are fiercely territorial and have a tendency to fend off predators who come into their airspace, particularly around nesting time. Despite a wing span of only 45cm and weighing a svelte 450grams, these birds box above their weight in warding off unwanted pests at Blind River.
Marlborough has its fare share of predators such as feral cats, rats, stoats and ferrets which threaten the survival of our native birdlife. While such small, furry animals may seem harmless to some of us, they actually feed on the eggs in the nests of native birds threatening their survival. Some native species like kiwis build their nests on the ground, not in the trees, making their eggs easy fodder for these land-based predators. Fortunately, NZ falcons hunt such predators as they are primarily meat eaters and like to catch their dinner.
Birds can also be a problem in the vineyard and have quite a taste for grapes, especially the flavoursome Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir growing at Blind River. So the falcons play a vital role in vineyard management in warding off intruders to protect the grapes around harvest time. As Barry has observed, "The falcons don't go after the starlings, but tend to prefer introduced species of birds like finches and blackbirds." Such practices are obviously paying off as evidenced by Blind River's haul of six trophies for their 2015 Sauvignon Blanc at the prestigious 2016 International Wine Challenge held annually in London.
As Barry explains, "Falcons prefer the live capture of animals. The male is the hunter, while the female tends to eat whatever the male brings back. The falcons are great to watch and they have real personality." To supplement their diet, Barry likes to leave a little food in a tray for them from time to time, just to make them feel more welcome on the property. Yet it hasn't always been a case of wedded bliss for Arthur and Martha. Barry has observed that Arthur has recently headed off somewhere and Martha has taken up with a new partner - a male he's named 'Porky'. Right now, the affair seems to be blossoming. There's also a good video on YouTube that shows the falcons at Blind River, visit (insert link - sorry, I couldn't find it.).
Barry Feikhert estimates there only around 20 - 30 falcons in the Marlborough region. Fortunately their survival is being aided by a number of other vineyard owners who encourage the birds to nest and breed at their properties, and Blind River is proud to be part of this concerned group of viticulturalists turned naturalists. While he sold his vineyard to Lawson's Dry Hills in 2012, Barry still lives on the property and keeps a close eye on the birds.
When you come to taste a glass of the award-winning Sauvignon Blanc, or the distinctive dark fruit, mineral-laden Pinot Noir that is being grown at Blind River, spare a thought for the falcons and the role they have played.Two birds helping protect the reputation of Blind River.
 

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